Big fum­ble re­cov­er­ies help Pa­tri­ots

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter

EAST WHITE­LAND >> The play de­sign for Owen Banav­itch was sim­ple.

The Great Val­ley de­fen­sive back po­si­tioned him­self out wide in the kick­off for­ma­tion, and when the call of “pop left” came, he ran.

Twice Fri­day night, Banav­itch’s 50-yard sprint ended with the ball in his hands. And that pair of fum­ble re­cov­er­ies went a long

way to­ward help­ing his Pa­tri­ots nab a play­off vic­tory.

Banav­itch pounced on fum­bled kick­offs by No. 9 seed Glen Mills on their open­ing pos­ses­sions of the first and third quar­ters, among f four turnovers caused by the No. 8 Pa­tri­ots in a 34-14 win in the District 1 Class 5A first round.

“Our kicker (Pat Sauer) just pops it over, tries to get it the sec­ond line of (re­ceivers),” Banav­itch said. “So I’m just run­ning down, I just have to go and grab it. It’s pretty much it.”

Rudi­men­tary by de­sign, Banav­itch’s effort was a mi­cro­cosm for Great Val­ley’s tri­umph, which earns them a date with top-seeded Spring­field next week. Glen Mills (5-6) of­fered slight open­ings on which Great Val­ley cap­i­tal­ized time and again.

Af­ter Banav­itch grabbed the open­ing kick­off, Rob Geiss cashed in a one-yard TD run to put the Pa­tri­ots up, 7-0. Sauer hit a 31-yard field goal on the open­ing se­ries of the sec­ond half, but missed a 29-yarder af­ter the pop kick worked. De­spite that, though, the Pa­tri­ots (7-4) con­trolled most of the third pe­riod, not tak­ing their first snap from their own territory in the sec­ond half un­til mid­way through the fourth.

Much of the clock con­trol was ex­er­cised by Geiss’s pass­ing game. The se­nior com­pleted 26 of 34 throws for 290 yards, the big­gest chunk cov­ered by run­ning back Mark DeRober­tis, who caught 13 balls for 78 yards in an ex­ten­sion of the run­ning game. Thought mostly shov­els, screens and dumpoffs, DeRober­tis hauled in the ball all 13 times he was tar­geted, a re­mark­ably sure-handed evening.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble,” Geiss said. “It’s al­ways good to have a sure-handed run­ning back like that. I can give it to him, though the ball to him never I need to and he’ll catch it and get as many yards as he can.”

DeRober­tis, who ran 11 times for 22 yards, capped the scor­ing with a sev­en­yard touch­down.

Geiss tossed touch­downs passes of 31 and 45 yards to Damien Carter and Ryan Hub­ley, re­spec­tively. The lat­ter, on a play where Hub­ley bat­ted the ball up and away from a Glen Mills’ de­fender, took a pair of quick steps un­der to col­lect it, then out­ran an­other tack­ler for the score.

Even af­ter the game, Geiss was strug­gling to get his mind around it.

“Wow, that was in­cred­i­ble,” he said of Hub­ley, who caught eight balls for 129 yards. “I was get­ting hit and I saw him deep, so I knew I had to throw the ball. I threw it as I got hit and just lobbed it up. Spec­tac­u­lar, that was one of the best foot­ball play­ers I’ve seen in a foot­ball game ever. Awe­some, in­cred­i­ble.”

Banav­itch wasn’t the only im­pact de­fender. Bren­dan O’Don­nell in­ter­cepted Glen Mills quar­ter­back Roberto Falu in the sec­ond quar­ter and broke up three passes at safety. Cap­tain Nick Ryan pro­duced 3.5 tack­les for loss af­ter half­time, and Cade Reat re­cov­ered a fum­bled screen pass by Keon Rantin in the fourth quar­ter to seal the game.

The Bat­tlin’ Bulls didn’t help them­selves much, ei­ther, whis­tled for 14 flags for 114 yards. An off­side on fourth-and-3 ex­tended the Pa­tri­ots’ first drive, while a rough­ing the passer has­tened Carter’s score.

But more dam­ag­ing were in­frac­tions that nul­li­fied pos­i­tive of­fen­sive plays. Jah­noni Hick­er­son, who burst for a mo­men­tum-spark­ing 54-yard touch­down in the sec­ond quar­ter, dashed 26 yards on a fake punt on fourth-and-10 early in the third quar­ter … that was called back for il­le­gal pro­ce­dure. An il­le­gal shift nixed an 81-yard would-be scor­ing con­nec­tion be­tween Falu and Rantin.

“When the touch­down gets called back, it’s hurt­ful,” Falu said. “We were down, and touch­downs were get­ting called back.”

Falu had his mo­ments in the pass­ing game, com­plet­ing 13 of 27 at­tempts for 170 yards, in­clud­ing five for 63 yards to Hick­er­son. Falu ran for a one-yard score af­ter find­ing Charles Law­son for 30 yards on fourth-and-long in the fourth.

While Glen Mills hung around, the slug­gish start to the sec­ond half proved too deep of a hole to es­cape. They can thank Banav­itch for that.

“First play of the game, if we re­cover it back, that’s to­tally killing their morale,” he said. “Sec­ond half, we get it back, killing the morale, and that’s a huge rea­son why we got so much mo­men­tum.”

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