Kick and Cry

Bon­nett’s clutch field goal lifts Vik­ings to emo­tional win

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

EAST MARL­BOR­OUGH >> With tears run­ning down his cheek, emo­tional head coach Dave Gueriera hugged ev­ery sin­gle player on the West Chester East foot­ball ros­ter.

Mo­ments ear­lier, his Vik­ings had capped a val­or­ous game-win­ning drive with a last minute 27yard Jake Bon­nett field goal to edge host Unionville, 10-7, in the open­ing round of the District 1 Class 5A Play­offs. It not only put an end to a painful three-game los­ing skid to end the regular sea­son, it also gave West Chester East its first post­sea­son vic­tory in a decade.

“It’s been a tough week,” said Gueriera, wip­ing his eyes. “We’ve lost some tough, tough games, and I just … love these guys.

“This is mon­u­men­tal. It’s been a 10-year play­off drought.”

The come-from-be­hind tri­umph sets up a sec­ond round clash with third-seeded Marple New­town, which topped Up­per More­land, 35-7. The 11th-seeded Vik­ings are now 5-5 on the sea­son.

“We were blessed just to get into the play­offs to be­gin with,” said star run­ner Jared Cooper. “So to come out and win, and show ev­ery­body who we are and what we can do, it feels amaz­ing.”

West Chester East was the only road win­ner in the 5A field Fri­day night.

For the sixth-seeded In­di­ans, it was a bit­ter way to end the sea­son. Unionville (7-4 over­all) en­tered the day with a five-game win­ning streak.

“Play­off foot­ball is like this,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said. “I told our kids it would be back and forth, and this re­sult it tough to swal­low.

“We don’t have any Divi­sion I su­per­stars, but our se­niors care so much and I feel bad for them. They have given so much to the pro­gram and I wish we could have fig­ured out a way to get it done.”

It was the bat­tle of suf­fo­cat­ing de­fenses, and both sides wound up with just 349 yards com­bined. But some­how, some­way, West Chester East was able to muster a long, sus­tained game-win­ning drive that ate up nearly eight min­utes on the clock, took 17-plays and cov­ered 70 yards. And the Vik­ings did it with time run­ning out against one of the Ches-Mont’s premier de­fenses.

“You have to com­pli­ment (East) on the fact that they went 17 plays with­out mak­ing a mis­take,” Clark said.

“I think we were build­ing to­ward that,” Gueriera added.

Along the way, the Vik­ing con­verted had sev­eral cru­cial third down con­ver­sions, and a huge fourth down one, when Cooper picked it up near mid­field. With time run­ning out, East at­tempted to cen­ter the foot­ball for Bon­nett, a se­nior who spe­cial­izes in soc­cer and made his foot­ball de­but this sea­son. But Cooper bounced the play to the out­side, leav­ing Bon­nett with a tough an­gle.

“We did try to cen­ter it, but Coop took it wide,” Gueriera ac­knowl­edged. “But it’s hard to fault Coop be­cause he is such an un­be­liev­able ath­lete, he could have scored on it.”

Fol­low­ing a pair of Unionville time­outs, de­signed to freeze him, Bon­nett calmly booted the 27-yarder with 9.1 sec­onds re­main­ing on the clock.

“It’s my first time play­ing foot­ball, and they called two time­outs, so I was a lit­tle bit ner­vous,” Bon­nett said of the game win­ner that equaled the long­est of his brief ca­reer. “But it was a great op­por­tu­nity to help this team.”

The fin­ish was all the more im­pres­sive when you con­sider that the In­di­ans de­fense held the Vik­ings in check for most of the evening. Cooper fin­ished with 99 of his 115 rush­ing yards in the sec­ond half.

“Unionville is a great pro­gram, but we’ve been say­ing all week that this is our sec­ond sea­son,” Gueriera said. “We had some tough ones in our first sea­son: last-sec­ond losses against ri­vals, so it was a good chance to get a clean slate.”

Af­ter manag­ing just one first down and 31 yards of to­tal of­fense in the first half, West Chester East roared into the sec­ond half to quickly knot the score at 7-7. It started with a 24-yard kick­off re­turn by fresh­man Kyle Cichanowsky, and ended two plays later with Cooper go­ing 35-yards on a burst up the mid­dle.

“We got an ear­ful at half­time, so we had to come out stronger,” Cooper said.

“We chal­lenged our of­fen­sive line, and they re­sponded,” Gueriera added.

“They came out with a lit­tle in­ten­sity and we didn’t match it,” Clark pointed out.

Each team threat­ened the end the dead­lock with a field goal im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing an in­ter­cep­tion in the third quar­ter. East’s Devin Wil­liams picked off a pass, but mo­ments later Bon­nett’s 29-yarder was blocked by Unionville’s Trevor Gar­diner. And a Jesse Gill in­ter­cep­tion led to a 36-yarder by the In­di­ans’ Matthew Main­war­ing, but the kick was short.

Even though the In­di­ans had a clear edge in yards, first downs and field po­si­tion in the first half, they didn’t score the game’s first points un­til the fi­nal 73 sec­onds of the first half, when Jack Adams broke off a 20yard scor­ing run.

Unionville had two other prime first half scor­ing chances, but one was halted by an in­ter­cep­tion by East’s Mike Sal­loum. And the half ended be­fore the In­di­ans could fully take ad­van­tage of a blocked punt by Gar­diner.

“I can’t fault my kids’ ex­e­cu­tion and effort. It was back and forth and they had the ball last,” Clark said.

“We won it for coach (Gueriera),” Cooper added. “He’s al­ways be­lieved in us even when we didn’t be­lieve in our­selves.”

NATE HECKENBERGER — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Se­nior JD Car­roll hugs head coach Dave Gueriera af­ter West Chester East’s first play­off win since 2006.

NATE HECKENBERGER — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

West Chester East play­ers cel­e­brates mo­ments af­ter de­feat­ing Unionville, 10-7, in the fi­nal sec­onds Fri­day night.

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