Close-knit War­riors keep right on rolling

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - DISTRICT 1 FOOTBALL - By Den­nis Way dway@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @dwaysports on Twit­ter

UP­PER DUBLIN >> Take a look at the West Ch­ester Hen­der­son football team dis­mount­ing the bus before a football game.

It won’t have to be a long look.

The War­riors, just short of 40 play­ers strong, won’t daz­zle you with their sizes and weights, or even their 40-yard dash times.

All they do, at least this year, is win.

Hen­der­son strolled into windy, frigid Car­di­nal Sta­dium Fri­day night look­ing for an up­set win over fa­vored hosts Up­per Dublin.

And they fol­lowed the up­set play­book to the let­ter.

Each time the Cardinals struck, the War­riors par­ried bril­liantly, fol­low­ing the up­set script to per­fec­tion.

And when the War­riors’ 17-14 win was com­plete, there was no jump­ing, danc­ing or phys­i­cal dis­plays of any kind.

They just did what they had to do, and then con­grat­u­lated the van­quished.

That’s the way it is for the War­riors.

Noth­ing fancy, noth­ing eye-pop­ping, just ba­sic, solid football — played by a team that gen­uinely likes each other.

“We’ve just got­ten bet­ter and bet­ter since the start of the sea­son,” ex­plained ju­nior quar­ter­back Joe Saulino. “That’s the way we’ve played all year.

“(Up­per Dublin) is a fan­tas­tic team, very com­pet­i­tive and very ag­gres­sive. Our game plan was to run what we do, and then ad­just if we had to.”

“We knew we were fac­ing a league cham­pi­onship team, a (de­fend­ing) district cham­pion team and a firstrate pro­gram,” added head coach Steve Mit­ten. “So we’re very pleased.

“And ev­ery­body in­volved in this pro­gram has had a hand in our suc­cess.”

But Fri­day night, the War­riors helped them­selves out by strip­ping the Cardinals of any mo­men­tum before it could even get started.

The War­riors spent the ma­jor­ity of the first quar­ter in Cardinals ter­ri­tory, and while they would only come out of the first half with a 7-0 lead, their con­fi­dence never wa­vered.

They got a huge break in the first half when a Mark Rizzo in­ter­cep­tion of a tipped pass from Up­per Dublin quar­ter­back Justin Horn set them up at the Cardinals 45.

It took 12 plays, but Hen­der­son seized the lead when Saulino plowed into the end zone from the 1-yard line with 1:52 left in the first half.

They were the game’s first points, and the War­riors made sure they stood up.

The Cardinals came back to tie it in the clos­ing sec­onds of the third quar­ter.

But before they could en­joy that bit of mo­men­tum, CJ Pre­ston broke off an 80-yard run on the very next play from scrim­mage, and the War­riors were back in front.

“CJ’s been great all year,” Saulino said. “He’s been the guy we’ve de­pended on, but he’s just one part of our of­fense.”

Once again, the Cardinals had noth­ing to build on.

But the clincher came af­ter Up­per Dublin tied the game with 8:34 left when Horn broke off a 28-yard touch­down run.

Two se­ries later, with the Cardinals punt­ing from their own 32-yard line, the diminu­tive Kavond Jones some­how found his way through the punt pro­tec­tion to block the kick and set the War­riors of­fense up at the Cardinals 20-yard line.

“I don’t think he weighs 125 pounds,” laughed Mit­ten, “but he wasn’t go­ing to be de­nied.”

Three plays later, Bryce McEl­hiney drilled a 30yard field goal, and the un­der­manned War­riors were 2:57 away from a ma­jor win.

“It was a high snap, Bryce, stud­der-stepped and he still knocked it through,” beamed Mit­ten.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we didn’t bring our A game tonight, and Hen­der­son did,” said Cardinals head coach Bret Stover. “Give them the credit.

“Their de­fen­sive guys up front over­ran us . That was a great de­fen­sive scheme.”

“Our de­fense is built to play strong, phys­i­cal War­riors football,” Mit­ten said. “De­fense and spe­cial teams are a big part of our team, and I couldn’t be any more ap­pre­cia­tive of our kids and our par­ents and our ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We beat a good football pro­gram tonight, and ev­ery­body had a hand in it.”

DEBBY HIGH — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Hen­der­son’s Joe Saulino rolls on a quar­ter­back keeper Fri­day night against Up­per Dublin.

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