Swinton stymies Warwick Football
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Against an injury-riddled Warwick defense last Friday night, McCaskey running back Aaron Swinton caused some match-up problems for the Warriors.
The Red Tornado’s senior star capitalized by scoring three touchdowns, including a pair of big-play pass receptions from quarterback Collins Gantz in the second half, helping McCaskey upend Warwick 42-7 in a Section One game in Lancaster. If that wasn’t enough, Swinton was also a nemesis on kickoff and punt returns, and he grabbed a pair of interceptions from his cornerback position.
The outcome was still up for grabs at the half, with the Tornado holding a 21-7 lead, but Warwick (1-3 Section, 3-4 overall) turned the ball over on its first three possessions of the second half en route to losing their third game in a row.
"Extremely frustrating," Warwick coach Bob Locker said of the giveaways. "When you give them three turnovers … we could have still made it a game and that took care of that. We didn’t make plays Friday night."
They also lost starting QB Zack Hurst twice to a knee injury. After initially getting hurt late in the opening quarter, Hurst returned later in the half. But then he reinjured it early in the third quarter and left the game for good.
McCaskey, though, had Swinton for the full game, and the Tornado’s star used his quickness and athleticism to haul in three passes for a team-high 88 yards, in addition to gaining 118 rushing yards on 10 carries to lead a McCaskey squad which improved to 2-2 in Section play (3-4 overall).
"Swinton really hurt us," Locker remarked. "They got him in space and he’s an exceptional athlete."
To the Warriors’ credit, they kept Swinton under wraps on the Tornado’s opening series and Warwick’s offensive unit responded with a 10-play, 75-yard march to get into McCaskey’s red zone. Gabe Taylor ran the ball nine times on that drive for 73 of his game-high 130 yards, and QB Zack Hurst’s seven-yard completion to Anthony Fatjo extended the drive on fourth-down. But the Warriors stalled and a 27-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right to keep the game scoreless.
Moments later, Swinton got the ball deep into Warwick’s territory on a 44-yard sprint down the left sideline. On the next play, Cherry took a handoff, started right, then reversed field and scored from eight yards out around left end with 2:21 left in the opening quarter. Connor Zahm’s PAT made it 7-0.
Swinton also hurt the Warriors on special teams and his 41-yard punt return gave the Red Tornado excellent field position for their next possession. He then carried the ball twice for 18 yards, including a four-yard scamper to paydirt with 1:13 elapsed in the second to push McCaskey’s lead to 14-0.
But the Warriors got a glimmer of hope from sophomore Hamzah Dawood, who found a seam on the kickoff return and raced 75 yards to the McCaskey 15-yard-line. Four plays later, Taylor’s one-yard TD run, coupled with Kobi Biemesderfer’s PAT, cut the Tornado’s lead to 14-7 with 8:49 left in the half.
"At the time, (Dawood’s return) was big — it got us back into the game," Locker said. "We go in and score and it’s a one-touchdown football game. It kinda gave us some life, some added enthusiasm."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they were unable to keep it a one-touchdown game. Two McCaskey possessions later, with the Tornado in a third-and-long situation, Gantz (8-of-15, 137 yards, 1 INT) dumped a short pass over the middle to Swinton, who bounced it outside and outraced Warwick’s coverage to the end zone for a 48-yard TD which put the hosts up 21-7 with only 3:24 remaining in the opening half. Overall, Swinton’s 206 offensive yards accounted for more than half of McCaskey’s 403 total yards.
"We were going to have trouble matching up with them Friday night," Locker said. "… Too many sophomores on the field — not that sophomores can’t play, but there were some mismatches, for lack of a better term, and McCaskey did a good job of taking advantage of some of the mismatches we had. We wound up with linebackers trying to cover Swinton coming out of the backfield in pass patterns, and that’s not going to work. He’s an exceptional athlete. I thought the DB’s did a pretty good job playing Cherry. I thought Fatjo and (Chris) Borg did a commendable job. Borg is a sophomore. You’re not supposed to have a sophomore covering an All-State wideout."
Borg, in fact, grabbed his first career varsity INT to help erase Warwick’s first turnover of the second half. Then the Warriors’ defense stepped up with a big stand after McCaskey recovered a fumble at the WHS 28. But it didn’t take long for the Tornado to get the ball in great field position once again. Although Warwick QB Matt Pennypacker (3-10-1, 50 yards) put his pass on the money, the Warriors caught a tough break as the ball rolled up the arm of his receiver and into the waiting hands of Swinton.
"Pennypacker did a good job, he put the ball right where he was supposed to," Locker said. "We’ve got to make plays."
Starting at the Warriors’ 35, McCaskey made another big play, as Swinton made a double move in the secondary, got himself open and caught a 28-yard touchdown pass to push the Tornado’s lead to 28-7 with 3:55 left in the third quarter.
In the final stanza, McCaskey completed the scoring on Sha-ki Staten’s 16-yard touchdown reception and Darrell Walton’s 34-yard TD run around left end.
Meanwhile, Warwick’s offense was held to just 28 yards of offense and one first down on its first five possessions of the second half. Pennypacker’s 38-yard hook-up with senior Ben Kressley got the Warriors inside McCaskey’s red zone one more time in the final minute, but it was too little, too late.
"We didn’t make plays Friday night," Locker said. "Early in the first quarter, we dropped a pass on the sideline. I mean, we’re banged up, we’ve got a lot of kids missing — that’s not an excuse, it’s just the situation you’ve got to deal with and when you get a chance to make plays, you’ve got to make plays and we just really kinda failed to do that Friday night."
The Warriors return to action this Friday, Oct. 19 when they host Penn Manor (4-0 Section, 7-0 overall) in their Homecoming game. Kickoff is 7 p.m. More WARRIORS, page B-8