Heaven sent

By on September 19, 2018

Photos by: Kirk Neidermyer/Staff Photographer

Remembering teammate’s family loss, Warriors deliver 27-0 win over Hempfield

In case any of Warwick’s players needed a reminder of their pre-game talk last Friday, all they had to do was take a look at their arms.

A temporary tattoo of the Maryland state flag was affixed there honoring teammate Hilton Michael’s grandmother, Carole, who passed away during the week.

“Her beach house is in Maryland,” senior QB Adam Ricketts said, “she always spent time there, so a bunch of the guys put some Maryland tattoos on just in recognition of her.”

The gesture definitely touched Michael.

“It means everything,” the senior wide receiver/free safety said. “Originally when this happened, I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone, I didn’t want to tell anyone, but just to see how word travels and all, you really find out who your true friends are when this kind of stuff happens. It meant the world.”

The Warriors would have made Carole proud, as they piled up 478 total yards of offense and earned their second shutout of the season while tattooing Hempfield 27-0 in both teams’ Section One opener at Joseph Grosh Field in Lititz.

Michael clinched it with a 55-yard TD reception from Ricketts with 5:06 left in the fourth, finishing with three catches for 117 yards while taking home Warwick’s Offensive Game Ball honors.

“I went into the game with a whole new purpose and really found out why I wanted to play that game,” the senior wide receiver/safety said. “I told myself at the beginning of the game that I wanted to do something special. It was a big moment. I had her in mind the whole game and it was just special.”

It was a big moment for the team as well.

“In the locker room (pre-game), we talked a little bit about why you play football — friends, family, school, all those things and I just thought it was important we acknowledge that (Hilton)’s still here playing tonight with all this on his mind,” Warwick coach Bob Locker said.

There were other factors inspiring Warwick (1-0 L-L, 3-1 overall) too. They were chomping at the bit to put a tight 27-20 Week Three loss to Manheim Central behind them and get the Section slate started on a positive note.

Plus, it was Hempfield (0-1 L-L, 1-3 overall) which dealt the Warriors a tough blow to their District playoff hopes last year with a 25-21 win, in a game the Warriors led 21-10 at the half.

“Coach reminded us (of last year’s loss to Hempfield), he said that can’t happen,” Ricketts said. “He even brought up last week, we were up and just fell apart, and he said, ‘Foot on the gas.’ It came up, he reminded us, so it definitely brought the motivation out in us.”

That was evident when Justin Gerhart returned the opening kickoff 34 yards and then Conor Adams and Trey Glass hauled in receptions of 28 and 8 yards from Ricketts (19-of-29, 362 yards, 2 TDs, INT) to put the Warriors in business.

Hempfield eventually held Warwick on fourth-and-short, but then went three-and-out, and the Warriors got the ball back at their own 25. Four plays later, Ricketts fired a quick screen pass to Glass, who maintained his balance after contact and took it 64 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown with 7:44 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.

That was the start of a big night for Glass, who finished with 11 receptions for 154 yards.

“If I get the ball in his hands, he knows what to do, so it makes my job easy,” Ricketts said. “I love throwing the ball to Trey. He’s a great player.”

The Black Knights have their share of great players too, and when Jackson Shand and Matt Houston grabbed passes of 18 and 36 yards, respectively, from QB Colin Peters (11-of-20, 169 yards, 2 INTs) on their next possession, Hempfield was inside the red zone at the 15.

But then Warrior defensive end Nick Coomer knocked down a third-down lateral pass, causing a 25-yard loss for the Knights, who came up empty on the drive.

In all, Warwick held Hempfield to just five rushing yards, including 13 tackles for a loss. Although Houston had 63 receiving yards, he gained only 25 yards on the ground on a team-high 17 carries.

“Defensively, I don’t know that coach (Todd) Smoker’s game plan was just focus on (Houston), but we knew that he was their best player,” Locker said, “and the quarterback’s not a great passer, so we kinda wanted to stop the run.”

The Warriors went back to the air on their final series of the opening stanza, with Ricketts going 3-of-3 for 73 yards to three different receivers, and the senior signal-caller’s three-yard TD run with 11:53 left in the half, coupled with Tanner Haines’ PAT, pushed Warwick’s lead to 14-0.

It remained that way when the Knights were unable to capitalize on an interception by Ty Vaughn, and Glass made them pay when he picked up a bouncing punt deep in Warrior territory, made a couple moves, found daylight and went 94 yards for a TD with 5:26 left in the half, making it 21-0.

“(Trey)’s amazing,” Locker said. “In years past, I’d have been like, ‘What are you doing?,’ but if he wants to pick a ball up, he’s allowed to pick a ball up because the things he does … I’m constantly amazed at his skill level.”

An interception by Adams, followed by a long return, seemed to put the Warriors on the doorstep of yet another score, only to see a penalty pin Warwick at its own 9. It was one of seven penalties for the Warriors, totaling 72 yards. Senior tight end Hayden Rucci (3 receptions, 60 yards) hauled in a 34-yard pass from sophomore QB Joey McCracken (3-of-5, 50 yards) to give Warwick hope, but the drive eventually stalled and Warwick took a 21-0 lead into the half.

In the third quarter, following an INT by safety Caleb Schmitz, the Warriors drove to the Knights’ 9, and then they marched to Hempfield’s 18 early in the fourth, but field goal attempts of 25 and 35 yards were off the mark, keeping Warwick’s lead at 21-0.

But when Ricketts found Michael for a 55-yard TD strike with 5:06 to go, capping a seven-play, 76-yard drive, the Warriors put the game out of reach and all but sealed their Section-opening victory.

“That was a special moment,” Ricketts said. “That sealed the deal and everyone was pumped up about that, so that really helped. That was awesome.”

For Ricketts, it was his sixth touchdown pass of the season.

“(Adam) had a really good night,” Locker said. “I’ll give him credit, he worked really hard this week. Like we said last week, we went into the game thinking we were going to play both quarterbacks and Joey got a series in the first half. In the second half, (Adam) managed the game real well.”

At that point, the only unanswered question was whether Warwick could finish the shutout. Hempfield drove to the Warriors’ 1-yard line on its final possession, but Warwick’s defense made a goal line stand to keep them out of the end zone.

“Last week, the defense played well. Today, they played really well,” Locker said. “We bring the heat a lot and the kids have responded to that, I think they’re well-coached, they’ve bought into the concept of what we’re doing and they believe in the defense and we fly to the ball. So it’s really great to see that in our defense.”

“This win tonight is huge,” Ricketts said. “It gets our confidence back up going into Section play, so it’s huge.”

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