DOWNINGTOWN — The last time Jarred Jones and his Spring-Ford football teammates visited Downingtown West's Kottmeyer Stadium, in last year's District 1-AAAA championship, the Rams saw their dream season end in a nightmarish 31-point loss to Coatesville.
When the Rams made the return trek for Friday night's district tourney opener against Downingtown West, they did so with plenty of purpose.
"It was all about redemption,' said Jones, the Rams' scintillating senior tailback. "We came in here with a bad taste in our mouths. After what happened last year we had to rectify that.'
Thanks to a monster 231-yard, five-touchdown outburst by Jones and a gaggle of big-time performances from the rest of the Rams, that mission wound up being accomplished in emphatic fashion as Spring-Ford came away with a 43-21 victory.
Matt Daywalt enjoyed an outstanding starting quarterback debut by going 10-for-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown and Jake Leahy was a strong factor on both sides of the ball as the 12th-seeded Rams (9-2) advanced to next week's quarterfinal at No. 4 seed Neshaminy (10-1), a 41-7 victor over No. 13 Unionville.
"The effort on both sides of the ball was tremendous,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "Just a tremendous effort on everybody's part.'
That included the defensive front of Robby Varner, Mason Romano, Alec Vagnozzi and Tim Rudderow (taking Daywalt's spot on the D-line), which was able to pressure Whippets QB Nick Pagel enough to disrupt coach Mike Milano's hurry-up attack.
Linebackers Leahy and Andy Lovre-Smith did yeoman work, with Leahy and corner Brandon Barone each collecting an interception as the Rams survived a 27-for-42, 274-yard barrage from Pagel.
When push came to shove, however, Jones was simply the difference-maker as he cracked the 4,000-yard career rushing barrier.
He provided arguably the play of the game midway through the third quarter, after the Whippets had cut what was once a 16-point lead to 23-21 on Pagel's 19-yard TD run.
One play after Barone took the ensuing kickoff to the Spring-Ford 22, Jones received a handoff from Daywalt and bulled his way off left tackle before shedding a would-be tackler and bouncing it outside. Jones shifted into another gear to gain the edge, then somehow managed to stay inbounds before racing down the sideline for a highlight-reel 78-yard scoring run.
"It was a simple zone (play), reading the block,' Jones said. "Somebody (on the line) came in on the linebacker and once I started moving out, I just took off and it was over.'
"What a tremendous run,' marveled Brubaker. "I think he broke two tackles. We really couldn't get the defensive end (blocked) on that play; he got inside of us. But Jared bounced off him and got to the end zone. What can you say?'
That TD put the Rams up 29-21 with 7:38 left in the third after the point-after failed.
Spring-Ford's defense then kept answering every Downingtown West challenge. First, Leahy came up with an interception to blunt one drive. Then, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Leahy sacked Pagel on a fourth-and-3 play with 7:37 left and Daywalt hooked up with Gary Hopkins (three catches, 70 yards) for a 35-yard scoring strike that made it 36-21.
Jones sealed the deal with a 13-yard TD run with 2:26 left set up by Barone's interception.
"The difference tonight was that our offense came to play,' Jones said. "We wanted to come out and make a statement.'
That message was loud and clear from the outset.
Spring-Ford drew first blood on a 4-yard TD run by Jones with 3:11 left in the first quarter, then Tim Vu blocked a Downingtown West punt on the ensuing possession to set up Dave Gulati's 23-yard field goal that made it 10-0.
The Ches-Mont National Division champ Whippets, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped, got back into it with a 13-play, 81-yard drive capped by Jake Barr's 2-yard TD run with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
The Rams answered as Daywalt hooked up with Cody Davis for a 35-yard gain and Jones ran it in from 18 yards out to make it 17-7.
Then Lovre-Smith stuffed Jimmy DiSantis on a fourth-and-2 run to give the ball back to Spring-Ford, which needed just two plays — a 34-yard completion from Daywalt to Hopkins and a 6-yard scoring run by Jones — to extend the lead to 23-7 — before Pagel's 11-yard TD run got Downingtown West within nine at intermission.
"What a gutsy job he did tonight,' Brubaker said of Daywalt, who had thrown just eight passes all year. "He's a gritty kid and a tough kid, and he just played that way tonight.'
"For him only practicing (at QB) this week,' echoed Jones, "to execute like that was beautiful.'
And integral to an impressive return to the District 1-AAAA tourney.
Former Spring-Ford star Andrew Scanlan, now a redshirt freshman receiver at Northwestern (which has a bye week), was in the stands to cheer on his alma matter. According to Brubaker, Scanlan and other former Rams such as Hank Coyne, R.J. Sheldon, Matt Glowacki, Mike Gilmore, Yousef Lundi and Ty Yuzijain taped motivational messages for the squad. ... Downingtown West finished with 430 total yards, getting 11 receptions from Barr and nine catches for 93 yards from Thomas Mattioni. ... Spring-Ford had 424 total yards. ... Jones has 1,593 rushing yards and 25 TDs for the season and 4,030 career rushing yards.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Downingtown West 21
Spring-Ford 10 13 6 14 — 43
Downingtown West 0 14 7 0 — 21
SF-Jones 4 run (Gulati kick)
SF-Gulati 23 FG
DW-Barr 4 run (Bowler kick)
SF-Jones 18 run (Gulati kick)
SF-Jones 4 run (kick failed)
DW-Pagel 11 run (Bowler kick)
DW-Pagel 19 run (Bowler kick)
SF-Jones 78 run (kick failed)
SF-Hopkins 35 pass from Daywalt (Gulati kick)
SF-Jones 13 run (Gulati kick)
First Downs 14 24
Rushing yards 288 156
Passing yards 136 274
Total yards 424 430
Passes C-A-I 10-13-1 27-44-2
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 6-0
Penalties-Yards 6-43 7-72
Punts-Avg. 6-24.0 3-27.0
Spring-Ford: Jones 22-231, 5 TDs, Leahy 6-35, Daywalt 4-22.
Downingtown West: DiSantis 13-70, Boyer 4-52, Pagel 13-26, 2 TDs, Barr 8-8, 1 TD.
Spring-Ford: Daywalt 10-13-136, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Downingtown West: Pagel 27-42-274, 2 INTs; McNulty 0-2-0.
Spring-Ford: Davis 4-51, Hopkins 3-70, 1 TD; Jones 2-9, Leahy 1-6.
Downingtown West: Barr 11-87, Mattioni 9-93, Boyer 3-43, DiSantis 3-30, Lattanzi 1-21.
Interceptions: Spring-Ford-Barone, Leahy; Downingtown West-Osaghoe.
Sacks: Spring-Ford-Varner 2, Romano, Leahy.