Cocalico holds on, stuns Barons

By on October 22, 2014

Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich was faced with a big decision in the waning moments of Friday’s Section Two battle at Manheim Central.

With the score tied 17-17 with four minutes to play, the Eagles were faced with a fourth-and-two at the Baron 12-yard line. A field goal or touchdown would have given Cocalico the lead, but Gingrich opted to be aggressive and go for it.

It turned out to be a wise decision as running back DJ Fabiani took a toss around left end 11 yards for the go-ahead score. Cocalico would later tack on a safety before the Barons got on the board late.

In the end though, the decision to go for it and the ensuing safety were the ultimate keys as the Eagles held on and kept their section title hopes alive with a very satisfying 26-24 road victory over the Barons.

“If you are going to beat Manheim you don’t normally beat them with field goals,” Gingrich said when asked about his earlier fourth down decision. “You got to beat them with touchdowns, and our kids executed. I was actually looking to call a time-out on the play, and thank goodness the official didn’t see it. But we thought it was the best play at the time, and the kids executed.”

With the win, Cocalico (4-1 Section Two, 6-2 overall) pulled into a three-way tie for first place with the Barons (4-1, 6-2) and L-S (4-1, 6-2).

“Manheim has always brought the best out in us, and I thought tonight was another example of that,” Gingrich said. “Our kids rose to the level to meet their challenge.”

“I’m just so proud of the kids,” he continued. “A couple weeks ago we were left for dead. I think the kids were embarrassed about the way they played (in a 42-0 loss to L-S). I think they just stepped up to the challenge. They are a great group of kids and we are fortunate enough to coach them.”

While Gingrich and the Eagles were ecstatic, Manheim Central Coach Mike Williams said his team, which fell behind 14-0 in the first half, didn’t come out with the same vigor as it had in last week’s 56-28 victory over Lampeter-Strasburg.

“You talk to these kids and they don’t believe you but every Friday night in our league, if you don’t come to play…and that’s exactly what happened,” Williams said. “We had a terrible first half and got down 14-0. We could have been down 21-0. We made some adjustments at half-time, and our kids came out and played a great second half. It’s just one of those things…we made up the 14 points but then we made some miscues.”

Miscues actually plagued the Barons all night. A muffed punt after the Eagles’ first drive of the game stalled gave them new life, and Cocalico took advantage four plays later when junior running back DJ Fabiani (15 carries for 64 yards) went off tackle from two yards out to give the Eagles a 7-0 early lead.

Then midway through the second quarter, the Eagles’ Stewart Martin blocked a Baron punt to set up Cocalico’s second touchdown&tstr;a two-yard plunge by Devon Delpiano with 1:07 left in the half&tstr; to build the lead to 14-0 at the break.

“We were really dysfunctional early on in special teams and that hurt us,” Williams said. “We gave them field position on that punt and it just hurt us all over.”

While the Eagles played ball control to perfection offensively in the first half while limiting the Barons to just 28 total yards and a pair of first downs defensively, junior quarterback Dante Haines did go down early with what appeared to be a significant leg injury and did not return.

But sophomore Brady Sawyer stepped in and played solidly the rest of the night, drawing high praise from his coach.

“For him to come in the first quarter and play as well as he did, everyone else stepped up their game to help that kid out,” Gingrich said. “Brady played his tail off. He played wonderfully…he played great. But the rest of the team really stepped up.”

Sawyer, who rushed for 37 yards on 15 attempts while going 1-for-2 through the air for 23 yards, admitted he had to overcome a bout of nerves in the early going.

“At first I was a little nervous but I got in there and just did my job and helped out my teammates,” he said. “I started getting more comfortable. I haven’t worked with (the starters) a ton but I just went in there and it came together.”

It took the Barons just 14 seconds into the second half to make a game of it though, thanks to Tucker Ford, who took the second-half kickoff down the left sidelines for a 95-yard TD return.

