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Central League champion Garnet Valley outright dominant against Upper Darby

UPPER DARBY — Its season still dripping with perfection and anticipation, the Garnet Valley football team can be assured that it finishes with at least one substantial accomplishment.

By defeating Upper Darby, 56-10, Friday, the Jaguars improved to 10-0 and clinched the outright Central League championship at 9-0.

There will be opportunities, and big ones, later.

For the moment, that will do.

“These guys have worked hard,” coach Mike Ricci said. “It’s been five years since we won the Central League championship. I know it was important to our guys that we did that. I’m really happy for them and I am really proud of them that they worked together and made it happen.”

Pete Bannan — Digital First Media Garnet Valley running back Dan Bradley breaks free from an Upper Darby defender for a touchdown in the first half of a 56-10 win over the Royals Friday night.

 

The Central leader all season, Garnet Valley finished the conference season with a convincing victory over a good Upper Darby team that entered with a league record of 5-2. A season-high 567-yard rushing explosion featured nine Jags carrying the ball, none for fewer than 27 total yards.

With starting quarterback Cole Palis leaving early with an unspecified injury, junior Ryan Gallagher played most of the game and rushed five times for 107 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown blast. In dropping the Royals to 7-3, Garnet Valley completed just one pass, that for two yards. Yet its dominance should have sent a message throughout District 1 that it will be a handful in the Class 6A playoffs.

“One achievement at a time,” Ricci said. “We’re really big on one game at a time. We came out tonight and were really ready to execute. They got a big play on the first play of the game, then the rest of the half we were able to keep them from any big plays, which is what we were trying to do.”

After handcuffing Garnet Valley on its first possession, Upper Darby moved quickly to the Jags’ nine, using a 31-yard pass from Kevin Kerwood to Shawn McCullough to spice the drive. The Royals, however, were limited to a 26-yard Sammy Beweh field goal for their only lead.

From there, Garnet Valley took control, with Dan Bradley uncorking a 54-yard run to help set Nick Westburg up for a 32-yard scoring burst. Before the end of the first quarter, Colin Robinson would add a 24-yard TD sprint and Dominic LaBricciosa would score on a 27-yard run.

Robinson’s eight-yard second-quarter touchdown run helped supply the Jags with a 28-3 halftime lead on a night when the Royals were desperately trying to maintain their postseason playoff hopes.

“I’m going to be brutally honest,” Upper Darby coach Rich Gentile said. “We have not played well in the last couple of weeks. And that falls on the players, falls on the coaches, falls on everybody. It’s something that we need to change. We have four weeks left, wherever we go, whoever we’re playing, whatever is going to happen, we have to figure it out on both sides of the ball.”

If heartened by an improved defensive effort in the second quarter, Upper Darby took another momentum hit when it fumbled the second-half kickoff. Garnet Valley recovered and, on its play, Rory Glackin blasted 31 yards for a touchdown. When Gallagher went 30 yards with a keeper and Bryce Stansfield made one of his five conversion kicks, Garnet Valley had a 42-3 lead and the benefit of the speed-up rule.

Kareem McAdams, who would rush for 103 yards on 23 carries, carried seven consecutive times, including a one-yard fourth-quarter touchdown for

Garnet Valley quarterback Ryan Gallagher breaks free for a touchdown against Upper Darby Friday evening at Memorial Field at Upper Darby High School.

the Royals. But that was sandwiched by touchdown runs of three and 69 yards by Sam Morin. Morin, a sophomore, rushed four times for 115 yards.

“We worked hard all week,” said two-way Garnet Valley line force Cade Brennan. “Cole went down early, but Ryan Gallagher stepped up and played so well and I am just so proud of everyone. The offense won us this game, and I am so proud of our defense. We really held them down.”

Ricci was uncertain of how long Palis would be missing. Gallagher, though, more than ably orchestrated the versatile Garnet Valley running attack.

“Cole always pushes me in practice,” Gallagher said. “I am always ready. He always prepares me like I am going to start. That’s what he always tells me. So no matter what, I am always ready.”

While Ricci is aware that the 6A playoffs will be difficult, the 46-point victory against a tough league opponent Friday says his team is ready.

“We’re not trying to send any message,” Ricci said. “We’re just trying to execute our offense and get better every time we come out.”

It’s how champions, particularly those of the outright variety, play.

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