Tornado’s big plays spoil Warwick’s Homecoming
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
The reasoning was sound.
Warwick trailed by four points late in the first half last Friday and knew that McCaskey would be receiving the second-half kickoff.
So with the ball at the Red Tornado’s 46-yard line and only seconds left in the half — and not wanting the gap to get any wider — the Warriors took a shot at the end zone.
Much to their disappointment, however, it ended in disaster.
In a stunning turn of events, McCaskey cornerback Diante Cherry picked off a pass from Tyler Farnan at the 14-yard line, then traded laterals with Quashaun Davis, broke a couple of tackles and raced 86 yards to paydirt to put the Tornado up 21-10 at the half.
"I’ll look at it and then I’ll probably question myself for it," Warwick coach Bob Locker said, "but sometimes you’ve got to try to make a play happen."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, McCaskey made a few more plays and held on to hand Warwick a 28-18 Homecoming loss in a Section One game at Grosh Field in Lititz.
After the Warriors pulled within three, 21-18, early in the fourth quarter on Brady Forney’s two-yard TD run, the Tornado sealed it on a 72-yard scoring strike from QB Johnathan Hulyo to tight end Blaise Glover with just 2:33 remaining.
"Their offense is predicated on big plays and we gave them too many big plays," Locker said. "Pretty simple. If you take away the big plays … But that’s how they win games. So congratulations to them."
Although McCaskey (1-3 L-L, 1-6 overall) gained just 24 yards on the ground, Hulyo finished 10-of-18 for 211 yards, including five completions of 23 yards or longer. Cherry (6-42 receiving) and Glover (3-140) were his favorite targets.
"They made plays when they had to tonight," Locker said. "They’ve got two good athletes (Cherry and Hulyo) and they also used (Glover) very effectively, throwing away from our coverage on Cherry, and I don’t think they turned the ball over tonight and we did. That’s the difference."
The Warriors (2-2, 2-5), though, had everything going according to script through the game’s first 15 minutes. Following a 32-yard kickoff return by Austin Minnich, running back Anthony Boak lugged the ball eight times for 39 yards to highlight Warwick’s ball-control offense on its opening possession. Although they had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Shawn Mearig with 5:19 left in the first quarter, the Warriors took the early lead, 3-0.
"We needed to finish that (drive)," Locker said. "We’ve got to continue to try to finish stuff … "We thought we could move them. We really thought we could run the football. We had been running the ball fairly well lately and that’s the attitude we went in with. We just never got to the second level of their inside linebackers. They made plays all night long."
After McCaskey had a quick three-and-out, the Warriors’ offense again went to work. Boak was the workhorse on eight of the first nine plays — Farnan also had a 32-yard hook-up with Korey Johnson — and then Forney (10-35 rushing) carried the ball on five straight plays, including a two-yard TD run out of the Wildcat to cap a 14-play, 72-yard drive which consumed 6:25 off the clock. Mearig added the PAT to make it 10-0 with 9:48 left in the half.
Boak finished with a game-high 140 rushing yards on 37 carries to lead a Warrior ground game which churned out 191 total yards.
Up to that point, Warwick was dominating the time of possession, as McCaskey had its hands on the ball for just 1:06. But on their second series, the Tornado connected on their first big play when Hulyo found Glover for a 42-yard gain on third-and-12 to move the ball to the Warwick 12-yard line. Two plays later, McCaskey’s senior QB hit Cherry for a 10-yard TD pass with 7:43 left in the half. The PAT was blocked, but the Tornado cut Warwick’s lead to 10-6.
"Everything went fine until the bomb," Locker said. "I think it was a third-down play. If we make them punt there and march the ball down again, the game takes a different tone. But we didn’t. Given them credit, they did a nice job. They were an 0-6 football team and it would’ve been real easy for them to come in here not that interested, but they played real hard."
It was still a four-point game when McCaskey got the ball back with 5:14 to go in the half. Glover’s 26-yard reception moved the ball into Warwick territory and then Hulyo dumped a screen pass to Joshua Ransing, who broke a 29-yard play into the Warriors’ red zone. Hulyo eventually capped the seven-play, 52-yard scoring drive when he called his own number on a one-yard QB sneak, and then he found Tyree Ballanger open in the end zone for the two-point conversion, putting the Tornado up 14-10 with 1:42 left on the clock.
That, of course, set the stage for the wild conclusion to the half. Three straight running plays produced a Warrior first down and then Forney completed a 30-yard sideline pass to Johnson to take the ball to the Tornado 46. They were still there after three Farnan incompletions, and then on the final play of the half with :2.3 left, Cherry won a jump ball at the Warriors’ 14-yard line. Warwick nearly took down Cherry, but he tossed the ball to Davis. Then when Davis was bottled up, he got the ball back to Cherry, who raced down the left sideline, cut back toward the middle of the field and scored to complete the improbable twist of fortune.
"I hesitated to do it, but I told him to throw it to the side, so if in fact it got picked, it was on the sideline," Locker said. "It hung in the air and what happened after that was an amazing play on their part, but horrible tackling on our part. We had him wrapped up three times and we just failed to finish it. I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing play on a highlight reel somewhere. (Cherry) is a pretty fantastic athlete and I think that really hurt us going into halftime, because I thought the defense really played well in the second half."
Indeed, the Warriors made a defensive stand in their own red zone after the Tornado recovered a fumble at the McCaskey 40. From there, Warwick took over on its nine-yard line and put together a 17-play, 91-yard scoring drive, with Forney punching it in from two yards out in the Wildcat formation to slice McCaskey’s lead to 21-18 with 9:28 left.
Then Warwick got the ball back in great field position for its next series and drove to the Tornado’s 26, but back-to-back incompletions ended their threat.
"We considered (a field goal), but we all thought it was too far, so we went for it," Locker said. "It was pretty far (and) that’s a little out of (Mearig’s) range, honestly."
Still, with just over four minutes left, the Warriors still had hope. But on McCaskey’s next possession, Glover hauled in a 72-yard TD reception to push the Tornado’s advantage to 28-18 with only 2:33 remaining.
Warwick answered by driving to the Tornado’s 16-yard line, on the strength of three Farnan completions for 41 yards. But Mearig’s 33-yard field goal attempt with 1:16 to go was off the mark and that was the game.
"Going for the field goal was the correct thing to do because it was fourth and fairly long and we were going to have to recover an onside kick somewhere along the line," Locker said.
The Warriors will return to action this Friday when they travel to Penn Manor. More WARRIORS, page B-7