Garnet Valley rolling again

Christian Portale is Garnet Valley's quarterback.
Christian Portale is Garnet Valley's quarterback. (      BRADLEY C. BOWER)
Posted: November 01, 2013

Garnet Valley has made considerable noise since moving from the Southern Chester County League to the Central League in 2008.

Mike Ricci's football squad has posted a 51-8 mark (.864 winning percentage) in league play, with two outright championships (2008 and 2011) and one shared (2009, with Ridley).

This season is no different, as the Jaguars are 9-0, 8-0 in the Central League, and set to enter the 16-team PIAA District 1 Class AAAA playoff tournament as one of the top seeds.

Asked about the keys to this year's success, Ricci, who is 177-108-1 in 27 seasons, immediately pointed to the 47 seniors on the roster.

"With this group, it's been a real blessing," the coach said. "We have so many guys making contributions, and not just in games. A lot of times, it's in practice, when we have experienced players helping out on the scout team."

Attention to detail, according to Ricci, also has been pivotal.

"We haven't had one bad practice this year," he said.

Garnet Valley, which is ranked No. 7 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, clinched a share of the Central League crown with last week's 36-6 romp over Haverford High.

The Jaguars have won by an average margin of 27.2 points. Their closest win was a 27-20 triumph over second-place Upper Darby (7-2, 6-1) in Week 2.

"Our guys have done a real good job of maintaining their focus and taking a businesslike approach to getting better," Ricci said.

Garnet Valley, with a triple-option scheme, is averaging 39 points. The attack is fueled by quarterback Christian Portale and three running backs: Jake Irving, Michael Bruette, and Vince Razzano.

Portale, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior and first-year starter, has carried the ball 70 times for 427 yards and four touchdowns. He also has completed 45 of 80 throws (56.3 percent) for 753 yards and 14 scores, with just one interception.

"He started coming to our quarterback meetings when he was in sixth grade," Ricci said. "He knows our offense inside and out."

Irving (82 rushes for 754 yards, 9 TDs), Bruette (71 for 501, 4), and Razzano (49 for 426, 13) have combined for 1,681 yards and 26 TDs.

Of Irving, Ricci said, "He's so fast and has such good vision. He's reading his blocks really well."

Leading the way up front are center Shane Stabinski, guards Brandon Hitner and Teddy Field, tackles Connor Walsh and Dave Bertone, and tight end John McGrogan.

A 4-4 defense, which is yielding 11.3 points per game, is headed by inside linebackers Tyler Shankle and Brandon Dowd, outside linebacker Connor Faith, and end Joey Granahan.

Shankle has notched a team-high 58 tackles, with 15 solos.

"He's a very quiet leader," Ricci said. "He's got great instincts and body control, works hard in practice every day."

Although his team is unbeaten, Ricci realizes that some question the Jaguars' potential to advance deep into the playoffs.

"We can't control what people think about us, and we don't worry about it," he said. "As cliched as it sounds, we just worry about the next game."


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