West Chester East blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead, saw its starting quarterback go down with a leg injury and was forced to stop a two-point conversion from the one to keep its lead Friday.
And yet, somehow, the Vikings earned their second win in three games.
Vikings quarterback Jake Sheller threw three touchdowns while his defense stuffed a two-point conversion with 52 seconds left to preserve a 26-25 victory over Bishop Shanahan Friday in West Chester during East's homecoming.
“Week one, we might have buckled, but that just shows you how far we’ve come. I’m so proud of these guys,” Vikings coach Dan Ellis said.
Up by 14 with 4:48 left in the game, the Vikings seemed poised to collect their second win of the season.
But the Eagles had other plans. Thirty seconds later, Eagles hurler Ryan Egolf evaded a heavy pass rush and tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jack Oakes to bring Shanahan back to within a score.
“Things didn’t happen the way we thought they would happen,” Sheller said. “But we got the win.”
East attempted to run out the clock on its next possession but was stuffed on fourth and three from the Eagles 26 yard line.
On third down, the Egolf found Mason Dreiling open over the middle from the Eagles 38. Dreiling turned the completion up the opposing sideline 60 yards before Mike Brown knocked the speedster out of bounds at the two.
East’s defense buckled down and forced a fourth and goal from the goal line after stuffing consecutive quarterback sneaks from the same spot. On fourth down, Egolf tossed the ball to Dreiling who took the pitch off the right tackle into the end zone with 52 seconds left to make the score 26-25.
Initially, Shanahan played for the tie and sent out its kicker for the extra point. The extra point went wide left and sent the homecoming East crowd into a frenzy.
But a roughing-the-kicker flag gave the Eagles new life and moved the ball from the three to the goal line.
This time, the Eagles went for the win. Egolf dropped back and attempted to take a QB draw off the right tackle for the win. But the Eagle quarterback was stood up at the goal line by a host of Vikings defenders and was pushed backwards to preserve the one-point lead.
Overall, East’s defensive performance was a stark improvement over last week’s 41-0 loss at Coatesville. The Vikings used a defensive line rotation and a variety of linebacker blitzes to stymie the Shanahan offense.
“Egolf is a good quarterback, so we knew we had to mix things up. He’ll kill you if you give him the same look every time,” Ellis said.
Vikings wideout Mike Brown cleanly fielded the Eagles on-side kick attempt, and Sheller promptly kneeled the ball to kill the clock and gave East a homecoming win.
“We played with the most positive attitude and we believed in ourselves,” Sheller said.
Sheller finished 24-37 for 394 yards and three touchdowns.
Sheller was nearly knocked out of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Vikings slinger ran off the right tackle on a draw play but was banged down by two Eagle defenders as he slid. Sheller stayed down for an extended period of time before two trainers balanced the quarterback as he hopped off the field with a leg injury.
Freshman Patrick Downey took over and completed one of his two attempts for a one-yard gain as Sheller laid in agony on the trainer’s table on the sideline.
Whatever the trainers did to Sheller worked as moments later the QB leapt off the table to the delight of the home crowd.
“He’s a trooper,” Ellis said. “How far he’s come … I’d take him hands down over any kid in the state.
“That’s the joy of coaching football, to watch him grow from May to what he did today.”
Sheller came back on the teams next possession and orchestrated a scoring drive, capped off by a 31-yard pass to Pat Whalen to put the Vikings up 26-12 with just under five minutes to play.
The scoring play was the third touchdown for Whalen Friday, who finished with nine catches for 220 yards and three scores.
“We have a lot of weapons. One guys has a good game, they cover him the next game then the next guy steps up,” Whalen said. “I just had to step up.”
Whalen scored the first points of the game when Sheller found the wideout behind the Eagles coverage with a 24-yard strike to put East up 6-0.
Whalen nearly has a second score less than a minute later when he again beat the Eagles corners and hauled in a floater for a 41- yard gain. Running back Steve Coffey capped the drive with a one-yard plunge to put East up 13-0 with just over two minutes to go in the first quarter.
Shanahan orchestrated a scoring drive of its own on its next possession. Egolf tumbled into the endzone on a sneak from the goal line to draw the score to 13-6 after a failed two-point attempt.
Whalen then hauled in his second touchdown when he sprinted past the opposing corner from the sideline towards the middle of the field for a 20-yard scoring catch. The play was the last score before breathtaking the events of the final five minutes.
“Feels unbelievable, we played so hard tonight,” Whalen said.