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Blue Streaks stop the Warriors to win Red Rose C championship
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The goal of the Warwick Midget C Red football team was two-fold on Saturday.
Spoil Manheim Township White’s unbeaten season.
And of course, win their championship game.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, it wasn’t meant to be.
Blue Streaks’ running back Brett Benjamin ran for a game-high 195 yards and four TD’s on 27 carries, as Township capped a perfect 12-0 season with a 30-0 win in the Red Rose League’s C championship game at Manheim Central’s Elden Rettew Field.
"It’s just a formidable little force," Warwick coach Tom Rice said of Township’s team. "Very-well coached, very organized. They always come hard."
Warwick proved to be a formidable little force in its own right this fall, and although their final game didn’t end as they had hoped, the Warriors still finished with a solid 9-3 record while reaching the first-ever championship game in Warwick program history.
"I would sum up the season to be fantastic," Rice said. "These boys work as hard as they possibly can. They came out each week and fought. They’ve had tough games, they had tough opponents, they’re in the toughest section in the Red Rose division, which is Section Two. There’s never a week off and they just did extraordinary. We come up against the Township effect and … we’re still working on it. We’ll figure that one out. But like I said, I’m very proud of them every single step of the way. As soon as they made the playoffs, I was proud of the whole season they had."
In an earlier meeting, the Blue Streaks defeated Warwick by a 20-6 score back in September. On Saturday, they set the tone with a game-opening 55-yard drive. After Benjamin got the call on 10 of the first 11 carries, Warwick’s Alex Epple dropped Jaden Floyd for a two-yard loss at the Warriors’ nine-yard line. Two plays later, however, Benjamin scored on a three-yard run off of left tackle to put the Streaks up 6-0 with 1:20 left in the quarter. Ethan Minnich broke up Kirk Harrison’s PAT pass to keep the score where it was.
Moments later, the Warriors had a tough break go against them, as the Blue Streaks’ spinning kickoff ricocheted off a Warwick player and Township’s Matthew Dall jumped on the loose ball at the Warriors’ 48. That was the first of Warwick’s three turnovers in the game. Seven plays after that, Benjamin found a seam up the middle and went into the end zone from 12 yards out with 5:45 to go in the half. Justin Gerhart stopped Floyd short of the goal line on the PAT, but Township led 12-0.
"That just takes the momentum (after Township recovered the muffed kickoff)," Rice said. "After that drive, you want to get the ball back and try to establish one of your own, and to have that happen right off the get-go? Yeah, that’s just another way of taking the gas out."
Warwick finally got the ball for its first offensive series, and although Tristen Horst completed a five-yard pass to Ethan Minnich on third-and-long, they were forced to turn the ball over on downs. From there, the Streaks took over at their own 42, and although Trey Glass, Zavier Cosme, Justin Gerhart and Minnich all stepped up with stops, and David Hnasko chased down Benjamin from behind for a TD-saving tackle, the Warriors couldn’t prevent Township from scoring on its third possession in a row. Benjamin’s two-yard TD run pushed the Blue Streaks’ advantage to 18-0 with :39.6 remaining in the half.
"A lot of the credit goes to (Benjamin’s) line," Rice said. "They fire out, all in unison at the same time, and they just push bodies backward. You give a back a hole like that and he looks real good. I mean, (Benjamin) is a good back, but I give a lot of credit to what I see up front as far as opening everything up."
On the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors tried for a big return as Minnich handed off to Glass for a reverse which took the ball to the Warwick 49-yard line. But time expired following the next play and the Blue Streaks carried an 18-0 advantage into the break.
After getting a defensive stop on Warwick’s first possession in the second half, the Blue Streaks added to their lead when Benjamin scored on a 38-yard TD run with 3:20 left in the third quarter. Horst made the stop on Township’s PAT try to keep the score at 24-0.
The Warriors made their first trip into the Blue Streaks’ territory on their next possession, but on fourth-and-long, Township’s Benjamin recovered a fumble at midfield. Seven plays later, Jacob Smith reached paydirt for the Streaks on a one-yard plunge with 5:19 to go to complete the scoring.
To their credit, however, the Warriors didn’t go quietly. Glass and Minnich ran for gains of 16 and 11 yards, respectively, to give Warwick its deepest penetration of the day on its ensuing drive, with a first down at the Streaks’ 35. But Township’s Samuel Peters recovered a fumble on the next play, and then MT ran out the clock.
For the game, Glass finished with 16 rushing yards on seven carries, but the Warriors had only 15 net yards and three first downs overall as an offense.
"It kinda reminded of the same reaction (we had) when we played them in the season," Rice said. "We just come out, kinda get in that deer in the headlights mode and instead of firing forward, we’re standing straight up and that just gets you pushed right back. And we were trying to get it back and we could just never get it back. On offense, it was the same thing. That’s not their style of play."
At game’s end, players on both teams received trophies, and a successful season was put in the books.
"They weren’t (disappointed)," Rice said of his players, "and I think that’s a good thing because we tried to let them know how proud we were of them regardless of the outcome of this game. We wanted them to come out and give it their best for four quarters. They’ve been freezing for the last three weeks in 38-degree practice nights. But we wanted to let them know from the beginning, before they ever walked out here, how proud we were and how proud they should be of themselves." More WARRIORS, page B-2