WEST GOSHEN – West Chester East had seven participants at the Believe & Achieve Valor Bowl on Thursday evening at Farrell Stadium. And the 19th annual all-star football game for Chester County seniors also served as a two-fold informal reunion for the Vikings.
One of the largest contingents from any individual school, the group was reunited with their former coach, Dave Gueriera, who served as the head coach for the East All Stars. Gueriera spent three productive seasons at the helm at West Chester East before departing for nearby Malvern Prep in the off-season.
In addition, five of the seven Vikings – Matt Erfle, J.D. Carroll, Jake Phelan and the Hirsch twins, Alex and Zach — also played together this spring for the East lacrosse squad. The rest of the Vikings’ throng also included defensive back Mike Salloun and lineman Tom Silva.
“I was really excited to coach in this game once again, especially getting the opportunity to coach the guys I just left,” said Gueriera, who served as the offensive coordinator in the 2016 Valor Bowl.
“It was an amicable separation when I left for Malvern Prep. We still have a lot of mutual respect for one another.”
Erfle, who was a first-team All Ches-Mont performer in both football and lacrosse, agreed.
“I completely respect (Gueriera’s) decision to move on,” he said. “I know it’s been a dream of his since he started coaching at Malvern.
“He is our coach and I am glad to play for him one more time. He is such a caring guy and passionate.”
Gueriera, the Vikings and the East squad, however, ended up on the short end of a 34-6 decision on Thursday. For the West squad and head coach Mike Matta, it marked the second Valor Bowl victory in a row.
Bishop Shanahan quarterback Nick Skulski, the West offensive MVP, accounted for all five West touchdowns, including four through the air and one on the ground. And three of the first four scores came after the West defense forced a turnover.
Like the other two-sport stars from West Chester East, Erfle missed most of the early Valor Bowl practices while his high school team was wrapping up a successful lacrosse campaign under head coach Jim Schorn. The Vikings went 12-8-1 and advanced to the second round of the District 1 3A Tournament before bowing out on May 18.
“They really only got to about six of our 10 practices, and for a couple, we didn’t even have them suit up because they were still in-season,” Gueriera said.
“It was a tough transition, going from putting the light lacrosse helmet to the heavy football helmet,” Erfle added. “But we’ve been playing football since third grade so it all came back to us pretty quick.”
Playing linebacker, Erfle (6-0, 200) was the leading tackler for the East squad. This spring, he was described by Schorn as the best long-stick midfielder in the state. He will attend Dartmouth in the fall and play lacrosse.
“At the end of every game, Matt had blood, sweat, dirt all over his uniform,” Gueriera recalled. “He leaves everything out on the field. He is the definition of a true warrior.
“For us at East, he plays both sides of the ball, special teams, and he was a captain. He is the guy everybody looks up to.”
Like Erfle, Carroll is another football/lacrosse standout who received All-League accolades in both sports. He was, however, the only one of the W.C. East contingent who did not play on Thursday due to an injury.
“It is an honor just to be named to this team, even though I couldn’t play,” said Carroll, who is headed to Michigan to play lacrosse.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder suffered a torn ACL during a lacrosse match against Bullis School (Maryland) in mid-April. A midfielder, Carroll was a first-team All-Area tight end and first-team defensive end on the football field.
“There are some similarities between football and lacrosse,” Carroll said. “The physicality is a big part of it for me. Conditioning is similar and you need a lot of discipline in both.
“At West Chester East, we kind of correlate athletes to play both football and lacrosse.”
Phelan is another two-way star. Just 175-pounds, he was a second-team All Ches-Mont linebacker on the gridiron and has signed to play college lacrosse at Division I Mount St. Mary’s.
“Jake is blessed with natural ability, and he’s a tough, tough kid,” Gueriera said.
The Hirsch brothers round out the sizeable West Chester East dual-sport contingent at the Valor Bowl. Alex was a big-play wideout for the Vikings last fall, and this spring was a second team All-League pick as a midfielder. Zach plays defensive back in football and was a defensive midfielder in lacrosse.
“The pads are a huge difference between football and lacrosse,” said Alex Hirsch, who is headed to Temple. “Plus, I have a different mindset for football. For some reason I tend to get more hyped up.”
NOTES: The West defensive MVP was Taun Evans of Coatesville. The East MVPs were Jesse Gill from Unionville (defense) and Branden Frazier from West Chester Rustin (offense). The East squad didn’t have much to cheer about, but the highlight was an electrifying 54-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter by Frazier … Four future West Chester players got a taste of what it’s like to play at Farrell Stadium on Thursday: Downingtown East’s Ethan Harris and Chris Day, Downingtown West’s Cole Zapf and Bishop Shanahan’s John George. A wide receiver, Harris grabbed two touchdown catches on passes of 16- and 21-yards from Skulski. Day is a defensive back and his third quarter interception set up one of the Harris TDs. And George, a kicker, converted on four of five point-after-attempts … … Malvern Prep lineman Justin Titchenell, who is headed for Division III Gettysburg, suffered an apparent knee injury in the first quarter and did not return.