Football Preview: Garnet Valley’s winning tradition begins in preseason

CONCORD >> The music played softly over the speakers as Moe DeFrank Stadium as the Garnet Valley football team underwent the first of two practices sessions last week.

It was an eclectic mix of old and new tunes, all chosen by the players.

Not many coaches allow music during practice, but it is a time-honored tradition at Garnet Valley, one of many for a program that has become one of the best in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Like other storied programs such as Ridley and Strath Haven, Garnet Valley is steeped in tradition, where the entire team spends the second week of training camp at school to hone its skills and bond as a unit.

The players love it.

“It’s one of the biggest traditions in Garnet Valley history,” senior defensive end Brendan Granahan said. “Being together 24 hours a day for a week really brings us together.”

“It’s all about brotherhood,” added senior defensive end Tim Bradley said. “You have 100 brothers by your side all the time so you know you always have someone who has your back, that there’s someone there to pick you up and help you get through the tough times.”

It is a proven model for success. The Jaguars have won or shared four Central League titles since moving up to Class AAAA in 2008. The Jaguars have an overall record of 69-16 in that span including a 56-7 mark in the Central League. GV has been to the District One playoffs six times in that seven-season span including two trips to the district semifinals, which is the equivalent of the state quarterfinals.

Running back Derrick West, left, takes a handoff from Matt Hamby during Garnet Valley’s scrimmage with Interboro. West ran for 1,325 yards and had 18 touchdowns for the Jaguars last season. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)
Running back Derrick West, left, takes a handoff from Matt Hamby during Garnet Valley’s scrimmage with Interboro. West ran for 1,325 yards and had 18 touchdowns for the Jaguars last season. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

That’s a record any team would envy and don’t expect that string of success to end, even though the Jags are breaking in a new quarterback for the third time in as many years. Senior Matt Hamby is ready to follow in the footsteps of Christian Portale and Stephen Flanagan, both of whom led Garnet Valley to the District One playoffs in their only season as the starting quarterback.

“I’m excited,” Hamby said. “I’ve learned a lot from Christian Portale and Steve Flanagan, watching them the past couple of years. I’m just trying to take everything they taught me and put it to positive use.”

Head coach Mike Ricci likes what he sees in his QB, who is one of 18 members of the 1,000-pound club, the most in program history.

“Matt Hamby has improved more from his sophomore to senior year than any kid I’ve seen in 32 years here at Garnet Valley,” Ricci said. “… And through sheer desire he’s become an awesome leader and I can’t wait to see him play.”

Having Derrick West back at fullback should take much of the pressure off of Hamby in the early going. All the 5-10, 210-pound West did was finish third in the county in rushing (1,325 yards) and second in rushing touchdowns (18). He is the second-leading returning rusher in the county. Seniors Jacob Buttermore and Bob Clayton are expected to lead a receiving corps hit hard by graduation.

Up front, the Jags will be strong, as usual. Ricci and assistant coach Joe Valerio know how to produce quality linemen and Garnet Valley has one of the most sought-after linemen in Ted Field. has the 6-6, 320-pound senior ranked 34th overall and seventh among guards in Pennsylvania. Field originally committed to Rutgers, but changed his mind and as reopened the recruiting process. He visited West Virginia in June, according to his Twitter account, and Miami, Central Florida and Temple are among the schools showing the most interest, according to Internet reports.

Center Justin George (6-1, 236) is another key returnee on the offensive line.

Granahan and Bradley anchor a solid defense line that also includes returnee Rob Monachello. Bradley was in on 30 total tackles last season (nine solo, 21 assists, 20 of those stops were for loss. Junior Charlie Coslett anchors the linebackers.

There will be a lot of new faces, too, players who have come up through the ranks. That’s the way it’s been at Garnet Valley for a number of years and it’s pretty hard to argue with the results.

“The key to our success on the field is our oneness, as we call it,” Ricci said. “We really work to promote that, develop that and live by that with everything that we do on and off the field.”

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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