Dubbed as the favorite to repeat as league titlist before the season began, Great Valley stretched its winning streak to six games, as it dispatched Sun Valley, 37-21. The victory, coupled with Garnet Valley's triumph over Avon Grove, left the Patriots and Jaguars tied atop the fledgling league.
Heading into Friday night, Sun Valley was also part of the championship mix. Now, the Vanguards must hope for some serious help, thanks to a poor first half that left Joe Possenti seeking answers.
By the time the intermission arrived, the Vanguards were staring at a 19-point deficit and unable to neutralize the Wing-T attack employed by Great Valley (6-0, 2-0). The Patriots finished the contest with 464 yards in total offense, including 315 on the ground.
Despite a winning record, Sun Valley has encountered numerous first-half woes this season, with the exception of a triumph over St. Mark's (Del.). In six games, the Vanguards have managed only six scores in the opening 24 minutes.
"The kids played their butts off in the second half," Possenti said. "But the last few weeks, we've come out flat. It's on me to find out why. You can't play 24 minutes against a quality team. In the first half, they really took it to us."
Relying on its three-headed offensive monster, Great Valley struck quickly. Its first series, which covered 72 yards in 11 plays, was capped by an 8-yard touchdown run by Drew Smith. Minutes later, Anthony Parker-Boyd hooked up with Stan Kelly for an 18-yard scoring strike. That touchdown capped a 13-play, 79-yard drive.
With the Patriots ahead, 13-0, Parker-Boyd found Brendan Ward with a 9-yard scoring pass midway through the second quarter. Parker-Boyd finished the night 8-for-12 for 149 yards and also chipped in with 56 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Ryan Godec picked up 130 rushing yards, a total complemented by the 122 yards racked up by Smith.
"We've been running for about 300 yards per game," said Great Valley coach Gary Phillips. "The line stepped up and opened some unbelievable holes. We have some athletic guys and that puts pressure on the defense.
"(Parker-Boyd) is an athlete who has worked hard at being a quarterback. He has a nice touch and good arm strength, and you add in the fact that he can run. I know the kid at Downingtown East (Pat Devlin) is good, but people need to start recognizing what Anthony can do."
While Parker-Boyd may be on his way to establishing an identity in the area, Tony Canci is already a targeted player. Still, the attention Great Valley turned his way did not prevent the 6-2, 200-pounder from registering his fifth 200-plus yard game of the season.
Limited to 52 yards on 14 carries in the first half, Canci got it rolling after the break, as he finished with 207 yards and three touchdowns on 25 totes. On several occasions, the Vanguards even went to the single-wing formation to provide Canci with the chance to make something happen.
Taking advantage of a short punt by the Pats, Sun Valley got on the scoreboard midway through the third quarter when Canci went 14 yards into the end zone. He added an 88-yard scoring sprint later in the quarter, off a direct snap, and capped his night with another 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
One problem for the Vanguards: Two of Canci's three touchdowns were answered by Great Valley scores. Smith responded to the first one with a 1-yard plunge and Parker-Boyd countered the second Canci touchdown with an 11-yard jaunt into the end zone.
Canci's outing raised his season-yardage total to 1,318 and his touchdown mark to 15. Both numbers top the Delco charts and make Canci a threat to erase single-season county records in both categories.
"We wanted to get ahead because we knew they wanted to get (Canci) the ball," Phillips said. "He's a tremendous player. He was going to get his yards, but I thought we did a great job in the first half."
With its four-game winning streak snapped, Sun Valley will look to rebound next week in a meeting with Harriton. An improved defensive effort would be beneficial.
"That's a well-coached team," Possenti said of Great Valley. "They have some talent. I didn't think they would beat us up front the way they did in the first half."
It proved to be the difference.
Great Valley 37, Sun Valley 21
Great Valley 13 6 6 12 -- 37
Sun Valley 0 0 14 7 - 21
GV--Smith 8 run (Eppleman kick), 6:13
GV--Kelly 18 pass from Parker-Boyd (kick failed), :14
GV--Ward 9 pass from Parker-Boyd (pass failed), 5:04
SV--Canci 14 run (Poole kick), 6:37
GV--Smith 1 run (pass failed), 4:05
SV--Canci 88 run (Poole kick), 2:49
GV--Parker-Boyd 11 run (kick failed), 9:42
GV--Sargent 2 run (kick failed), 3:01
SV--Canci 14 run (Poole kick), 1:52
First downs 25 10
Rushes-yards 61-315 28-214
Passing yards 149 58
Total offense 464 272
Comp-Att-Int 8-12-0 7-15-1
Punts-Avg. 3-27.3 4-44.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 4-20 4-25
RUSHING - Great Valley: Godec 20-130, Smith 24-122, Parker-Boyd 13-56, Brown 1-8, Sargent 1-2, Team 2-(-3). Sun Valley: Canci 25-207, Coyle 2-6, Fisher 1-1.
PASSING - Great Valley: Parker-Boyd 8-12-0, 149. Sun Valley: Coyle 7-15-1, 58.
RECEIVING - Great Valley: Norton 3-79, Kelly 3-65, Ward 1-9, Johnsen 1-(-4). Sun Valley: Cresta 4-20, DiFabio 1-27, Davies 1-6, Fisher 1-5.