ASTON – If there’s one trait that has defined Sun Valley this season, it’s the collective strength of the Vanguards. They will fight until the final whistle, even on nights when things don’t quite go their way… like Friday night against West Chester Henderson.
Sun Valley suffered three lost fumbles and 13 penalties on the verge of relinquishing a 21-14 decision to the Warriors, which left both teams a little dissatisfied.
“I take my hat off to my team, they squeak and squeak,” Vanguards coach Ernie Ellis said after SV slipped to 2-5 on aggregate. “When they get down, they keep getting up. I can’t ask them anything more. This is what we are trying to build. It’s going to pay off for years to come because guys are going to know it’s not about how many times you get knocked over, but how many times you get up.
“We are still learning to compete on a daily basis, and they impress me… but we have to learn to win consistently now. “
Visiting Henderson started early with a touchdown in his first practice, but it would be the last score of the first half. Senior quarterback Eddie Smink hit Logan Krapf with an 18-yard pass for the 7-0 advantage early on.
Sun Valley efficiently moved the ball early in the air and on the ground, but seven first-half penalties and one fumble hurt the Vanguards’ scoring hopes. Warriors coach John Lunardi admitted he knew his team needed a more comprehensive second-half effort to hold the team home.
“I’m happy with the way we played at times in the second half, but we just have to be better,” said Lunardi, whose team improved to 3-4 overall. “We’re definitely happy to come out with a win. Sun Valley played hard and exploited some things on us.
Henderson forced a Sun Valley fumble on the first play of the second half, which was recovered by Smink, who ran 24 yards to the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
“Our coach gave me a blitz on the weak side of the back. I came back and my mate Dylan Grim made a great tackle and the ball ended up coming out, ”said Smink. “It’s kind of what a child dreams of. Pick up the ball, run and score in the unspoiled end zone. It can’t get any better than this in high school football. “
In subsequent practice, Connor Griesser sacked Sun Valley quarterback Steve Eskridge and forced another fumble. It would effectively seal the deal for Sun Valley midway through the third quarter as Smink added another touchdown with a one-yard sneak into the end zone.
“I think we came out a little soft, but we came together as a team,” said Smink. “My guys pushed me and I pushed them. Sun Valley is a great football team and they fought hard.
After falling behind 21-0, Todd Harper came to life for the Vanguards, but it was ultimately too little, too late. Harper, who finished with 128 rushing yards, scored two second-half touchdowns to help make the game close, but Henderson had just enough in the tank to hold the Vanguards back.