Knights handle the Barons Football

By on September 12, 2012

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

By the time the first quarter ended last Friday night, it was evident that week two for Manheim Central would be far different from their opening-game win over Warwick.

In their 2012 debut, the Barons coughed the ball up just one time while gaining more than 400 yards of offense. Just one week later against Hempfield, they committed two of their four turnovers in the first quarter alone while managing just 17 rushing yards against Hempfield’s 3-3 Stack defense. That, combined with the fact that the Black Knights were establishing the physical tone in the trenches, wasn’t a good omen for Central.

And although they gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the final minute by scoring on quarterback Colin Fry’s 8-yard TD pass to Matt Carter and then recovering the subsequent onside kick, the Barons took a step backward in their 17-14 non-league loss to Hempfield in Landisville. The loss dropped them to 1-1 heading into this Friday’s final non-league tuneup against Daniel Boone.

"We were just outplayed tonight," Manheim Central coach Mike Williams said. "We were outphysicaled and outplayed in every phase of the game — offense, defense, special teams. You have to give Hempfield credit. They took it to us. The score was close, but really, was it? We couldn’t really move the ball on offense. We got a couple of big plays, but we had no consistency and we’re very disappointed as coaches in that we made so many fundamental on special teams. It wasn’t a good game for us. It was a good game for Hempfield to win. They played hard and they dominated the game."

Senior running back Joe Gamble and senior QB Michael Murr were certainly dominant for the Black Knights (2-0), each rushing for 111 yards to lead a Hempfield offense which gained 277 yards. Murr ran for what proved to be the winning touchdown late in the third quarter and he also connected with Gamble for a 45-yard TD pass.

"Their backs ran hard — give them credit," Williams said. "They ran hard and they broke tackles and they outphysicaled us up front on offense. They beat our defensive line."

To the Barons’ credit, they showed some positive signs on their opening possession when Fry completed three of four aerials, including a 31-yard hookup with senior wideout Cole Proffitt. But Hempfield recovered a fumble by Fry at the Black Knights’ 30, following a sack by linebacker Jacob Krull. Unfortunately for Central, that would be Proffitt’s only reception of the night as he left the game in the first half with a left foot injury. Plus, junior Andrew Seiverling suffered a shoulder injury, leaving the Barons’ receiving corps badly depleted.

"We lost our two top receivers early in the game … That hurt us," Williams said. "They’re our big play guys and they weren’t in the game."

Murr, however, was in the game for the Black Knights, and his 36-yard keeper following the Barons’ turnover put the Black Knights in business at the MC 8-yard line. From there, Central’s defense tightened and Hempfield settled for an 18-yard field goal from Ben Underwood to go up 3-0 with 3:48 left in the first.

"I was surprised that they tried to kick a field goal there, but we were happy they kicked a field goal to only get three points out of it," Williams said.

Underwood attempted to double the Black Knights’ lead after Havier Rodriguez’s interception ended the Barons’ second possession, but his 30-yard try sailed wide left with just :19.2 left in the opening stanza.

The bad news for Central, though, was that its offense was sputtering. Fry was the Barons’ leading rusher with 27 yards on 12 carries, and as a team, they ran for just 51 total yards in the game.

"We didn’t do a good job up front and that includes not only the linemen – our backs didn’t make good cuts either," Williams said. "We looked slow out there tonight. Last week against Warwick, we had lots of speed. Tonight, we looked slow."

Manheim Central did, however, strike for a couple of big plays through the air, including a 69-yard Fry-to-Taylor Geib (4-134 receiving) completion down the right sideline on third-and-long midway through the second quarter. Four plays later, on a fourth-down conversion, Fry (13-of-32, 255 yards, 3 INT) again found his junior tight end, this time for 31 yards in the end zone, and Evan Stauffer booted the PAT to give Manheim Central its only lead, 7-3, with 6:19 to go in the half.

"Taylor’s a guy who can do the job – he can get the ball and he has great hands, so it wasn’t a secret after we lost the other two guys (Proffitt and Seiverling) that we had to kinda rely on him," Williams said.

Hempfield had a couple of guys that they could rely on with Murr and Gamble, and the Black Knights responded to Central’s scoring drive with one of their own. The Barons’ defense forced a third-and-long, but Murr dumped the ball off to Gamble over the middle on a screen pass, and Hempfield’s senior back took it the distance, going 45 yards to paydirt with 4:11 left in the half to put the Knights in front 10-7, which is how it stayed going to the locker rooms.

"My linemen do a phenomenal job every week," Gamble said. "They wore (Central) down throughout the entire game and at the end of the game, we were just taking big chunks of yards. We were definitely the more physical team tonight which is always a plus."

The Black Knights were indeed getting big chunks of yards on their second possession after the half, led by Gamble, who gained 34 yards on six carries while picking up big yards after contact. Finally, Murr called his own number, and he bounced it outside to the left and went 10 yards to paydirt with 1:38 left in the third quarter, capping a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive which ate nearly six minutes off the clock to stretch the lead to 17-7.

"We definitely couldn’t loosen up anything because this team we were playing is vey good, but (Murr’s TD run) made me feel a little more comfortable that we had a two possession lead going into the next possession, so we had a little bit of a pocket," Gamble said.

Manheim Central avoided trouble when Hempfield defensive backs Rodriguez and Tyrell Wickersham nearly picked off back-to-back possessions on the Barons’ next series. But the visitors eventually cut into the Knights’ lead with just :55.5 left in the fourth quarter, as Fry rolled to his left and fired a pass which deflected through the hands of a Hempfield player and into the arms of Matt Carter for a five-yard TD pass, making the score 17-14.

Moments later, Barons’ senior Dillon Harnly recovered MC’s onside kick at the Black Knights’ 47. But the momentum was short-lived as Hempfield’s Underwood, a senior d-back, sealed it by grabbing the Knights’ third INT of the game at their own 23-yard line.

"It’s huge," Hempfield skipper Ron Zeiber said of the win. "We were playing a quality opponent and hopefully starting up a little bit of a back-yard rivalry again here that went on for a lot of years before I arrived. When we play a quality program like these guys and come out with a win in any way, you’re doing something pretty good. We played hard, our kids went after them, we didn’t shy away from it and I was really proud of our kids. We played a four-quarter game for the most part."

For the Barons, this marked the second straight week that they renewed a rivalry against a back-yard opponent, meeting the Black Knights for the first time in several years. Although Manheim Central was unsuccessful in trying to improve its record to 2-0, they will try to get back on track this Friday when they host Daniel Boone.

"It wasn’t in the cards tonight," Williams said. "The score was closer than the game actually was. We just were so inconsistent in execution. They really stopped our running attack, so we had to go to the pass and then they were blitzing. We couldn’t establish anything on the run." More BARONS, page B-12