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Third-down defense dooms Plymouth Whitemarsh against Garnet Valley

GLEN MILLS >> The Plymouth Whitemarsh defense had plenty of chances to get off the field against Garnet Valley Friday night.

Almost every time, the Jaguars offense came through.

No. 3 Garnet Valley went 7-for-10 on third downs and handled No. 11 Plymouth Whitemarsh, 56-21, in the District 1-6A quarterfinals at Garnet Valley High School.

“We tried so hard to stop their run,” PW head coach Dan Chang said. “Their playaction pass game is pretty good. I thought our guys played tough. They made more plays than us tonight.”

The Jaguars went 4-for-4 on third downs in the first quarter. The first was a four-yard run by quarterback Ryan Gallagher to convert a 3rd-and-4. The next play Greg Reynolds broke a 53-yard touchdown run to tie the game, 7-7. On GV’s next possession, Gallagher completed passes on 3rd-and-7 and 3rd-and-8 to extend the drive and Reynolds ran for a 20-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-5 to take a 14-7 lead.

In the second quarter, the Jags only faced one third down and Gallagher was brought down for a six-yard loss, resulting in their only punt of the game.

GV faced two third downs in the third quarter and converted both. The first Gallagher hit Reece Malek for a 41-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-16 and the second Jake Morin ran for 13 yards on 3rd-and-10.

“They made a few good cuts and we missed a few key assignments,” PW senior captain Michael Paciello said. “It slipped away.”

The Colonials stopped 2-of-3 third downs in the fourth, but both times the Jags went for it on fourth down and converted — the first a fake punt on 4th-and-5 and the second a 4th-and-goal touchdown run from the one.

Familiar offense

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s offense features an option-based attack that heavily leans on the running game.

That’s just what the defense saw when it looked across the field at Garnet Valley.

The Jags threw the ball just three times, the same amount of passes the Colonials attempted in their 56-42 win over Abington in the first round of the district playoffs.

“They make a lot of veer and reads,” Paciello said, comparing GV’s style to PW’s. “They take what we give them, a lot of downhill stuff.”

Reynolds led the Jags rushing attack with 227 yards and five touchdowns on 10 carries. As a team, GV had 51 attempts for 360 yards on the ground.

“Their offense starts with their offensive line,” Chang said. “They are good. They’re big, physical, they can move and they just wear you down. Their offensive line is very, very good. Then they have guys who run hard. Their backs run hard, their quarterback makes great decisions. They’re tough. They’re a very good football team.”

Halftime swing

Plymouth Whitemarsh came out of the half trailing, 28-14, and received the kickoff.

The visitors started their possession on their own 7-yard line and lost two yards on back-to-back plays before running the ball to give the punting team some room.

Garnet Valley started the ensuing possession by losing seven yards on an end around and got one yard back on a run up the middle. Gallagher hit Malek for a 41-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-16, giving the Jags a commanding 35-14 lead.

“It was not a great way to come out,” Chang said, “but I think we were looking for answers the entire game. Credit to them. Offensively they’ve put up points all year. Teams are finding it very difficult to stop and we did as well tonight.”

PW’s ground attack

While the Colonials didn’t match Garnet Valley’s 360 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, they did have success on the ground.

PW ran the ball 40 times for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

Brian Dresnin led the way with 16 carries for 157 yards and two scores. Paciello turned four carries into 60 yards and a touchdown. Christopher Pierce had eight attempts for 60 yards.

End of the road

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s season ends with this defeat.

The Colonials went 9-2 this year and won a playoff game for the first time since 1999.

“Coming back from two bad seasons,” Paciello said, “I thought coming into this year we definitely knew we could be at the point that we are. We were overlooked a bit, coming into the year no one really thought of us.”

“This group has been one of, if not the best group that I’ve had in terms of not only their production on the field but as young men,” Chang said. “They’re just great kids. They got everything that they deserve. I told them that they did things that teams haven’t done in decades. They should be proud of that. I’m very proud of them.”

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