‘Snow’ stopping Warwick

By on November 22, 2016
Warwick Midget A team running back Colton Miller, who rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the Red Rose League championship game last Saturday, picks up a big gain against Hempfield.

Warwick Midget A team running back Colton Miller, who rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the Red Rose League championship game last Saturday, picks up a big gain against Hempfield. (Photo by Mike Shull)

The stats didn’t lie.

Hempfield didn’t move the chains for a first down against Warwick’s defense until the 8:00 mark of the fourth quarter.

And it was the one and only time they did so.

“Our kids did what they did all season long and they stood up for defense,” Warrior coach Chad Miller said. “I mean, our defense was spectacular.”

Hard to argue.

Playing in wintry conditions at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Stadium, Warwick’s D blitzed and flexed its muscles while holding the Black Knights to minus-13 yards of total offense, paving the way to a 21-0 shutout in the Red Rose Midget A League championship game.

This marked the second straight Red Rose crown for these Warwick players, who knocked off Conestoga Valley 33-6 to claim the B-level title last year. It also avenged the Warriors’ (11-1) only loss of the season, having suffered a 21-20 setback to Hempfield back in September.

“It feels very good,” Miller said. “This group is a special group and I’m just very proud of them.”

While the Black Knights’ offense sputtered, the Warriors cranked up their smash-mouth machine. Following behind an offensive line comprised of tackles Milo Graybill and Nate Maher, guards Justin Deibler and Eric Borg, center Tommy Grow and tight end Thatcher Miller, running back Colton Miller rumbled for a game-high 140 yards and two TDs on 25 carries, while QB Joey McCracken rushed for 46 yards and a score.

“(Colton)’s a very hard runner, but you know what, it goes with our line,” Miller said. “Our line has to block for him, so everything has to be working properly in order for him to get his yards and in order for him to run hard.”lr20161124_champs

Although Miller shouldered the bulk of the load on Warwick’s first possession, McCracken added a key 23-yard run around left end to convert on a 4th-and-long, only being stopped on a TD-saving tackle by Hempfield’s Dominic Nottoli. Two plays later, Miller scored on a five-yard dive, and then McCracken added the PAT run, putting Warwick up 7-0 with 2:31 left in the first.

On Warwick’s next possession, the Black Knights recovered a fumble, but thanks to hits from the likes of Graybill and Borg, Hempfield’s offense couldn’t get on track. And when the Knights mishandled a punt snap, the Warriors took over with excellent field position at Hempfield’s 13-yard line.

From there, the Warriors quickly capitalized, as McCracken, while being dragged to the ground, stretched to complete a 12-yard TD run with 4:50 to go on the first-half clock, making it 13-0, which is how it stood at the break. Overall, Warwick had a 6-0 edge in first downs in the first half, and an 11-1 advantage for the game.

“These kids, when they’re pumped up and ready to play, there’s nobody that can run on them or do anything,” Miller said. “They just do their jobs very, very well.”

Given the snow, sleet and wind, the Warriors’ D loaded up in the box and dared Hempfield QBs Colin Peters and Ryan Hilton to throw the ball. They combined to go just 1-of-6 through the air for seven yards with an INT by McCracken.

“We knew Hempfield’s a passing team, so with the conditions tonight, we knew it was not in their favor to pass,” Miller said. “So we just went after their quarterback and made him (decide) if he’s going to pass, he’s going to pass quickly.”

Meanwhile, Warwick continued to get the job done in the ground game. After receiving the second-half kickoff and getting a 20-yard return by Broc Diem, the Warriors picked up gains of 28 and 13 yards by Colton Miller, and his two-yard TD run with 6:34 remaining in the third capped a six-play, 55-yard scoring drive.

“We have a very good running game,” coach Miller said. “We wanted to pass, but again with the conditions, we went back to basics and just ran right down on them.”

McCracken (3-3-0, 34 yards) then found Thatcher Miller in the back of the end zone for two, extending the lead to 21-0.

“We figured we’d definitely be able to do the short passes,” Miller said. “We just knew we weren’t going to do our long passes.”

The Black Knights finally got a shot in the arm when Nottoli recovered a fumble at the Knights’ 45. Hilton’s pass to Owen Nicodemus, coupled with a Warrior facemask penalty, gave Hempfield its deepest penetration at the Warwick 33. But a punishing hit by Colton Miller and a QB sack contributed to a turnover on downs, and that essentially was the ball game.

“They’re a great group of kids,” said Miller, before heading off to the trophy presentation. “I hope they all stay with it.”

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