Observations from the District Three 5A finals

By on November 29, 2017

Eric May summed it up perfectly.

I had barely gotten home after covering Manheim Central in the District Three 5A championship game last Friday night when I turned on the television and Blue Ridge’s play-by-play man was describing the action during a replay of the Barons’ 30-29 win over Governor Mifflin.

“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and remember that he’s still only a sophomore,” May said.

The “he” to whom he was referring was Baron QB Evan Simon.

This kid is going to be fun to watch over the next two years. He is already a lot of fun to watch.

Somehow, even when Governor Mifflin scored with 4:52 left to go ahead 29-23, you just knew this game wasn’t over. There was too much time left. And sure enough, Simon and the Barons weren’t going to be denied.

Here’s a kid who isn’t permitted to drive a motor vehicle yet, but he sure as heck knows how to operate this Manheim Central well-oiled machine. Simon completed 5 of 6 passes on the Barons’ go ahead drive — for 10 yards to Jake Novak, 12 yards to Vinny Lester, 3 yards to Novak, then 6 and 33 yards to Lester. With Simon at the wheel of the offense, the Barons covered 71 yards on just six plays in 56 seconds to give MC the lead for good.

Dare I say, it was almost John Elway-esque. NFL fans will certainly recall the drive on which Elway led the Broncos to a come-from-behind 23-20 OT win over the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship Game.

“That last drive, Evan was lightning in a bottle, man,” Manheim Central coach Dave Hahn said. “He was great.”

Make no mistake, however. Evan is much more than just a 6-foot-2, 191-pound QB with a firm handshake, 2,418 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, and 409 rushing yards and three TDs.

His poise is impressive. You can just see it in the way he carries himself on the field, standing tall in the pocket, radiating confidence and playing beyond his years. When Lester, a senior, dropped a pass on 3rd-and-12 on a curl route in the fourth quarter, Simon was in his ear.

“Evan said, “You’ve got to keep your head in because I know you’re going to make some more plays,’” Lester recalled.

Think about that for a minute. That’s a sophomore taking on a leadership role with a senior. You won’t find a whole lot of 10th-graders like that.

You can see his poise in the way he talks to the media. Nothing fazes him and he’s very well-spoken. Unprompted, he has gone out of his way to talk with me about the seniors on this Baron team after the win over Cocalico in the District semifinals and again following the championship game, crediting them for keeping the team’s spirits up and carrying them on their shoulders.

Quite simply, he gets it. This is the seniors’ last hoorah, this is their team, and he’s poised and mature enough to give them their due.

Last Friday night, as Mrs. Williams, wife of legendary coach Mike Williams, leaned in to offer congratulations to Evan and give him a quick hug, Evan — after winning the biggest game of his career — asked her, “How are ya?” It was just another day at the office, right? Nothing too big going on here. Judging by the big smile on Mrs. Williams’ face, she was doing great. And with Evan under center for two more years, that should put a big smile on the face of all of Baron Nation.

Hahn included. In my book, Manheim Central’s coach deserves a big tip of the hat as well. Let’s face it, when he took over as the Barons’ head coach at the start of the 2015 season, there had to be some pressure. He had mighty big shoes to fill following Mike Williams and all that he’d accomplished. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel that.

Manheim Central’s 17th District title was also the first for Hahn as skipper. In the emotional scene after last Friday’s game, standing near midfield at chilly Hersheypark Stadium, he was all class in his remarks. If he was experiencing any personal satisfaction, he didn’t let on.

The Barons’ third-year coach noted how proud and happy he was for the kids and the program. He mentioned former players like Austin Geib, Gavin Guyer, Kody Kegarise, Nick Brown, and Tyler Lutz. He credited the contributions of all players over the past two or three years for playing a key role in helping Manheim Central hoist the District championship trophy.

“Really, it’s not about me,” Hahn said. “This is about these kids.”

It wasn’t just the Manheim Central kids that Hahn thought of this season. My son, Brooks, is a senior at Warwick this season, and since I wanted to watch him play his final year, that meant I only saw MC play once in the regular season — when they defeated Warwick 35-27 in the non-league opener.

From day one, Hahn was understanding. I still talked to him weekly for the Countdown to Friday pages that we do and tried to keep up-to-date on Manheim Central as much as possible. But Hahn often asked about Brooks individually and Warwick as a team, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated his kindness.

This will be a fall season that I’ll remember forever and I’m sure it will be for Manheim Central as well. Congratulations to the Barons on a job well done.


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