Red Dev­ils stay alive in play­off chase

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

DOWN­ING­TOWN >> A cynic could have call Fri­day’s Avon GroveBishop Shana­han foot­ball clash ‘The Bat­tle for Fourth Place.’ That’s be­cause the two (along with West Ch­ester East) are, es­sen­tially, vy­ing for the spot just be­low pow­er­ful Coatesville, Down­ing­town East and Down­ing­town West in the Ches-Mont Na­tional stand­ings.

But don’t tell that to the Red Dev­ils. They went into Jack Mancini Field on Fri­day and came away with a 20-7 Home­com­ing vic­tory over the host Ea­gles. Now 4-4 over­all (2-2 in the league), Avon Grove has two games to play and is still vy­ing for a berth in the Dis­trict 1 Class 6A play­offs.

“We are still in the hunt un­til they say we are not,” Dev­ils’ head coach Harry O’Neill said. “We have to play ev­ery game like it mat­ters. We’ve never been this deep into the sea­son where ev­ery game means some­thing.

“Any time you can win a game in the Ches-Mont Na­tional, it’s a huge win. And I don’t care who it is against. We cer­tainly can’t take any­body lightly and we have to cher­ish each and ev­ery win. It was only four years ago where we didn’t have any wins. So to be at .500 this deep into the sea­son is good for us.”

And even though Shana­han drops to 3-5 over­all (1-4 in the Ches-Mont) — and has dropped five of the last six — the squad is still in the mix in Class 4A. Head­ing into Fri­day’s clash, the Ea­gles were fifth in the power rank­ings and the top four will make it.

“We were just a lit­tle off (Fri­day),” Shana­han head coach Paul Mey­ers said. “We needed some­body to make a play and it didn’t hap­pen. We couldn’t get over the hump.

“But we still have two games left and if we can win at least one of them we still have a good shot at the play­offs. If we get two we should be in.”

The Ea­gles lone win since a 2-0 start came against win­less West Ch­ester Henderson, and they end with road trips to Down­ing­town West and Ox­ford. And on Fri­day, Shana­han moved the foot­ball into the red zone on four sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, and only came away with one touch­down.

“We let this one slip away. I told our guys that when they watch the film, they will see that we made too many mis­takes,” Mey­ers said.

“I thought we played a lit­tle sloppy, at times, tonight,” O’Neill coun­tered. “But we forced some turnovers on de­fense, stopped some of their drives and that helped us a lot. I thought our de­fense came up big when we needed it.”

The Ea­gles were un­able to score in the first half as two long drives deep into Avon Grove ter­ri­tory ended with fum­bles. The first came on the open­ing se­ries when the Dev­ils’ Max Gula pounced on the loose ball at the nine yard line. Mo­ments later, the Dev­ils took the lead on a 73-yard pass from J.T. Mac­Don­ald to Tyre Stead, who broke a tackle on third-and-long to go the dis­tance.

“The de­fender grabbed my an­kle and ripped my shoe off, but I just kept on run­ning,” the se­nior wide­out ex­plained. “It felt weird, like I was run­ning on two dif­fer­ent feet, but it was fun.”

Early in the sec­ond quar­ter, the Ea­gles coughed it up again in the red zone and it was re­cov­ered by Avon Grove’s Matt Walsh. Shana­han also missed a 38-yard field goal in the fi­nal minute of the half af­ter Tyler Kings­bury set it up with a 51yard run.

Avon Grove added an­other TD when Stead raced 31 yards on a re­verse to con­vert a fourth-and-11 with 1:04 left in the sec­ond quar­ter. The PAT was blocked at it was 13-0 at the in­ter­mis­sion.

“We put that in this week. We’ve been sav­ing it for the right spot,” O’Neill said.

“We ran it ev­ery day of prac­tice and it works ev­ery time, so I wasn’t sur­prised it worked in a game,” Stead added.

A six-yard run by Kings­bury fi­nally got the Ea­gles on the score­board early in the fourth, but Shana­han pre­vi­ously turned it over on downs in­side the Dev­ils’ 10.

“To be in the red zone that many times and only come away with seven points is dis­ap­point­ing,” Mey­ers said. “The turnovers just ab­so­lutely killed us.

“Those were our mis­takes and if you do that you are not go­ing to win – I don’t care who you’re play­ing.”

Avon Grove added an in­sur­ance score in the fi­nal two min­utes when sopho­more run­ner Colby Rid­dell ram­bled 41 yards on a fourth-and-short.

“A win is a win,” said Walsh, a ju­nior line­backer who also had a sack. “There were some sloppy things and we’ll have to fix some things, but we kept fight­ing. And turn­ing them over (in the red zone) re­ally changes the mo­men­tum.”

The Ea­gles out-gained the Dev­ils 367-225, and had a 16-10 edge in first downs -- but lost the turnover bat­tle 3-0. Kings­bury led the way with 127 yards on the ground in 10 at­tempts.

Quar­ter­back J.T. Mac­Don­ald com­pleted just five passes, but it was for 111 yards. Stead had two catches for 77 yards, chipped in 27 on the ground and, of course, the two TDs.

“Tyre is a play­maker and we try to get the ball to him,” O’Neill said.

Avon Grove will host un­beaten Coatesville and end the sea­son at home against Henderson.

“We are a very young team,” O’Neill said. “We start 13 ju­niors and we were miss­ing Nick Pino, one of our best line­men. So some­times we play like a young team.”

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