PHOENIXVILLE >> Phoenixville was winning the battle up front, but the first moment of truth had arrived.
Facing fourth-and-1 at the Great Valley 44-yard line, coach Anthony Ciarlello kept his offense on the field.
He was quickly vindicated, as senior back Sam Moore charged through the right side of a dominant offensive line to pick up the first down, the play a microcosm of Phoenixville’s decisive win in the trenches through the contest.
Two plays later, Deacon Williams carried over the same right side for a 25-yard score that gave Phoenixville the lead for good in a 42-14 season-opening win over Great Valley.
Quarterback Ty Romance (left) and running back Sam Moore (right) each ran for two touchdowns behind an offensive line led by Andrew Kirk (center) in Phoenixville’s 42-14 over Great Valley on Friday.
The victory is the Phantoms’ first against their Route 29 rivals since 2011.
“Long time coming,” said Phantoms head coach Anthony Ciarlello.
“It means everything to see our coaches this happy, our teammates this happy,” said Moore, who led the effort with two rushing touchdowns, several defensive tackles, and an interception.
“It’s become our thing – breaking these bad streaks. It’s what we do.”
After a long drought, Phoenixville qualified for the District 1-5A playoffs in both 2021 and 2022.
This year, the goals go beyond making the playoffs. And performances like Friday night will go a long way toward attaining said goals.
Eight different Phantoms carried the ball in the contest, accumulating 310 yards rushing despite no single player exceeding 86 yards (that was sophomore Williams, whose touchdown was his first on varsity).
Quarterback Ty Romance got in on the fun with 79 yards rushing and a pair of scores.
“Once we got a big play, we broke out,” said Romance. “We kept our foot on the gas, never let up, never took it for granted.”
The breakout took some time, to be sure. Phoenixville didn’t pick up a first down on their first three possessions.
Meanwhile, Great Valley quarterback Braeden Melia was active early, going 4-for-7 on an eight play, 59-yard drive, including three receptions by junior Cole Callahan.
The drive ended when running back Sam Snyder corralled a loose ball on a fumbled snap and plowed over from the 1-yard line to draw first blood for the visitors.
Phoenixville running back Darius Watson picks up a block and gains yardage against Great Valley on Aug. 25. (Courtesy Rick Martin)
But Phoenixville’s Kevin Kingsbury returned the ensuing kickoff 48 yards to the GV 38, where Phantoms quarterback Romance scrambled all the way to the one-yard line to set up Moore’s tying one-yard run.
That was the majority of the first-half action until Moore’s momentum-defining first down run. The squads combined for eight first-half punts — four a side — while Phoenixville survived the half’s only turnover thanks to Williams’ fourth down tackle for loss on a Great Valley end around.
But after the Phantoms forced a third consecutive Great Valley punt, Ciarlello showed faith in the offense on the pivotal fourth-down play.
He was richly rewarded.
“That gave us a huge boost,” said junior offensive lineman Andrew Kirk, “because we know our coaches have that confidence in us.
“That gave us confidence in one another, and we weren’t going to let them down.”
After the break, Phoenixville continued to control the line of scrimmage on both sides, stopping a Great Valley fake punt attempt on 4th and 3 on the half’s opening drive.
The Phantoms combined execution with fortune on their first drive, as Romance needed time to corral an errant snap on second down. However, his linemen won their battles to the point that the signal called not only recovered the ball, but looked up to find an enormous hole, which he traversed for a 32-yard score and a 21-7 lead.
“I saw that hole, after I was looking for the ball on the ground,” laughed Romance. “I just took off.”
Phoenixville’s following drive heralded the conclusion of the competitive portion of the contest, as the Phantoms ran the ball a half-dozen times for 70 yards.
The drive concluded with Moore’s second touchdown run of the evening from five yards out, giving the hosts a 28-7 lead and announcing the conclusion of their 11-year losing streak to their non-conference rivals.
In the fourth quarter, Romance picked up his second score of the evening before Trey Wheeler got in on the act to turn on the running clock.
Melia found Ty Callahan for a 23-yard touchdown with about four minutes to play to close out the scoring.
In between Great Valley’s touchdown drives in the first and fourth quarters, the Patriots managed only 25 yards on seven possessions. Moore and Myles Tenbroeck had interceptions for Phoenixville.
“We’re a young team, and we have to learn how physical football is played at this level,” said Great Valley head coach Jeff Martin.
“Football’s a simple game – it’s blocking and tackling. We didn’t do either well. Phoenixville was hungry, and that’s a strong team over there.”
Next week, the Patriots open their Ches-Mont schedule by hosting West Chester East, while the Phantoms welcome Bishop Shanahan to Washington Field.
Beating Great Valley hasn’t happened at Phoenixville in a dozen years (“I was in kindergarten,” as Sam Moore said.)
But with an offensive line that can create room and dominate opponents, and an opportunistic defense with the most depth in recent program history, it doesn’t have to be the highlight of 2023.
“We need to establish consistency,” said Romance. “Showing up day after day, game after game, putting forth the same performance.”
Phoenixville 42, Great Valley 14
Great Valley — 7 0 0 7 — 14
Phoenixville — 7 7 14 14 — 42
GV — Snyder 1 fumble recovery (Duval kick)
PX — Moore 1 run (Jacobson kick)
PX — D. Williams 25 run (Jacobson kick)
PX — Ty Romance 32 run (Jacobson kick)
PX — Moore 5 run (Jacobson kick)
PX — Ty Romance 1 run (Jacobson kick)
PX — Wheeler 27 run (Jacobson kick)
GV — Callahan 23 pass from Melia (Duval kick)
First Downs 12 16
Rushing Yards 5 310
Passing Yards 202 5
Total Yards 207 315
Passes C-A-I 16-32-2 1-5-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 7-1
Penalties-Yards 5-57 6-50
Punts-Avg. 5-34.5 4-27
Great Valley – Melia 9-17, Johnson 3-5, Deegan 1-3, Snyder 1-1, Duval 1-1, Camp 1-1, Stedman 1-(minus-6), Team 1-(minus-17).
Phoenixville – D. Williams 12-86; TD, Moore 11-61; 2 TD, Ty Romance 9-79; 2 TD, Howard 8-49, Wheeler 1-27; TD, Watson 1-14, Lear 1-(minus-6).
Great Valley – Melia 16-32, 202 yards, TD, 2 INT.
Phoenixville – Ty Romance 1-5, 5 yards.
Great Valley – C. Callahan 4-41; TD, Crouse 4-38, T. Callahan 2-36, Helmle 1-55, Stedman 1-20, Snyder 1-8, Deegan 1-7, Maslowski 1-3, Camp 1-(minus-6).
Phoenixville – Moore 1-5.
Sacks: Great Valley – Rhodes.
Phoenixville – Howard, Aselton.
Interceptions: Phoenixville – Moore, M. Tenbroeck.