Upper Merion scratches out win over Sun Valley

UPPER MERION >> A close game between two evenly matched teams usually boils down to turnovers and which team comes through in the clutch. Upper Merion thrived in both scenarios in Friday night’s 14-13 win against Sun Valley at Upper Merion Area High School.

The Vikings defense was backed up to its own seven yard line when the Vanguards were on a 12-play drive looking to take the lead in the final three minutes of the game. On first-and-goal, Upper Merion stuffed Jon Kester, who dominated the game with 31 carries for 184 yards, for a three-yard loss. After a false start, Sun Valley gave the ball to Kester again and, after a short gain, the ball came loose. The Vikings jumped on it and needed to run the final two minutes off the clock to secure a victory.

Vikings running back Kori Smith, who rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, raced 37 yards on the first play after the turnover to put his side in position for one first down to end the game.

Four plays later on fourth-and-inches, quarterback Isaiah Graham-Mobley ran wide for three yards and Upper Merion celebrated its second consectuvie win.

“We played good defense,” Upper Merion coach Hal Smith said. “I’m just proud the kids came together and got a win. Offensively we did what we needed to do and certain guys stepped up. We had three linemen out and the O-line played well as a unit. They came together this week — I’m proud of those guys.”

Graham-Mobley, a dynamic playmaker who typically lines up at wide receiver, played quarterback the entire second half and was the reason why the Vikings took the lead in the fourth quarter. Early in the frame and trailing, 13-6, Graham-Mobley rolled out and took off from the Sun Valley 16-yard line. He used a combination of speed and power to get into the end zone and Anthony Littlewood’s extra point gave Upper Merion a one-point lead.

“We have a package for (Graham-Mobley) anyway, so we use him sometimes for tempo, if we see some stuff we can get,” coach Smith said of putting his star under center.

“We just thought we could get the edge and Isaiah is quicker (than quarterback Jarrett Quinn).”

The Vikings (2-1) won the turnover battle 3-1 as the Vanguards (0-3) lost two additional fumbles in the game, one of which also came in the Vikings red zone.

“The kids gave a great effort,” Sun Valley coach Ray Gionta said. “I can’t complain about the effort the kids gave. They fought their butts off every single play to try to win this thing, but you can’t turn the ball over that much and win a football game.”

Quarterback Gabe Boccella scored both touchdowns for Sun Valley. The junior signal caller carried the ball four times and, despite the two scores, totaled minus-two yards. He was 3-for-5 for 27 yards through the air. His score late in the third quarter broke a 7-7 tie, but kicker Tyler Smith missed the extra point wide left.

Each team scored on their opening possessions. Sun Valley went straight down the field and Boccella capped off the drive with a four-yard score. Upper Merion followed with a 14-play, 68-yard drive that spanned 7:12 finished by Kori Smith’s four-yard run.

Upper Merion returns to action Thursday night at home against Plymouth Whitemarsh. Sun Valley plays Friday, hosting Oxford.

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