By BRENT GLASGOW
BERWYN – Football games can turn on a dime, as in Friday night’s match-up between Conestoga and Garnet Valley.
Up by two points just before halftime, Conestoga punted the ball to Garnet Valley’s Wellington Zaza, who took the kick 80 yards for a touchdown.
The momentum shift never reversed, as Garnet Valley scored a total of 28 unanswered points in a 28-16 road victory.
The special teams letdown was far from the only reason Conestoga suffered its first loss of the season. Two turnovers and 85 penalty yards were equally damaging.
“We started making some dumb penalties, we turned the ball over and had some dumb mistakes,” Conestoga coach John Vogan said. “Garnet Valley’s a great team, and great teams take advantage of mistakes.”
Garnet Valley had mistakes of its own, but overcame them with solid defense and running down the stretch.
“We did some uncharacteristic things and really hurt ourselves, but I was proud of our guys for not getting down or pointing fingers,” Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci said. “We stayed together and put together a strong finish.”
Conestoga (1-1) started well, scoring on its first two possessions, first on a 26-yard field goal by Blaise Toroni and then on an 8-yard TD pass from Joe Viviano to Nick Prestipino.
After those nine points, Conestoga didn’t score again until just 1:46 remained in the game.
Garnet Valley (2-0) scored on the final play of the first quarter, with an 18-yard TD run by Jordyn Bennett. Almost a full quarter later, Zaza broke the game open, as he took a punt after one hop all the way to the end zone.
Zaza saw his wall form to the right, and was given enough space to make the catch as Conestoga defenders tried to avoid an interference penalty.
“I saw their guys back up, so I just grabbed the ball and ran to my guys,” Zaza said. “I knew they were going to protect me, and I knew we needed the touchdown.”
The punt went wrong from the beginning for Conestoga.
“It didn’t go where we wanted. We were trying to directional kick away,” Vogan said. “Then we had chances to tackle the kid, and just didn’t do it.”
Penalties and turnovers plagued both teams in a scoreless third quarter, but Garnet Valley took command in the fourth, as Jake Irving had scoring runs of 17 and 20 yards to push his team to a 19-point lead.
While numerous Conestoga players battled cramps in the final period, Garnet Valley hit the gas, as the Jaguars averaged 9.7 yards per carry on their last two scoring drives.
“Because we have 110 kids on our roster, we have some depth, and it’s a big advantage in these early games when it’s hot,” Ricci said. “We try to wear the other team down, and you could see that when they got tired, we were still fresh. That goes a long way.”
Garnet Valley 28
Garnet Valley 7 7 0 14 -- 28
Conestoga 9 0 0 7 -- 16
C-Toroni 26 field goal
C-Prestipino 8 pass from Viviano (pass failed)
GV-Bennett 18 run (Dowd kick)
GV-Zaza 80 punt return (Dowd kick)
GV-Irving 17 run (Dowd kick)
GV-Irving 20 run (Dowd kick)
C-Dorsey 11 pass from Viviano (Toroni kick)
First downs 20 18
Yards rushing 341 60
Yards passing 5 222
Total yards 346 282
Passing 1-4-1 19-38-1
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 2-2
Penalties 5-55 9-85
Punts-Avg. 2-28 5-27
RUSHING – Garnett Valley: Irving 19-151, Bennett 12-79, Razzano 16-58, Corkery 8-38, Bruette 3-14, Zaza 1-1. Conestoga: Burton 16-62, Prestipino 1-4, Viviano 9-(-6).
PASSING – Garnet Valley: Corkery 1-4-1-5. Conestoga: Viviano 19-38-0-222.
RECEIVING – Garnet Valley: Razzano 1-5. Conestoga: DeStefano 10-117, Dorsey 5-67, Loevy 1-15, Prestipino 2-12, Pritchett 1-11.
SACKS – Garnet Valley: Granahan (2), Rose, Juliano, Arters, Goeke, Leong.
INTERCEPTIONS – Conestoga: Caine.