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Matt Smith: Coyle one of many who knows meaning of Chichester-Sun Valley rivalry


ASTON >> Shane “Doc” Coyle was the quarterback at Sun Valley in the mid-2000s.

On Thanksgiving of his junior year, he threw a touchdown pass but the Vanguards fell to rival Chichester, 20-14. As a senior, Coyle witnessed Jeff Owsley run for 313 yards and five touchdowns as Sun Valley trounced Chi, 41-14.

Eleven years removed from his playing heyday, Coyle is an assistant coach at his alma mater. As a player and coach, Coyle has fond memories of many Turkey Bowls, but none more unforgettable than the rivalry’s 50th anniversary edition.

Chichester safety Calvin Church can’t stop Sun Valley running back Julz Kelly Thursday. The junior Kelly tallied three touchdowns, but his Vanguards had to hold in a classic, 32-30 win befitting of the 50th edition of the Thanksgiving Day rivalry. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

This one takes the cake … pumpkin pie, maybe.

“It’s Thanksgiving Day and it’s best versus best. You know everybody is going to bring it, and it’s a great game to have,” Coyle said. “This one was pretty crazy. Some of the swings that happened in this game today … it’s just exactly what Thanksgiving Day rivalries are all about.

“It’s crazy how things happen on Thanksgiving Day.”

Sun Valley head coach Greg “Bubba” Bernhardt has been a part of the hoopla for only two years. The Monsignor Bonner graduate was the head coach at his alma mater before joining then-head coach Ray Gionta’s staff prior to the 2016 season.

“It reminded me of those games we had against Cardinal O’Hara, with Collin (DiGalbo) and those guys,” Bernhardt said. “It was crazy, the back-and-forth of it all.”

Sun Valley was victorious, 32-30. The Vanguards held a 32-7 advantage after do-everything junior Julz Kelly returned a fumble 32 yards to the end zone on the first play of the second half. It was Kelly’s third touchdown, a wonderful swan song for an incredible junior season. The Vanguards, one might imagine, were on cruise control.

But nothing comes easy on Thanksgiving. And so, Chichester chipped away. Last season it was the Eagles who scored a touchdown in the final minute to stun the Vanguards, 14-10. A similar plot nearly unfolded Thursday.

“It was scarier than last year,” Sun Valley senior lineman Shane Luedtke said. “We knew they were going to put up a fight. There’s never a time where you can say to yourself, it’s over.”

Caliph Jones is particularly grateful for Thursday’s win. There was a time when the Sun Valley senior running back was uncertain about his status for the Turkey Bowl. A broken toe kept him off the field for several weeks.
Jones suited up and played. He even scored a touchdown.

“It means a lot to me to come back to play for the team. They helped me go through the healing process, they were with me the whole time,” Jones said with tears in his eyes. “To come out and beat Chichester the way we did, it was fantastic.”

Ryan Smith, the former Sun Valley standout who in 1996, in this very game, set a team record for most receiving touchdowns in a season, has been on the opposite sideline for several Thanksgiving affairs. The Chichester coach never loses sight of the rivalry’s tradition.

“Everybody wants to play in the Thanksgiving Day game. It’s in your goal sheet. It’s that thing that’s always there, it’s lingering,” Smith said. “You want to do everything great from weeks one through 10 and obviously get to the playoffs, but Thanksgiving is always going to be there.

“You really absorb it all and take in how important the game is.”

Chichester senior linebacker Cody Profitt left the field with a mud-stain jersey. As a youngster, Profitt received an education about the Turkey Bowl from his family, particularly older brother James, who played in the game in 2005 and 2006.

“I don’t remember too much, I was six or seven (years old) back then,” Cody Profitt said. “I heard he had a long pick-6. He was a heck of a player, too.’

Profitt, who exudes the type of attitude and toughness that has defined the Sun Valley-Chichester rivalry, gave everything he had after missing last year’s contest due to injury.

“It hurts. I remember that I cried as a sophomore, too,” he said. “This year I had to come back and give it all I had.”

Dan Nearey’s interception in the final seconds, with Chichester threatening to take the lead, sealed the win. Moments later the Vanguards hoisted the trophy, in celebration.

Yes, it’s crazy how things happen on Thanksgiving Day.

“It keeps me young, this game every year. You just get so excited for it,” Coyle said. “Everybody still cares about this game. You always will.”

To contact Matt Smith, email Follow him on Twitter @DTMattSmith.

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