Cox, Kennett defense lead Blue Demons to first-round 31-0 playoff win
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
As the Chichester High School football team boarded buses that would take them to Kennett Stadium last Friday night for their first-round District 1, Class 5A playoff game against the Blue Demons, there were many among the team who had visions of retribution on their minds.
The team's 37-12 loss to Kennett on Aug. 31 was still a relatively fresh memory – one that needed to avenged – but the team the Eagles ran into more than two months before was waiting for them again, and this time, the stakes were much higher.
Behind Garrett Cox's four touchdowns and a punishing defense led by Vincent Cresci, the Blue Demons registered the school's first-ever football playoff win with a 31-0 shutout of the 13th-seeded Eagles (3-7), on a frigid evening in Kennett Square. Ranked as the fourth seed in the playoffs, the win moved the Blue Demons' overall record to 10-1 and sets the stage for a quarterfinal home game on Nov. 8 against fifth-seeded Strath Haven (9-2), who defeated Upper Merion 21-6 on Nov. 1.
Just as it has done all season, Kennett's offensive firepower came from the powerful running of Cox, who became the all-time career and single-season rushing leader in the school's history during the team's 31-0 victory over St. Mark's on Oct. 25. During its first possession, Cox carried the ball six times and caught a pass from quarterback Sam Forte en route to a four-yard touchdown run with 9:24 left in the first quarter.
From the outset, it was apparent that Kennett's march to victory would not ride on Cox's wheels alone, but with a defense that held the Chichester offense to little yardage on the ground and in the air the entire game. If there was one stellar performer on the Kennett defense, then Vincent Cresci took that mantel, recording three QB sacks, and causing defensive mayhem that led to several fumble turnovers.
One fumble happened at the start of the second quarter, when Kennett recovered the ball with 11:24 left in the first half. After a Forte punt gave Chichester the ball back on its one-yard line, Cresci got in the scrum of a Nate Decenzi keeper that turned the ball over to Buzzy Hertz on the three-yard line. The recovery then led to Cox's second TD, a three-yard bolt with 7:26 left in the half that extended the Blue Demons' lead to 14-0.
While Cox's one-yard run with 2:21 left in the first half gave Kennett a 21-0 lead at halftime, the touchdown was set up by a 71-yard strike from Forte to wide receiver Tommy Patrissi.
Nursing a shutout through the third quarter, the Blue Demons tacked on a 21-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Barker with 6:06 left in the game that was set up by Forte passes to Patrissi and Kalen Frazier.
With under five minutes remaining in the game and Chichester deep in its own end zone, Cresci tackled Decenzi that led to a Kennett fumble recovery, and Cox's fourth touchdown, a five-yard sprint with 4:45 remaining.
Should the Blue Demons defeat Strath Haven this Friday night, they will move to the semifinal round of the PIAA playoffs on Nov. 15, to face the winner of the Cheltenham (1-seed) - Unionville (9-seed) game on Nov. 8. The Nov. 15 game would be played at Cheltenham's home field.
The PIAA District 1 5A Football Championship game will be played on Nov. 22, at the home field of the higher seed.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.