ASTON >> Trailing early in the game and with its offense unable to punch the ball into the end zone, West Chester Henderson needed a boost against Sun Valley Friday night. The Warriors found that in the foot of kicker Joe Shur, whose two field goals help ignite the Henderson offense in the Warriors’ 27-7 victory over the Vanguards.
Henderson’s versatile offense eventually rounded into form and a staunch defensive effort helped coach John Lunardi’s Warriors improve to 3-6 on the season.
“We came out of halftime and did what we needed to do,” Lunardi said. “I think in the first half we were pressing a little bit, but in the second half we came out and executed and were getting it done up-front.”
With the Henderson offense unable to fully hit its stride in the first half, Lunardi turned to Shur to help the Warriors get on the scoreboard. The Warriors were able to move the ball seemingly at-will, but could not find a way to get into the end zone.
Thankfully for the Warriors, Shur’s leg was on-point as he hit field goals of 22 and 28 yards respectively.
“It was really big for the team to get points up on the board,” Shur said. “I love being able to help the team and I just try to help out the team in any way that I can.”
Later in the game, Shur lined up for a 50-yard attempt, but the snap was a bit high and the talented kicker could not get the hit he needed on the attempt, which fell short. Shur made no excuses, though, and said he was confident as he approached the ball.
“I’m always confident 55 and down,” said Shur. “(What happened there) was no one’s fault. We’re all in this together and we’re all in the same boat.”
Even with the missed attempt, Shur showed that he has a tremendous amount of “leg talent” as some scouts might say.
“Joe is a great kicker,” Lunardi said. “He works incredibly hard and he puts in a lot of work that people don’t see and it pays off. We have a lot of confidence that if we get down there, we can kick a field goal and feel good about it.”
Regardless, Shur’s role was vital because Sun Valley’s opening drive put the Warriors on their heels. The Vanguards were powered by a 45-yard double-pass from Kevin Mayoros to Antonio Rivera and the drive was ultimately capped off when Mayoros scored on an 11-yard jet sweep. Thanks to an overpowering effort from the Henderson defense, however, that drive would be one of the few highlights for the Vanguards on the night.
The Warriors kept pressure on Sun Valley quarterback Johnny Eskridge for the better part of the game as Jordan Laudato, Quinn Keegan, and Mark Addison all registered sacks, while a group of Warriors collaborated on another takedown of Eskridge.
Casey Killoran added an interception and the Henderson defense also clogged the running lanes for Sun Valley, which did not leave the Vanguards many options to generate offense.
“Sun Valley does a lot of different things that we had to prepare for and they caught us early in the game,” said Lunardi. “But we settled in and played good team defense, which is exactly what you’ve gotta do.”
The game broke open for Henderson when an intentional grounding call that forced Sun Valley to punt from their one-yard line. The subsequent punt was returned 23 yards to the five-yard line as Jon Hamm ran like a mad man to set up a scoring run by Jay Pierce, who finished with 97 yards.
Later, Warriors quarterback Eddie Smink added a pair of touchdown runs to seal the victory for Henderson.
“The coaches came up with a great game plan, but we had a few little ticks in the first half there, but we adjusted,” said Smink. “We fought through. The big guys up front did all of the work in the trenches. Jay Pierce had a great game and Mark Gunther and all of the running backs did a great job.”
As for Sun Valley, the Vanguards had some moments, but ultimately were not consistent enough with their execution to threaten the Warriors.
“They were a lot bigger than us and we knew that coming in,” said Sun Valley coach Greg “Bubba” Bernhardt, whose team fell to 1-8. “We had some tricks up our sleeve like the double-pass that helped us get the early score. We had some momentum, but I told my guys afterward that they battled and were able to hang tough, but Henderson kind of wore us down. We could never really get our feet under us in the second half, but hats off to them.”