Walton propels Barons over the Mules, 28-14 MC prepares for showdown with L-S
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Manheim Central coach Mike Williams acknowledged that he wasn’t too concerned.
His Barons had just relinquished a seven-point lead late in the first half when Solanco running back Joe Welk rumbled 95 yards to paydirt, pulling the Mules even 14-14 going to the locker room.
But Williams remained confident.
"It was a big momentum shift, but with the team we have, I try not to let it bother me too much," he said. "We’re going to make dumb mistakes like that and I figured we could get back on track and we’d be OK. Obviously every coach worries about that. You have them 14-7 and there’s not much time and then you give up the big play. We were a little bit upset with the team but not overly concerned."
Manheim Central rewarded their coach’s faith, as senior quarterback Caleb Walton ran for a touchdown and passed for another in the second half to help lead the Barons to a 28-14 victory over Solanco in a Section Two game in Quarryville.
"(Caleb)’s been the heart and soul of our offense and he just had another great performance," Williams said. "For a first-year starter, he’s as good as some of the other quarterbacks we’ve had in the past."
Walton has certainly been a key reason that the Barons improved to 2-0 in Section play (4-1 overall) heading into their first-place showdown against unbeaten Lampeter-Strasburg this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Field.
"With the way we started the season, we were very frustrated with our inexperience," Williams said. "But to be 4-1 is good. We haven’t beaten any great football teams. I think all of our opponents are 1-4 right now. We know L-S and Garden Spot are the premier teams in Section Two, so we’re not worried about winning or losing this one. We’re worried about just taking that step forward and playing a good football game and seeing what happens."
The Mules (1-1 L-L, 1-4 overall) were looking to get in the driver’s seat when kicker Jarid Tanguy lined up for a 20-yard field goal try in the first quarter. Moments earlier, Solanco had returned a fumble deep inside Barons’ territory, but MC’s defense made a goal line stand. Then they stepped up with another big play, as Josh Good blocked the kick and Andrew Kauffman returned the ball 80 yards to paydirt to give the Barons a 7-0 lead.
It was the third special teams block for the Barons already this season.
"That was big," Williams said. "We spend some time working on it. It’s something we wanted to get better at this year. Obviously, special teams are a big part of the game. If you can get a hand on the ball against Cocalico and then one at Solanco and then a blocked PAT against Cocalico .. they’re all big plays. They’re all game winners, more or less."
After Bryant Myer missed a 31-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, Welk broke loose for a game-tying 67-yard TD run with 10:20 to go in the half. For the game, Welk rushed for 180 yards on 11 carries.
Manheim Central, though, had its own threats in the ground game, with Walton gaining a team-high 79 yards on 12 carries and Justin Greene (22-69) supporting a rushing attack which churned out 140 yards.
Later in the half, the Barons capitalized on a short field when Walton’s two-yard TD run capped a six-play, 37-yard drive and Myer added the PAT to put MC in front 14-7.
That appeared safe when Myer’s punt pinned the Mules inside the 5-yard line with just over a minute left in the half. But Welk again showed off his talents, breaking a couple of tackles and taking it 95 yards to the house to erase the Barons’ lead.
"Welk’s a good player, there’s no question about it," Williams said. "You’ve got to get two or three guys on him, especially the 95-yard run. We had opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. It’s kinda typical of an inexperienced team. I thought we played good defense outside of two plays. They had almost 180 yards on two plays. Take nothing from (Welk), he’s a good player, but we had maybe the kind of thing you can’t have happen, a lack of effort, and he’s good enough that’s he’s going to go."
Fortunately for the Barons, they were able to regain the momentum when Walton barreled 54 yards to the end zone on an option play early in the third quarter, giving Manheim Central a lead it never lost.
"He’s kind of our featured offensive player," Williams said of Walton. "He can do a lot of things."
That includes the passing game, where Walton finished 11-of-19 for 106 yards and one touchdown against the Mules, a five-yard strike to Good in the fourth quarter which completed the scoring.
And with their victory over Solanco safely in hand, the Barons began to turn their attention to this Friday’s game against L-S.
"It’s a big rivalry," Williams said. "Last year’s games were fiercely fought and it should be a good experience for our young kids whether we win or lose to battle in there against a pretty good football team. I’d say that the athletes (L-S) has puts them in the driver’s seat." More BARONS, page B-4