Beating Garnet Valley was a tall enough order. The reigning 6A district champion, No. 1 Garnet Valley suffered just one regular season loss over its last four seasons.
Beating them without a key weapon – No. 11 CB West (9-5) played without “blink and you miss him” all conference wideout Conor McFadden – made it even taller. The Jaguars repeated as district champions Friday night in Glen Mills, topping the Bucks 35-7. West fell valiantly at Garnet Valley 14-7 in Week One.
“They are extremely well coached down to the various details of their techniques and what they do. Their scheme is extremely difficult to prepare for on short notice because it is so unique and they run it so well,” commended CB West coach Rob Rowan pregame last Tuesday. “I think their kids compete at a really high level. They make very few mistakes so if you’re going to beat them, you have to go in there and earn it.
“Our guys know that and aware of that. They’re excited for that challenge,” Rowan continued. Garnet Valley “is as good of a program as you’re going to find in this area.”
Garnet Valley held a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to a 26-yard touchdown pass. Joe Checchio’s 1-yard run increased the advantage to 14-0 just before halftime.
The Bucks got on the board with Eli Boehm’s 33-yard touchdown reception. The Jaguars answered and led 21-7 at the end of the third quarter.
CB West, playing in its first district title game since 2000, closed the year winning eight of its final 10 games. Much has been made about West’s recovery from its 1-3 start, but the three teams who beat West went 28-1 during the regular season.
Rowan acknowledged the brutality of West’s early schedule. “Obviously, I think that’s a factor but I also think this team has improved on a week-by-week basis. Anytime you can beat two division rivals twice in a year, it speaks volumes of a team’s ability to treat each game as its own and really focus on just getting better each week,” he said. “That’s literally what we preach from August all the way through. Our guys have absolutely stuck to that motto.”
“I think we’ve stopped making as many mistakes and turning the ball over,” noted running back Vinny Cherubini. “In our first few games, it would be common for us to get two or three penalties a drive, or turn the ball over. I think we’ve cleaned up a lot of the mental errors in our game.”
Offensively this season, the Bucks rode the two-head rushing monster of Boehm and Cherubini. West’s second-round playoff win over North Penn was the Book of Eli: Boehm gashed the Knight defense for 324 rushing yards.
Yet after Boehm was limited, it was Cherubini who rushed for 86 yards on 15 carries the next week at Perkiomen Valley in West’s 14-13 district semifinal win.
“We’re similar in the way we both like to get right downhill. I think Eli prefers to pick and choose where he goes where I like to just lower the shoulder and run straight,” Cherubini explained. “We both know that we both have to block for each other, block for other people getting the ball and do our fakes. As long as you do your part, everyone can have success.”
Defensively, Perk Valley was held to just 129 total yards and Jack Williams had a clutch pick six. The Bucks held their opponents to 14 or fewer points eight times.
Williams explained the main tenets of West’s defense. “Bringing the energy and getting to the ball,” he said. “We’re kind of a smaller group but we give 100% effort on every play.”
Rowan felt that this team could do something special after they put a Week Nine loss to CB South behind them and topped CB East in Buckingham during the regular season finale.
“Losing stinks,” Rowan admitted. “But a loss, when learned from, can be a very positive thing. I think after the South game, our guys learned a lot about themselves, their mentality and their preparation. When we came out the following week, went to East and got a win, we were excited.”
West defeated East again one week later in the first round of districts. “When we were able to go back there again and beat such an intense rival in back-to-back weeks in the fashion that we did,” Rowan continued, “I felt our guys at that moment were like, ‘Hold on a second. I think we can make a run here.’ And here we are.”
“Coming out here, it’s so fun with all of these guys and we don’t want it to end,” Williams offered three days before the Garnet Valley game. “We’re all good friends. If we make a mistake, it’s like ‘All right, just make the next play.’ Keep working. Everyone is happy for each other. Not every team is so tight.”