Powers struggle, while Avon Grove, Great Valley and Shanahan start out hot
The 2016 high school football season is off to a wild and wooly start — consider this: perennial Chester County powers Downingtown West, West Chester Rustin and Unionville all sit at 0-2, after tough out of league starts, while programs on the rise such as Bishop Shanahan, Great Valley and Avon Grove are out of the gate at 2-0.
With many teams facing unusual schedules to start the season before getting into their conference schedules, a number of the county’s top teams have found tough sledding against top teams from other areas.
Downingtown West — already frustrated by an opening week loss to Perkiomen Valley, found itself hosting the storied Wayne Valley (NJ) program. While the Indians have been a north Jersey power in Passaic County, NJ for a generation, this was their first trip out of state for game, and unfortunately for the Whippets, they made it pay off, with a hard fought 34-31 win, Friday night. Worse, things don’t get easier for the Whippets, who must face powerhouse Neshaminy next week before finally beginning their Ches Mont National schedule the next week against Kennett.
Rustin was able to schedule games a bit closer to home — taking on Garnet Valley and crosstown rival Henderson — but still came up short. Last Friday’s Knights’ loss to Henderson — off to a hot 2-0 start — has to be a worry, with contests against rivals WC East and Unionville looming.
Unionville, meanwhile, found itself with a pair of rugged games to start the 2016 campaign, powerhouse Spring-Ford and Academy Park. While the young Indians were overwhelmed by the Rams, they seemed to find themselves and nearly pulled off the upset this past Friday, against the Knights, a team that won 13 games during a deep AAA playoff run in 2015. But Unionville faces a resurgent Avon Grove – 2-0 to start the season, with wins over Kennett and Oxford — to try and right the ship before opening their Ches Mont American schedule with arch rival Rustin.
Meanwhile, of the hot teams, Bishop Shanahan seems poised and ready to make its mark in 2016. After posting strong wins over George Washington of Philly and Glen Mills, the Eagles should be favored to beat Pottstown this Friday before starting their Ches Mont National schedule at West Chester East. Shanahan could just be a sleeper pick in the conference race.
Another team to watch: Avon Grove. Coach Harry O’Neill seems to have the program headed back to being the powerhouse it was just a few years back. This week’s coming match up against Unionville should tell a lot about whether the Red Devils can battle for a conference title.
Great Valley, coming off wins against Phoenixville and Owen J. Roberts, looks to keep the streak rolling against Glen Mills this Friday. With a favorable early schedule, the Patriots have a good chance to enter their week six showdown with Rustin at 5-0.
Coatesville — always in the conversation for top team in the county — split its first two contests, battering Simon Gratz of Philly before being humbled by Cumberland Valley this past week. With Saturday’s matchup against Council Rock North looming — a tough team from a strong conference — the Red Raiders may have to step it up to keep from starting their conference season with a losing record.
While Downingtown West’s struggles have been documented, crosstown East hasn’t been able to coast, either, having split a pair of contests against Delaware Valley and North Penn. With regional power Roman Catholic looming on the schedule, the Cougars, too, could start their Ches Mont season with a losing record.
Meanwhile, Kennett, rebounding from a tough 2-8 2015 season, seems to be headed in the right direction with an early 1-1 record. After getting roughed up by neighboring Avon Grove, the Blue Demons bounced back with a nice 24-12 win over Chichester and look to pick up their second win of the season Friday at Twin Valley.