WEST CHESTER-- In a wild, wacky Chester County high school all-star football game Thursday night, the East squad outlasted the West team, 21-20, to take the 13th annual Valor Bowl.
The contest, which benefits Special Olympics of the county, was in doubt almost to the time the lights were finally shut off at Dicks Stadium on the campus of B. Reed Henderson High School in West Chester.
Starting at the end is the only way to describe this contest. With 4:42 left to play in the fourth quarter, East quarterback Dave Hausladen of Great Valley unloaded a 70-yard bomb to Conestoga's Dexter Bridge for a touchdown. Great Valley kicker Richie Eppleman added the extra point and East was ahead 21-14.
The fun, however, was just beginning. West marched right down the field and with 20.8 seconds left on fourth and six from the 11, Downingtown East quarterback Trey Lauletta overthrew Downingtown West's Louis Smith in the endzone and it appeared East had nailed down the win.
But not so fast. While trying to run the clock out, East fumbled the ball and West recovered on the 11 again. With 23 seconds left, Lauletta ran in from the 11 yardline to make it 21-20.
West coach Mike Matta sent the kicking team on the field for the one-point conversion but when East coach Joe Walsh called a timeout, Matta changed his mind and went for two points and the win. Lauletta's PAT pass was intercepted and the West lead was safe at 21-20.
With 17 seconds left, West recovered an onside kick and got the ball back near midfield. However on the next play, a bad snap delayed Lauletta getting started and O.J. Roberts' Jake Manfredi picked off his pass and East had its victory.
Hausladen was named the East squad's offensive Most Valuable Player after completing 8 of 10 passes for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
West scored on the first play of the game when Lauletta threw a 56-yard pass to Smith for a 6-0 lead but Tyler Mayes of Downingtown East's point after kick was blocked. The touchdown was a Valor Bowl record for time of a drive, which lasted nine seconds.
Both teams settled into the game from then and basicly sparred with one another until the second quarter when West Chester Rustin QB Andrew Fifthian snuck his way into the endzone to tie the game at 6-6 with 1:18 left in the half to complete a 60-yard, nine play drive that covered 2:57. Eppleman added the PAT and East was ahead, 7-6 at halftime.
West Chester East was represented by wide receiver Chuck Phelan, wide receiver/defensive back Josh Fernandez, linebacker Dave Rosen and defensive end Andrew Stilp.
West Chester Henderson players Jorge Majias (lineman), Mark and Matt Muscari (lineman), Quincy Rhoades (defensive end), Myles Jackson (defensive end) and Austin Constable (wide receiver/defensive back) were members of the East squad.
Quarterback Andrew Fithian, wide receiver/defensive back Anthony D'Ambrosio, running back/defensive back Devante Dixon, wide receiver/defensive back Matt Michaels, tight end/linebacker Nick Simmler, fullback/linebacker Frank O'Donnell, lineman/defensive back T.J. Dougherty, lineman Chase Hoyt and lineman Will Ridgeway represented West Chester Rustin.
O.J. Roberts players on the East squad included lineman Jake Manfredi, lineman Sean Moloney, lineman Mike Nowak, fullback/linebacker Sam Funk and fullback/linebacker Matt Michaels.
Phoenixville was represented by lineman Kenny Cenci (6-5, 245) and Marcus Stokes (6-5, 325).
"I made a whole lot of good friends this week," Stilip said. "Working with the kids and everything is something I'll always remember. We basicly had a good week of practice and things came together for us to win. It was a tremendous experience to be associated with this game."
"This was an awesome journey," WC East's Fernandez said. "There was a lot of hard work and a lot of fun as well. I'll just never forget the smiles on the kids from the Special Olympics. Those will be with me for a long, long time."
"It will be a week I'll never forget," said Phoenixville's Cenci. "Things started to jell as the week went on for the team. But it was all about the kids and Special Olympics. The entire thing was just very special to me and my teammates and will stay with us forever."
West added to the lead in the third quarter when Hausladen connected with Blair Brooks of Conestoga with a 32-yard touchdown pass after going 60 yards in five plays. Eppleman's kick made it West 14, East 6.
Back came West. On third and goal from seven, West Chester Henderson's Austin Constable, who had a furious game on defense, sacked Lauletta, bringing up fourth down. Lauletta took the next snap, rolled right and sucked every East defender with him, then threw across the field to a wide open Smith standing in the endzone at 1:57 to cut the East lead to 14-12.
Going for two points, Lauletta threw a bullet to Chris Cordivari of Bishop Shanahan and the game was tied at 14-14.
West missed a field goal chance at 10:29 of the fourth quarter which seemed to spark the East squad. That set up the Hausladen-to-Bridge TD pass at 4:42 that made it 21-14.
East finished with 240 yards of offense, with just 26 coming on the ground, while West had 226 passing out of a total of 322.
While the competition was fast and furious throughout, the meaning of the whole night was not lost on Hausladen.
"Football is a sport where you can make friends," he concluded. "And I made a lot of them this week working with the Special Olympians. I'll never forget the smiles and looks on their faces. It's been a great week and something I'll never forget."
Valor Bowl Award Winners
Most Valuable Players:
Offense: David Hausladen, Great Valley (East); Trey Lauletta, Downingtown East (West)
Defense: Anthony D'Ambrosio, West Chester Rustin (East); Brandon Robles, Downingtown West (West)
Quincy Rhoades, West Chester Henderson
Ben Crisi Award: East coach Joe Walsh and East team