,PHOENIXVILLE -- Not much separated Great Valley and Phoenixville during Friday night's non-league football season opener at Washington Field.
The visiting Patriots came away with a 7-6 victory over the Phantoms in a tough, physical game on a muggy evening to kick off the 2008 campaign.
Phoenixville, which owned virtually every statistical comparison, had a chance to pull the game out on a last-minute drive after a Phantom fumble recovery. Phoenixville drove from its own 34-yard line to the Great Valley 16-yard line with 17 seconds left on the clock. On fourth down, sophomore John McInally was called upon to try a 33-yard field goal, but his attempt was ruled wide left.
McInally missed the first half of the game since he played on the boys soccer team that is involved in a tournament at Octorara High School. Derek Ryan was the long snapper on the play and Dan Hammaker was the holder.
After the miss, Great Valley ran one play to run the clock out.
"It was a tough first game," said Great Valley junior running back Brian Pommerer,
who caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Seth Houston for the Patriots' touchdown. "I am just trying to run the ball hard. Seth made a nice throw and I made the catch and ran it into the end zone. Our line was blocking well. It is going to be a fun year."
Pommerer also kicked the extra point for what turned out to be the decisive point. He was Great Valley's leading rusher with 53 yards on 14 carries, running mostly wide pitch plays behind some solid blocking.
Phoenixville's touchdown came on a 49-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Tom Romano to versatile senior back Anthony Nattle, who outleaped his defender to make the catch and scooted into the end zone to give Phoenixville its 6-0 halftime lead. The extra point kick failed as did a 25-yard field goal attempt by Will Killeen that was blocked by Carl Buchholz with 4:16 remaining in the second quarter.
Nattle rushed for a game-high 84 yards on 18 carries and also caught two passes for 59 yards and the one score. He also had an interception on defense and so did teammate Khalil Ervin.
The Phantoms' Abdul Kelly, who played center last year, also had a strong night running the ball as he finished with 81 yards on 18 attempts. The Phantoms outrushed the Patriots, 195-117, and had the advantage in total yards at 291-215. Phoenixville held the upper hand in first downs, too, with 16 to nine by the Pats, who fumbled four times and lost one and had the two interceptions for three turnovers.
"We have seven returning starters and we are all playing well," Pommerer said. "We are working hard in practice. That is what it takes and you need a family."
Great Valley won its fifth straight game, dating back to a 4-0 conclusion of the gridiron season last fall. The Patriots also snapped a three-game Phantom winning track in the season series after Great Valley won the first three outings when the series was resumed as a season opener.
"They (Phantoms) deserve better," said Great Valley coach Gary Phillips, who began his 15th season at the helm of the Pats. "It is a shame to be on the losing end of a game like that. I know Donnie (defensive coordinator Don Jackson) and (head coach) Bill Furlong and they do a great job. At the same time, credit these guys (Patriots). We talked about overcoming adversity andthey overcame a great game by this team to pull it out, and that is what matters."
Phillips said the Patriots ran the ball outside since the Phantoms were pinching hard inside, led by Kelly at nose guard. And on the long pass play, Great Valley took advantage of a mismatch to garner a touchdown.
Bill Furlong tried to put the game in perspective after the tough loss, and he did not put the blame totally on his placekicker for missing the potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
"John McInally is a great athlete and he does a lot for this school," Furlong said. "He came to the game from a soccer tournament. The game wasn't won or lost on one play. Everyone out there made mistakes and I made mistakes. We are all just as guilty. John does a great job for soccer and us."
Casey Haines ran 10 times for 39 yards for the Pats and John Nurthen chipped in with 16 yards on four tries. Both of them also had strong games at linebacker on defense along with Justin Schellenger. Buccholz and nose guard Myles Tornetta keyed the charge up front.
Romano made his debut as the Phantom quarterback with four completions in six attempts for 96 yards. Houston hit on three of nine aerials for 98 yards with Pommerer making two grabs for 90 yards and Chris Campbell one for eight.
Killeen had one catch for 19 yards and Ervin one catch for 18 yards for the Phantoms. Derek Ryan chipped in with 18 yards rushing on four plays.
The TD pass to Nattle came on a fourth-and-1 call with 48 seconds left in the first half down the right sideline.Houston's TD pass to Pommerer came at the 5:59 mark of the third period
NOTES ... Sam McQuiston and Vince Ciaverelli had some key defensive plays at linebacker for the Phantoms along with Greg Porter and Dave Eggeling at the end spots. ... Anthony McFalls and Buchholz had sacks for Great Valley.
Great Valley 7, Phoenixville 6
Great Valley 0 0 7 0 - 7 Phoenixville 0 6 0 0 - 6 Px-Nattle 49 pass from Romano (kick failed)
GV-Pommerer 64 pass from Houston (Pommerer kick)
GV Px First downs 9 16 Rushing yardage 117 195 Passing yardage 98 96 Total yardage 215 291 Passes C-A-I 3-9-2 4-6-0 Fumbles-lost 4-1 0-0 Penalties-yards 4-40 4-25 Punts-avg. 3-36.7 1-34
RUSHING: GV-Pommerer 14-53; Haines 10-39; Nurthen 4-16; Campbell 3-9; Houston 5-0. Phx-Nattle 18-84; Kelly 18-81; D. Ryan 4-18; Romano 8-6; Yenchick 2-6.
PASSING: GV-Houston 3-9-98, 1 TD, 2 INTs. Phx-Romano 4-6-96, 1 TD.
RECEIVING: GV-Pommerer 2-90, 1 TD; Campbell 1-8. Phx-Nattle 2-59, 1 TD; Killeen 1-19; Ervin 1-18.