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First-half tipped pass proves pivotal for Barons Upset-minded Warriors suffer 33-7 loss
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
The turning point was a fourth-down stop by Manheim Central in the second quarter.
Warwick, leading 7-0 as an underdog, was threatening to go ahead by two possessions before coming up empty on a fourth-down opportunity at the Barons’ 20-yard-line.
But the play that will probably be remembered as the one that took a lot of wind out of Warwick’s sails was a tipped Hail Mary pass which Barons’ wide receiver Andrew Seiverling caught in the end zone with 5.2 seconds left in the first half.
That play was pivotal in helping Manheim Central forge quite a turnaround. Having already rallied to take a 9-7 lead, the Barons’ lucky break put them in front 16-7 going into the locker room.
"I thought (our defender) hit it sideways trying to knock it down – I need to see the film, but I think he knocked it away and knocked it right into a kid laying on the ground," Warwick coach Bob Locker said. "It was a horrible break and I think it took a little bit out of us."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, who were held to minus-seven yards rushing by the Barons’ defense, they were unable to recover and Manheim Central finished off a 33-7 win over its back-yard rival in the non-league opener for both teams on Joseph Grosh Field in Lititz.
The Barons’ victory was their 18th straight in the rivalry and it improved their all-time series record to 34-15-5.
The touchdown pass to Seiverling was one of two that senior quarterback threw on the night, while senior running back Ian Hanselman gained a game-high 106 yards, scored two touchdowns and added a safety on defense, as Central overcame 10 penalties totaling 85 yards.
"We all can use some more work," Manheim Central coach Mike Williams said. "Right now, all I care about is we’re six (wins) away from 500 and we’re 1-0, we’re undefeated and the big thing is we’re not going to go scoreless this year. I always like when we get that first touchdown."
Last Friday night, it was the Warriors who scored the first touchdown, with a helping hand from their defense. On the Barons’ second possession of the game, Warwick defensive end Jake Shillady sacked Fry and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Tommy Garner at the Central 35-yard line.
"I think Warwick played a good first quarter and then into the second quarter," Williams said. "We just shot ourselves in the foot. We couldn’t throw the ball, we couldn’t run. We just weren’t very efficient. Give Warwick a lot of credit. I think they coached them well and they played hard. Bob (Locker)’s disappointed in the loss, but he has to be pleased with the way his kids fought and played."
Warriors’ senior quarterback Matt Pennypacker, making his starting debut, got his first big test on fourth-and-7 and connected with wideout Chris Borg over the middle to the Central 2-yard-line. Three plays later, Pennypacker found Luke Newberry on a stick pattern for a five-yard scoring strike, and when Kobi Biemesderfer kicked the PAT, the Warriors had a 7-0 lead with 1:56 left in the opening quarter.
"It’s one of those plays you’re not going to run 10 times a game, but it was there for that play," Locker said.
Junior Tony Staffieri (1-for-3, 1 INT, 11 yards) was under center when the Barons got the ball back at their own 20, and while Central was able to gain a couple of first downs, they stalled again near midfield. Williams said the plan going into the game was to give playing time to both Fry (7-12-0, 157) and Staffieri.
"Colin’s our quarterback, but I want to give Tony experience and he’s capable," the Barons’ skipper said. "Maybe it’s not a good idea, maybe it’d be better if they were in there for five or six series, but it worked out OK."
The Warriors’ next drive seemed to be working out more than OK when Pennypacker completed passes of 13 yards to Shillady, 25 yards to Anthony Fatjo and 14 yards to Newberry, giving them a first down at the Barons’ 29. Overall, Pennypacker distributed the ball to seven different receivers while finishing 10-of-24 for 136 yards, with one interception. When Gabe Taylor and fullback Alexander Mork ran for four and five, respectively, Warwick was looking at a third-and-short situation. But then things unraveled, first with a delay of game penalty, followed by an incompletion and then a fourth-down stop, enabling Central to take over on downs.
"Matt showed a little bit of growing pains tonight," Locker said. "It was his first varsity start and we talked about how different it would be from a scrimmage. He made some minor mistakes. If we get a first down there, we put points on the board and we at least go up 10-0. If we don’t take the delay penalty, we’re kicking a field goal. So we hurt ourselves there because we needed to put points on the board."
Instead, the Barons answered by putting points on the board themselves. Junior Dan Wiederrecht hauled in a short pass from Fry at the WHS 40-yard line, broke a tackle and then went the distance on the right sideline to complete a 46-yard TD strike with 4:09 left in the half, tying the score at 7-all.
From there, Manheim Central started to win the field position battle, using a big front line and a solid linebacking corps to bottle up the Warriors’ ground game. It was Hanselman from his linebacker spot who dropped Warwick running back Gabe Taylor in the end zone for a safety with 2:50 to go in the half, putting the Barons up 9-7 and giving them a lead they never lost.
"I think our defense started to play a little bit better," Williams remarked. "We started to do a good job up front. It’s something we didn’t really see last year. We didn’t see the dominance. They seemed to move the ball mostly on penalties, although they had a couple of nice catches."
"We started to shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit and we’ve got to figure out how to run the ball better than we did tonight," Locker said. "I wanted to be a little more pass-oriented this year, but I also understand that anytime you’re throwing when you have to, you’re dead meat. They’re too good, they bring too much pressure and you can’t do that against a team like that … We couldn’t get any movement on the line and their linebackers are really pretty good. We threw the ball well, but when you’ve got to throw the ball, it gets tough."
Wiederrecht had a nice return on the free kick, taking the ball to the Warriors’ 39 to set up another scoring opportunity for the Barons. Warwick’s defense dug in, but the Barons continued to assert themselves in the battle for field position and got the ball back following a punt with 11.6 seconds remaining at the Warriors’ 31-yard line. That, of course, set up Fry’s Hail Mary to Seiverling.
"I think the big break for us was that Hail Mary pass there at the end (of the half)," Williams said. "We sent five verticals down the field and it was a lucky bounce for us."
Manheim Central added to its lead when Marc Royer (11 carries, 54 yards) scored on a six-yard run off of right tackle with 8:37 left in the third quarter. The Warriors got a glimmer of hope when defensive back Fatjo picked off Staffieri and returned the ball to the Barons’ 48. Two plays later, Central’s Noah Dieffenbach pirated a Pennypacker aerial, but Warwick’s defense held and then Damon Crouse’s 35-yard field goal attempt was off the mark with 1:26 remaining in the stanza.
"Before the game," Locker said, "I really honestly told the kids, ‘I believe in my heart that you will give everything that you have to give,’ and they did. We just got worn down a little bit at the very end. We can fix that. It’s not like we got our butts kicked. We just wore down a little bit and we’ve got to fix some stuff."
Crouse got another opportunity on Central’s first possession in the fourth quarter, and he split the uprights for a 25-yard field goal, capping a nine-play scoring drive to make it 26-7.
Later, Hanselman’s one-yard TD plunge with 2:28 to go completed the scoring.
"(Ian)’s a very good all-around player," Williams said. "He did it all – offense, defense, he does it all for us. He’s a very good player."
Warwick will try to get in the win column this Friday night when they host Conestoga Valley, while Manheim Central will try to avenge a loss last year to Hempfield when they welcome the Black Knights in their home opener.
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