One for the ages
Five years ago, Manheim Central had Justin Gorman, Joe Gruber, Derek Hart and Dakota Royer among its cast of stars.
Cocalico, meanwhile, suited up the likes of Matt Carty, Kyle Fisher, Austin Hartman and Kyle Rissell.
In week four of 2008, the Barons headed to Denver with an uncharacteristic 1-2 record, but that included non-league losses to power-houses Wilson and Lancaster Catholic.
Despite Manheim Central winning just one of its first three games, however, I still remember the hype leading up to that game against the 3-0 Eagles. Everyone knew it was going to have ramifications in the race for the Section Two crown, as the clashes between Manheim and Cocalico usually do. The buzz was palpable as I pulled into a parking spot just outside of the stadium. The bands were playing, the Friday night lights were shining bright and lines of fans were waiting eagerly to get through the gates to find a seat – or a spot in the standing-room sections.
You can imagine my sickness then as I made a horrifying discovery. Everything I needed to cover the game was at home.
Tape recorder? Nope.
Notebook? Sorry, Charlie.
Pen or pencil? No way, Jose.
That left me with very few options. Returning home, a half hour down the road, wasn’t going to work. Kickoff was just 20 minutes away.
In a full-fledged panic now, with one of the biggest football games of the year just around the corner, I began frantically scouring through the backseat of my Honda CRV. Oh sure, I found plenty of half-eaten Pop-Tarts sticking to the carpeted seats, enough Cheerios to feed the Moravian Manor day-care center, and couple of empty Juicy Juice boxes. And that doesn’t even include the crumbs from what my kids had been eating.
Just then, I got my hands on something that looked promising from underneath the passenger’s seat. It was a purple Huggable Hippo coloring book that my 5-year-old daughter Kendall had left behind. Fortunately, the backside of each page was blank, hopefully leaving me enough room to jot down notes from the game and then scribble some quotes from both teams’ head coaches, Manheim Central’s Mike Williams and Cocalico’s Dave Gingrich.
At that point, I just needed to find something to write with, but surely, that wouldn’t be a big problem, right? Careful to conceal the frilly, sparkly coloring book from any passers-by, I made my way through the gate and got to the sideline in time for the opening kick. There, my buddy Todd Ruth from the Ephrata Review hooked me up with a pencil and I was good to go.
What unfolded in that game, with an incredible amount of firepower on the field, was that the two teams combined to score 89 points, with Manheim Central overcoming an early 14-0 deficit in the first quarter and winning 56-33 just one year shy of returning to the PIAA State Triple-A championship game. Ultimately, I had barely enough pages to make it work, getting a few comments afterward and I was on my way.
Looking back, the Manheim Central-Cocalico clash from 2008 certainly had a lot of hype. But if I’m correct, this year’s game has even more to it. Unlike that game five years ago, which was the Section Two opener for both teams, Friday’s showdown comes near the midway point of the league season with both the Barons and the Eagles coming into the contest with 5-0 records.
Besides that, they have been destroying their opponents this fall. In their first two league games, Manheim Central has outscored Elizabethtown and Lebanon by a combined 127-7, while Cocalico has easily handled Conestoga Valley and Solanco 100-6.
Offensively, the Barons, led mostly by running backs Marc Royer and Ian Hanselman, have averaged 445.2 yards in five contests; and the Eagles, with Jhett Janis at the controls, has put up 410.2 yards a game. On the other side of the ball, Central has allowed just 163.6 yards an outing and four total TDs. Cocalico’s defense has limited five foes to an average of 177.2 yards and five total TDs.
Yes, this one has the makings of one for the ages, and something has to give.
I can’t wait. Hopefully this time, I won’t need a Huggable Hippo coloring book.
More COLUMN, page B-4