Kennett High School celebrates Homecoming
● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett and Sun Valley entered their game on Sept. 22 with identical 2-2 records, so it was hardly a surprise when the two teams traded momentum back and forth as an evenly matched first half unfolded. Kennett struck first when quarterback Jake Dilcher found wide receiver Mitch Kosara open on a slant pattern for a 16-yard touchdown. It was the third time on the 74-yard drive that Dilcher connected with his favorite target.
Kennett’s defense made stops on the first two series, even though Sun Valley found some success moving the ball with speedy running back Caliph Jones. Kennett held on to the 6-0 lead through the first quarter.
A 44-yard run by running back Julz Kelly helped Sun Valley take the momentum, as the Vanguards marched deep into Kennett territory. Jones picked up four yards on the next play, and then bolted into the end zone on an 11-yard carry as he bounced off would-be tacklers. The extra point was no good so the score remained 6-6.
Kennett’s offense suffered a blow when Dilcher was injured on a play in the second quarter. Kosara was pressed into emergency quarterback duty, and while he was quite capable of leading the offense, there was no getting around the fact that Kennett’s offense missed having Dilcher at quarterback and Kosara at wide receiver. Kennett put together a nice drive in the middle of the second quarter, running the ball effectively with Garrett Cox. Kosara completed passes to Sam Forte and Vincent Cresci during the drive, but it stalled in the Red Zone, and Kennett came away without reclaiming the lead.
On Sun Valley’s next drive, which started at the 20, quarterback Anthony Ellis found Kelly for a 34-yard gain. A few plays later, Kelly took a handoff, found running room to the right, and then cut back toward the middle of the field. He eluded tacklers and worked his way down to the 20-yard line of Kennett. Another carry by Kelly, sandwiched between two carries by Jones, moved the ball to the five-yard line. On third down, Kelly took the ball again, but could only pick up two yards. It was fourth-and-three from the three with just 10.6 seconds left to play in the half. Ellis dropped back to pass, but Kennett’s defensive front applied enough pressure to force Ellis to get rid of the ball before he wanted. The pass was incomplete, and it was still 6-6 heading to halftime.
Sun Valley’s first drive of the second half was helped along by Kennett penalties—including a penalty on the return that allowed the Vanguards to start the drive near mid-field. Sun Valley moved inside the 10-yard line on three carries by Jones. Ellis then capped the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run, making it 12-6.
Kosara led Kennett on a 61-yard scoring drive that put his team back in the lead. His 28-yard run on a fourth-and-three from mid-field was a key play—and a thing of beauty—as he weaved in and out of traffic to move the ball deep into Sun Valley territory. A few plays later, wide receiver Brian Garcia made a sliding catch of a Kosara pass to reach the end zone. The extra point by kicker Peter Schwartz made it 13-12 with 6:08 left to play.
The lead would only stand up for a few minutes as Sun Valley capitalized on a bad snap on a Kennett punt that gave the Vanguards the ball at the 23 of Kennett. It took three plays for Sun Valley to score as Jones made it into the end zone again, this time from six yards out. A two-yard run by Kelly gave Sun Valley two more points, making it 20-13.
After Sun Valley’s defense forced Kennett to go three-and-out on the next possession, the team’s offense went back to work, once again starting on Kennett’s side of the field. Kennett’s defense held firm on the first two plays, but on third down Ellis completed a pass to Kelly in the flat and he followed his blockers, found running room, and raced in for a 44-yard score. Ellis fired a pass to tight end James Gines to complete the two-point conversion, making it 28-13.
Later in the fourth quarter, Lance Stone picked off a pass for Sun Valley, once again allowing the offense to start on Kennett’s side of the field. Eight plays later, Jones capped another drive with a touchdown. He finished the game with 156 rushing yards and four scores, including a 51-yarder that came with 2:25 left to play in the game. That touchdown made it 42-13.
A nice 33-yard return by Chris Brooks set up Kennett for one final drive. Kosara connected with junior wide receiver Justin Shacknai on a 44-yard touchdown. Kosara then successfully completed the two-point conversion, making it 42-21. That’s how the game ended.
With the win, Sun Valley moved to 3-2, while Kennett dropped to 2-3 on the season.
“This one hurts,” said first-year head coach Josh Kaufman, who was not pleased with how his team played, especially on defense and especially in the second half. “This is a game of blocking and tackling, and we didn’t do that well tonight.”
Kaufman said that he was going to challenge the team to work hard in response to the loss, explaining that a Saturday workout would be scheduled instead of giving the players that day off after a game.
“I want to test their fortitude,” Kaufman said. “ I want to see who can get back on board.”
Kaufman said that he told the Kennett players that this loss was similar to one that Temple University suffered to Penn State, 31-6, in 2009. Kaufman was a graduate assistant for Temple University at the time. Temple head coach Al Golden was able to get his team to refocus and the Owls won the next nine games.
One of the challenges that Kennett will face moving forward will be overcoming some of the injuries. Kennett played Sun Valley without the services of Josh Ploener, a valuable two-way player who contributes as a linebacker and a tight end. Schwartz is a soccer player who stepped in to kick for the football team after kicker James Tuley suffered an MCL injury. The extent of Dilcher’s injury was not known after the game.
It helps to have players like Kosara on the team. Kaufman praised the work of Kosara, who had to step in and play quarterback.
“I thought Mitch did a really good job coming in and running the offense,” Kaufman said. “He handled himself as well as could be expected. He did a nice job of handling the offense.”
Kennett will travel to Great Valley for the next game on Thursday, Sept. 28. Sun Valley will play Oxford on Friday.