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Royer, flawless first-half offense leads Barons over Cocalico, 42-20
Manheim Central’s football team reserved a special spot for itself in Barons’ lore last Friday.Central’s 42-20 win over L-L League rival Cocalico at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Field in the District Three Triple-A semi-finals, in which senior running back Marc Royer ran for 250 yards and two touchdowns, was one that Barons’ boss Mike Williams described as a top-10 all-time victory for Manheim Central.
“I joked with the kids and said, ‘This ranks in the top 500 victories that we’ve ever had,’” Williams remarked. “But then I said, ‘No, I think it’s a top-10’er because this was a big game.’ We beat them (24-12 in week six) and that gave them a decided advantage mentally to come into the game and I thought (after) the way we had played the last two weeks, we really stepped it up (on Friday). I don’t know what it looked like from where you guys were sitting, but that first half on offense, we were pretty flawless.”
Flawless was one word. Dominant was another.
The 2nd-seeded Barons (13-0) scored on all five of their first-half possessions while out-gaining the 3rd-seeded Eagles 306-168 and taking a big 35-14 lead at the break. Royer ran for 129 yards and a TD in the opening two stanzas, while QB Colin Fry completed 7-of-12 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to running for one score.
“We had confidence (from beating them earlier),” said running back/linebacker Ian Hanselman, who chipped in with 62 yards on the ground and a 3-yard TD reception, “but we’d heard claims that they didn’t play a very good game when they played us the first time, so we were just as motivated for this game as we were the first game.”
Another source of motivation was the opportunity to play three-time reigning District Three Triple-A champ Bishop McDevitt in the finals. The No. 1-seeded Crusaders (12-1) did their part with a 49-21 thumping of Conrad Weiser in Friday’s other semi-final, setting the table for this Friday’s showdown between the District’s top two-ranked teams. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.“I think we’ll be up for it,” Williams said. “I think we’ll play hard. We’ll pull together – we may not have one or two of our best players, but I think we’ll pull together and we’ll give them a battle, don’t worry. They might be 14-point favorites, who knows? But we’ll see what happens when the scoreboard winds down to zero and see if we can pull another upset. They’re looking for us because we’ve won so many District titles that if they beat Manheim, they’ll be on top of the world. But their recruiting area is a little bigger than ours.”
If there was one negative to come out of last Friday’s game for the Barons, it was that Fry and junior wideout Dan Wiederrecht left the game early with injuries. Fry was headed from Rettew Field to go for X-rays, but Williams said he was “doubtful” to play against McDevitt with an injury to his right throwing shoulder.
“We’re going to be limping a little bit into the game next week,” Williams said, “but it’s a great opportunity for Tony (Staffieri), our back-up. You’re only as good as your back-up quarterback. Colin’s been really durable, rarely hurt and probably just landed the wrong way.”
It was Fry who opened the scoring in the first quarter against Cocalico, keeping the ball on a read option, following fullback Justin Moreno and galloping to paydirt from eight yards out to cap a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive. Damon Crouse’s first of six PAT’s put the Barons in front 7-0 with 4:28 elapsed.
Following a quick three-and-out by the Eagles (11-2), Manheim Central took over from its own 42. From there, the Barons’ offensive line consisting of tackles Jay Swayne (6-3, 280) and Hugh Montgomery (6-3, 220), guards Chad Zunich (6-3, 315) and Michael Brown (5-8, 185), center Nate Brandt (5-10, 232) and tight end Taylor Geib (6-2, 225) continued to open up gaping holes and smooth-running Royer capitalized, refusing to go down after first or second contact and carrying the ball seven more times for 47 yards. On the 12th play of the drive, Royer’s three-yard run around right end pushed MC’s lead to 14-0 with 1:34 remaining in the opening stanza.
“We had a lot of motivation going into this game,” said Royer, who now has 2,074 rushing yards this season. “We knew that Cocalico was going to want revenge on us and come out here and play us hard. We were going to come in here and play all four quarters and everyone stayed focused and executed their jobs. The linemen are great. Even the wideouts were out there making blocks. Everyone stayed on their blocks, so I was just running free out there.”
