UPPER CHICHESTER — The clock began ticking for Chichester’s Damian Thompson after a last-minute interception helped Sun Valley to its 2017 Turkey Bowl victory over Chi.
Last month, another countdown clock had Thompson looking forward even more to having a chance to make a statement in the 2018 Turkey Bowl.
If the question had been posed as to who would score a pair of touchdowns to make sure Chichester would defeat Sun Valley at Anthony Apichella Memorial Field Thursday morning, Thompson would have been the name shouted very loudly as the answer.
Thompson wasn’t flashing a V for victory sign, but he was indicating the number of TDs he had scored as he held up two fingers after helping the host Eagles (5-6) knock off the Vanguards (3-8), 35-19, in the 51st Thanksgiving Day meeting of the neighboring schools.
Sun Valley has a 28-23 advantage in the overall standings, but Chichester, which halted a five-game losing streak Thursday, has claimed wins in the last two Turkey Bowl games on its home field.
“It was definitely all about being able to get ready for this game since we lost at Chester,” Thompson said of the wait he and his teammates endured after a loss to the Clippers that closed out their regular season and crushed their hopes of qualifying for the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.
Thompson, a senior, scored on a 70-yard kickoff return after Sun Valley got its only touchdown of the first half.
“I saw my blockers,” Thompson said. “When I got through, all I could see was green grass. So I kept on running. I knew I had to answer what they had just done.”
He added a TD on a 54-yard pass from junior Nate Decenzi 13 seconds after Anthony Ellis had gotten six points for the Vanguards on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The scoring pass was Decenzi’s third. He had completed two touchdown throws to Jamese Lundy-Byrd in the opening half before Thompson’s kickoff return gave Chi a 21-7 halftime advantage.
Interceptions by defensive lineman Adham Fathy and Antonio Perez stopped Sun Valley drives in the first half before Julz Kelly finished off a 61-yard Valley march with a four-yard run. A 38-yard completion from Ellis to Kelly put the ball five yards from the goal line with four minutes before halftime.
The Vanguards fans were still standing and cheering when Thompson fielded a short kickoff and sprinted by everyone for six points.
Ellis and Kelly got together on a 69-yard pass play that put the ball inside the Chi 5 late in the third quarter. Ellis got the final 12 minutes off to a good start for the visitors with his TD to conclude an 87-yard drive which lasted more than five minutes.
Decenzi and Thompson showed that the ball could get down the field in seconds with their 54-yard completion.
“We said at halftime that we had no reason to be overconfident and that we should keep playing the way we had been playing,” Decenzi said. “We had tried to run the ball and then throw the ball when we needed to. We all had waited a long time for this game and came out to show what we could do.
“You can’t imagine how great winning this game feels.”
A sack by Nate Resine put an end to a long Sun Valley drive later in the fourth quarter, then Chi stuck to the ground to put the finishing touches on its scoring on a five-yard run by Shaheem Pleasant with six minutes to play.
An Ellis pass to Lance Stone for 15 yards got Sun Valley its final six points.
“We put together what we thought was a great game plan in all three phases,” Chichester coach Ryan Smith, who helped Sun Valley to a 48-8 victory in the 1996 Turkey Bowl game, said. “The kids bought into what we wanted them to do, and I’m so happy for them the way things turned out.
“I talked to (Decenzi) earlier in the week and told him to play the way I knew he could. And (Thompson) gave us the answers we needed twice after they had scored. We might not have done everything the way we wanted to, but we went out and had a real good game.”
Sun Valley coach Greg “Bubba” Bernhardt was disappointed that his team closed its season on the wrong end of a seven-game losing streak.
“That’s football,” he said. “Sometimes the other team just turns out to be better than you on the day you play.”
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