WEST GOSHEN >> There have been many very good, if not great, running backs to come out of the Ches-Mont League in recent years.
After Friday night’s performance at Harrold I. Zimmerman Stadium, you can West Chester East sophomore Mitch Ragni to the list.
The Vikings sophomore rushed for 232 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns as the hosts held off a stout challenge from West Chester Henderson for a hard-fought, 28-7, win.
“It took a little while for Mitch to get going tonight but once he did he ran the ball very effectively,” West Chester East head coach Scott Stephen said. ”He is a big kid and he has good size and he has deceptive speed. When he gets loose he is gone.”
The Vikings (2-1) struck first against their crosstown rivals as Mason Griffin hauled in a 19-yard scoring toss from senior Ryan Duell for an early 7-0 Viking lead. After a Henderson three and out, the Vikings went 90 yards on seven plays, with Ragni going the final three yards, and it was a 14-0 Viking lead after one quarter.
But, West Chester Henderson, which was playing without six injured starters, fought back. On the first play of the second quarter, the Warriors tried some trickery and it worked. Halfback Mark Gunther took a pitch from Warriors quarterback Eddie Smink and tossed a beautiful 47-yard touchdown pass to Pat Esemplare, and it was a 14-7 West Chester East lead at halftime.
“The game was one of runs,” Stephen said. “We struck first and then they got the momentum with the toss back pass and then in the third they ran the ball well but our defense came up with the stops when we needed them to, and our offense started to click.”
The Warriors took the second half kickoff and used more than six minutes of clock to get the ball down to the West Chester East 9-yard line. But, the Vikings defense stiffened and the Warriors settled for a 25-yard Joe Shur field goal try. Unfortunately for West Chester Henderson, the kick went wide and the score stayed 14-7 in favor of the Vikings.
Henderson went on another long drive after the Warrior defense forced a three and out. The Warriors got strong running from Thomas Washington, who finished the night with 74 yards on 12 carries. But, when they had to, the Vikings’ defense held strong, and on a fourth and 12 play, Smink threw deep and the Vikings’ Luke Palsgrove picked off the pass and returned it to the Vikings’ 25-yard line. The Warriors allowed West Chester East just four offensive plays in the third, but Henderson came away with no points.
Then, it was Ragni time.
The Vikings went to the sophomore back time and again for positive yardage and he finally broke free from two tacklers for a 53-yard run to paydirt and the Vikings had a commanding 21-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Tamir Marshall added a 2-yard run late in the fourth to make the final 28-7.
“It is not just me, it is our offensive line that is doing a great job,” Ragni said. “Tonight, they were opening up some good holes for me and I just found some open space. And Henderson really played tough. They moved the ball but our defense stopped them when they had to and then our offense kicked in and we won the game.”
The West Chester east defense allowed the Warriors just seven points as Henderson moved the ball, but could only get it into the end zone one time, on Gunther’s halfback pass. The Vikings will travel to Kottmeyer Stadium next Friday to take on Downingtown West, but Stephen was not looking ahead the powerful Whippets just yet.”
“Our defense gave up some, but when they had to they made the stops,” Stephen said. “It was a total team win.”