Gueriera takes West Ch­ester East home


Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bruce Adams badams@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @mline­s­ports on Twit­ter

WEST GOSHEN >> When West Ch­ester East head coach Dave Gueriera takes his team to Marple New­town Fri­day evening for the quar­ter­fi­nals of the District 1 5A foot­ball tour­na­ment, it will be a home­com­ing for the thirdyear men­tor.

Gueriera who was born in Marple Town­ship, was child­hood friends with Marple New­town head coach Chris Gick­ing — they lived only three blocks apart, and both were run­ning backs for the Marple Ju­nior Foot­ball Tigers. Gueriera went on to play high school foot­ball for Car­di­nal O’Hara, while Gick­ing be­came a record-set­ting quar­ter­back for Marple New­town.

“Com­ing back here to Marple is like a home­com­ing,” said Gueriera, who lived in Marple Town­ship un­til he was 26.

“We used to walk to each other’s houses [as kids].” Gueriera said. “We still talk to each other, but not as much as we should, what with jobs, wives and kids.”

Like Gick­ing, Gueriera has coached some pretty good of­fenses. He was the quar­ter­back coach at Malvern Prep (2009, 2010), of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Har­ri­ton in 2011 (dur­ing Cen­tral League record-set­ting quar­ter­back Pat Mo­ri­ar­ity’s ju­nior year), and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Epis­co­pal Acad­emy in 2012 and 2013 (EA was 10-0 in 2012).

But at West Ch­ester East this sea­son, the de­fense has been para­mount.

“Our de­fense has been the back­bone of the team,” said Gueriera, now in his third year as East head coach. “It’s been the play of our de­fense that got us here. It’s not overly huge, but phys­i­cal, and full of play­ers who have a great mo­tors and great at­ti­tudes.”

The Vik­ings’ de­fense stood tall in the 10-7 firstround vic­tory against Unionville last Fri­day, East’s first play­off win in a decade. The sixth-seeded In­di­ans had en­tered the con­test with a five-game win­ning streak.

Dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, West Ch­ester East’s de­fense was par­tic­u­larly tough at times — the Vik­ings shut out Sun Val­ley 28-0 on Oct. 14 and blanked Rad­nor 23-0 on Sept. 2).

The Vik­ings’ de­fense is par­tic­u­larly strong (and deep) at line­backer, with in­side lineback­ers Matt Er­fle and Jack Phelan, and out­side lineback­ers Chris Cas­sidy and Devin Wil­liams.

“Chris and Devin have been play­ing out­stand­ing,” said Gueriera. “And Matt Er­fle has been mak­ing 1520 tack­les per game for us.”

Wil­liams, a 5-9, 170-pounder, made a key sec­ond-half in­ter­cep­tion against Unionville that Er­fle thinks turned the game around in the Vik­ings’ fa­vor.

“In the sec­ond half [against Unionville], we made sure our out­side lineback­ers were cov­er­ing the flats, be­cause [Unionville] was hit­ting on the flats in the first half,” said Er­fle. “And then Jack Phelan and I started pres­sur­ing their quar­ter­back, and Devin made his in­ter­cep­tion in the flat, which I think was the turn­ing point of the game.”

Up front, the Vik­ings’ de­fense is tough too, fea­tur­ing nose guard/de­fen­sive tackle Tom Silva, de­fen­sive tackle Chuck Jacobs, de­fen­sive end JD Car­roll (“an ab­so­lute mon­ster” ac­cord­ing to Gueriera) and de­fen­sive end Steve Hocker. In the back­field, the Vik­ings are solid with free safety Mike Sal­loum and de­fen­sive backs An­thony Gray and Zach Hirsch.

The Vik­ings’ of­fense has strug­gled at times this sea­son, and against Unionville, it man­aged only one first down and 31 yards of to­tal of­fense in the first half. West Ch­ester East went to the locker room at half­time trail­ing 7-0.

“We gave our of­fen­sive line some tough love at half­time,” said Gueriera.

Silva, who also plays of­fen­sive left tackle for the Vik­ings, said, “Our of­fen­sive line made ad­just­ments at half­time, and we got to­gether and told each other, ‘This will be our last game [if we lose].’ The thought of play­ing in the sec­ond round of the play­offs pumped us up for the sec­ond half.”

Just after half­time, the Vik­ings’ big­gest of­fen­sive threat, ju­nior run­ning back Jared Cooper, scored on a 35-yard run to tie the score. With the score tied 7-7 and eight min­utes left to play, the Vik­ings went on a 17play, 70-yard drive that cul­mi­nated in se­nior Jake Bon­nett’s 27-yard field goal with 9.1 sec­onds left.

Silva said, “We [of­fen­sive line] call our­selves ‘The Fist’ - five fin­gers on one hand, mak­ing one unit. On that long [17 plays, 70 yards] drive in the sec­ond half, we were just pound­ing away [on Unionville], lit­tle by lit­tle.”

Gueriera said, “In the sec­ond half against Unionville, our guys were chal­lenged, their backs were against the wall. Our guys like that type of sit­u­a­tion.”

The Vik­ings will be chal­lenged against No. 2 seed Marple New­town (10-1), co-cham­pi­ons of the Cen­tral League. Marple fea­tures quar­ter­back An­thony Pao­letti, who has thrown for 2,376 yards this sea­son, which broke Gick­ing’s sin­gle-sea­son school record.

“We have to play good de­fense against Marple,” said Gueriera. “Their quar­ter­back has a rocket arm, they’ve got ends who can catch the ball, and they’ve got a dan­ger­ous run­ning back (sopho­more Mar­lon Weath­ers, who ran for three touch­downs in the Tigers’ 35-7 first-round win against Up­per More­land).”

Er­fle said, “Marple is prob­a­bly the heav­i­est pass­ing team we’ve played – we know we have a good run de­fense, and we’ll need a good pass de­fense against Marple.”

Gueriera said, “On of­fense, we need to be dis­ci­plined, avoid mis­takes – turnovers and penal­ties.”

The big­gest weapon the Vik­ings have on of­fense is Cooper, who has ran for more than 1,000 yards and scored a dozen touch­downs.

Gick­ing said, “West Ch­ester East likes to run the foot­ball and con­trol the line of scrim­mage. Dave does a great job of pre­par­ing them. On de­fense, they like to blitz. They’re big, strong, fast .... I think we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

The 11th-seeded Vik­ings (5-6) have 29 se­niors on their ros­ter, none of whom are ea­ger to see the sea­son end against Marple.

Silva said, “Go­ing against Marple, I like the chal­lenge of be­ing the un­der­dog.”


Above, West Ch­ester East de­fender Tom Silva rushes the quar­ter­back dur­ing prac­tice Thurs­day. Be­low, East de­fend­ers Jack Phelan, Devin Wil­liams, Matt Er­fle, Chris Cas­sidy and Silva dur­ing prac­tice Thurs­day.


West Ch­ester East de­fend­ers gather to­gether dur­ing prac­tice Thurs­day at Zimmerman Sta­dium.


West Ch­ester East’s Devin Wil­liams , left, guards a re­ceiver dur­ing prac­tice Thurs­day.


West Ch­ester East’s Chris Cas­sidy prac­tices Thurs­day.

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