Warriors advance to Red Rose finals

By on November 14, 2018
Warwick running back Bishop Villarreal (12), who rushed for a game-high 123 yards and two scores last Sunday, pulls away from Hempfield defender Julian Morales on a 76-yard TD in the second half. Photo by Matthew Libhart

Warwick running back Bishop Villarreal (12), who rushed for a game-high 123 yards and two scores last Sunday, pulls away from Hempfield defender Julian Morales on a 76-yard TD in the second half. Photo by Matthew Libhart

As hard as Warwick coach Dan Smith tried last year, he couldn’t convince Bishop Villarreal to carry the ball.

“He absolutely wouldn’t do it,” Smith said. “He wanted to play offensive line.”

When the Warriors re-convened in August, Villarreal finally agreed.

And the results have been a godsend.

Last Sunday, in fact, the big running back churned out a game-high 123 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Warriors to a 22-14 victory over previously-unbeaten Hempfield in the Red Rose Midget League A-Division semi-finals at sun-splashed Manheim Township High School.

“(Bishop)’s still raw at the running back spot. He’s got some work,” Smith said. “Obviously, it’s just one year into it, so he can learn a few things like lowering his pad level. But once he gets free, nobody’s going to catch him.”

The victory propelled Warwick to this Saturday’s finals against Ephrata — a 20-0 winner over Conestoga Valley — which will be held at Manheim Central’s Elden Rettew Field.

“Any time you can go to the championship game, it’s massive,” Smith said.

This will be the Warriors’ third trip to Red Rose League finals in the last four years. But early on this season, when Warwick lost two of its first three games, they had a lot of ground to make up.

“These kids have come miles and miles,” Smith said. “We were 1-2 to start the year and now here we are getting ready to play for the championship. Their football IQ has grown and we have gotten better and better each week. It’s awesome.”

Just two weeks earlier, the Black Knights edged Warwick 8-6 in their regular-season finale.

This time, Hempfield didn’t have its top running back due to injury, but they still put together a solid ball-control drive after receiving the opening kick.

Gabriel Benjamin (12-40 rushing) carried the load on the ground, and then on fourth down, QB Steven Katch found Julian Morales for a 37-yard gain down the left sideline.

Two plays later, Katch (11-of-25, 191 yards) and Morales connected again, and the 17-yard TD strike, combined with Tristin Neiderer’s PAT kick, gave the Knights an 8-0 lead with 6:41 elapsed.

Warwick, though, wasted little time with an answer, as QB Jack Reed (4-7-0, 111 yards) threw first down passes of 16 and 25 yards to Andrew Christophel (3-91 receiving).

Eventually, with 8:18 left in the half, Villarreal ran right, made a nice cut, and scored on a six-yard run, capping a seven-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Reed then threw to Christophel for the two-point conversion, tying the score at 8-all.

“(Bishop)’s always had the talent,” Smith said. “He learned and blossomed a lot last year, which has made him into the player he is this year.”

Warwick’s defense isn’t lacking for talent either, limiting the Black Knights to just one first down and 17 yards on their final three possessions of the half.

“You’ve got to give Hempfield credit,” Smith said. “They’re a good football team. We had to make some adjustments and that’s what we did after the first series. We moved some people around.”

Part of what Warwick did was bring a lot of pressure against the Knights up front offensively.

“We made their offensive line work really hard,” Smith remarked.

Meanwhile, the Warriors’ O-line — consisting of tackles James Hample and Angel Caceres, guards Hayden Hann and Cody Miller, and center Ethan Zipko — paved the way for the Warriors to gain 234 yards of total offense.

On their second possession, Reed lofted a nice pass which Christophel secured down the right sideline for a 50-yard gain, with Benjamin making a TD-saving tackle for the Black Knights.

Three plays later, Brendon Snyder got the ball on a counter and weaved through Hempfield’s defense for a 21-yard TD run. The two-point pass from Reed to Christophel was again on the mark, and the Warriors took a 16-8 lead with 4:58 left in the half.

Snyder finished with 57 rushing yards on seven carries.

“Our offensive guys are pretty slick, so we do pretty well,” Smith remarked. “We’ve got some tricks up our sleeve.”

Villarreal was indeed pretty slick on Warwick’s first offensive play from scrimmage in the second half, going off tackle, bouncing it outside and taking it 76 yards to the house. The extra-point run was stopped, but Warwick led 22-8 with just 25 seconds elapsed in the third quarter.

It remained that way until Hempfield came back with an eight-play, 69-yard scoring drive late in the period and Morales’ 23-yard TD reception from Katch with 1:18 left on the clock cut Warwick’s lead to 22-14.

The Black Knights then threatened on their final two possessions, looking for the tying score.

First, Katch hit Chase Calabretta for a 35-yard gain inside the red zone, but Reed — from his DB position — then knocked down a fourth-down pass in the end zone to deny Hempfield with 5:37 left.

After the Warriors went three-and-out, the Knights got one more opportunity, and they were knocking on the door following a Katch-to-Calabretta 26-yard completion.

But Warwick defensive ends Villarreal and Christophel sacked Katch for a 15-yard loss, forcing third-and-long. Following an incompletion by Hempfield’s QB on the next play, Anthony Snyder caught a short pass on fourth down, but was easily stopped shy of the first-down chains by Warwick’s Snyder.

With Hempfield turning the ball over on downs, Snyder picked up a 12-yard first-down gain, and Warwick ran out the clock to clinch the victory.

“Hempfield was undefeated and our kids realized that they could be beaten and we were the team that could beat them,” Smith said. “It’s that simple.”

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