UPPER CHICHESTER — A week after failing in its bid to put itself in a position for a chance at the District One Class AAA playoffs, Chichester experienced a bit of a hangover.
This hangover was not a comedy about a group of thirty-somethings stumbling through Las Vegas, but one of frustration and lethargy as the Eagles started out slow and eventually dropped a 47-13 decision to a potent West Chester East squad.
The Vikings used their fast-paced offense to carve through the Chichester defense with a balanced attack that included 40 passes and 39 runs. West Chester East jumped out to a 20-0 first half lead behind the duo of quarterback Jon Jon Roberts, who completed 23 of 40 passes for 195 yards and also ran for 132 yards, and running Dan Genthert, who rushed for 107 yards.
"Moving the ball really hasn't been our problem this year and we've been able to move it effectively basically every game,' said West Chester East coach Dan Ellis, whose team improved to 6-5. "Our issues have really been with turnovers and silly mistakes here and there. The last two or three weeks we've played some really tough opponents in our league and we didn't finish in those games. Coming into this game we wanted to keep that execution that we've had, but also wanted to finish. When we got in the red zone tonight we really were able to finish.'
Roberts hit Alex Corialos and Chris Sheehan with scoring strikes and Genthert added a three-yard touchdown run to provide the early 20-0 advantage for the Vikings.
"Our offense is a well-paced and our coach likes to work the ball down the field very fast with the run and the pass,' said Sheehan, who hauled in five catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns. "We can really move the ball down the field when we need to and be really persistent when we need to score touchdowns.'
Sheehan noted how pleased he was to see the improvement in this season's Vikings as the year progressed.
"It's incredible,' Sheehan said. "It started in the heat during the summer, grindin' hard, and doing what we need to do to get to this place where we needed to be. This is the first winning season for this program since 2006 and it's an overall awesome feeling.'
Even after the lethargic start, the Eagles were able to regroup after halftime and force their way back into the game. Duffy Gilhool came out of the locker room like a one-man wolf pack and raced to the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half. After Nick Phillips booted a 25-yard field goal for the Vikings, it was Tamein Jackson's turn to help the Eagles claw back into the game with a touchdown run of his own.
Gilhool (155 yards rushing) and Jackson (127 yards rushing) were an effective tandem on the ground for Chichester (4-6) and helped the Eagles to cut their deficit to 23-13, but the Vikings were prepared to put the game away.
Roberts hit Sheehan and David Bond for touchdown passes and Phillips drilled a 31-yard field goal for a sudden 40-13 advantage before Roberts finished the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run.
The apathetic finish after the slow start was not what Chichester coach Ryan Smith wanted to see from his team heading into its Thanksgiving rivalry game against Sun Valley. Smith knows the Eagles will have to correct their mistakes and bring a more focused effort if they want to end their season with a win over the Vanguards.
"We had a terrible week of practice ... one of our worst,' Smith said. "After this week of practice we thought that this might be one of the games where they would have to come out and take a couple of punches. The good thing is that they did respond, but to win this game we had to play a full game against a good football team and we didn't do that. Against Sun Valley we're going to have to create some balance offensively and defensively, against a talented Sun Valley team, we're going to have to wrap in space and tackle well.'
For the Vikings, it was a pleasant ending to a roller coaster ride of a season in the tough Ches-Mont League.
"It's been a process for these seniors,' said Ellis, the former Springfield coach. "When I got the job three years ago, they were sophomores, so it was crucial to get these guys to buy in. Over the course of the past three years it has really been something special to watch them grow up and mature as young men most importantly and as football players secondarily. It's been a treat for me as a coach.'