Coatesville, Hen­der­son fall in dis­tricts

War­riors stymied by top-seeded Spring­field (Delco)

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Nate Hen­der­son The As­so­ci­ated Press @nheck­en­berger on Twit­ter

“You have to give them even more credit. They didn’t have to do what teams nor­mally have to do, and they were able to play pretty ba­sic de­fense.” – W.C. Hen­der­son coach Steve Mit­ten

SPRING­FIELD >> Dip­ping into its des­per­a­tion bag of tricks in the fourth quar­ter, West Ch­ester Hen­der­son ran a flea flicker off a re­verse, and fit­tingly, it was in­ter­cepted.

If the No. 5 War­riors were go­ing to come into Spring­field and knock off the top-seeded Cougars, they were go­ing to do it the way they have all year, and frankly, al­ways done it.

Break­ing away from the typ­i­cal down­hill run­ning at­tack, whether it be by trick play or a more aerial phi­los­o­phy, was not in Hen­der­son’s game plan, and Fri­day, the War­riors’ sea­son ended with a thud of con­tin­u­ally run­ning into a brick wall, oth­er­wise known as the Spring­field (Delco) de­fense.

The Cougars (12-1) held Hen­der­son (9-4) to 71 to­tal yards on of­fense, shut­ting down the War­riors’ one path to vic­tory, the run­ning game. Spring­field won, 210, in the District 1 Class 5A semi­fi­nals, while Hen­der­son heads to the off­sea­son.

“(Spring­field) was able to shut us down play­ing pretty much straight de­fense,” Hen­der­son coach Steve Mit­ten said. “You have to give them even more credit. They didn’t have to do what teams nor­mally have to do, and they were able to play pretty ba­sic de­fense.”

The matchup was billed as a de­fen­sive show­down, and both teams were up for the chal­lenge. Hen­der­son held the Cougars to 74 rush yards on 40 car­ries, so with nei­ther team able to move the ball on the ground, who­ever could gain con­trol of the pass­ing game had the best shot. Ad­van­tage Spring­field. While the War­riors com­pleted just three of 12 passes for 23 yards, Spring­field quar­ter­back Johnny Fanelli con­nected with re­ceiver Joe Kennedy for 10 of his 11 com­ple­tions, re­sult­ing in two back-break­ing sec­ond-half touch­downs.

“It’s good to be bal­anced,” Spring­field coach Chris Brit­ton said. “Some­times it’s our run, some­times it’s our pass. We don’t do any­thing great, but when we have bal­ance, that makes us dan­ger­ous.”

Hen­der­son boasted the rush­ing yard champ in the Ches-Mont League this fall, in CJ Pre­ston. The ju­nior could only muster 13 yards on 13 car­ries, with seven totes go­ing for zero or neg­a­tive yards.

“Some­times that hap­pens,” Hen­der­son quar­ter­back Joe Saulino said of the run­ning game get­ting stuffed. “CJ Pre­ston is a fan­tas­tic back and he killed it all year, but some­times it hap­pens. We tried ev­ery­thing, but they’re just a re­ally solid D.”

Only West Ch­ester Rustin and Unionville threw the ball less than Hen­der­son in the Ches-Mont this sea­son, and in the pre­vi­ous five games, Saulino at­tempted just 22 passes.

Loos­en­ing up Spring­field’s dom­i­nant de­fense through the air was sim­ply not in Hen­der­son’s reper­toire.

“We keyed on the run the whole time,” Spring­field de­fen­sive tackle Derek Strain said. “We knew they couldn’t re­ally pass too well, so we just keyed on the run, and once we shut the run down, there was re­ally noth­ing they could do about it. “

Hen­der­son was 0-for-8 on third down, av­er­ag­ing eight yards to go in those sit­u­a­tions. Spring­field, mean­while con­verted a third-and-11, a third-and-19, a fourth-and-three and a third-and-four through the air, the lat­ter a 44-yard nail in the cof­fin by Kennedy from Fanelli.

“Spring­field is an ex­cel­lent foot­ball team and their de­fense ri­vals Down­ing­town East and Coatesville’s,” Mit­ten said. “We couldn’t get any­thing go­ing against them. Our de­fense played well, but get­ting as lit­tle as we did of­fen­sively, it’s hard on our de­fense to be on the field that long.”

While the loss stings for sure, Hen­der­son did take pride in re­bound­ing from a 1-9 sea­son the year be­fore.

“I told the kids, our ac­com­plish­ments are many and our ac­com­plish­ments are not di­min­ished by this loss,” Mit­ten said. “That’s the na­ture of the play­offs. Ev­ery­body ex­cept the state champ loses the last game, so as hard as it is not com­plet­ing our mis­sion, it doesn’t di­min­ish the ac­com­plish­ment that this sea­son has been.”

NATE HECKENBERGER — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

West Ch­ester Hen­der­son run­ning back C.J. Pre­ston looks for run­ning room against Spring­field (Delco) in the District 1 Class AAAAA semi­fi­nals Fri­day.

NATE HECKENBERGER — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Quar­ter­back Joe Saulino of West Ch­ester Hen­der­son gets off a pass in front of an on­rush­ing Spring­field (Delco) de­fender Fri­day.

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