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Sun Valley’s grounds and pounds its way to a win at Great Valley

East Whiteland >> A couple of gutsy fourth-down calls for touchdowns, plus a solid ground game and some tough defense, gave Sun Valley a 16-13 win against previously undefeated Great Valley Friday evening.

The Vanguards’ biggest drive of the game was in the fourth quarter, when they trailed host Great Valley 13-6. After a clock-consuming Vanguard drive that featured the solid running of senior Andrew Kmett and junior Todd Harper, Sun Valley faced a fourth-and-goal at the Great Valley 7 yard line. Sun Valley junior quarterback Steve Eskridge rolled to his right, saw an opening, and bolted into the end zone to cut the hosts’ lead to 13-12 with 5:46 left.

Sun Valley boldly went for the two-point conversion, Kmett barreled into the end zone on a short run, and the Vanguards led 14-13.

The Vanguards then stopped Great Valley cold on the next offensive series, and on the ensuing Patriot punt attempt, the center’s snap went over the punter’s head and out of the end zone for a safety with 4:02 to play, giving the visitors a 16-13 lead that they never relinquished.

“It’s a lot about the guys starting to believe in themselves, that they can compete, and learning how to win,” said Sun Valley head coach Ernie Ellis.

Eskridge said, “We’re always underestimated, but this year we’re making a statement. I’m proud of the guys, and I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday.”

The first half featured a 0-0 battle in which both teams threatened to score but neither could finish a scoring drive.

On the third play from scrimmage Friday evening, a Sun Valley fumble was recovered by the Patriots at the Vanguard 30 yard line. But a couple of subsequent offensive penalties moved the hosts back to midfield, and eventually Great Valley was forced to punt.

Midway through the first half, Sun Valley’s running attack of Kmett and Harper moved the ball for solid, consistent gains deep into Great Valley territory. But a fumble at the Patriots’ 8 yard line was recovered by Great Valley senior Riley Craven to end the visitors’ scoring threat.

Late in the first half, Great Valley senior quarterback Andy Talone hit senior wide receiver Jackson Callahan for a couple of solid gains, and with the help of a couple of Sun Valley penalties moved deep into Vanguard territory. But a 20-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the first half was blocked.

In the second half, both team’s offenses began to score. Great Valley took the second half opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown in six plays. The big plays were a 39-yard run by Talone in which he eluded several tacklers; and a 20-yard scoring strike from Talone to Callahan. Seth Turner’s conversion gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead with 10:15 to play in the third quarter.

Sun Valley struck right back, with a 79-yard touchdown drive. Kmett opened the drive with a 21-yard run, and the final play was a 28-yard touchdown pass from Eskridge to a wide-open Noah Griffin in the right corner of the end zone to make the score 7-6.

 “We’ve been working in Noah a lot during this past week,” said Ellis. “We ran this play last week [against Oxford] and it paid some dividends for us. Noah is a young talent of ours that we need to start using more frequently.”

On the next drive, the Patriots scored, the big plays being a 54-yard run by junior running back Nick Pellicciotta that took Great Valley down to the Vanguards’ 14-yard line; and a 22-yard touchdown pass from Talone to a tightly-covered Dylan Cave, who leaped high to catch the ball in the back left corner of the end zone.

Sun Valley took the ensuing kickoff with 2:55 left in the third quarter, and kept the ball until they scored on Eskridge’s 7-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 5:46 to play.

After the Vanguards scored a safety with 4:02 left, the visitors received the ensuing free kick, and proceeded to run the ball for seven consecutive plays to kill most of the remaining time left in the game.

“We’re trying to build an identity of ‘ground and pound,’” said Ellis. “We throw it when we need to. … I think all of our guys played amazing today. On defense, [Senior defensive end] Kevin Mayoros played really big for us today. On offense, I thought [junior tight end] Bucky Grayston really played well [blocking].”

Great Valley head coach Jeff Martin said, “We didn’t execute tonight. It all comes down to fundamental football, catching the ball, tackling, and we didn’t do a good job tonight – Sun Valley did a better job than we did.

“I told our team all week that Sun Valley is a much better team than they’ve been [before], they showed it tonight, and we made too many mistakes – penalties, missed tackles, dropped balls. We have a strong senior group, we have to correct the mistakes, and we’ll hold them accountable for getting better.”

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