The Barons’ early onslaught got worse for Cocalico when QB Jhet Janis’ first aerial of the game was pirated by Central’s Matt Carter, and then Fry connected with Geib for a 44-yard TD pass down the left sideline, making the score 21-0 with 9:48 left in the opening half.
Janis’ pick was one of four turnovers in the game by the Eagles.
“We were plus-24 going into the game and we were minus-four tonight,” Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich said. “We’ve done well with that all year and we didn’t do it tonight. There are a lot of areas where we just didn’t do what we normally do. That’s a tribute to (Manheim Central). They played a great game and they were the better team tonight, without a doubt. They were a buzzsaw tonight.”
At that point, the Eagles had managed only 12 yards of offense, to the Barons’ 208. Finally, however, Cocalico got a shot in the arm as tailback Spencer Moser (13 carries, 173 yards) took an option pitch left from Janis, deked a Central defender and went 82 yards to the house to get the Eagles on the scoreboard with 9:26 to go in the half. With long-snapper Tucker Lescoe injured, the PAT snap was off-target, but Mitch Shober ran for two to cut Cocalico’s deficit to 21-8.
The momentum was short-lived for the Eagles, though. Royer, Fry and Co. went back to work, and when Royer’s backfield-mate Hanselman grabbed a short pass from Fry and took it inside the right pylon from three yards out, the Barons extended their lead to 28-8 with 5:54 to go in the half.
Another mistake quickly followed for the Eagles, as Janis lost the ball on the first play of Cocalico’s ensuing possession and Barons’ defensive end Rey Lasanta recovered the fumble on the 21-yard line. Fry hurt his shoulder at the end of an eight-yard run, but on Staffieri’s first snap under center, the junior QB scored on a four-yard run up the middle to make it 35-8 with 4:21 left on the clock.
“Colin’s a great leader on our team, but Tony’s a good player too and he stepped up when he needed to,” Hanselman said. “Our coach stressed all week that players need to step up in big situations and Tony stepped up big-time for us.”
With Cocalico desperately needing a positive drive on its final possession of the half, they answered the bell. Moser lugged the ball five times for 53 yards, including a 24-yard gain to get the Eagles into Central’s red zone. Three plays later, he scored on an eight-yard option pitch right, making it 35-14 at the half.
“Moser and Janis are just exceptional players,” Williams said. “They make plays. Janis, I think, tried to win the game himself there at the end when it was 35-20.”
Janis and Moser certainly made some big plays after Cocalico received the second-half kickoff, as the Eagles drove 80 yards on nine plays. They made things interesting when Janis (3-9-2, 40 yards, 2 INT’s) lofted a 21-yard TD pass over the middle to tight end Casey Kerschner with 4:53 elapsed, cutting the Barons’ lead to 35-20.
Central answered and drove inside Cocalico’s red zone, but Crouse’s 27-yard field goal attempt on the first play of the fourth quarter was off the mark and it remained a two-possession game for the Eagles.
Cocalico was looking to do more damage after driving to the Barons’ 27-yard-line on its next series. But on second-and-short, Geib dropped Janis for a one-yard loss, then a pass by Janis fell incomplete. Finally, on a key fourth-down play, Hanselman tripped up the Eagles’ QB for no gain and Central took over on downs.
The Eagles’ defense, though, stopped Central and forced a punt. After taking over on its own 29, Cocalico marched to the Barons’ five, where they were knocking on the door with hopes still alive for a comeback. But Moreno recovered a fumble and Manheim Central dodged the threat.
“The fumble, whether we caused it or whether they made a mistake, was absolutely big,” Williams said.
If that wasn’t the clinching blow, the Barons delivered the final nail when Royer put a bow on his big night with an 84-yard touchdown run with just 1:27 remaining in the game.
“Marc Royer’s an exceptional player,” Williams said. “He’s just one of those kids that he has it naturally. When you’ve got a guy like that, you don’t have to be a great coach. Hand the ball to Marc Royer and let him do his thing.”
Although Cocalico fell a little bit short on the scoreboard, Gingrich was proud of his players.
“We got some guys banged up and they got some guys banged up. I don’t think either team left it in the locker room,” he said. “I think we left it on the field like you are supposed to and I thought both teams played hard and physical. There were no extra-curriculars. They have a lot of respect for us and we do for them as well, and it showed tonight.”