THORNBURY — Five times in the first half Friday night, Chichester lined up to go for it on fourth down.
In their territory or Glen Mills', from two yards or eight, even on the fourth play of the game, the call from Ryan Smith's staff was always to go.
As soon as Glen Mills got the ball, the reason for Chichester's possessiveness was made obvious, one Shaaheen Dow broken tackle at a time.
Dow and his fellow Battlin' Bulls pulled out one big play after another en route to a 28-0 win in the Del Val League opener for both teams.
Dow found paydirt three times — on first-half runs of 55 and 7 yards and a 78-yard kickoff return to open the second half and stretch the Glen Mills lead to three scores.
Where Chichester (2-4, 0-1 Del Val) sought to, and often succeeded in, sustaining long drives and eating up clock, all Glen Mills needed was the quick-strike option.
Often, the impact was immediate and decisive. After the first series of the game, which included DeJuan Santana running for a fourth-and-2 at midfield, ended in a Chichester punt, Dow took Glen Mills' third play from scrimmage 55 yards around left end and dashed to the end zone.
When Chichester turned the ball over on downs on its second drive, it took four plays for Glen Mills to find the end zone, 38 of the yards provided on the ground by Kani Little before Dow scampered the final seven.
Chichester chewed up almost four minutes on a third-quarter drive, trying desperately to get back in the game. But Kevin Miller was six inches short on a fourth-and-8, and the next snap was a 61-yard highlight-reel run by DeAndre Johnson that featured two ankle-breaking cutbacks to open up space.
The ability of Glen Mills (3-3, 1-0) to run the ball was as much a testament to the atmosphere of its homecoming night as the offensive line doing the work in the trenches, according to Dow.
"It was just great teamwork all around,' said Dow, who finished with 104 yards on eight carries. "The line did what they needed to do and made the blocks. And I just was there to make the cuts. ... It shows a lot about the line. If they know that they've got six good guys coming in over and over, they know that they've got to make their blocks consistently because they've got running backs that are here to run.'
It was also due in part to the work done on defense, with Glen Mills digging in its heels and forcing four turnovers on downs.
"You've got to dig. Last play. You've got to dig,' said defensive back Tyesheed Freeman. "(Fourth down is) the most important play right there, get off the field and get a drink a water and then go out there the next series.'
The real backbreaker, though, was Dow's kick return to start the second half. With Chi having gotten a foothold in the game in the second quarter and finally picking up a few defensive stops, one more could've swung the pendulum of momentum. Dow's kick return made sure they didn't have a chance to do that.
"We thought we were going to come out fired up, we were going to get the ball back three-and-out, and that kick return killed us,' fullback/linebacker Trey Anderson said. "It messed up our whole plan.'
Chichester's offense had its chances, including a Chip Kelly-approved total of 63 offensive plays and 15 first downs to Glen Mills' nine. But the Eagles couldn't find the right mixture of pass and run to turn it into points. Miller had some success on the ground, carrying 15 times for 96 yards.
But as they went away from the running game and tried to air it out, the yards just weren't there. Duffy Gilhool spread the ball around to four different receivers, but he was only 8-for-21 in the air, not helped by at least a half-dozen drops and an equal number of shotgun snaps that short-hopped him and doomed plays from the start.
Gilhool also didn't get much hospitality from a quick and physical Battlin' Bulls front that was in his face all night. They limited Chichester to only nine plays of 10 yards or more, including just six of the 45 rushes the Eagles attempted. That was one shy of the number of times they sacked Gilhool.
Glen Mills only forced one turnover, a fumble forced by Tre Eater-Geary and pounced on by Jaquiere Custis, but they dominated enough to accomplish the goal they set entering the game.
"It means a lot,' Freeman said of the shutout. "We were coming out hyped. Our goal was not to let them get any points, and we accomplished our goal.'