Warriors outduel Ephrata 26-16 for Red Rose title

By on November 20, 2018
fter  scoring  a  touchdown  against  Ephrata  in  Sunday’s  Red  Rose League  A-Division  finals,  Warwick’s  Bishop  Villarreal  (left) gets  congratulations from his teammates. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

fter scoring a touchdown against Ephrata in Sunday’s Red Rose League A-Division finals, Warwick’s Bishop Villarreal (left) gets congratulations from his teammates. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Warwick avenged a regular season loss to Ephrata Sunday afternoon on Elden Rettew Field at Manheim Central High School, earning a 26-16 victory over the Mounts to capture the Red Rose Midget League A-Division championship.

“There’s a lot of parity in this league,” Warwick coach Dan Smith said. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. Fortunately, I would rather be on the losing end during the regular season than in the playoffs.”

That same scenario happened to the Warriors in the semi-finals, besting undefeated Hempfield 22-14 after losing in the regular season.

“We scouted both teams well,” Smith said. “We knew their strengths and weaknesses and we took advantage of them.”

The same could be said for Ephrata, whose revenge tour in the playoffs included a 41-0 quarterfinal win over Willow Street and a 20-0 win over Conestoga Valley in the semi-finals. The Mounts had lost to both during regular-season play.

“Given that we lost our first two games, we never really thought we’d be here,” Ephrata coach Rod Snyder said. “But the kids responded throughout the season and continued to get better.”

Early in this game, Ephrata looked like the better team. Mounts running back Noah Keller ran for 30 yards on the first play of the game, then quarterback Elijah Knowles kept the ball twice for 11 yards in the second series for another first down. Later, Knowles again handed the ball to Keller for a 12-yard pick-up for a first and goal.

But the Warwick defense dug in, forcing a turnover on downs, following a Knowles QB draw on fourth down.

But after a three-and-out, the Warriors were forced to punt from their own end zone.

Starting at the Warwick 37, the Mounts got eight yards from Coy Schwanger on a misdirection play, but the first quarter ended with no score.

The scoreless duel ended in a big way in the dramatic second quarter. On the first play of the period, Knowles was picked off by Warrior defensive back Brendon Snyder, who returned the interception 20 yards to the Warwick 47.

The very next play was a backward pass from Warrior quarterback Jack Reed that bounced on the turf. Knowles scooped up the loose ball and dashed 38 yards for the first score of the game. Schwanger’s kick put Ephrata in front 8-0.

The Warriors, though, struck back quickly, taking advantage of two big plays on the ensuing drive. The first of those was a 35-yard fourth-down run on a counter to the left side of the line by running back Bishop Villarreal. Reed completed the drive with an 11 yard touchdown pass to Andrew Christophel.

A pass attempt on the two-point try fell incomplete and Ephrata maintained an 8-6 lead.

For the moment.

After the kickoff, Knowles returned the ball to the Warwick 46. But three untimely penalties and a 15-yard sack of Knowles led to a fourth-and-49 from the Mounts’ 5-yard line. From there, Schwanger boomed a punt from his own end zone which shifted the field position by 40 yards.

Reed then scrambled for 16 and 38, taking the ball the Ephrata 6-yard line. Three plays later, Villarreal burst through the line for the touchdown, and when Reed passed to Cody Kirchner for the two point conversion, the Warriors led 14-8 with 1:18 remaining in the half.

The fireworks didn’t stop there, as Ephrata’s Andre Weidman returned the kickoff all the way to the Warwick 23, and the Mounts appeared poised to regain the lead. But the penalty bug struck again, pushing Ephrata back 25 yards. and a pass over the middle by Knowles was picked off by Warwick’s Tanner Weik, who returned it 15 yards.

Wasting no time, Reed quickly hit receiver Colin Winters for 11 yards to move the chains, and Warwick stopped the clock with a timeout. Two plays later, Villarreal went untouched for a 48 yard touchdown on the final play of the half, giving the Warriors a 20-8 lead at the break.

“The key was our offensive line,” Smith said. “Plus both running backs ran the ball extremely well. They did not want to go down. And Jack Reed stood there with poise. He played a great game.”

When Schwanger blocked a Warwick punt midway through the third quarter, it looked like the tide could turn again. The Mounts picked up a first down, but then turned the ball over on downs at the Warwick 26-yard line.

Villarreal then once again proved that speed kills, turning the right corner and going 74 yards untouched to put the Warriors in front 26-8.

“I told them at halftime, we were still in the ball game,” Snyder said. “We hadn’t played our best football yet. We needed to get a stop on defense, get the ball back and get a score to make it a game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

Ephrata scored a second touchdown with 4:26 left in the game when Knowles threaded the needle on a pass to Drew Hurst for a touchdown. Schwanger once again kicked for the extra points to set the final margin, 26-16.

Warwick covered the onside kick, then converted three straight first downs to run out the clock.

“Words can’t explain it,” Smith gushed when asked about the championship. “It’s a long journey to get here and I am so excited. Excited for the team, excited for the kids. It’s a great feeling.”

“They had a great game plan,” Snyder said. “All credit to Warwick.”

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