By JAMES BOYLE
Journal Register News Service
ASTON -- Sun Valley was in jeopardy of losing its final home game of the season to West Chester East before the Vanguards’ defense came up big on a last-ditch goal-line stand inside the final minute of the game.
West Chester East was trailing by just one point as quarterback Jon Jon Roberts attempted to push his way into the Sun Valley endzone from the one-yard line. But, when the Sun Valley defense forced a fumble and sophomore linebacker Mike Fisher emerged with the ball, the Vanguards had sealed the victory, 21-20.
“I knew when our team needed to make a play, we would make a play,” said lineman Ryan France. “As soon as I saw [Fisher] strip that ball I knew it was game over… it was a great feeling, knowing we were going to get in our victory formation. It was pretty cool.”
“We were actually contemplating letting them score and try to get the ball back with time on,” said Sun Valley head coach Jim Grugan. “And I said ‘no let’s play it out and see what happens’ and our kids played and went in ripping. It’s a pretty nice way to win.”
The Vikings began the pivotal fourth quarter with possession of the ball, and they made quick work of the Sun Valley (3-4, 6-5) defense by driving the ball 40 yards on five plays for the score.
Roberts connected with receiver James McKenna for a touchdown pass. The quarterback also added one rushing touchdown.
However, West Chester East missed a critical extra-point attempt that would end up being the difference in the game.
Sun Valley’s following possession resulted in what would be the game-winning touchdown.
Senior Running back Dan Griffin helped lead the drive by running 27 yards on six carries before sophomore running back Juwan Chandler could finish things with a 29-yard touchdown run.
Griffin, who had 67 yards rushing on the day, finished his final season as a Vanguard with 1,000 yards rushing.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Griffin. “We wish it wasn’t so close, but a win’s a win… We needed a win at home just for us 12 seniors. We had to go out like this. It couldn’t be any other way.”
Chandler scored both of Sun Valley’s other touchdowns on passes thrown by junior quarterback T.J. Mancini.
Chandler finished his day with 185 total yards.
Mancini, who threw for 130 yards and completed seven of 15 attempts, gave all the credit to his teammates.
“We played good,” said Mancini. “We needed to finish a few more opportunities, but it did feel really good to win one for our seniors.”
Senior wide receiver Leon Hunter caught four passes for 55 yards, and junior running back Ryan Riddle caught one pass for 18 yards in addition to six rushes for 17 yards and one interception.
Sun Valley will finish the season at Chichester for their annual Thanksgiving day game.