Tale of two halves: Barons hold off Warwick’s comeback to win 35-27

By on September 6, 2017
Manheim Central’s Tyler Flick, who ran for 271 yards and two touchdowns last Friday, breaks off a big gain as Warwick’s Jonathan Forbes, Tanner Heckel and Evan Popalis look to make the tackle. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Manheim Central’s Tyler Flick, who ran for 271 yards and two touchdowns last Friday, breaks off a big gain as Warwick’s Jonathan Forbes, Tanner Heckel and Evan Popalis look to make the tackle. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

The Simon brothers, Tyler and Evan, were among the last players off the field for Manheim Central last Friday.

Their brows were sweaty and eye-black smudged, but they were no doubt thankful to relax a little bit following a frantic finish in the Barons’ season opener against back-yard rival Warwick.

Leading 35-0 with 1:44 left in the first half, Manheim Central withstood a furious comeback by the Warriors and only sealed a 35-27 non-league victory after recovering an onside kick in the dying seconds at Joseph Grosh Field in Lititz.

“It’s good to get it in the books,” said Evan, a sophomore QB who went 10-of-14 for 152 yards with two TDs — both to Tyler — and two INTs in his first varsity start under center for the Barons. “We started off hot, but it didn’t go as planned in the second half.”

While Baron coach Dave Hahn was pleased to get the victory, he was disappointed about his team not playing a complete game.

“I’m proud of the kids for battling and winning, but I felt like we held onto the win, instead of just winning,” Hahn said. “… We’ve got to play a full 48 minutes, man. We didn’t play a full game tonight and that’s the bottom line.”

Warwick (0-1), after being outgained 325-195, committing a handful of penalties and turning the ball over a couple of times in the opening two quarters, capitalized on a pair of TD grabs by Carter Forney to help make things interesting and then got within one possession of the Barons when junior Adam Ricketts scored on a five-yard jet sweep with just 1:21 left in the fourth quarter.

In the end, though, it was the Barons (1-0) who held on for their 22nd straight win over the Warriors in a span dating back to the mid-1980s.

“We talked about the fact that it was an excellent effort in the second half,” Warrior coach Bob Locker said. “We’ve got to look at film and see what things we’ve got to clean up. You’ve got to build on the positives, but you’ve also got to correct the mistakes we made because you can’t make that many. We’ve just got to clean it up.”

Baron senior running back Tyler Flick didn’t make many mistakes while barreling for a game-high 271 rushing yards and TD runs of 26 and 87 yards on 22 carries.

“Oh my goodness, (Tyler)’s a monster. He’s a beast,” Evan Simon said. “He’s an all-around awesome kid to be around, he’s a workhorse on and off the field.”

“He’s a stud, that’s a good word for him,” Tyler Simon added.

Early on, the Barons had the upper hand in field position, and following a three-and-out, they took over on their own 45-yard-line with 9:03 left in the opening quarter. From there, Flick did the rest. The 6-foot-0, 191-pound back ran for gains of 27 and 2 yards, then took a handoff from Simon, went around left end and sprinted 26 yards down the sideline to paydirt. Niko Gavala split the uprights with the first of his five PATs to put MC up 7-0 with 3:55 elapsed.

“Tyler’s a tough kid,” Baron coach Dave Hahn said. “He’s hard-nosed runner. He did a great job.”

Warrior QB Grayson Kline and Evan Simon traded picks — Nick Fucci had two INTs in the game to lead Warwick’s defense — but when the red-and-black couldn’t move the chains, the Barons got a shot in the arm on special teams, thanks to Tyler Simon’s 20-yard punt return.

Two plays later, MC’s Giovanni Lester (4-28 rushing) scored on a 20-yard run, extending the lead to 14-0 with 4:32 left in the first.

Warwick finally got some traction on their next offensive series, marching from their own 20 to the Manheim Central 30. Kline found tight end Hayden Rucci for 13 yards to convert on third down and then later, a two-yard QB sneak on fourth down kept the drive alive. But they still couldn’t get on the scoreboard after turning the ball over to the Barons on downs.

The missed opportunity looked big when the Simon brothers showed some nice chemistry, as Evan connected with Tyler over the middle on a slant pattern for a 66-yard TD strike. That put the Barons comfortably in the driver’s seat with a 21-0 lead with just 1:02 elapsed in the second quarter.

“We were smashing down their throat for four plays before that and then they sat run and we burnt them deep,” Tyler said.

“Evan’s got really good chemistry with Tyler, with Jake (Novak), with Vinny (Lester), with all the receivers, really,” Hahn said. “Tonight, I think Warwick was trying (to say), ‘Hey, let’s take Jake Novak out of the game, and I don’t really think they did. Jake still made some plays in there. But people are going to notice, you can’t just take one guy out because we’ve got other guys that can play. I think that’s a good thing for us.”