It was the break the Barons needed, and Gingrich knew it.

“You start thinking, OK, here we go, Manheim Magic….but I think we learned from a few weeks ago against L-S,” he said. “We can handle small amounts of adversity, and we battled through it.”

Delpiano answered right back when he almost broke the ensuing kickoff for six. His return of 74 yards took it all the way to the Baron 16 and set up a 27-yard field goal by Matt McKinney to up the lead to 17-7.

“We needed that answer at that time, and (Devon) gave it to us,” Gingrich said.

After another big return by Ford on the ensuing kickoff put the Barons deep in Eagle territory, Cocalico’s D stiffened and forced a field goal attempt, which went wide to keep the score at 17-7. However, a Cocalico fumble gave the Barons new life a few moments later and this time Derek Adams delivered with a 35-yard field goal to make it a seven-point game (17-10) once again with 4:07 remaining in the third.

The Barons would go on to tie the game early in the fourth after forcing an Eagle punt. MC took over at its own 13-yard line, and used two long pass plays to get within striking distance. First, quarterback Tony Staffieri (7-12-0, 112 yards) used play-action to hit a wide-open Sam Martin for 38 yards to the Eagle 48. One play later, off play-action again, he hit Zach Sylvester on a 45-yard strike to the Cocalico three. Two plays after that, MC running back Damon Camacho (14-62) took it in from one yard out to knot the game at 14-14 with 9:50 to go.

Following the kickoff, Cocalico took over at its own 20 and chewed up a lot of clock as the Eagles marched all the way down to the Baron 11, to set up Fabiani’s big fourth-down TD run.

Fabiani and fullback Hunter High were workhorses on the drive while Sawyer connected on his lone completion on the night, a 23-yard toss off play-action to Delpiano which gave Cocalico a first down.

Fabiani credited his team’s offensive success to his quarterback and offensive line.

“(Brady) did great,” Fabiani said. “He stepped in and looked like he was a starter all season and not one beat was skipped. We all had no doubt he could get the job done. And our line was physical. They stayed low and did their jobs.”

After Fabiani’s big score, the Barons were bottled in their own end when they snapped a ball through the endzone for a safety to give Cocalico a 26-17 lead with 3:44 to play.

That appeared to put an end to it, but the Eagles gave the ball back to Manheim after failing to cover the ensuing free kick. The Barons pounced on the live ball at the Cocalico 46 and had new life with 3:29 to play.

They eventually would cash in on a one-yard sneak by Staffieri to cut the deficit to two. However, any thoughts of another Barons’ miracle finish went out the window when the ensuing onside kick sailed out of bounds. Cocalico took over and ran out the clock to preserve its biggest win of the season.

“It’s huge,” Fabiani said of the win. “I mean, one person picked us out of a lot of people. Our whole school didn’t think we could win. We just believed in ourselves, did our jobs and got it done.”

And they kept their section hopes alive with games at Solanco and home vs. Lancaster Catholic still remaining.

“I think the next two weeks will tell a lot,” Gingrich said. “We control our own destiny. Before, we had to rely on Manheim beating L-S. Now that’s done. All we have to do is play our game. We control our own destiny. If we win out, we are at least tri-champions, and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”

As for the Barons, they’ll try to regroup this Friday at Garden Spot before closing out the regular season next week at home vs. Solanco.

“I told the kids, in my 34 years as a coach I’m going to rank them 34th if we don’t come back next week and have a great week of practice and have a heck of a game,” Williams joked. “That’s the nature of kids. I could tell pre-game that we weren’t really as intense as we were previously. But you have to give Cocalico credit. They have a tough offense and they are hard to stop.”

“I’m very proud of the way these kids came back in the second half,” he continued. “We gave them a game. Cocalico knows they were in a game and I’m sure (Coach Gingrich) feels very fortunate to have won. Just like if we would have won, it would have been a little ‘Manheim Magic,’ tonight it was a little ‘Denver Magic.’”

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