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Warriors keep the Male Trophy with 7th straight win over Mounts
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Nowadays, Warwick and Ephrata might not be the bitter rivals that they once were.
The fact that they have played in different sections for the better part of two decades is a big part of that.
But with the George Male Trophy still at stake for the winner in this annual showdown, it is a date that gets circled on the calendar.
So when the Warriors managed to hold off the scrappy Mountaineers 17-7 last Friday night at Joseph Grosh Field in Lititz, despite a sloppy performance in their 2012 home opener, Warwick coach Bob Locker put the victory in perspective.
"I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve now won it seven years in a row," he said. "We talked to the kids about the fact that it is a trophy game, it should mean something to them and it is something that they’ll remember down the road that the seniors went 3-0 for the Male Trophy. So that should matter. It should matter as much or more that we got to 2-1."
Warwick’s seventh win in a row over the Mounts improved their record in the all-time series to 39-38-6, marking the first time since 1985 that the Warriors have held the upper hand. It also gave the Warriors a 20-17-1 advantage in games since the Male Trophy was first presented in 1975.
But the win didn’t come easy.
Ephrata (0-3), under new leadership with first-year coach Scott Shelley at the helm, is trying to turn around its fortunes from recent years, and after being shut out in back-to-back games to start the season, they played their best football of the young season against Warwick. The underdog Mounts kept the game in doubt until Warriors’ junior wide receiver Austin Myers caught a 31-yard TD pass from quarterback Zack Hurst with just :44.1 remaining.
"You bet it was (a step in the right direction)," Shelley said. "I’m so proud of these kids. They bought in and they are just working their tail off and we were that close (holding his fingers an inch apart) from shocking the county. We’re getting there. That’s the fun part of it. And I think the kids had a lot of fun doing it. I know we (as coaches) did, even thought I’m tired as all get out."
Locker, no doubt, was as well after watching his squad commit ill-timed penalties and struggle to execute on their offensive opportunities. Despite having an average starting field position of the 50-yard line on their first three possessions, the Warriors managed to hold only a 7-0 lead at the half.
"Honestly, I always say I’ll watch film, but I’ve got a feeling I’m not going to be very happy when I watch film," Locker said. "We just continue to make mistakes. We try to work on it at practice, we try to correct this stuff — you can’t continue to make those kind of mistakes and win football games. You just can’t. Ephrata was in the football game. And once they were in the football game, they did some things well, found some things to exploit and their kids started believing they could win this game."
The Warriors were believing when Andrew Hackman intercepted a pass from Ephrata QB Bobby Nye at the WHS 34-yard line late in the first quarter. Kurtz (11-17-0, 149 yards) completed two of three passes and junior running back Gabe Taylor gained 34 yards on his first six carries, including a one-yard scoring dive to give Warwick the lead with 11:13 left in the second quarter. Kobi Biemesderfer’s PAT made the score 7-0.
For the game, Taylor (15-40 rushing) and junior Zain Dawood (11-34 rushing) shared the rushing duties for the Warriors, but with limited success. The Mounts more than held their own in the trenches, allowing Warwick only 80 total yards on the ground. For the game, Warwick had a 216-171 edge in total yardage.
"I’m going to be honest … if any one of them (Taylor or Dawood) ever just started to light it up, odds are they’ll get some more touches," Locker said. "That’s the way the world works. Early on, we were going to kinda rotate them and I thought Gabe ran the ball real well in the first half. He got kind of a hot hand, so we gave him a couple of series, but our plan is to use both of them."
They were back in business after getting the ball back at their own 47 for their next possession, but Nye broke free on the edge to sack Hurst for a 10-yard loss, and the Warriors got nothing to show for it.
Meanwhile, the Mounts answered with their best drive of the half behind running back Blake Weaver, who showed his toughness and athleticism while churning out 50 yards on just five attempts to help Ephrata move the ball to the Warriors’ one-yard line late in the second quarter. For the game, Weaver ran for a game-high 79 yards on 10 carries, leading a ground attack for Ephrata which gained 103 yards.
"Blake is a great player," Shelley said. "He’ll be known as he keeps getting some more experience. He got to play some safety last year, but having him at running back now and Koty Keefer at running back, and they solidify our defense too to a lot of degrees."
Nye completed 9 of 21 passes for 68 yards and helped to solidify the Mountaineers’ offense under center with junior Justin Mease sidelined with a concussion.
"We’re happy with both of our quarterbacks," Shelley said. "Everybody’s getting reps, we’re trying to get everybody involved, and you can see that everybody is starting to feel a little bit more comfortable."
But Ephrata took a costly offsides penalty and then on fourth-and-goal, Nye’s pass was dropped in the end zone, and the Mountaineers came away empty.
Asked later if he regretted not kicking the field goal, Shelley said, "No, if we miss it, our heads get down. We’re better just trying … We’ve got to build our confidence with our offense and it will come. We’re still working on (the little things), but we’re getting there."
Warwick seemed to gain a little bit of confidence on its opening drive of the second half, marching to the Mounts’ 11 before a penalty and a high snap forced them to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Biemesderfer with 5:49 left in the third, making it 10-0.
"It turned out to be huge, and we would have liked to score a touchdown, but once again, we make mistakes when we’re in good field position," Locker said. "Kobi’s done a nice job kicking field goals and extra points so far for being his first year and all. We were fortunate to get the field goal."
Those three points looked big for the Warriors when Ephrata scored its first points of the season on their next drive. Nye (9-21-1, 68 yards) tossed a pair of completions to Weaver for 37 yards and Keefer went 19 yards on a hook-and-ladder to the Warriors’ 13-yard-line. A few plays later, on fourth-and-6, Weaver took an option pitch left to paydirt to get Ephrata on the scoreboard. He also added the PAT to cut the Warriors’ lead to 10-7 with :13.5 remaining in the third. Although the Mounts lost their starting center Ryan Price to injury, Shelley was pleased with how his team played from a physical standpoint.
"The thing that was nice, and I don’t know what our time of possession was, but I bet you we’re equal with them or maybe even a little bit better, so things are starting to gel and we finished a drive, so that’s another step forward for us," Shelley said. "We’re continuing to get better blocking, we know who we’re blocking, we’re doing it right and I thought our intensity was just fantastic the whole game."
The Mounts made one more trip into WHS territory and reached the Warriors’ 24-yard-line before turning the ball over on downs.
"It’s a good thing (for the defensive stand) or we lose the football game," Locker said. "They hung in there. I give them credit again. For the second week in a row, we could have let it slip away. They found a way to make plays when they needed to."
It wasn’t until Warwick finally capitalized on solid field position on their final possession of the game that they gained some breathing room, with Hurst firing a 31-yard strike to Myers on a post pattern to the end zone with :44.1 to go in the game. Biemesderfer’s PAT set the final margin of victory.
"They were loading the box and we figured we’d let one of our better players make a play, simple as that," Locker said.
The Warriors will need to make more plays like that, in addition to eliminating mistakes, when they host Cedar Crest at 7 p.m. this Friday in their Section One opener.
"We’re seriously concerned because Cedar Crest is a pretty decent football team," Locker said. "We’ve already seen film on them and they do some things really, really well. Their offense is good, it’s highly effective, and they’re a good football team, so we better fix some stuff."
Ephrata, meanwhile, will host Lebanon this Friday at 7 p.m. in their Section Two opener and try to build on its solid showing against Warwick.
"This was a victory for us," Shelley said. "Forget the score. This was a victory for us. We had a really good team on the ropes the whole night. Forget that score at the end. It was a great play. They had a great throw, a great catch and I give them all the credit in the world for that." More WARRIORS, page B-8