By ROB SENIOR
Journal Register News Service
DOWNINGTOWN — The stars were aligning for Downingtown West.
The Whippets had gotten the help they needed with other results throughout the district, and now needed a win over Bishop Shanahan at Jack Mancini Field to clinch a berth in the District 1-AAAA playoffs.
Senior running back Tino Bunhu made sure the Whippets would play another day.
Bunhu ran for 257 yards and six touchdowns as the Whippets advanced to the postseason with a 49-13 decision over the Eagles. The running back’s monster game was part of a 413-yard effort on the ground for West, which improved to 7-3 on the 2012 campaign. As of Saturday night, a first-round playoff rematch with rival Downingtown East looked likely.
“We’re not worried about who we play, we don’t want any particular opponent,” said West coach Mike Milano. “We’re happy to be in the playoffs, and more importantly, happy with the way we’re playing.”
Any coach would be happy with an offense that averaged over eight yards per carry, and a defense that caused three turnovers and disrupted numerous drives with tackles in the backfield. After starting the day with a 30-yard carry to set up Bunhu’s first TD, senior Danny Speca turned his focus to defense, where he racked up three sacks and made several more tackles for losses.
Bunhu crossed the goal twice in the first quarter, with the first set up by Speca’s long carry and the second the result of great field position after a short Shanahan punt. The Eagles drove into West territory early in the second quarter before turning the ball over on downs at the West 30. Bunhu’s third TD came on the ensuing drive, a 50-yard burst over right tackle.
“I didn’t know the numbers until now, but I couldn’t be happier for Tino,” said Milano. “He’s part of the heart and soul of this team—he’s a senior, he works hard in the weight room. Tino’s another example of our team coming together at the right time.”
Bunhu wasn’t done yet. On Senior Day at Shanahan, quarterback Justin Cook got the Eagles on the scoreboard in his final game with a 12-yard strike to Cody Smith right before halftime. The Eagles took possession to start the second half, but Lucas McMahon picked off Cook in the red zone to set up Bunhu’s fourth scoring plunge of the day. He would add yet another score in the third quarter before topping off his day early in the fourth with a 72-yard scamper.
Cook would add a second scoring strike, this time to sophomore Jeff Zebrowski, before West’s Elijah Tinson capped the scoring with a 1-yard run with just under five minutes to play.
Freshman Braden Harper led the offensive attack with 72 yards rushing for the Eagles, who finished the season at 3-6. The abundance of youth on both lines and at the skill positions for Shanahan wasn’t lost on coach Paul Meyers, even as he applauded his small group of nine outgoing seniors.
“I love those guys — they’ve done everything we’ve asked for this program, and they’ve laid the foundation — when they come back in two, three, four years from now and see where we are, they’ll know they were the reason we got it started,” Myers said.
As the Whippets awaited word on their first-round opponent, Milano took a moment to appreciate what’s been accomplished this season as well as what lies ahead
“No one gave these kids much of a chance this season, but they’ve battled through everything to earn this opportunity,” said Milano. “There are a lot of great football teams in this district, and now we get to measure ourselves against them.”
Downingtown West 49, Bishop Shanahan 13
Downingtown West 13 7 14 15 – 49
Bishop Shanahan 0 7 0 6 – 13
DW- Bunhu 11 run (kick missed)
DW- Bunhu 23 run (Caruso kick)
DW- Bunhu 50 run (Caruso kick)
BS- C. Smith 12 pass from Cook (Johnson kick)
DW- Bunhu 9 run (Caruso kick)
DW- Bunhu 3 run (Caruso kick)
BS- Zebrowski 6 pass from Cook (PAT missed)
DW- Bunhu 72 run (Caruso kick)
DW- Tinson 1 run (Tinson 2-pt. run)
DW- Varano 75 kickoff return (kick missed)
First Downs 16 10
Yards Rushing 413 117
Yards Passing 55 60
Total Yards 468 177
Passing 3-10-1 9-19-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties 7-75 9-57
Punts/Avg. 0 4/25
RUSHING- Downingtown West: Bunhu 22-257, 6 TD; Meleski 13-73; Tinson 4-7, TD; Sauder 3-23; Egan 3-15; Pagel 2-8; Speca 1-30.
Bishop Shanahan: Harper 15-72; Cook 7-6; Ruggieri 3-20; Stine 3-14; Angelini 2-20; Zebrowski 1-3; Lindstrom 1-(minus-18).
PASSING- Downingtown West: Pagel 3-10-1, 55 yards.
Bishop Shanahan: Cook 9-218-1, 60 yards, 2 TD; Lindstrom 0-1-0.
RECEIVING- Downingtown West: Meleski 1-24; Varano 1-18; Bunhu 1-13.
Bishop Shanahan: Zebrowski 4-31, TD; C. Smith 2-21, TD; Oakes 2-0; Angelini 1-8.
SACKS- Downingtown West: Speca 3.
INTERCEPTIONS- Downingtown West: McMahon.
Bishop Shanahan: Oakes.