Plenty of new faces at Great Valley seek to top mark of last year’s District 1-AAA title team

EAST WHITELAND >> There was a point at the turn of the new year when Great Valley coach Dan Ellis found himself in a familiar situation.
Having taken over his third team in five seasons last fall, Ellis felt like he finally found the right fit. While he’s still at Great Valley, one of the most successful senior classes in school history is not.
Thus, Ellis is once again starting over. Sort of.
“When you graduate so many seniors, you look around at the beginning of the next season in January and all of a sudden its an all new group of kids,” Ellis said. “That’s the cool thing about high school football. We don’t recruit, so we coach the kids that come in our door. We’re really enjoying this group. They’re young, but really talented and they’re growing by leaps and bounds.”
Great Valley is coming off arguably its best season, culminating with the school’s first District 1 Class AAA title. Thirty seniors, including Ryan Buchholz, who’s now playing defensive end at Penn State, and Nasir Adderley, who’s starting at cornerback for Delaware, were the heart of the championship squad.
Just under 90 percent of the Patriots’ yardage output was from players no longer on the team, so an encore would be even more surprising than the 2014 run.
“When you have young guys like that, it’s kinda like, Ryan Buchholz isn’t walking through that door,” Ellis said. “This is our team now and it’s who we are and we have to maximize the talent we have and can’t waste time.”
The Pats got off to a good start in week one, dumping Phoenixville, 28-19. The schedule sets up well for a team to deal with growing pains with four straight opponents who ended with losing records last season — Owen J. Roberts, Glen Mills, Octorara and Sun Valley.
“It was a great experience to be on a team like that with all that talent and to be a state playoff team,” said junior quarterback Robert Geiss, who’s one of many first-year starters. “After losing all the seniors we’re still fighting for respect and we know we can do the same thing as we did last year if we develop as a team and execute.”
If the first half of the season is favorable for Great Valley, the second half will determine how far the young Pats have come. In week six they travel to West Chester Rustin and follow that up with a home game against Unionville.
A year ago Rustin steamrolled the Pats, 54-13, for the one regular-season loss. Rustin has beaten Great Valley the last eight meetings, and the Pats are 3-8 against Unionville since Pat Clark took over in 2004.
Great Valley has yet to win a division title since joining the Ches-Mont League in 2007, and while the program has had flashes of brilliance in the last decade or so, sustained success likely requires more consistent winning against the American Division’s top teams.
“I wouldn’t say we don’t get respect,” junior receiver Ryan Hubley said. “Rustin and Unionville get the respect they deserve, but we’re going to do what we can to earn more respect.”
Many teams in the high school football world have adopted the spread offense in recent years, but many fail due to lack of talent, lack of coaching or likely a good mix of both. Ellis has been able to get results from his spread offense at each spot, whether it be as a coordinator or head coach.
Outside of Pat Devlin while Ellis was offensive coordinator at Downingtown East in the mid 2000’s, Ellis hasn’t had a prototypical quarterback. Yet, he’s been able to get the most out of his signal-callers, guiding West Chester East’s Jon Jon Roberts to his best season in 2013 and making Zach Ludwig a very efficient dual threat last fall.
Geiss, who’s older brother Chris quarterbacked Great Valley a few years ago, is Ellis’ next project and he’s a part of a junior trio with running back Mark DeRobertis (123 rushing yards and a touchdown against Phoenixville) and Hubley that don’t have the benefit of training wheels this season.
“We have to adjust with who we have, and there will be a couple more mental errors and we had too many penalties (last Friday), but that will happen with younger kids in their first time playing,” Ellis said. “At the same time, we’re not dialing back because we have more team speed than we did last year. Guys stepping in are going to be really, really good football players. We’re not running less plays, we’re going to keep going full bore.”
The District 1 Class AAA playoff picture will probably have many familiar faces, with Academy Park looking very impressive against West Chester East in the season opener and Springfield (Delco) and Pottsgrove expected to be tough outs once again.
Great Valley has made the playoffs three times in the last 11 seasons, but have yet to make it in back-to-back seasons. Ellis is hoping his rebuild is more of a revamp in year two.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply