Friday, September 28, 2012
Stout defense leads Whippets past Vikings
By NATE HECKENBERGER
WEST GOSHEN -- If it seemed like a ho-hum win Friday night, it’s probably because it was just business as usual for Downingtown West.
With a 28-9 win over West Chester East at Harold I. Zimmerman Stadium, the Whippets have now gone, in a seven-season stretch from 2006 to the present, 30-5 in the first halves of those seasons, a Chester County high.
The win moves West to 4-1 overall, 1-0 in the Ches-Mont National, meaning the Whippets have had four or more wins in the first half of the season in six of the past seven years. But first-half wins don’t mean as much if the second half total doesn’t equal playoffs, and West is hoping to flip the script from last fall when it started 5-0 and finished 7-3.
For now, a victory with a banged-up offense and a stout defense against a pesky East team sets the Whippets on their desired track.
“Our goal is to put ourselves in position to win the Ches-Mont,” West coach Mike Milano said. “East was (Friday night), and I know that’s cliche. We didn’t play our best, and we’re still wounded and shorthanded. We have a lot of young kids … and it just wasn’t smooth. It was not very smooth or polished, but you have to give (East) credit. They played physical and they were excited to see us.”
Things could not have started worse for the Vikings (0-2, 1-4). After East received the opening kickoff, freshman quarterback Jon Jon Roberts was picked off by Evan Wolf on a roll-out pass to the left. East forced a 47-yard field goal try by Nick Caruso, which sailed wide left.
On the very next play from the 20-yard line, Roberts was stripped on an inside run, and linebacker Lucas McMahon scooped it up and ran it in to give West a 7-0 lead.
“The defense has been great all year,” Milano said. “They’ve been averaging seven points against per game, and it stayed that way (Friday night). And it ended up a wash with us scoring one. We’re, for the most part, able to platoon, and that helps us later in the games to stand up when teams try to make a run. Evan Wolf is a first-year guy playing safety for us, and Ian Nanni and Danny Speca are tough inside. And we have a tiny little 10th grader, Lucas McMahon, at linebacker who’s doing a real nice job.”
Roberts was able to rebound, however, showing some of the potential that won him the starting job. Following his two turnovers on the first two plays, Roberts ran for 45 yards in the first half and threw for 103 yards and his first career touchdown. The TD was a perfect strike to Rob Ritrovato from 28 yards out on a fourth-and-14.
“You take away those first two, he played really well after that,” East coach Dan Ellis said of Roberts. “That was a big-time throw for the touchdown on fourth-and-14. Yes, he’s still young and still 14, but he’s getting better.”
West, who was without top back Tino Bunhu for the third straight week, lost Mitchell Meleski after one carry in the first quarter and had to rely on a trio of juniors to move the ball on the ground.
Jonathan Reyes found the end zone twice on the night and led all runners with 65 yards, quarterback Nick Pagel scored on a backbreaking 19-yard run with 16 seconds left in the half, and Elijah Tinson made up for slipping in the end zone for a safety with some tough second-half running.
East, which has not had a defense to write home about in a long time, really had a beat on West’s playcalling and held the Whippets in check most of the night.
“We played a lot better,” Ellis said. “I told the kids, we didn’t win the game, but we played pretty good defense. We had four turnovers, and a lot of that was silly stuff. Part of that is having a freshman quarterback, but we gotta toughen up and be smarter with the ball. I was very happy with the defense, though.”
West’s defense had a lot to do with the Vikings’ misfortunes, offensively. Teddy Varano added a fourth-quarter interception, Nanni recovered a fumble, and Speca, who was unblockable at nose tackle, recorded a sack.
With the biggest hurdles in the schedule yet to come, Speca knows his team must elevate its execution.
“Practice has got to be better,” Speca said. “Everyone knows you play the way you practice and wins come from practice. It doesn’t count for style points, so a win in the Ches-Mont is a win.”
As good as West has been in the first half of seasons, its biggest nemesis has been West Chester Henderson, who’s next on the schedule. The Whippets and Warriors have split the series in the last six contests.
“Our games against Henderson have always been classic,” Milano said. “There’s been years where they were favored and we upset them, and other years where we’re favored and they upset us. There’s been years where both teams are good and there’s been wars. I expect no different this year.”
Downingtown West 28, West Chester East 9
Downingtown West 14 7 0 7 - 28
West Chester East 0 9 0 0 - 9
DW- McMahon 19 fumble return (Caruso kick)
DW- Reyes 2 run (Caruso kick)
WCE- Tinson tackled in end zone for safety
WCE- Ritrovato 28 pass from Roberts (Rogers kick)
DW- Pagel 19 run (Caruso kick)
DW- Reyes 3 run (Caruso kick)
First downs 10 9
Yards rushing 194 46
Yards passing 34 155
Total yards 228 201
Passing 3-8-0 12-27-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties 9-70 8-42
Punts-Avg. 4-29.3 4-24.5
RUSHING - DW: Reyes 16-65, 2 TDs; Pagel 12-56; Sauder 6-45; Tinson 11-22; Hess 2-4; Meleski 1-2. WCE: Roberts 19-38; Costa 3-4; Jackson 2-4.
PASSING - DW: Pagel 3-8-34. WCE: Roberts 12-27-155, TD, 2 INTs.
RECEIVING - DW: Sauder 1-22; Varano 1-9; Tinson 1-3. WCE: Ritrovato 6-102, TD; Downey 3-17; Casey 2-11; McKenna 1-25.
SACKS - DW: Speca. WCE: Murphy 2; Rovi.
INTERCEPTIONS - DW: Wolf, Varano. WCE: none.