Zaza return sparks Garnet Valley

Posted: September 08, 2012

When Garnet Valley's Wellington Zaza received the punt with less than a minute left in the first half, it looked as if he was going to be hit immediately, with his Jaguars headed to halftime trailing Central League rival Conestoga.

Instead, Zaza broke a few tackles, made his way to the outside, and let his blazing speed do the rest.

His 79-yard touchdown return gave Garnet Valley its first lead, and seemed to suck the air out of the Conestoga home crowd. The air would never quite return to Teamer Field, as Garnet Valley defeated the Pioneers, 28-16, Friday night.

"That was a really gutsy return," said Zaza, who transferred to Garnet Valley before the school year from Strath Haven. "I knew the guys on the outside are really good blockers, so my reaction was grab it and get to the sideline.

"I trusted my instinct and ran behind those guys."

After their explosive offensive performance last week, when they scored 49 points, the Pioneers provided the initial sparks on offense against the defending league champions. In the first half, Conestoga quarterback Joe Viviano went 11 for 18 for 118 yards.

Five of those passes were to Andrew DeStefano, who had more than 50 yards receiving in the first 24 minutes.

Offensively for the Jaguars, Corkery threw the ball only twice, both incompletions. Jordyn Bennett supplied most of the yardage for the Jaguars in the first half, and Jake Irving, Michael Bruette, and Vincent Razzano also had several carries. Combined, Irving and Bennett rushed for 75 yards in the first half.

If Zaza provided the difference in the first half, the Garnet Valley defense was the game-changer in the second. The Jags' coverage and pressure allowed the Harvard-bound Viviano to complete only 2 of 9 passes in the third quarter, and 6 of 14 in the fourth.

The Jaguars' blitzes were especially effective, forcing Viviano to rush his throws or leaving him unable to set his feet.

In the third quarter, Garnet Valley had nine rushing carries for 63 yards.

Bennett, Irving, Razano, and Corkery all had touches in a ground game that wore down the Pioneers defense. Irving had two second-half touchdowns, one for 17 yards and another for 20.

Garnet Valley could have put the game away with 7 minutes, 2 seconds left, but Irving fumbled inside the 5-yard line and the Pioneers recovered on their own 10.

Conestoga drove down the field behind the arm and legs of Viviano, but on fourth and 4 on Garnet Valley's 29, Mayberry sacked the quarterback, giving the Jaguars the ball with a little more than five minutes to play.

The Jaguars iced the game with 2:28 to play on the 20-yard TD by Irving.

Garnet Valley   7 7 0 14 – 28

Conestoga   9 0 0 7 – 16

C: FG Blaise Toroni 26

C: Matt Prestipano 8 pass from Joe Viviano (pass failed)

GV: Bennett 22 run (Brandon Down kick)

GV: Wellington Zaza 79 punt return (Down kick)

GV: Jake Irving 17 run (Down kick)

GV: Irving 20 run (Down kick)

C: Martin Dorsey 11 pass from Viviano (Toroni kick)


Contact Kate Harman at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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