Henderson handles tough challenge from Avon Grove

Photo by Chris Barber

By NEIL GEOGHEGAN

ngeohegan@dailylocal.com

LONDON GROVE With its top offensive weapon at less than 100 percent and playing on the road against an inspired opponent, the West Chester Henderson High School football squad could have been in some trouble on Friday at Avon Grove.

But versatile junior Noah Richard responded with some big plays all over the field to help the Warriors outlast the Red Devils, 28-7, in Ches-Mont National action and secure a berth in the upcoming Class AAA playoffs. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder wound up scoring three of Hendersons four touchdowns on runs of 79- and 43-yards, as well as a catch and run that covered 45 yards. And Richard very nearly added a fourth on a long interception return, but a penalty wiped out the score.

They took that defensive one away from him, Warriors head coach Steve Mitten said. That was a shame. I want to see that one on film. But that just shows that Noah is probably our most versatile athlete. He plays on offense and defense in a variety of positions and can make plays from anywhere on the field.

Richard wound up with 174 yards on the ground on 12 carries (a 14.5 average), and finished with 219 yards in total offense, which was more than half of Hendersons total. It was a timely breakout performance as senior standout Garrett Giarfalco was limited to 55 yards on the ground, including just two runs of more than four yards.

Garretts a little dinged up but Noah sure filled in, Mitten said. He practices about six positions for us on offense and he made it happen when we needed it.

With Downingtown East up next, the Warriors improve to 3-2 in the league (5-4 overall). Avon Grove (0-5, 1-8) has now dropped eight straight, but head coach Doug Langley was encouraged to see his team put together the kind of four quarter effort that was elusive until recently.

I thought we played pretty hard the whole game, Langley acknowledged. Weve actually put together two complete games in a row, which is something we hadnt done previously. So the kids are starting to understand what we are trying to do.

Henderson converted a trio of critical fourth downs in the opening 15 minutes of action and it led directly to a pair of touchdowns, which accounted for the games only points in the first three quarters. The first came when quarterback Matt Dinacci hit Richard on fourth-and-7 on a play-action pass that covered 45 yards.

Giarfalco successfully converted a pair of fourth downs in the next possession -- including a risky play from its own 37 that moved the chains, and another from near midfield. It all led to a two-yard scoring plunge by Tre Green that put the Warriors in front 14-0 at the break.

When (Henderson) got to fourth and short, they are just a bit bigger than we are and we couldnt stop their push, Langley explained.

We have a lot of confidence in our offensive line, we have good running backs and if youre going to be a playoff team you need to make plays when you need to, Mitten pointed out.

The first half was a microcosm of Avon Groves season, as the Devils marched into Henderson territory three times and failed to score a point. Quarterback Tanner Peck turned the ball over four times in the first half, including a first period pick in the end zone with the team threatening. The Warriors Brian Armstrong grabbed the interception to thwart a 57-yard drive.

The Red Devils also had another prime scoring chance following a botched punt by Henderson, but Richard grabbed an errant Peck pass. He returned it 79 yards for an apparent TD, but it was called back when Henderson was whistled for a personal foul.

Early in the fourth quarter, Richard went the distance from his own 21 to give Henderson a little breathing room, but Avon Grove came right back with a quick strike that featured two passes from Peck to wideout Austen Radecki for a total of 61 yards, with the touchdown coming from 11 yards out. Richard later wrapped up his big night with a 43-yarder with less than two minutes on the clock.

It wasnt an easy win, Richard said. But we knew we werent going to roll over them. We were looking at it as a playoff game.

Its unfortunate that Garrett (Giarfalco) was banged up but the offensive line stepped up and had a crazy push on the line. It just happened that I ended up with the ball on some of those plays.

Green chipped in with 67 rushing yards and the Warriors finished with 346 on the ground. But the Devils rolled up 324 yards of offense and had a 14-13 edge in first downs.

Credit Avon Grove. They are a proud team and they came out ready to play on Senior Night, Mitten said. We were fortunate to make some plays at important times and get the win.

We think of the playoffs as gravy for playing a very tough Ches-Mont National schedule. But we have Downingtown East next week so I am not even thinking about playoffs. They are going to come ready to play and thats what our number one focus is.

W.C. Henderson 28

Avon Grove 7

W.C. Henderson 7 7 0 14 -- 28

Avon Grove 0 0 0 7 -- 7

Scoring

WCH Richard 45 pass from Dinacci (Thompson kick)

WCH Green 2 run (Thompson kick)

WCH Richard 79 run (Thompson kick)

AG Radecki 11 pass from Peck (Scarpato kick)

WCH Richard 43 run (Thompson kick)

Team Totals

WCH AG

First downs 13 14

Yards rushing 346 109

Yards passing 54 215

Total yards 400 324

Passing 2-6-1-1 15-28-3-1

Fumbles-Lost 3-1 3-2

Penalties 6-35 6-50

Punts-Avg. 0-0.0 2-34.0

Individual Statistics

RUSHING WCH: Giarfalco 15-55; Richard 12-174, 2 TDs; Green 8-67, TD; Armstrong 5-6; Dinacci 10-44; Thompson 0-1. AG: N. Jones 5-32; Peck 17-48; Kim 2-2; Parola 3-14; D. Jones 1-13.

PASSING WCH: Dinacci 2-6-1-1, 54 yards. AG: Peck 15-27-2-1, TD; Skulski 0-1-1-0.

RECEIVING WCH: Richard 1-45, TD; Green 1-9. AG: Kim 3-62; Grant 1-6; Aquanno 6-64; Radecki 5-83.

Sacks WCH: Vogel, White,

Interceptions WCH: Armstrong 2, Lind, AG: Lawrence

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