UPPER MORELAND >> For the second straight week, Julz Kelly watched from the sideline as the final seconds ticked off the game clock. And he’s cool with that.
“If I’m not playing in the fourth quarter,” Kelly said, “it means we’re doing something right.”
The Sun Valley senior has a good point.
An electric performance from Sun Valley’s top back led to a lopsided, 35-0 victory for the Vanguards Friday night. Kelly logged 118 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 15 carries, to go with a 74-yard punt return touchdown. All told, the All-Delco back has nine touchdowns in only six quarters of work, having sat out the fourth quarter in each of the season’s first two weeks, including last week’s rout of Penncrest.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s a good feeling,” Kelly said. “It gives other guys time on the field, you know.”
For the fourth time in seven years, Sun Valley has opened the season with consecutive wins. For a program that has posted .500 or worse records in 10 of the last 12 years, that hot start might seem like a surprise.
“But it shouldn’t,” said second-year coach Bubba Bernhardt. “It may surprise other people, but it doesn’t matter what other people say or predict. It doesn’t affect what we do. I knew what we had coming back. These kids are great. It’s not surprising, not at all.”
Here’s something that may seem surprising: Sun Valley in the first quarter amassed 31 yards of offense, recorded zero first downs, and still found a way to take a lead. The Vanguards’ offense sputtered in the opening frame. That proved to be irrelevant, thanks to Kelly. The do-everything back covered three-quarters of the field with a punt return for a touchdown at the 4:06 mark of the first quarter.
Kelly sidestepped two would-be tacklers immediately upon taking the punt, before he sprinted forward and seamlessly through the thick of Upper Moreland’s coverage.
“It sparked everything for us,” said senior defensive back Lance Stone.
While the untracked offense did its best to find its footing, Sun Valley’s defense delivered a stop inside the red zone that turned the tide of the game.
Upper Moreland appeared poised to tie the score at 7-all. Running back Caleb Mead took three carries for 36 yards to get the Golden Bears inside the Sun Valley 5-yard line. On his next carry, two yards shy of the goal line, Mead had the ball poked from his hands by a swarm of Sun Valley linemen, with Evan Fooks recovering.
“We went goal-line there and made sure we filled holes and, thankfully, someone made a play,” said two-way lineman Dom Ellis.
“That stop down there,” said Bernhardt, “was unbelievable.”
The stop proved to be a difference-making moment for the Vanguards. Kelly’s second touchdown of the game, a nine-yard run off right tackle, found the end zone and capped an impressive drive for Sun Valley. The Vanguards needed 12 plays to cover 96 yards and chew up nearly eight minutes of the second-quarter clock.
Sun Valley scored a trio of third-quarter touchdowns — one from Kelly and two passing touchdowns from quarterback Anthony Ellis to receiver Dayon Belgrave — to initiate a mercy-rule running clock with 13 minutes remaining in the game.
Ellis turned in an impressive outing, completing 10 of 12 passes for 134 yards and those two scores. Belgrave hauled in five catches for 87 yards. Sun Valley’s offense outgained Upper Moreland, 305-130. Defensive coordinator Chris Quintans’ unit forced three turnovers, including a second-quarter interception by Stone.
“That team was the No. 2 seed in the district (Class 5A) tournament last year. That’s why I scheduled them,” Bernhardt said. “This is a performance we can be proud of.”
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