Warriors’ Section One title muted by tragedy

By on October 31, 2018


Warrior senior outside linebacker Josh Swift (19) zeroes in on Penn Manor running back Isaiah Stoltzfus while making a first-half tackle last Friday night. Photo by Cathy Chapis

Warrior senior outside linebacker Josh Swift (19) zeroes in on Penn Manor running back Isaiah Stoltzfus while making a first-half tackle last Friday night. Photo by Cathy Chapis

What would typically be a joyous occasion became very secondary.

With a 53-20 win over Penn Manor last Friday night in its regular-season finale in Millersville, Warwick clinched a share of the Section One title — its first since the 1997 season.

But there was no celebrating on this night.

Just hours before the Warriors were due to step on the field, a horrific automobile accident claimed the life of a classmate. Two days later, another classmate involved in the tragedy also died.

“Friday night before the game,” Warwick coach Bob Locker said, “we basically told (the players), ‘If you give me the word, we’ll get back on the bus and go home. There’s things more important in life than playing a football game.’ We said, ‘It’s your decision, it’s not mine. You’re the kids who play.’ We’re all affected by what happened, but they were more directly affected and if they had said they didn’t want to, then we wouldn’t have. It’s a real tough situation for teenage kids to be in. They played well. With all that was in their heads and their hearts, they played well.”

The victory improved Warwick’s final record to 5-1 Section One (8-2 overall), tied with Manheim Township and Wilson for the top spot. Seeded No. 5 in the District Three 5A playoffs, the Warriors will host 12th-seeded Palmyra (8-2) this Friday.

Capitalizing on tremendous field position, the Warriors scored on their first four possessions and grabbed a 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

After Penn Manor received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out, Warwick got the ball at the Comets’ 32 and needed just two plays strike, as Joey McCracken (9-12-0, 138 yards) threw a swing pass to Trey Glass, who went 22 yards to paydirt. Pietro Elliott’s PAT made it 7-0 with 10:15 remaining in the first quarter.

Glass finished the game with seven catches for 85 yards, giving him 1,133 receiving yards for the season, which shatters the program’s single-season record, previously set by Zach Snyder.

Less than a minute later, Brendan Martin’s INT set Warwick up at its own 47, and McCracken’s 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Rucci (5-86 receiving) down the left sideline made it 14-0.

Another defensive stand by Warwick gave them the ball at Penn Manor’s 35 for their next series, and with 4:11 left in the first quarter, Hilton Michael (5-60 receiving) hauled in an 18-yard TD pass from McCracken to push the lead to 21-0.

In all, Warwick outgained Penn Manor 449-306 in the game and had a 24-12 edge in first downs.

On their final possession of the first quarter, the Warriors got the ball on an end-around to Glass (3-48 rushing), who sprinted 38 yards to paydirt, giving them a 28-0 lead with 1:29 left in the period.

The Comets finally got a little bit of momentum when QB Luke Braas showed off his strong arm while hitting receiver Kyle Murr for a 50-yard connection down the left sideline. The drive stalled and then Liam Hart’s 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. Braas was 17 of 30 for 306 yards, with one INT in the game.

Later, when Warwick turned the ball over on downs at its own 49-yard line, Braas found Logan Legenstein and Josh Gibson (5-36 receiving) for 37 and 8 yards, respectively, and then the sophomore signal-caller scored on a one-yard keeper with 6:17 left in the half, cutting the Warriors’ lead to 28-7.

Warwick running back Nick Fucci, who gained 85 rushing yards on 18 carries, then capped a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive, scoring on a four-yard run with 3:20 to go in the half to make it 35-7.

Not long afterward, a muffed kickoff by Penn Manor led to a three-yard TD run by Fucci, and then following a fumble recovery by Warrior safety Caleb Schmitz, Warwick capitalized on the short field when QB Adam Ricketts (9-12-0, 99 yards) completed a 15-yard TD pass to Michael, stretching the advantage to 47-7 going into the half.

Neither team scored in the third, but then with 3:36 elapsed in the final stanza, Sean Badessa (7-48 rushing) scored on a six-yard run which gave Warwick a 53-7 lead.

The Comets completed the scoring by reaching paydirt on their final two drives. First, Murr (2-74 receiving) hauled in a screen pass from Braas and scored on a 24-yard catch-and-run, and then senior Stephen Albright grabbed a 39-yard TD reception with 1:38 to go before Warwick ran out the clock.

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