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Barons shoot down Eagles for win number 499
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
When Cocalico recovered a fumble inside Manheim Central’s 10-yard line late in the third quarter last Friday night, but then came away empty, no one was happier about it than Baron senior Ian Hanselman.
It was Hanselman’s turnover that had the Barons’ backs to the wall, but from his inside linebacker position, he was a key reason that the Eagles stayed out of the end zone.
"That was my mistake," Hanselman said of the turnover, "and one my teammates came to me and said, ‘Look, you made a mistake, but let’s get it back right here. Prove yourself right here.’ We just came together as a defense and stopped them and that was huge."
Indeed it was, as it helped the Barons hold on for a 24-12 victory over Cocalico in a highly-anticipated battle of unbeatens in front of a full house at Eagle Stadium. Hanselman and Marc Royer combined to rush for 195 yards, with one touchdown apiece, sparking Manhem Central to leads of 14-0 and 24-6 in the first half, and that was all they needed to improve to 6-0 overall (3-0 Section Two).
The Barons’ win over Cocalico (2-1 L-L, 5-1 overall) leaves just two unbeatens atop the Section Two standings, and Central will host Lampeter-Strasburg (3-0, 4-2) in search of its 500th win in program history this Friday night at Elden Rettew Field at 7 p.m.
"I think the biggest thing that we can take from this (win) is that our team has some potential," Hanselman said. "That’s not without work. We still have to continue to work this season. But for us, it proves that even when we make mistakes, we’re still a solid team and if we can stay level-headed, we can carry that to the playoffs."
They certainly didn’t make any mistakes on their pivotal defensive stand late in the third against Cocalico.
"That was a great defensive stand," Barons’ coach Mike Williams said. "That’s really what won this football game, after we fumbled inside the 20 and held them and then (Cocalico’s Danny Graybill) missed the field goal. That was the turnaround because if they had scored there, who knows?"
The Barons’ goal-line stand highlighted a defensive effort in which Manheim Central limited a Cocalico offense averaging 50.4 points per game to a season-low output. Linebackers Tyler Geib and Justin Moreno shared team-honors in tackling points with 13 points apiece, and Cocalico was held to 124 total rushing yards – more than 200 below their season average (358.0).
"(Defense) was something that we really focused on ever since last year," Williams said. "We were kinda hoping we would get to play them a second time last year (following a 48-35 loss to Cocalico) to see if we couldn’t kinda redo ourselves. We just didn’t play good football and they just pounded us last year. This year, we worked on it a little bit in the summer time and we knew they were going to be our biggest obstacle in the Section. I think coach Brubaker’s defense did a fabulous job. The other thing too is they had a good scheme, but our kids executed."
While Eagles’ QB Jhett Janis and running back Spencer Moser hooked up for three plays of 19 yards or more through the air, Janis, who entered the game second in Section Two in rushing, was contained for 57 yards on the ground against the Barons.
"(Janis) is a great player, he’s a great athlete," Hanselman said. "Even when we kept him in check, sometimes he would get out. You could just see his athletic ability. For us, that was the head of the dragon and if we stopped him … I mean, they still have some other weapons, but he’s the key to that offense. So stopping him is key."
The Barons’ offense, meanwhile, would not be stopped on each of its first four possessions. Capitalizing on a size advantage in the trenches behind linemen Jay Swayne (6-foot-3, 280), Chad Zunich (6-3, 315), Nate Brandt (5-10, 232), Michael Brown (5-8, 185) and Hugh Montgomery (6-3, 220), Manheim Central drove 73 yards on nine plays on its opening series, all on the ground. Royer lugged it four times for 41 yards, including a 29-yard TD jaunt off right tackle while getting a nice kick-out block on the edge from wideout Dan Wiederrecht. Royer finished with a game-high 145 yards rushing on 20 carries.
"There was a big hole and (the TD run) was nice – it got us all fired up and it was a good start to the game," said Royer, who finished with a game-high 145 rushing yards on 20 carries. "It was designed for me to go outside, keep the linebackers in, and then bounce it out around the edge."
