Boccella’s all-around effort powers Sun Valley

ASTON >> Gabe Boccella decided to use his legs on three occasions Friday night, and he found pay dirt each time.

The Sun Valley quarterback logged respective rushing scores of 3, 6 and 75 yards, and threw for another, to lead the Vanguards in a 34-0 defeat of Harriton in a nonleague game at Dr. Wally Field.

Oh, and he intercepted a pass, too, one of Sun Valley’s four turnovers on the night.

“We had great blocking up front on the offensive side, and defense, we really shut them down,” Boccella said. “We just did everything we had to do.”

The Vanguards established their run game from the opening drive, when junior running back Jon Kester rumbled for 44 yards on eight carries to set up Boccella’s 3-yard keeper. Along with Boccella’s 6-yard keeper in the second quarter and his 75-yard scamper up the right sideline in the fourth quarter, Caliph Jones capped the scoring with a 42-yard run in the final quarter. Overall, the Vanguards amassed nearly 400 yards rushing.

And while Harriton quarterback Patrick Stewart did all he could to break an oft-bending Sun Valley defense with 227 yards through the air on 30-of-43 passing, the Vanguards preserved the shutout with three first-half interceptions and a Charlie Wendling fumble recovery on Sun Valley’s own 5-yard line in the third quarter.

“Defensively, I thought we played well all night,” Vanguards coach Ray Gionta said. “They drove the ball and they were in the red zone, and we were able to come up with some turnovers in the red zone. That was key.”

Not long after Ishy Ahmad snared Sun Valley’s first pick of the night, the Rams drove right back down the field on their next possession and were stopped cold when Boccella intercepted Stewart in the end zone.

Three-and-a-half minutes later, an Adam Robinson interception on an over-the-middle pass thwarted another Rams drive and led to Boccella’s second score.

Wendling’s takeaway, meanwhile, provided the proverbial nail in the coffin for a Sun Valley team that hadn’t won a game in nearly a month.

“We take it one game at a time, but it’s definitely in the back of your mind throughout the season,” Boccella said of the Thanksgiving game. “It means everything. … It’s the most intense game of the year, without a doubt.”

Despite Stewart’s prolific game through the air in Harriton’s season finale, it wasn’t enough to help the Rams avoid sealing a winless fall.

“We just kept fighting, you know?” Harriton coach Justin Mellor said. “And then we get to the 10 and we can’t quite finish. … That’s incredibly frustrating and I know the kids are frustrated, but we always just talk about playing hard.

“The score’s the score. We know our situation and a lot of games are going to be hard for us … but we sleep well at night knowing we gave it everything we got.”

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