Barons go back-to-back

By on November 28, 2018
Manheim Central’s Evan Hosler (2), Tyler Flick 24), and their teammates celebrate with the District Three 5A championship trophy after defeating Cocalico 48-14 last Friday night. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Manheim Central’s Evan Hosler (2), Tyler Flick 24), and their teammates celebrate with the District Three 5A championship trophy after defeating Cocalico 48-14 last Friday night. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Manheim Central repeats as District Three champ with 48-14 win over Cocalico

 

There was nothing fancy about the play call.

But it was certainly effective.

And when Manheim Central QB Evan Simon connected with junior wide receiver Colby Wagner on a 62-yard touchdown pass with just 4.7 seconds left in the opening half last Friday night, it effectively gave the Barons a 21-0 stranglehold.

“It was an isolation,” Simon said. “Air it out and let (Colby) run under it.”

In all, Manheim Central’s explosive quick-strike attack scored three times in the final 4:27 of the half to snap a scoreless draw, and the Barons never looked back on their way to a 48-14 victory over L-L League rival Cocalico to nail down their second straight District Three 5A championship at Manheim Township High School in Neffsville.

While nailing down their District Three-record 18th championship, MC improved to 13-0 and repeated for the first time since winning three straight from 2003-05.

“Two years in a row, that’s awesome,” Wagner said. “It’s great for the team and the past players.”

“It feels really good,” Hahn said. “I’m proud of the kids because we busted our tail for the last year to get to this point and to play a team like Cocalico. I’m proud of them. To repeat? We haven’t done that since 2003-05, so to do that again, I think that’s a mark of a good team and a good program.”

The Barons will face another good team this Friday night when they travel to Wissahickon High School to play District One champ Upper Dublin (13-1), a 35-28 winner over West Chester Rustin.

They will be looking to punch their ticket to the State finals for the first time since 2009, when Manheim Central suffered a 10-7 loss to Selinsgrove in the Triple-A championship game.

“We’ve played in some physical games and I can’t imagine teams being much tougher than (District opponents) Cocalico, Cedar Cliff, and Governor Mifflin,” Hahn said. “Those were three quality, good, tough opponents, and physical, but we’re going to get another one. Here we go.”

Cocalico got on the perimeter with success using jet sweeps to Ronald Zahm (9 carries, 71 yards) and pitches to Steven Flinton (6-14), in addition to going up the gut with Garrett Longenecker (7-79)

“(Manheim Central) is very stingy with what they give up — so solid and fundamental defensively,” Eagles’ coach Dave Gingrich said. We put in a jet sweep this week. We hadn’t run that all year, so that worked pretty well. I think they stopped us one time for a loss, but other than that, it was a pretty big play for us. But they really do a nice job with their discipline and their reads and they’re just very aggressive. We just weren’t physical enough offensively or defensively to withstand that.”

Still, the Eagles (10-3) threatened on their second possession after senior DB Austin Landers picked off Simon with 7:28 left in the first quarter. Longenecker’s 20-yard run moved the chains to the MC 23-yard line, and a four-yard run by quarterback Noah Palm, combined with a Baron penalty, made it first-and-goal at the six.

But on fourth down at the 2-yard line, Zahm ran right and was stopped, and Baron junior Ben Wagner recovered a fumble to end the threat.

“That was great,” Hahn said. “It just showed the toughness of our defense. They did a great job. They were disciplined tonight.”

Even though Cocalico wasn’t able to capitalize, it was winning the field-position battle, and after the two teams traded punts, Manheim Central started at its own 3-yard line with 9:09 left in the half.

But Tyler Flick ran for gains of 21 and 26 yards to get the Barons moving. For the game, Flick finished with 115 rushing yards on 19 carries.

Eventually, Simon hit Ben Wagner on a 16-yard TD strike and Niko Gavala added the first of his six PATs to make it 7-0 with 4:27 left in the half.

“We couldn’t punch it in and that hurt,” Gingrich said. “And we gave up a couple big plays and then they started to get the momentum. Once they got the momentum, we just never recovered. They are a very, very good team. And once we couldn’t punch in our chances early on, we just kind of self-destructed a little bit.”

Simon was 12-of-18 for five TDs and a single-game high 373 yards this season.

With Flick gaining 1,650 yards rushing and scoring 30 TDs, it marked only the fourth time this year that Simon has passed for more than 200 yards.

“It’s team first,” said the Barons’ junior signal-caller, who has 2,319 total passing yards and 26 TDs this season. “The one game I went for 200, Flick said something like, ‘Coach, I don’t care if we pass. I want to win.’ It’s the same way here. When he goes off for 200-plus, man, a W is a W. Stats only go so far.”

Zahm answered the Barons’ first TD with an 11-yard run on the Eagles’ next play from scrimmage, but then the Eagles went three-and-out.

Just 11 seconds later, Colby Wagner (5-218 receiving, 3 TDs) was in the end zone with an 81-yard touchdown reception down the right sideline from Simon, pushing Central’s lead to 14-0.

“Colby came over and he was like, ‘This is it. I’m going to beat him,’” Simon said. “So we took advantage of that. He’s a stud.”

The momentum only continued from there for the Barons. After their defense held Cocalico to a three-and-out, Manheim Central got the ball at its own 34 with just 1:16 left, then went backwards on a 13-yard holding penalty.

Not enough time to execute a drive, right?

Well, not so fast.

After Jake Harbach broke off a 15-yard gain, the Simon-to-Colby Wagner duo again struck gold, this time for a 62-yard TD, and the Barons suddenly led 21-0 with just 4.7 seconds to go in the half.

“I beat (the defender) outside, Evan chucked the ball up and I went up and got it,” Wagner recalled.

“They were playing us man coverage,” Hahn remarked, “they were playing us inside, we felt like we could press them and release that to the outside, and we got it all night, so we capitalized on it. Just because it’s the end of the half doesn’t mean you just run the ball out and let the clock run out. We want to attack and we want to score.”

In the second half, Manheim Central scored on two of its first three possessions — one on a 35-yard pass to who else but Colby Wagner, another on Harbach’s 11-yard run around right end, making it 35-0 and invoking the mercy rule with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.

In all, the Barons piled up 560 yards of offense.

“The chemistry between all the guys is just amazing,” Simon said. “It starts at practice, it goes all the way back to the summer workouts — the extra reps, extra throws, extra sprints. It pays off on nights like this.”

Cocalico came back with a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive, capped with Palm finding a seam and taking it 40 yards to the house with 10:25 to go, cutting the Barons’ lead to 35-7.

After Flick scored on a three-yard run nearly three minutes later, Palm’s second rushing TD of the night — a seven-yard run around left end following a pretty fake — tightened the score to 42-14 with 5:26 remaining in the game.

With the outcome no longer in doubt, however, the game ended with a bit of controversy when Simon threw a 15-yard TD pass to tight end Landan Moyer with 21.7 seconds left.

Gingrich replied with “no comment” when asked about the final touchdown.

Hahm, when asked about Gingrich’s remarks to him at midfield after the game, said, “He was mad and I don’t blame him. We were totally wrong. The play was supposed to be just a run and Evan just misunderstood and it’s my fault. I feel horrible about it. It’s not the way I want to win, but unfortunately, it happened. No excuse. I’m wrong.”

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