Following a three-and-out by Cocalico’s offense, the Barons needed just one play to strike paydirt again, this time with QB Colin Fry (7-for-11, 119 yards passing; 9-37 rushing) firing a strike over the middle to Wiederrecht, who had just enough giddy-up to avoid Janis’ lunge at the goal-line, completing the 59-yard TD pass with 5:03 remaining in the first quarter. Damon Crouse’s PAT pushed the score to 14-0.
"They’re big, they’re strong, they’re physical," Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich said of the Barons. "I think we’ve got a nice defense, but they stress you so many different ways with their offense, being so big – good quarterback, a hammer fullback, two good tailbacks, a tight end that’s All-State. They just have a lot of different things that they can do and you’ve got to play pretty close to near-perfect to withstand that. The second half we played better, but at that point in time, the damage was done."
On the ensuing kickoff, Mitchell Shober returned the ball 21 yards to give the Eagles good field position at their own 36-yard line. Cocalico then went 2-for-2 on third-down conversions, and on the second of those, Moser rolled left on a halfback option pass and found sophomore wide receiver Tucker Lescoe open behind the Barons’ secondary for a 25-yard TD hook-up for a much-needed score with 2:07 left in the first. A botched snap cost the Eagles on the PAT attempt, but Cocalico was within 14-6.
The momentum, though, was short-lived. Early on the Barons’ next drive, they were looking at a third-and-12, but they converted when Fry hit tight end Geib for a first-down gain of 16 yards.
"I knew they were going to get some yards, I knew it," Gingrich said. "But giving up third-and-longs, that hurt us in the beginning."
Five plays later, Hanselman (11-50 rushing) was untouched as he scored up the gut from four yards out, and coupled with Crouse’s PAT, the Barons took a 21-6 advantage with 10:26 to go in the half.
Hanselman described the Barons’ rushing attack as "a tremendous amount better" than it was a year ago.
"Our line gives us holes to run through," he said. "Our running backs go where they make holes and the line is making holes this year. That’s the key to the running game this year."
Added Williams: "Something that we have this year that we didn’t have last year is that we can run the football. They kinda shut us down in the second half and we got maybe a little tired, but we wanted to establish the run and I think we did do that. Last year, we had to do smoke and mirrors, we didn’t have a strong running game, and that hurt us last year."
The Eagles appeared to give their fans a jolt of excitement when Janis made a couple of cuts through the Central defense and scored on a 65-yard run. But the play was brought back due to a holding penalty and Cocalico was eventually forced to punt, keeping the score at 24-6.
"I think I was most disappointed that it was called on an interior lineman on an option play to the outside," Gingrich said. "If it is holding, it’s holding and we deserve what we get. I’m not an official. I’ve got enough problems coaching. I can’t officiate as well."
Another tough break went against the Eagles on Manheim Central’s next drive, when a questionable pass interference penalty was called against Cocalico. The Barons’ drive stalled, but Crouse booted a 32-yard field goal with 4:28 left in the half to make it 24-6, and that’s how it stood going to the locker room.
"You could just see the momentum shift, especially when we went up big in the first half," Hanselman said.
That momentum easily could have shifted back to the Eagles after they recovered Hanselman’s fumble for a first-and-goal with :56 left in the third. But Geib sacked Janis for a five-yard loss, then Dalton Kern and Janis managed just four yards on the next two running plays, and Graybill’s 28-yard field goal attempt was off the mark.
"Our offense did not help our defense," Gingrich said. "Our offense just didn’t execute. That’s on me and we just didn’t execute."
Cocalico’s defense held Manheim Central scoreless in the second half, and when Janis connected with Moser for a 67-yard scoring strike with 5:54 left in the fourth, cutting their deficit to 24-12, the Eagles still had hope.
But the Barons recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Eagles could get no closer.
"Hats off to Manheim," Gingrich said. "They played a great game, they’re well-coached and they executed much better than we did in all facets of the game."
More BARONS, page B-10