Barons overcome adversity in District win over Garden Spot
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
At game’s end last Friday, Manheim Central quarterback Colin Fry and his teammates took part in an on-field ceremony honoring the Barons’ 500th win in program history.
Former players from Central’s 16 District Three Triple-A championship teams and its 2003 State title squad re-united on the turf at Elden Rettew Field.
This being the 10th anniversary of MC’s magical PIAA gold-medal winning season, the Barons would like nothing more than to add some more hardware to their trophy case.
They kept their hopes alive last Friday.
But it wasn’t easy.
With 15th-seeded underdog Garden Spot trailing just 24-17 after three quarters, No. 2-seeded Manheim Central finally broke away in the fourth quarter, capitalizing on Fry’s two-yard TD run and Damon Crouse’s 39-yard field goal to clinch a 34-17 victory in a District 3 Triple-A opening-round game in Manheim.
"It was a little close for comfort," Fry acknowledged, "but we needed that. It’s hard to turn it back on real quick (following three blowouts). Yes, it’s playoffs, but still it’s hard to turn that game mentality on when you’ve been (cruising) for three games."
Indeed, the Barons (11-0) had faced very little test while outscoring Ephrata, Conestoga Valley and Solanco by a combined 191-0 to close out the regular season. Central skipper Mike Williams was definitely happy to finally get a challenge in the form of the Spartans (8-3), who brought physical defense to Manheim.
"We haven’t had any adversity for a bunch of weeks," he said. "Tonight we had adversity. Tonight we had to play. Tonight we had to scrap to win. I think we played hard enough to win against a pretty good football team."
Manheim Central will certainly need to put forth a strong effort this Friday, when they host 10th-seeded Susquehanna Township, a 33-15 winner over No. 15-seed Hershey, in the District quarterfinals back in Manheim. It was the Indians who knocked the Barons out in the District quarterfinals last year with a 27-17 win in Harrisburg.
"All I know is they’re fast and they’re good," Fry remarked. "We played them last year, we’re looking for a little bit of payback and we’ll see how it goes."
The Barons also played Garden Spot in the opening-round in 2012 in a game that Central won easily 35-7. They appeared to be on their way to another easy victory this time around, needing just two plays to open the scoring in the first quarter.
After Fry found Andrew Seiverling over the middle for 42 yards, running back Marc Royer got the handoff, bounced it left and raced 24 yards to paydirt. Crouse added the PAT to make it 7-0 with just 29 seconds elapsed.
For the game, Fry finished 8-of-16 for 137 yards and one TD, with one pick. It was the most passes the senior QB has thrown in a game this season, surpassing his 14 attempts in a 52-19 win over Hempfield in Week Two.
"We wanted to (pass) by intention. We think we have a good passing attack," Williams said. "If we’re going to play against the big boys, we’ve got to be able to throw the ball."
When the Spartans’ opening possession ended with an INT by linebacker Hanselman, Central got excellent field position at the GS 42. The Barons’ drive stalled, but Crouse split the uprights for a 37-yard field goal to extend their lead to 10-0 with 7:30 left in the quarter.
Spot’s defense limited Manheim Central to just 41 rushing yards in the first half on 11 carries, while tackling the Barons four times for a loss. Central entered the game with an L-L best 346 rushing yards per game.
"We knew we would have to pass. (GS) had a great defense," Fry said.
"Their defense was just really physical," Williams remarked. "The hitting was pretty vicious and they play good defense. I don’t think we saw a defense that good, including Cocalico’s defense, all year."
Getting a boost from that side of the ball, the Spartans’ offense came to life with a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive, which ate nearly six minutes off the clock. Eventually, Corey Twaddell (6-31 rushing) scored on a 27-yard TD run with 8:40 left in the second and Micah Hostetter kicked the PAT to cut Garden Spot’s deficit to 10-7.
It didn’t take the Barons long to answer, however. Less than two minutes later, Fry faked a handoff to Royer up the middle, took a couple of steps and fired a pass to tight end Taylor Geib on the right flank. Geib made a nice grab, then found a seam and went 46 yards to the house to put MC up 17-7 with 6:49 remaining in the half.
"It was a zone read," Fry recalled. "Two guys came off the edge. It was a real hard play to read because if I would have given the ball, Marc probably would have gotten tackled in the back. I was real fortunate that they didn’t cover Taylor and Taylor made a great catch, great run and the receivers down the field made great blocks."
GS threatened again on its final possession of the half, capitalizing on a couple of Central penalties and the running of QB Mitchell Martin (19 rushing yards, 8-20-2, 87 passing yards, TD, 2 INT’s), Miguel Bowman and Chase Bowman. The Spartans marched to the MC 12, where they sputtered, but Hostetter’s 29-yard field goal made it 17-10 at half.
"I don’t know if it was a letdown (after taking the early lead)," Fry said. "I think it was more of Garden Spot adjusting to what we had done. We didn’t adjust as fast, but gradually then did adjust and just ended up outscoring them in the end."
Hanselman’s 13-yard TD run on the Barons’ opening possession of the second half gave Central a 24-10 advantage, but Garden Spot’s Miguel Bowman returned the kickoff 41 yards and Martin capped a six-play scoring drive by throwing a 27-yard TD strike to CeVaughn Caldwell with 7:16 left in the third, keeping the Spartans close at 24-17.
Moments later, when GS recovered an onside kick, the Spartans had the ball with an opportunity to do more damage. Central’s defense rose to the occasion, though, forcing a three-and-out. In fact, the Barons didn’t allow another first down the rest of the way.
"We came to life and that’s really what you’ve got to do to win championships," Williams said. "When your offense is sputtering and they have a good defense, your defense has to step up and play and we did that."
Hanselman also stepped up later in the fourth, carrying the ball five straight times for 54 hard-earned yards to get the ball inside the Spartans’ red zone. Four plays later, Fry scored on a two-yard plunge, putting the Barons up 31-17 with 6:04 remaining.
Hanselman finished with 70 of his game-high 90 rushing yards in the second half. Royer had 92 yards on 16 carries, contributing to a Baron ground attack which gained 177 total yards.
"(Hanselman and Royer) did a heck of a job," Fry said. "We pretty much willed it down the field. We were battling all game long, it was tough in the trenches. The line got great push off the ball on that drive. We knew if we scored, we had a great opportunity to go end this thing."
If Fry’s TD run didn’t clinch the outcome, Crouse’s 39-yard field goal with 1:31 left did.
With that, the Barons turned their sights toward Susquehanna Township this Friday.
"Our kids know that we can’t just step on this field and teams are going to roll over," Williams said. "Next week, we’ve got Susquehanna Township and it’s going to be a battle. They’ve got speed and they’ll be fast on this turf, and unless we play our best game, we won’t win that one. I like the fact that we had a tough game here finally."
More BARONS, page B-10