CONCORD — Christian Portale had a good feeling heading into Garnet Valley's homecoming game against Harriton Friday night at Moe DeFrank Stadium.
The talented senior quarterback had seen some things during film study that led him to think that if the Jaguars could execute their offense and assert themselves physically in the trenches, it would be a tough night for the Rams.
Portale was dead-on in his assessment and led an overwhelming offensive performance that saw the Jags score three times in their first eight plays en route to a dominant 41-14 victory over Harriton.
Portale directed the Garnet Valley offense to a near-perfect performance in the first half as he ignited the Jaguars with arm and his legs. On Garnet Valley's third offensive play, Portale rambled 41 yards into the end zone for a touchdown and followed that up with a 16-yard scoring run on the Jaguars' seventh play. But Portale was just setting the Rams up with his legs: On the Jaguars next offensive play, he connected with Zach Nelson (96 yards receiving) for a 74-yard touchdown pass.
"It was definitely a look that we haven't seen a lot,' said Portale. "We called it a 3-3 and we knew that they moved around a lot. Our guys know their blocking assignments and we knew that whatever they threw at us, we'd be able to figure out what to do. Our coaches are unbelievable at developing a game plan and the guys have been unbelievable at executing it.'
Portale was not done there, however. He had one more touchdown in him, connecting with Aaron Parenti for a 2-yard score. In just under two quarters of work, Portale finished his night completing 11 of 12 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 62 yards on three carries and two more scores.
The senior was quick to attribute the offense's performance to the grunts on the offensive line.
"I can't say enough about them,' said Portale. "If you just look at the passing numbers, you might think it's just about the quarterback and the receivers, but if I don't have the time, it doesn't mean anything. The running game is great because of them. They're big, they're fast ... they're scary for a defense.'
Offensive linemen David Bertone, Ted Field, Shane Stabinski, Brandon Hitner, Connor Walsh, and tight ends John McGrogan and Jacob Quigley were a dynamic force.
"I don't think McGrogan gets enough credit for his blocking. You see him catching the ball, but you don't see a lot of the blocks he makes,' said Portale. "We have ' Block of the Week' here, and he's had it multiple weeks. He and Quigley do a great job there for us.'
Stabinski was another Jaguar who knew the game would come down to Garnet Valley's ability to execute and made his presence felt early by paving a clear path for a 47-yard run by Mike Bruette.
"We practiced hard all week, knew what we had to do, and just executed,' said Stabinski. "It was awesome. We all play our hearts out on the line and do what we have to do for the team. I think we've improved every week and we just get better and better.'
For Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci, the game's results were the culmination of all of the hard work and effort his line puts in during the week in the practice.
"Our offense has really been executing at a high-level all year and one of the reasons for that is our offensive line,' said Ricci. "Coach (Joe) Valerio does an excellent job teaching and preparing those guys to play.'
Jake Irving (60 yards rushing) and back-up quarterback Stephen Flanagan (64 yards rushing) added touchdowns to give Garnet Valley a 41-0 lead at halftime. The Rams added two scores from Andre Pendleton (59 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving) in the second half, but it was well after the game was already in hand.
It may have appeared to Harriton like the Jaguars were playing with a little extra incentive, and it's because they were. Garnet Valley dedicated the game to Anthony Easter, a youngster in the community who is facing a battle more challenging than anything on the gridiron.
"We had a young boy from the community, Anthony Easter, whose family recently found out that he's got a rare form of cancer,' said Ricci. "He's going to be leaving for Minnesota on Monday or Tuesday for three or four months to receive treatment for that. We just wanted to let Anthony know that we're behind him, we're with him, and we're thinking about him. We're impressed with his courage, the family's courage, and we just wish the best for him.'
After the game, Easter was awarded a game ball and even received well-wishes from Portale. Even on a night when the quarterback showed a lot of impressive moves on the field, his most impressive move came after the final whistle.