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Garnet Valley captures its second-straight District 1 Class 6A championship

Written by: on Friday, November 25th, 2022. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.


GLEN MILLS — Drew Van Horn carries a proud family legacy. He was born after his legendary grandfather, Donald “Ducky” Van Horn, had passed away, but he heard and knows the stories. He still has his grandfather’s tattered Cardinal O’Hara red coaching shirt.

Football is part of Drew’s DNA. By the instinctive way the 6-foot, 190-pound Garnet Valley senior plays it’s obvious.

Van Horn scored a touchdown, caused one interception, and had two sacks, to go along with his linebacker partner, pint-sized terror Joseph Cecchio, in causing chaos all night for Central Bucks West in Garnet Valley’s thoroughly dominating 35-7 victory in the District 1 Class 6A championship on Friday night at Garnet Valley.

It marked the Jaguars’ second-straight District 1 Class 6A championship. They became the first team District 1 team to repeat as 6A champions since Coatesville did it in 2017 and 2018.

The Jaguars remain undefeated at 13-0, again reaching the Class 6A state semifinals, where they will meet the winner of Saturday’s St. Joe’s Prep-Parkland game next weekend at a site and time to be determined.

Garnet Valley is familiar with winning. The Jags won consecutive Class 3A district championships in 2006 and 2007 under the 4A system.

For this group, the district title carried added significance. This team was an unknown, with just two returning starters, Van Horn and senior lineman Kieran Gallagher. They felt there was doubt steered at them.

The Jaguars were beginning the season with a new coach, Eric Van Wyk, who played under Hall of Fame coach Mike Ricci, though this was a new team.

They knew they had to answer the doubters.

The district title was an emphatic answer.

“It’s a special team and it’s filled with a special group of guys,” Cecchio said. “I got a little emotional because we went through so much together and we faced a lot of adversity throughout the year.”

The Jags’ toughest game came in their season opener against CB West, a 14-7 victory. But Garnet Valley learned from that game. The Jags felt they gave up too much offensively and knew just what bolts to tighten.

It’s usually tough to beat a twice in one season at any level. On Friday night, Garnet Valley made it look easy.

The Jags never trailed, getting out to a 14-0 lead.

The 11th-seeded Bucks (9-5) were looking for their first district title since 2000 and they had won eight of their last nine games.

The game was competitive up until the last two minutes of the first half.

Garnet Valley took a 14-0 lead into halftime. The Jaguars outgained CB West 201-86 to that point, but a huge turning point came with the Bucks sitting on the Jags’ three and Garnet Valley clinging to a 7-0 lead.

Then, as if someone pulled the rip cord on a trap door, CB West fell through. It started when the Bucks were called for a five-yard penalty, pushing them back to the eight.

It looked like CB West rebounded when Bucks’ junior quarterback Ganz Cooper seemingly scrambled for an eight-yard touchdown with 2:07 left in the half. But a CB West illegal block in the back negated the score and drove the Bucks 12 yards back on the spot foul.

On the following play, second-and-goal, CB West’s Eli Beohm took a handoff 10 yards to the Jags’ 10, which was followed by a Cooper incompletion on third-and-goal.

After the play, the Bucks were called for a personal foul, marching them back 15 more, to the Jags’ 25.

Because it was a dead-ball foul, CB West lost a down and was faced with a fourth-and-goal from the 25. The Bucks then proceeded to a false start, pushing the ball back to the 30.

From there, Cooper threw another incompletion, turning the ball over to Garnet Valley.

Over the next 1:47, the Jags went on a 10-play, 70-yard drive aided by another CB West personal foul penalty on a late hit. Checchio added to the Jags’ lead on a one-yard run.

Garnet Valley had one breakdown when Cooper found Beohm for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 4:14 left in the third. That seemed to ignite the Jags, who scored on three of their next four possessions.

The play of the game came on Checchio’s interception at the Bucks’ 22 with 1:31 left in the third quarter, on a play forced by Van Horn’s pressure.

“This is awesome to win the district title for the second time around,” said Van Horn, whose father, Patrick, was the youngest of eight and who knows a little something about legacies. “There is a whole slew of Van Horns. We’re all over the place. I wasn’t born when my Papa passed away. But you can say I come from a long line of good genes.

“This team is a unique group and we proved that. At the beginning of the season, they were saying we lost all of these guys, and they’re great players, but we’re good players, too. Everyone doubted us, except our inner circle. We knew what we could do. We just needed to prove it.”

Van Wyk wasn’t about to think ahead to Parkland or a possible rematch with powerful St. Joe’s Prep.

“I want to take this in,” said the Jags’ first-year coach. “We made some mistakes tonight that were uncharacteristic of us. Some of that comes from going against a good team and CB West is a good team. I was on the sidelines last year (in the state semifinals against Prep), but I don’t want to think about that now.

“I’m very proud of these guys and what they accomplished. This group has grown a lot since August and they understood what was needed to do to get to this point. It comes from character players like Drew, who would do anything for the team and he proved that tonight.”

Scoring Summary

Central Bucks West (9-4) 0 0 7 0-7

Garnet Valley (13-0) 7 7 7 14-35

1st Quarter

GV – Drew Van Horn 26 pass from Matt Mesaros (Tim Comers kick), 4:54

2nd Quarter

GV – Joe Checchio 1 run (Comers kick), :23

3rd Quarter

CBW – Eli Beohm 33 pass from Ganz Cooper (Jack Williams kick), 4:14

GV – Jason Bernard 20 run (Comers kick), :11

4th Quarter

GV – Bernard 2 run (Comers kick), 6:22

GV – Matt Mesaros 57 run (Comers kick), 3:37

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball.

Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball

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One Response to “Garnet Valley captures its second-straight District 1 Class 6A championship”

  1. Ron Mesaros says:

    Another great article! Thank you