CONCORD >> Pennridge’s drive started at the Garnet Valley 41 but went just four yards on three plays. And in a tie game in the third quarter, Rams coach Jeff Hollenbach decided his best option was giving the Jaguars the ball deep in their own territory.
“I thought, well, we’ll get them on the five cause Oliver (Jervis is) really good at punting down there deep,” Hollenbach said. “We’ll pin them on the five, hopefully hold them, was the thinking.”
Danny Guy, however, dashed those plans. The Garnet Valley senior faded a few yards backwards as he took the punt return towards the right sideline before finding a path along the boundary and taking off in front of the Jaguars bench until he ran 92 yards into the end zone for a 21-14 Jaguars lead at 8:08 in the third.
“It was all the wall that we practice,” Guy said. “I just got outside and I knew it was there from there.”
Guy and the third-seeded Jaguars found their stride in the third after No. 6 Pennridge put together a solid first half in their District 1-6A football semifinals Friday night. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, Garnet Valley scored three touchdowns in the quarter then ran down the clock in the fourth to bounce the Rams from the postseason with a 28-20 victory at Moe DeFrank Stadium.
“We just had to execute and it was tough,” Pennridge junior running back Ryan Garner said. “They did get up on us and we just had to stay calm. I think we did. Took up a lot of clock, it was hard to come back from that.”
The Rams (10-3), in their first district semifinal since 2012, were without senior linebacker/running back Nick Tarburton — The Intelligencer’s Tom Moore tweeting the Penn State verbal commit did not play due to school suspension — but gave Garnet Valley (12-1) a battle, ultimately Guy’s punt return, an early GV fumble return for a score and the Jags’ option attack all added up to ending Pennridge’s district title dreams
“That play (the punt return) and of course their first touchdown, the easy touchdown on that fumble was brutal. Besides those two plays, this is a heck of game,” Hollenbach said. “That’s a great team. They are big and strong and tough to stop with that offense.”
Matt Lassik ran 16 times for a game-high 153 yards and two touchdowns while Guy added another 143 yards on 27 carries as Garnet Valley advanced to the District 1-6A title game for the second consecutive season.
The Jaguars marched through the Suburban One League Continental Conference to reach this year’s final, beating Central Bucks West 32-12 in the first round, rallying from a 35-7 deficit in the quarterfinals to top North Penn — which bested the Jaguars in the 2016 district final — 36-35 and then Friday night snapped Pennridge’s seven-game win streak.
Garnet Valley hosts No. 4 Coatesville — a 42-2 winner over No. 8 Pennsbury in the other semifinal — for the District 1 championship.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 18, 2017
“It means a lot to us. We have a lot of unfinished business as we were there last year. It all starts in practice, repetition and just keep working hard,” Guy said.
Pennridge, meanwhile, finishes the year with its Thanksgiving Day game against Quakertown at Helman Field. The Rams blanked the Panthers 24-0 in the district first round. Hollenbach said he was unsure of Tarburton’s status for the game. Freshman Shane Hartzell filled in at linebacker against Garnet Valley with Hollenbach stating he “a whale of a game.”
“I’m so proud. He’s a ninth grader,” he said of Hartzell. “For him to be playing at this level against that kind of offense I am totally proud of what he did too. He did great,”
Garner paced Pennridge with 81 yards on 16 carries while Kyle Schetter added 60 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Quarterback Zak Kantor had a 1-yard touchdown run and finished 12-of-19 passing for 140 yards.
“I think our power game was working. We had power, we had zone, tosses were there, sweeps were there,” Garner said. “Even our passing was doing good, we just had trouble converting on fourth downs, fourth and shorts.”
Garnet Valley extended its lead to 28-14 with a four-play, 69-yard drive capped by a 4-yard Lassik touchdown run at 5:12 in the third.
After punting on its first three possession of the second half, Pennridge’s offense finally found some traction. The Rams got down to the Garnet Valley 11 but were held to no gain on 3rd and 2 then GV hit them for a yard loss on fourth down.
The Jaguars took over with 10;45 left in the fourth and proceeded to run 8:01 off the clock before turning the ball over on downs at the Rams 29.
“I don’t think it was anything that was surprising, it’s just that when you’re trying to replicate that offense in our practice with JV kids, it’s just not the same,” Hollenbach said. “We knew exactly what we were going to do, but there’s strength and speed and size, it’s a whole different ballgame.
Pennridge pulled within 28-20 with a six-play, 44-second drive — Kantor rolling right and finding an open Cooper Chaikin for a 30-yard touchdown at 2:00. The extra point was blocked, keeping the margin at eight. Garnet Valley recovered the onsides kick and picked up a first down to cement the win.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 18, 2017
In the first quarter, the Jaguars took a 7-0 lead as a Griffin Salus hit jarred the ball from Kantor as his was throwing and Cade Brennan scooped up the fumble at the five and ran in from the touchdown at 4:28.
The Rams, however, answered with a 16-play, 61-yard drive Kantor finished with a 1-yard touchdown on a QB sneak to tie the game at 11:10 in the second quarter. After recovering a Garnet Valley fumble on its own 42, Pennridge took a 14-7 lead as Schetter capped a nine-play, 58-yard drive with his 5-yard touchdown run at 6:34.
Garnet Valley got to the Pennridge 4 in the first half’s final seconds but the Rams stuffed a run by GV quarterback Ryan Gallagher on the last play before the break to preserve the seven-point edge.