On to the semi-finals: Barons rally to beat Cedar Cliff in District opener

By on November 16, 2016
Manheim Central’s Gunnar Royer and Colin Erb (48) chase down Cedar Cliff QB Grant Breneman deep in the Colts’ territory in the Barons’ 38-29 victory last Friday in the District Three 5A playoffs. Photo by Alan Johnson

Manheim Central’s Gunnar Royer and Colin Erb (48) chase down Cedar Cliff QB Grant Breneman deep in the Colts’ territory in the Barons’ 38-29 victory last Friday in the District Three 5A playoffs. Photo by Alan Johnson

Manheim Central coach Dave Hahn stood on Elden Rettew Field, where his team had just ended Cedar Cliff’s season with a 38-29 comeback win.

Of Manheim’s 38 points, 35 came in the second half as they rallied from deficits of 17-3 and 23-10.

Reporters asked several times, “What did you say and change at halftime?” and Hahn’s answer remained consistent with each reply.

“Just a little talk,” Hahn said. “The first thing we did when we went in there was talk to them about our composure. We kind of lost our composure in the first half. That’s the first time we’ve been down by 14 points and we were a little rattled, I think.”

“(The) defense made some tweaks,” he added, “and (on) offense, we made a couple of changes here and there. We stuck with things that we had in our game plan (and) just kind of changed a little bit of our philosophy.”

Both teams opened the game with long drives that stalled in the red zone and settled for field goals.

After that, the Barons’ offensive attack did not move consistently while the Colts scored TDs in the second quarter. A third promising Cedar Cliff drive failed because defensive back Tyler Simon intercepted Grant Breneman’s pass.

“We killed ourselves in the first half,” Barons’ senior QB Kody Kegarise said. “There were mistakes (and) plays that were open.”

Nonetheless, the Barons trailed by only 17-3 and Hahn knew the Colts had a weakness they could possibly exploit.

“We knew they were getting tired and we had to pound them,” he said. “They have a lot of two-way guys and if we didn’t pound them, it was going to be a long game. If we hung tough on defense and got a stop, we knew that we could go at them and wear them down.”

The Colts had the momentum after the first half and a chance to maintain it as they opened the second half with the ball. They made one first down, but on first-and-10 from their own 30, Breneman sent a screen pass to Bobby Whalen in the backfield. The play worked well for the Colts earlier, but this time, DB Lowen Hanselman’s tackle somersaulted Whalen onto his back for a two-yard loss. Two plays later, they punted.

Kegarise and the Baron offense came onto the field and the QB knew what his teammates needed to do, having spoke about it during halftime.

“We talked about playing as brothers and playing as a team as opposed to playing for ourselves,” Kegarise said. “That really helped us out in the second half.”

Playing as a team, the Barons gave the ball to several players on their opening drive and true to coach Hahn’s conviction to pound the ball, they opened with runs by Jay Barreto and Tyler Flick. The plays gained minimal yardage, but following a 14-yard pass to Jake Novak, the ground game steadily gained yards. Colin Erb got the Barons to the one-yard line after two running plays but a false start moved them back to the five.

On fourth and goal from the five, Kegarise scored on a run to the outside.

“It was a QB sneak called,” he said. “I saw this one guy who stopped us down there at the (other) end zone on a sneak. I said, ‘I’m just going to go outside and it was wide open.”

With 4:21 left in the third, the Barons had pulled to within seven points, 17-10, of the Colts. But with 4:06 left, they were back down by 14.

Whalen caught the kick-off at the one yard line, found a seam to his left and ran down the sideline for the quick-strike TD. The PAT was blocked by Gunnar Royer, but Cedar Cliff led 23-10.

The TD could have been demoralizing but Kegarise felt it made the Barons focus on finishing hard.

“It made me really mad and I think it made everyone else mad,” he said. “It got the guys thinking, ‘They’re still playing, still pushing back and not done yet.’ I think it helped us out to get out there and push harder.”

The running game gained most of the yardage on the next drive. Barreto followed an 11-yard catch by Novak with a 17-yard run to the Colts’ 3. He added two more yards before Kegarise scored from the one.

Linebacker Nick Brown recognized the Colts’ next play and ended their next possession on the first play with a crucial interception.

“They lined up in what I think was Tennessee trips,” Brown recalled. “It was the same play that they scored on earlier, that long play. It was the same formation and I thought it could be coming. I just dropped back and, sure enough, it was there. I was able to make a play for the team.”

By now, Hahn’s decision to wear down the opposition began paying dividends. Flick took the first handoff after the pick for five yards and then the next through the middle for 13 yards. Later, on second and inches from the goal line, the Baron ran a quick play for another Kegarise TD. Bryce Kready’s PAT gave the Barons a 24-23 lead.

On MC’s next possession, two catches by Novak were surrounded by runs by Barreto, Erb and Kegarise that consumed 5:25 of the fourth before Barreto scored from the two for a 31-23 lead. Then Kegarise broke a 29-yard TD run before the Colts completed the scoring on a 31-yard pass from Breneman to Whalen with no time left on the clock.

“Kudos to the kids,” Hahn said of their comeback. “They’re the ones that did it. I am proud as heck of them.”

The win gives the Barons another shot at Cocalico following the Eagles’ 25-24 win over Northeastern. Both Hahn and Kegarise are looking forward to the chance to avenge their only loss this season.

“I’m really excited for it,” Kegarise said. “(We’re) back here on the home turf. I think we’re ready for the Eagles.”

Hahn said, “I love Dave Gingrich. Congratulations Dave. It’s going to be fun next week.”

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