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Garnet Valley shuts down talk, zips past Pennridge

CONCORD >> There was a lot to talk after Garnet Valley’s amazing comeback victory over North Penn in the quarterfinal round of the District 1 Class 6A football tournament last weekend.

Jaguars coach Mike Ricci still had some concerns.

Garnet Valley running back Danny Guy is about to fall into the end zone at the end of a 92-yard punt return for touchdown, while the Jaguars’ Kevin Doherty raises a hand in triumph. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

During the week, as the third-seeded Jags prepared for their semifinal match against No. 7 Pennridge, talk began to build up when it was learned that the Rams would not have their standout running back/linebacker Nick Tarburton when they made the long trip to Garnet Valley’s Moe DeFrank Stadium Friday night.

Tarburton was suspended from the team following an incident at the school Wednesday, and Ricci was aware that all the talk that followed that announcement might have his players overlooking a tough opponent.

As it turned out, Garnet Valley made the most of some big plays and a long offensive possession in the fourth quarter to advance to the district final for the second year in a row with a 28-20 victory over the Rams.

The Jaguars (12-1) will host No. 4 seed Coatesville (12-1) in the 6A championship game next Friday night. The Red Raiders ripped No. 8-seeded Pennsbury, 42-2, in their semifinal matchup.

“We had a great week of practice,” Ricci said. “Then we heard about the difficulties (Pennridge) had in losing such a great player and wondered if hearing news like that might make some of our people relax a little bit.

“We let them know that (Pennridge) still had some very good players and was a tough team.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Pennridge vs. Garnet Valley

The visiting Rams (10-3) made things tough for the Jags in the opening half. After forcing Garnet Valley to punt on its first possession, Pennridge faced a third down at its 16 when quarterback Zak Kantor lost the ball as he was hit attempting to pass.

GV junior Cade Brennan picked up the ball and had only four yards to cover to reach the end zone for the first score of the game — and his first career touchdown.

“Griffin Salus made a great play to strip him of the ball,” Brennan said. “I went after the ball, was fortunate to be able to pick it up, and I ran it in.

“We always talk about everybody just doing the job they are supposed to be doing, and how if they do that, things can happen. We knew they were going to be missing their really great player, but that didn’t change what we wanted to do. It was having everyone do their job, and now we know that we have to practice to get ready for Coatesville, which is a really great team.”

Pennridge responded to Brennan’s touchdown with a 16-play drive that ended with Kantor’s short scoring run in the first minute of the second quarter.

Garnet Valley defender Kevin Doherty (3) breaks up a pass intended for Pennridge’s Joe Devine in the second quarter Friday night. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Four plays after the ensuing kickoff, Jaguars sophomore quarterback Ryan Gallagher missed connections on a handoff, and Zack Tarburton claimed the loose ball for the Rams. Kyle Schetter ate up a lot of yardage on the ground until he covered the last five yards of the 58-play march to put the visitors ahead.

“We did some good things in the first half after that play on which they scored,” Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach said. “But that play and the punt return in the second half really hurt us.

“I told (the players) after the game that I was especially proud of all of them and what they did out here tonight.”

The punt return came not long after Garnet Valley drove 60 yards in five plays to open the second half, getting six points when Matt Lassik (15 carries for 145 yards) burst through a big hole on the right side of the line for a 40-yard scoring dash on Garnet Valley’s first possession of the third quarter.

A penalty on the kickoff return put Pennridge at the GV 41, but three plays netted only four yards. Garnet Valley’s Danny Guy fielded the punt inside the 10, reversed his field before heading for the sideline, following his blocks into open space and ending up with a touchdown.

“I looked the ball in, went back about four yards, then saw the wall and followed it,” said Guy, who matched Lassik’s rushing total of 145 yards on 27 carries.

“Our whole (special teams) unit made that play happen. Ever since we lost (in the Class 6A final) to North Penn last year, we’ve stuck together and told ourselves that we would be back. We know how much fun Thanksgiving practices can be and are looking forward to it.”

After the next Pennridge punt, Garnet Valley took only four plays to cover 69 yards and get six more points. A 44-yard Lassik run put the ball at the Pennridge 15, then Guy gained 11 yards on the next snap before Lassik closed out the drive.

Pennridge drove to the Garnet Valley 11 early in the fourth quarter before a Brennan tackle for a loss stopped the Rams two yards short of a first down. For the next eight minutes, Garnet Valley ran the football 14 times — Guy had 10 of the carries — before surrendering it on downs with 2:44 to play.

A 30-yard pass from Kantor to Cooper Chaikin gave Pennridge its last TD, but Jason Rose set the final margin at eight points when he blocked the extra point attempt.

Again the Jags turned to Guy, who ran for one first down as GV ran out the clock.

“That drive to open the third quarter and the drive when we didn’t score but took (eight) minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter were so big,” Ricci said. “It’s great to be able to talk about another week of practice and having the chance to play for the district championship at home.”

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