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Barons capitalize on five GS turnovers in District win
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
In preparation for Garden Spot in the District Three Triple-A playoffs last Friday night, the Manheim Central coaches planned something more for their players than the regular practices and film study.
They also took them past the school’s showcases displaying the many trophies and footballs from the Barons’ glory days.
"We hope that meant something to them," Central skipper Mike Williams said. "We tried to instill in them that playoff time is a time when Manheim teams have always excelled."
They continued that tradition against GS.
Junior quarterback Colin Fry threw two touchdown passes and ran for two others, helping the 11th-seeded Barons notch their 44th District playoff win in program history with a convincing 35-7 conquest of the 6th-seeded Spartans in New Holland.
Section Three champion Garden Spot had the distinction of being the L-L League’s only undefeated team following a 10-0 finish in the regular season. But the Barons (9-2) had a streak of their own against the Spartans which they wanted to continue, with a tie being their only blemish in the all-time series. Central now also holds a 3-0 record over the Spartans in post-season play.
"I think that gives us a little bit of a mental edge," Williams said. "Having a tradition and beating them year after year, it’s hard to overcome that. It really is."
From Garden Spot’s standpoint, it was also hard overcoming a five-turnover night, four of those in the opening half when the Barons built a commanding 28-7 advantage. Ian Hanselman pirated two passes from Spartans’ sophomore QB Mitchell Martin and Brenden Wagner added one pick, while Dillon Harnly and Rey Lasanta each recovered a fumble. Spot’s five turnovers represented nearly half the total (11) they had in the regular season.
Asked if his Spartans were dealing with jitters, Garden Spot coach Matt Zamperini said, "That’s a good question. I don’t know. I just know that it happened and I can only guess at the reasons. This group has been steady and sometimes things go against you and it snowballs. But we didn’t quit … The score doesn’t look it, but we were competitive on the field with them."
Things snowballed in a positive way for the Barons on their opening possession, needing just six plays to punch the ball into the end zone to grab a lead they never relinquished. Cole Proffitt’s 24-yard reception got Manheim Central into Spot’s territory, and then on the next play, junior Marc Royer found running room and went 35 yards to paydirt with just 2:57 elapsed. Evan Stauffer followed with the first of his five PAT’s to make it 7-0.
"That’s the thing that makes us a little dangerous," Williams said of his offensive unit’s quick-strike ability, "in that we have a pretty good run offense, but we also have a good pass offense. We have a lot of yardage in both categories. We’re not one-dimensional."
Royer led Central’s ground attack with 58 yards on nine carries, but although the Spartans’ defense held MC to 90 rushing yards as a team, Fry had 279 yards through the air while completing 16-of-26 passes.
The Barons’ junior signal-caller was quick to point out that he didn’t play his best game, perhaps thinking about a pick he threw just three plays after Harnly pounced on a loose ball on a muffed punt by Spot’s Austin Haas.
But Lasanta quickly got the ball back by recovering Martin’s fumble, and Fry scored on a three-yard keeper with 3:43 left in the first to push the lead to 14-0.
"I think once it was 14-0, that probably had to be a little hurting to their mindset," Williams said. "But I thought (Garden Spot) played hard and they didn’t quit. It was one of those games. If I said we’d win 35-7, we’d be overjoyed. But we had our share of mistakes as well as they had their share of mistakes too. But I think they had it fairly easy in Section Three and playing in a big game like this was really hard to do if you don’t have the competiton week in and week out."
On the Spartans’ next possession, they answered with their best drive of the night, going at Manheim Central’s defense with a balanced attack. Senior Adam Haas ran the ball five times for 39 of his game-high 98 yards and Martin went 3-for-3 through the air, including a 14-yard strike to CeVaughn Caldwell on a slant which cut the Barons’ lead to 14-7 with 10:59 left in the half. For the game, Martin was 14-of-32 for 144 yards, with three interceptions.
"That touchdown drive we had, we had a real nice mix of run-pass balance, which is what our offense is," Zamperini said. "When we were able to do that, we were effective. In a couple of the series that we were able to do that, we looked good and then we’d give up a sack or put the ball on the ground and then we’d become one-dimensional offensively and they’d pin their ears back and then it makes it hard. We weren’t able to maintain that balance that we had on that drive early in the second (quarter)."
Central’s defense had a lot to do with that, putting a lot of heat on Martin in the pocket. Hanselman recorded a team-high 13 tackle points, followed by Chris Lynn with 11 and a QB sack and Taylor Geib with 11. Overall, Central’s defense has now allowed just three touchdowns in five games since suffering a 48-35 loss to Cocalico.
"Our defense is stepping up now, they’re starting to shut teams down," Proffitt said. "Chris Lynn was an animal tonight. Our whole line was an animal, they were all over them. It was awesome."
After GS got on the board, it didn’t take long for the Barons to answer. Royer’s 31-yard kickoff return gave Central excellent field position, and just five plays later, Proffitt hauled in a 21-yard TD pass over middle to make it 21-7 with 9:25 left in the half.
"It was just a crossing route where I’m almost guaranteed to be open unless the safety flies over, which he usually doesn’t," Proffitt said.
"The line definitely protected all night," Fry said. "I didn’t feel pressure most of the night at all, so they did a great job. The receivers got open, they ran great routes and they caught the ball all night. It was a team effort."
Following an interception by Hanselman on the Spartans’ next series at the GS 17, Central seemed to be on the brink of breaking it open. The drive stalled, however, and Stauffer’s 38-yard field goal attempt was off the mark.
The Barons did, however, capitalize the next time they got the ball, and Fry’s one-yard TD plunge with 1:40 to go in the half capped an eight-play, 63-yard drive. Fry was 3-of-4 for 40 yards on the possession and the Barons took advantage of a GS pass interference penalty on third down.
"If we would have played a little cleaner, it’s certainly a closer football game," Zamperini said. "They’re a good football team and they were very disciplined. They were more disciplined and made fewer mistakes than us and I think that was the big difference in the score."
It didn’t help the Spartans’ cause that they also had two apparent touchdowns erased due to penalties, including a 22-yard pass from Martin to Tanner Reed on Garden Spot’s first series in the second half. GS drove to the Manheim Central 21, but then Lynn recorded a clutch sack, resulting in a six-yard loss, Martin threw back-to-back incompletions and the Barons took over on downs.
From there, MC marched 70 yards on only five plays, and Frys’ 24-yard touchdown pass to Geib with 4:22 to go in the third stretched the Barons’ advantage to 35-7. Geib finished with game-highs of eight catches and 167 yards, marking his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season. For the season, he now has 1,006 receiving yards and 11 TD’s.
"(Fry)’s a great quarterback," Zamperini said. He has great vision and he just throws a great ball. He’s got a couple of great receivers and we struggled keeping up with them in the secondary."
The Spartans drove to Central’s 10 and 9 on their final two possessions, but could get no closer, and the Barons punched their ticket to the District quarterfinals to play Susquehanna Township this Friday.
"(Beating Garden Spot) is huge," Proffitt said. "It’s a start in the playoffs, so it’s big." More BARONS, page B-8