There were some good things that happened for the Warriors on their ensuing drive, including Kline’s (19-88 rushing) 36-yard rumble into Barons territory. The drive ended, however, when MC ‘backer Flick pirated a Kline pass at the Barons’ 3-yard line.

Kline’s debut for the Warriors had its ups and downs, as the senior signal-caller completed 17-of-33 aerials for 290 yards and a TD, but also threw three interceptions.

“We were inside (the Barons’ 30) two times and didn’t come away with any points,” Locker said. “It’s just stuff we’ve got to clean up. I’m not blaming kids. They’re high school kids, they’re going to make mistakes, but we’ve got to work on trying to eliminate some of them.”

Flick not only came down with the INT, but then he also turned on the burners while scoring on an 87-yard TD run with 5:19 left in the half. Less than three minutes later, Tyler Simon hauled in a 21-yard TD reception on a go route to stretch the lead to 35-0.

“Big plays are part of the contain thing. You can’t let them run amok like that,” Locker said. “We gave up too many big plays, which means there’s a deficiency. We’ll go to film (Saturday) morning and figure out what it is and try to figure out how to fix it quickly.”

Asked if his players had nerves, Locker said, “No, I think it’s just (Manheim Central) came out and hit us harder than we hit them early on and that can’t happen.”

Kline and Carter Forney teamed up for a big play of their own on the Warriors’ next series, connecting on a 74-yard touchdown pass with just :59.1 left in the half. Pietro Elliott added the PAT to cut the Barons’ lead to 35-7. That was part of a night for Forney in which he finished with nine receptions for 172 yards.

“(The long TD pass) helped a little bit in terms of getting a little positive momentum,” Locker said. “But we were still down 35-7. I just thought that in the second half, we came out with a little better attitude and just played harder. Period.”

Manheim Central threatened to answer on their final drive of the half, marching to the Warriors’ 35. But three straight penalties pushed the Barons back, and it remained 35-7 at the break.

“We were on fire in the first half, up until, like, the last two minutes and I was pretty pleased with our performance,” Hahn said. “We just got on a roll, and then at the end of the half, we had three penalties in a row and took ourselves out of position.”

It was the Warriors who came out of the locker room on a roll in the second half. A 29-yard Kline-to-Trey Glass (4-53 receiving) pass put Warwick on the doorstep of the Barons’ goal line, and then Nick Fucci scored on a one-yard run to make it 35-13.

“We kinda challenged them a little bit at halftime and they decided to come out and play,” Locker said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get them to do that from the start.”

Meanwhile, Flick then carried the ball four straight times for 32 yards to get the Barons to the Warriors’ 27, but a botched QB snap cost Manheim Central and they turned it over on downs.

“We went in at halftime and talked about how we’ve got to stay on top and that (Warwick)’s not going to give up and we just came out flat,” Hahn said. “Everybody was trying to do other people’s job instead of doing their jobs. When you do that and you don’t do your job, you have problems.”

An interception and a fumble on Warwick’s next two drives stalled their comeback hopes, but then Austin Bufis’ blocked punt set the Warriors up with a short field at the Barons’ 37.

“That was great,” Locker said. “I mean, it’s little things like that we’ve got to learn to do more often. It’s nice to see a heads-up play like that.”

At that point, Ricketts directed Warwick on a five-play, 37-yard scoring drive, hitting Forney on an eight-yard TD pass with 7:25 left. Forney also grabbed a two-point pass from Ricketts to cut the Barons’ lead to 35-21.

“Grayson was struggling a little bit, we just thought we’d give Adam some work,” Locker said. “They were splitting reps during the (pre-season) anyway, so I don’t view it as a big deal. They’d better not view it as a big deal. We just thought we’d take a look at a little bit of a change.”

Gavala missed a 30-yard field goal attempt for the Barons with 4:58 remaining, then Forney and Flick traded fumbles, and Isaac Rissinger’s recovery gave Warwick the ball at its own 10 with 4:14 remaining. From there, Kline completed five of eight passes for 62 yards, setting up Ricketts’ five-yard TD run with 1:21 left, cutting their deficit to 35-27 when the PAT missed.

The Barons, though, recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock, sealing the victory.

“I know what they’re capable of and I think we saw part of it,” Hahn said of his players. “I don’t think we saw what they’re truly capable of. I know there’s more in them. I know they’re better, I know they can finish, so that part to me, personally, is disappointing. Not to take anything away from (Warwick). They battled and they played and Warwick’s a tough team. I think Warwick’s going to do a good job in Section One. They’re not going to be a pushover. The one thing that they showed is resilience and toughness. I mean, they battled through that second half to get themselves back in the game.”

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