Interception on first drive opens floodgates in Henderson victory
WEST CHESTER >> No. 12 Sun Valley started marching off a drive on its first possession Friday night, looking like it came to do battle with No. 5 West Chester Henderson. The Vanguards mixed runs and passes to pick up three first downs and moved into Henderson territory.
But when a pass intended for Ishy Ahmad ricocheted off his hands and into the air, Sun Valley’s hopes fell back to Earth along with the ball.
That pass from Sun Valley QB Gabe Boccealla eventually fell into the hands of Henderson’s Nick Mascetti, who cradled it tightly and sprinted 73-yards to the house
for the game’s first score in a 42-16 Henderson win Friday night in the first round of the District 1 5A playoffs.
The Vanguards never really recovered from that bad bounce.
“We had those two turnovers early, and it really hurt us,” said Sun Valley coach Ray Gionta. “We were hoping to get a quick score and an early lead, but it didn’t work out. Henderson took advantage of our mistakes, and we just couldn’t work back in it.”
Mascetti and Joe Saulino each had picks in the first quarter, with Saulino’s interception setting up the Warriors’ next touchdown, which came on the first play of the second quarter.
“They were throwing the screen early on, so we were looking for it,” said Mascetti. “I think the receiver actually caught the ball, but just lost it. Once I had it in my hands, I knew I was going to take it all the way back.”
It was a big turning point, as Boccella never seemed comfortable the rest of the way.
“Nick’s interception was definitely a big turning point,” said Henderson coach Steve Mitten. “Here we were halfway through the period, and we still hadn’t seen the ball because they were moving it on us. The ball took a funny bounce, and with Nick’s speed, he took it in. Huge shift in momentum.”
With the defense doing its job, the Warriors turned to their workhorse on offense, running back CJ Preston. Preston had a monster night, rushing for 166 yards on 15 carries, while scoring three touchdowns.
Preston’s first touchdown came with 5:32 in the half when the offensive line created a gap big enough to drive a truck through. Preston hit the hole and then covered the remaining green for a 58yard score.
“Our offensive line has been playing so well lately,” said Preston. “I’m so proud of the way they’ve been playing. Along with this whole team. We knew we had to come out firing tonight, and we did. Feels great to get a district win.”
For the evening, Henderson piled up 254 yards on the ground. In addition to Preston’s scores, the Warriors got one through the air when Saulino connected with Ian Tracy for a tenyard TD, and Saulino ran one in from six.
Sun Valley’s scores all came in the fourth, on a 20-yard run from Quentin West, a safety, and a 10-yard scamper from Julion Kelly.
“We’re not done with our season yet,” said Gionta. “We still have our big rivalry game against Chichester on Thanksgiving, which has a playoff atmosphere regardless of records. This has been a great season. We broke a dry spell of ten years to get back to the playoffs. Our younger guys are going to want this again.”
Henderson moves on for a matchup with Upper Dublin.
“The name of the game is to survive and advance,” said Mitten. “The kids executed well, and we were fortunate to get that big early lead. We challenged them to play a complete game, and they worked hard all week for this win.”
Henderson’s CJ Preston runs through the Sun Valley defense Friday night.
Sun Valley’s Ishy Ahmad hauls in an incredible catch Friday night against West Chester Henderson.