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by Matt Smith, Delaware County Daily Times

CONCORD, PA – Cole Palis doesn’t care whether he starts at quarterback for Garnet Valley, as was the case in last week’s win over Haverford.

And he doesn’t care if he’s summoned off the bench to ignite an offense that is sputtering, as was the case Friday night in a thrilling, 34-31 victory over Marple Newtown.

All Palis cares about is helping the Jaguars win football games, even if it comes at the expense of replacing his good buddy, Ryan Hamby.

Palis was called upon in the second half. The Jags went into the locker room trailing, 24-17.

He engineered two fourth-quarter scoring drives, and he scored the game-winning touchdown, taking a keeper seven yards to the end zone with three minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Earlier in the quarter, Palis threw a touchdown pass to tight end Jon Ricci give the Jags their first of two leads in the second half.

“I’m going to push Ryan so he can be able to start, and he’s going to push me so I can get better,” said Palis, who rushed for 37 yards on seven carries. “We’re both going to prepare like we’re starting. My mindset is playing defense (at defensive back), but in the back of my mind I knew I was going to have to be ready for offense, too.”

Garnet Valley (7-0, 6-0) survived a scare against a Marple Newtown team that, only two weeks earlier, had suffered a 35-0 loss at home to Haverford.  

What worked for the Tigers was their passing offense. Anthony Paoletti became the county’s career passing leader and completed 13 of 16 attempts for 252 yards and two TDs. Marple Newtown coach Chris Gicking owned the career passing record of 5,897 yards for 22 years.

Garnet Valley, which registered three interceptions in last week’s 28-13 triumph over Haverford, couldn’t contain MN’s aerial assault in the first half.

“We definitely respected that. They’re a tough team with a great QB,” GV lineman Cade Brennan said. “Every game we play is going to be a tough game. We can’t underestimate anybody. It was an awesome game to play in.”

Garnet Valley never wavered. Despite their defensive woes, the Jags had little trouble moving the ball all night with their run-first, triple-option scheme.

“We stick to what we know and we do what we do best, which is ground-and-pound,” Palis said.

One week after calling 71 offensive plays, all runs, the Jags leaned on talented running back tandem Matt Lassik and Danny Guy, whose six-yard scamper in the first quarter erased a 3-0 Marple lead.

There was plenty of drama in this one.

Adam Oldrati’s sack of Paoletti on third down late in the fourth quarter forced the Tigers’ hand. Gicking called on kicker Luke Ciavardelli to drill a 43-yard attempt. But it was short. Garnet took over possession and ran out the clock.

“Civ hits that all the time,” Gicking said. “That’s why we kicked. It was fourth down and we just lost two yards. We have all the confidence in the world that he could hit that and we still do.”

Garnet Valley began to assume control of the game when several members of its defense sacked Paoletti in the end zone for a safety. On the ensuing drive, the Jags marched downfield 60 yards to grab the lead. Palis ran a play-action pass on fourth-and-goal from the five-yard line and found Ricci all alone in the corner. A two-point conversion run gave the Jags a 27-24 advantage with 11 minutes to play.

“You know that we don’t pass the ball a whole lot,” Ricci said. “We probably rep those kind of plays about 70 times a week. We know we need to use it sometimes. When it happens, it happens. We got the job done.

“We were on the field a lot and we just never gave up. Marple played a tough game and we did what we needed to do.”

The Tigers responded. Dulgerian, who caught Paoletti’s record-breaking pass in the first quarter and sprinted 46 yards to set up the Tigers’ first touchdown, had another big gainer of 45 yards to put the Tigers back inside the red zone. Moments later, Marlon Weathers (119 yards, 13 carries) ran five yards to the end zone to give the Tigers a 31-27 lead.

Garnet Valley converted a pair of third downs on its game-winning scoring drive. Palis took a keeper seven yards to put the Jags in front to stay, 34-31.

The Jaguars ran for 338 yards on 64 carries. Lassik led the way with 180 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts. Guy chipped in 81 yards on 18 tries.

But a lot of the credit can go to Palis, who helped weather the storm for the Jags.

“Palis works really hard in practice and is ready to come in when we need it,” Brennan said. “He came in today, stepped up and made some big plays.”

As for the Tigers (4-3, 4-2), they are a better team today than they were two weeks ago. The shutout loss to Haverford was a turning point.

The Tigers found their identity Friday night.

“The way that we played against Haverford, we didn’t play like a family. That’s what we’ve been preaching the last two weeks,” Paoletti said. “We were so divided as a football team against Haverford. We were a different team, and now we’re back. I’m proud of the guys, the way we fought and never gave up.”