Warriors stun the Bucks with late comeback
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Warwick had hoped to take some more time off the clock while driving toward the end zone late in the fourth quarter last Friday.
As it was, the Warriors were delighted to take their first lead of the game after Ryan Gruett scored on a 15-yard TD run, but business-like knowing that Conestoga Valley still had ample opportunity to respond with just over 2:00 remaining.
Ultimately, the Bucks drove to Warwick’s 25-yard line, but their 42-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds was unsuccessful and the Warriors held on for a wild come-from-behind 21-20 non-league victory in Witmer.
After falling behind 14-0 at half, Warwick (1-1 overall) needed to score two touchdowns in the final 3:22 of the game to earn its first win of the young campaign.
"I thought the kids did a good job of keeping their composure," Warriors’ coach Bob Locker said. "We didn’t play well in the first half at all and it was crunch time and I thought they responded really well to the situation."
Senior quarterback Zack Hurst responded really well while facing pressure from the Buckskins’ defense before finding junior wide receiver Tommy Garner for a 9-yard TD pass on third-and-long with 3:22 remaining. Kicker Kobi Biemesderfer then added the PAT to make it 20-14.
"Hurst did a nice job of stepping up in the pocket and he had to move around," Locker remarked. "We were just looking for a window. (Zack) kept the play alive and Garner did a nice job of opening himself up and finding a hole. I thought Garner made some nice catches, especially toward the end of the game."
Overall, Garner had three receptions for 31 yards from Hurst, who earlier ran for the Warriors’ first touchdown while leading the team with 52 rushing yards and going 13-of-30 through the air for 161 yards.
The Hurst-to-Garner hookup led to an onside kick by the Warriors, which Biemesderfer, a sophomore, executed to perfection, with Austin Myers pouncing on the loose ball at the Buckskins’ 47-yard line to give the Warriors’ possession.
"The onside kick is a difficult thing to do successfully," Locker said. "We do spend time on it. It’s something you have to have when you need it. And Kobi being a young kid, it was exactly the way it was supposed to be. A good onside kick kinda has a rhythm to it, and he did it correctly and it was just a great play."
Just over a minute later, Gruett stepped up with a great play as well, breaking a tackle and then finding some daylight on his way to a 15-yard TD run which, coupled with Biemesderfer’s PAT, put Warwick up 21-20.
"We had been throwing the ball, but we felt we had enough time if we had to run the ball a little bit," Locker said. "It was coach Jeanes from the pressbox that said, ‘Hey, be careful, we don’t want to leave (CV) too much time,’ so we called a run, and we were looking at maybe running the ball two or three times and trying to work some more clock off. But he hit the hole, broke a tackle, saw the end zone and got there."
That was the first — and only — touch of the night for Gruett, who is also taking snaps at wide receiver for the Warriors. The 6-foot-2 senior is playing football for the first time in several years, so he is still somewhat limited in the Warriors’ offense.
"We’re trying to give him pieces of the offense and not expect him to have mastery of the whole thing now," Locker said. "He’s a nice sized kid, he’s a good athlete. Some of this is still a little new to him. It’s been awhile since he’s played football, but he’s a very good athlete and did what an athlete would do (on the touchdown run)."
Conestoga Valley, though, gave the Warriors a scare when it marched 55 yards to the WHS 25-yard line and brought its field goal unit in for a potential game-winning 42-yard boot. Fortunately for Warwick, Torrin Clapper’s kick was off the mark and the Warriors avoided an 0-2 record to the season.
"We talked about that — nobody wants to be 0-2," Locker remarked. "It was just important to get a win."
Their chances for a win looked a bit shaky at the half after the Bucks took a 14-0 lead to the locker room while holding the Warriors to only 59 yards of offense in the opening two stanzas.
Conestoga Valley senior QB Ryan Brooks found Tyler Petri for a 23-yard TD pass in the first quarter. Later, returning 1,000-yard senior running back Anthony Brown scored from three yards out and then caught a two-point conversion pass from Brooks to make it 14-0.
But after gaining 93 yards on 24 carries, Brown left the game in the third quarter and did not return.
"He’s a 1,500 yard rusher from a year ago and he ran through us for 94 in the first half I think. Certainly from their point of view, that’s a huge loss," Locker said. "He’s a very good football player. I was very impressed."
If Warwick hadn’t been able to come back in the second half against CV, that would have been a huge loss for the Warriors. Fortunately for them, they found a way.
"We had a somewhat stern little discussion at the beginning of halftime that it’s only the second game of the season but this is one of those points in time where we’d better figure out where we’re headed because we didn’t look sharp and we couldn’t run our base offense," Locker said. "I told the kids, ‘You’ve got a choice. You need to come out and give a much better effort or we’re going to live with the consequences,’ and I give them credit. It was just an entirely different second half. Whatever went through their heads, they took it upon themselves to pick the game up." More WARRIORS, page B-3