CONCORD — Garnet Valley's top-seeded football team knew it was facing a tough No. 16 in Council Rock North and that it wouldn't get anything easy out of the Indians. Luckily for the Jaguars, they're built for that kind of game.
Using three main rushers, Garnet Valley picked up 370 yards on 65 carries in a 35-21 win over the Indians Friday evening in the first round of the District One AAAA tournament. Vince Razzano led all rushers with 159 yards on 24 carries, and Jags quarterback Christian Portale added 123 on 20 carries. Both rushed for two touchdowns and connected on a pass for the fifth.
Garnet Valley (11-0) will play No. 8 Abington, which beat up on ninth-seeded Upper Dublin, in the second round.
Jaguars coach Mike Ricci couldn't say enough about his players after the game, especially the effort put in by Razzano.
"He's been that kind of (all-around) player for us all year,' he said. "He's so physically strong, he can do anything. He can run, he can catch, he's a great blocker, he's a leader. This game tonight was the epitome of Vince Razzano, and he'll be the first one to tell you without the other guys blocking for him he wouldn't be able to do anything.'
Unfortunately, Razzano was unavailable to speak for himself after the game. He headed to the locker room early because of a lower leg injury he suffered with just more than four minutes remaining in the game. He needed help off the field and appeared to have ice on his right ankle, though Ricci said the team is unsure how serious the injury is.
The senior leader Portale, who also had 42 yards on four completions, gave all the credit to his line for helping the Jaguars keep the ball moving. Garnet Valley amassed 26 first downs in the win, mostly due to the line's non-stop feet driving to push the pile a few yards more.
"We knew they wouldn't give up the big plays, we knew we'd have to grind it out,' Portale said. "The line, they're grinders. Those guys just all know when to suck it up and get that last two or three yards. That was what it came down to, those third-and-twos, second-and-ones, those kind of plays.'
Indians (7-4) coach Adam Collachi said he and his team were pleased to head into halftime only down 14-0 and knew they still had a chance. But the Jaguars started the second half with the ball and were determined to increase their lead. On fourth and 17 from the Council Rock 21, Portale dropped back and lofted a ball into the corner of the end zone to where only Razzano could catch it, giving the Jags a three-touchdown lead.
The Indians did eventually get on the board off a 2-yard rush from quarterback Brandon McIlwain to finish a 97-yard drive. After forcing a punt from Garnet Valley, the sophomore turned a broken play at the end of the third quarter into a 79-yard touchdown to cut the Jaguar lead to one touchdown.
Portale and the offense never wavered, though. Garnet Valley opened the fourth quarter with a 14-play drive that shaved more than five minutes off the clock and gave the Jaguars a 28-14 cushion.
"We knew (McIlwain) was a great athlete, we were trying to not let him make big plays and he did make the big play,' Ricci said. "I love the resiliency of our guys, nobody got panicked, we came right back and marched down the field and scored. That was huge to be able to do that and these guys have been doing that all year.'
The Jags don't get to celebrate the win for too long. Players were expected back at school at 7:30 Saturday morning to go over film and try to fix the mistakes they made. Portale said Saturdays are relatively easy, but it's back to the field come Sunday to start game planning for Abington.
"Gotta get right back to work,' Ricci said.