EAST WHITELAND >> Quarterbacking a Dan Ellis offense, Great Valley’s Robert Geiss had the feeling the reins would be let loose in his first varsity start.
He just didn’t think it would come so soon.
With the Patriots leading by a point entering the fourth quarter, the time came for Geiss to show Ellis his potential after a 1-for-6 spell, which included an interception, to open the second half.
“Coach Ellis just told me to forget all the mistakes from earlier,” Geiss said. “He wanted me to keep focused on everything I’ve done positive. I had to keep my head up and keep grinding. Both of us wanted to make sure we win this game.”
Geiss didn’t let Ellis down in a fourth quarter which he went 6-for-8 for 112 yards and a touchdown as Great Valley pulled away late in a 28-19 victory over Phoenixville in its season opener Saturday night.
The gameplan wasn’t for Ellis to let Geiss open up the field with deep passes, but desperate times called for desperate measures. The Patriots (1-0) were in the midst of five straight possessions without a touchdown (a rarity in Ellis’s short tenure with the school), which saw a 14-0 first quarter lead evaporate to a one-point game late in the third quarter.
The time was right to see what Geiss could do, especially since Great Valley was plagued with nine penalties for 75 yards on the night.
“It got to the point where we needed to throw the ball a little bit more,” Ellis said. “With Geiss’s first game, we were trying to take it easy on him early, but it’s hard to play when you’re behind the sticks. We’re too young to make mistakes like we did.”
Geiss connected on a 38-yard pass to Riggsby Lane to get the drive moving. Three plays later, Geiss found Cionci on the right sideline, which resulted in a 31-yard touchdown to put Great valley up 21-13 with 10:56 left.
Two possessions later, Miles Macaleer made a big play to set up the clinching score with a sack on 3rd-and-17 deep in Phoenixville territory that forced the Phantoms (0-1) to punt. Great Valley was set up with good field possession on the Phantoms 34.
Mark DeRobertis took the first play to the end zone with a 34-yard touchdown run to put Great Valley up 28-13 with 6:22 to play. DeRobertis finished with 24 carries for 123 yards on the night along with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown in the opening minutes to put Great Valley up 7-0.
“He’s unbelievable,” Ellis said. “Mark’s the type of kid who wants the ball on offense and wants to be involved in all the plays on defense. He’s going to be a phenomenal player here over the next two years.”
“Mark just loves to run the ball,” Geiss said. “He’s quick. He’s powerful. It’s hard to stop him.”
Geiss finished 15-for-25 for 203 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He started the game completing his first six passes and eight of his first 11, including a seven-yard touchdown to Ryan Hubley to put Great Valley up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Great Valley’s defense came up with huge plays throughout the night to keep Phoenixville trailing, holding the Phantoms to two field goals inside the red zone in the third quarter.
No play was bigger than a 4th-and-goal stop at the one-yard line just before halftime which kept the Patriots lead at 14-7.
“When we needed to make a play, we made a play,” Ellis said. “That says a lot about our guys, especially with one senior on that side of the ball on that stop. That’s a good sign.”
Great Valley is coming off a District 1 Class AAA championship a season ago, but the 31 seniors who led that team are gone. This year’s version only has six seniors and plenty of underclassmen starting on both sides of the ball, but the expectations remain the same.
“We don’t want to do anything less of what they did,” Geiss said. “We have the talent to do it. If we come out and execute everything correctly, we can be just as good as them.”
Great Valley 28, Phoenixville 19
Phoenixville 0 7 6 6 — 19
Great Valley 14 0 0 14 — 28
GV: DeRobertis 24 interception return (Sauer kick)
GV: Hubley 7 pass from Geiss (Sauer kick)
P: Palubinsky 3 run (Ramirez kick)
P: Ramirez 30 FG
P: Ramirez 26 FG
GV: Cionci 31 pass from Geiss (Ramirez kick)
GV: DeRobertis 34 run (Sauer kick)
P: Green 52 pass from Rossman (kick failed)
First downs 13 16
Rushes-yards 35-145 40-103
Passing 15-25-1 8-14-1
Passing yards 203 182
Total yards 348 285
Punts 2-21.5 1-26.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 9-75 10-82