Garnet Valley bounces back in a big way

LOWER MERION >> Six days removed from a difficult, unexpected setback, the Garnet Valley Jaguars found the perfect kind of opponent waiting for them.

Lowly, winless Harriton was no match for Garnet Valley, which rebounded to the tune of a 58-13 win Friday in Central League action. The Jaguars (5-2, 4-1) lost last Saturday against Haverford. With a huge game against Marple Newtown looming next week, this laugher served as the perfect reset for the program.

The Jaguars led, 28-0, at the end of the first quarter and 45-6 at halftime. There was a running clock for the entire second half, as the benches emptied and every last player got in.

“What we wanted to do was improve on some of the mistakes we made last week, and focus on controlling what we can control — which is us,” Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci said. “Once we get kicked it in and got moving, we executed really well.”

It did take Garnet Valley over half the first quarter to score. It turned the ball over on downs and punted on its first two possessions. But on that third possession, Danny Guy powered in a 10-yard run to start the scoring. The very next play from scrimmage was a 35-yard interception return from Dominic Bertone. Three plays later, Denny Nealon had his own 35-yard interception return.

One play into the Jaguars next drive, Matt Hamby hit Bobby Clayton for a 29-yard touchdown. In the span of not even two minutes, the Jaguars scored four times. They wound up with 344 yards on the ground, 24 first downs and 437 yards of total offense.

“Came off to a slow start, but we talked to our coaches, made sure that we knew what we were doing,” Hamby said. “We were fine after that.”

All the while, the defense held. It gave up 169 passing yards, including 83 in the first half when the starters were in. Harriton (0-7, 0-5) had minus-15 rushing yards at halftime and minus-two for the game.

The Rams did score on Patrick Stewart’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Tajie Wright-Rooney, but other than that, they couldn’t do anything. It was exactly what this Garnet Valley defense needed.

“We didn’t do anything special,” linebacker Gabriel Clark said. “That’s just Garnet Valley defense.”

Hamby’s 6-yard run, Matthew Lassik’s 1-yard run and Jacob Buttermore’s 42-yard field goal rounded out the first half scoring. In the fourth quarter, with the junior varsity in and the clock running, Jack Pulte (1 yard) and Khalid Adeleke (60 yards) scored touchdowns. Stewart had a 9-yard run in between those.

By that point, the Jaguars had turned their attention to Marple Newtown. However, that wasn’t the case during the week. They never let that looming monster game take precedence over what needed to be done Friday. It helped re-focus this group.

“It sent a message that need to focus on our (attitude) in practice,” lineman Zachary Schmitt said.

The Jaguars don’t figure to have those issues this week. Their Central League title hopes hinge on running the table, and a very good Tigers team is up next. It will be their homecoming game. There will be alumni, school and community events along with the football.

Ricci is focused on making sure his team doesn’t lose sight of what’s in front of them.

“It’s a big game because it’s a big Central League game,” the veteran coach said. “It just so happens that’s when Homecoming is, too, that’s not why it’s a big game. It’s a big game because it’s the next Central League game.”

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