ASTON — Senior Night celebrations got Sun Valley's fans and players pumped up before the game, but the excitement didn't last very long. Friday night marked the sixth consecutive loss for the Vanguards as they were shut out, 36-0, by Great Valley in a Ches-Mont League American Division matchup.
Sun Valley (2-6, 0-5) struggled to move the ball all night and finished with 120 yards of offense. The Vanguards defended the passing game well and came up with two interceptions, but overall the defense couldn't contain the Patriots, who finished with 389 yards on offense.
Vanguards coach Jim Grugan chalked the game up to inexperienced players stepping in for injured kids and poor tackling.
"[Great Valley]'s good at executing their offense, I've got to give it to them,' he said. "They're a big, strong, physical football team and they took it to us.'
Great Valley (6-2, 3-1) saw strong performances from a number of players and was led by starting quarterback Sean Fitzpatrick, who rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown and added another touchdown through the air. Grugan said his team was ready to face the run, but the Patriots were still able to gain 320 yards on the ground using eight different runners. Chris Temple led the running backs with 102 yards on eight carries.
"When you have a triple-option running attack and it works, and you're focused and you're getting your assignments down it's awfully tough to stop,' Great Valley coach Michael Choi said. "...It makes it awfully hard for a defense to stop us when we're clicking on all cylinders.'
Sun Valley looked ready to play on the opening drive of the night. Ryan Riddle had an impressive 13-yard run that should have gone for a loss and later caught a pass from Mancini good for 41 yards, but the drive fizzled once Sun Valley got to the Great Valley 7-yard line. A couple of runs for losses led to a forced pass by Mancini, which was picked off in the end zone. After that drive, the Vanguard offense never made it back to the red zone.
Riddle made the biggest impact on the night for the Vanguards with 19 yards rushing, 41 receiving and an interception, but was forced to leave the game with a hip injury in the second quarter. The hits kept coming for Sun Valley as tight end Nate Cusumano injured an already ailing shoulder and defensive back Bobby Koons was removed from the field on a stretcher after a tough collision, though he is expected to be fine.
With the playoffs out of the question and the season in a tailspin, Grugan said the Vanguards still have to hit the field every night and play for their pride. They also have to look at it as a learning experience for those who will be around next year.
"We're a pretty young team experience wise, maybe not age wise but experience wise,' he said. "We need to keep striving to try to get better every week. Some of the younger guys, the JV guys, they started making their way onto the varsity team because we have a ton of injuries.'
On the other end of the spectrum, the Patriots were expected to report at 9:30 a.m. Saturday to begin preparations for this weekend's important game against Unionville.
"Both of our teams are going to need a win for a playoff spot in District One,' Choi said. "That's what we've been practicing for, that's what we've been building this program for, to play in games like that.'