Penn Hills spoils the Barons’ State championship hopes

By on December 12, 2018
Manheim Central senior running back Tyler Flick, who scored two touchdowns in last Friday’s State 5A finals, cuts through a hole and looks for daylight around Penn Hills’ linebacker Jordy Bosell. Photos by Kirk Neidermyer

Manheim Central senior running back Tyler Flick, who scored two touchdowns in last Friday’s State 5A finals, cuts through a hole and looks for daylight around Penn Hills’ linebacker Jordy Bosell. Photos by Kirk Neidermyer

Trailing 30-7 midway through the third quarter last Friday, things looked bleak for Manheim Central.

But the Barons had rallied before.

They were also down to Warwick and Wilson this season before coming back to win.

Sure enough, Manheim Central made it interesting, climbing within five points in the final seconds on an 18-yard TD pass from Evan Simon to Isaac Perron and a two-point run by Tyler Flick.

“There’s no quit in our kids. That’s just not in our DNA,” Baron coach Dave Hahn said.

In the end, though, it wasn’t to be.

Senior wide receiver/defensive back Daequan Hardy scored four touchdowns, snagged three INTs and rolled up 340 all-purpose yards, leading WPIAL champ Penn Hills to a 36-31 victory over Manheim Central in the PIAA State 5A finals at Hersheypark Stadium.

At the end of the game, a scary sight unfolded when Baron junior Clay Bedi suffered an injury on Manheim Central’s onside kick with just :03 remaining. Bedi laid motionless on the cold turf for 15 minutes until being taken off the field on a stretcher.

“I just told Clay I love him,” Hahn said, “and I’m sorry that happened to him. He got blind-sided and took a head shot and I just told him, ‘Hey, you’re a tough kid and I love ya and I appreciate everything you do and you’re going to be OK.’”

Three seconds remained on the clock during the injury time, but the clock had never started on the first touch after the kick. So with Bedi on his way to the hospital, the scoreboard was run down to zeroes and Penn Hills (16-0) had its first State championship since 1995.

Manheim Central (14-1) was making its fourth-ever trip to the PIAA finals, having won in 2003 with a 31-28 double OT victory over Pine Richland. The Barons also fell in 2004 and 2009.

Against Penn Hills, four turnovers were costly for Manheim Central, one of those resulting in a 100-yard pick-six for Hardy, who according to PCN announcers Ross Tucker and Bob McCool has received offers from Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska.

“He’s a good player,” Hahn said.

It was actually Perron’s team-leading eighth INT of the season which gave the Barons a shot in the arm midway through the opening quarter, setting MC up at the Indians’ 17-yard line.

Three plays later, Flick’s five-yard TD run and Niko Gavala’s PAT put Manheim Central in front 7-0 with 6:01 remaining in the first quarter.

“We got the turnover early in the game,” Hahn said, “and I was like, ‘Here we go. Let’s go.’”

But Penn Hills quickly answered, going 3-for-3 on third-down conversions during a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Finally, with 2:07 left in opening stanza, senior QB Hollis Mathis hit Corey Thomas Jr. on a six-yard TD pass. The two-point pass failed — one of six unsuccessful attempts by Pen Hills — and the Barons maintained a 7-6 advantage.

For the game, Mathis was 10-of-16 for 195 yards, with three touchdowns and an INT.

In Simon (12-of-27, 252 yards, 2 TDs), the Barons had their own star power under center, and on MC’s next series, the junior QB completed aerials of 24 and 21 yards to Ben Wagner, then handed off to Colby Wagner, who rushed for a four-yard gain to get the ball inside the 10 again.

But Hardy’s pick, the first of four interceptions thrown by Simon, got the ball back for Penn Hills.

Overall, Manheim Central made four first-half trips inside the Indians’ 10-yard line, in addition to having one other possession in the red zone, but managed only seven points.

“We just didn’t make plays when we needed to make plays,” Hahn said. “The red zone was a killer for us.”

After the Barons’ D held, getting the ball back for MC with good field position. Anthony Grimes’ INT set up a 74-yard TD pass from Mathis to a wide open Hardy, which gave the Indians a 12-7 advantage with 4:51 remaining in the half.

Not long afterward, Manheim Central got itself back on the doorstep again. From there, however, Penn Hills’ senior defensive back Richard Martin sacked Simon for a 13-yard loss, and on the next play, Hardy stepped in front of Simon’s pass at the goal line and returned the ball 100 yards to the house to make it 18-7 with :14 left in the half.

“That was a killer,” Hahn said. “We weren’t clicking for whatever reason, whether it was on the break of the routes or the communication. I think we tried to change some things at the line and we just didn’t mesh. So that’s where we had some of those unfortunate plays.”

For the Barons, a couple more unfortunate plays came early in the third quarter, as Mathis lofted a pretty 27-yard TD pass to Hardy over a Manheim Central defender, then Hardy secured his third INT of the game, and ‘Tank’ Smith rumbled for a 35-yard touchdown to put Penn Hills in front 30-7.

“Turnovers in every game are killers and we just turned the ball over too many times,” Hahn said. “It just wasn’t our night.”

Still, Manheim Central did all it could.

Flick, who rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries, scored his second TD of the night, barreling up the middle for 15 yards with 5:58 left in the third quarter to cut the Indians’ lead to 30-14.

That was the start of some serious fireworks, with the two teams combining to score three times in a span of just 26 seconds.

Hardy returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards to paydirt, which made it 36-14, and then Colby Wagner broke free behind a Penn Hills’ defensive back and grabbed a 64-yard TD catch from Simon to bring the Barons within 36-20 with 5:32 remaining in the third.

“We kept battling to get back in it,” Hahn said. “We’ll never quit. We’re going to work our butt off and fight like crazy every chance we get.”

The Barons continued to fight down the stretch, and Gavala’s 27-yard field goal split the uprights with 9:36 left in the fourth to make it 36-23.

Penn Hills then took six minutes off the clock and drove to the Barons’ 4, but Central’s defense dug in to force a turnover on downs, and then Simon’s 18-yard TD pass to Perron and Flick’s two-point run closed the deficit to 36-21 with :03 remaining.

Time, though, ran out on the Barons.

“Their effort was great,” Hahn said when asked about his team’s 14-1 season. “Second to none. They did everything we’ve asked them to do. They battled hard. I’m awfully proud of them. I’m just proud of them for their toughness, their grit, their attitude, their sacrifice — everything they’ve given to this program. They are Barons.”

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