Barons’ ground game paves way in 41-23 win over Cocalico

By on October 3, 2018
Cocalico QB Noah Palm (10) launches a pass down the field during Friday’s game vs. Manheim Central. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Cocalico QB Noah Palm (10) launches a pass down the field during Friday’s game vs. Manheim Central. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Manheim Central’s Tyler Flick and his offensive line have a kinship with one another.

Like brothers, they look out for each other.

“They say they’ve always got my back and I’ve got their back,” the Barons’ senior running back said. “They do their job and I do my job.”

Last Friday night, they brought their lunch pails and hard hats against Cocalico.

In a key showdown between Section Two contenders, after the Eagles jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Flick took on a workhorse role with a season-high 32 carries and 167 rushing yards, as Manheim Central answered for a 41-23 win in Denver.

In all, Flick scored on three touchdown runs of 1, 3 and 2 yards, giving him 14 for the season.

With the victory, the Barons (2-0 L-L, 6-0 overall) remained unbeaten, tied with Conestoga Valley (3-0, 5-1) atop the Section Two standings. Cocalico (1-1 L-L, 4-2 overall), meanwhile, fell one game off the pace.

“(Cocalico) is a good team. They’re very efficient on offense,” Manheim Central coach Dave Hahn said, “and we had to find our footing, so to speak, and once we did, we were OK.”

Eagles’ boss Dave Gingrich admitted that the play of Central’s line — averaging 5-foot-11, 207 pounds courtesy of Tyler Dougherty, Troy Kolk, Josh Painter, Cayden Warner, and Brett Wolgemuth — had an impact on the game.

“They’re really good up front,” Gingrich said, “and I thought as the game wore on, they pushed us around a little bit more than we’re used to getting pushed around. They really did a nice job up front offensively. Defensively, they tightened up in the second half a lot more than they did in the first.”

Prior to that, though, even after the Barons recovered a fumbled punt return deep in Cocalico’s territory and went in front 21-10 late in the second quarter, Cocalico closed the gap to four, as junior QB Noah Palm hit senior Austin Landers down the right sideline for a 72-yard TD pass with just 1:19 remaining in the opening half.

That gave the Eagles some momentum, which they were hoping to take into the locker room.

But the Barons had other ideas.

Junior signal-caller Evan Simon completed 5-of-9 passes and found running back Jake Harbach in the end zone for a three-yard TD pass with 11.8 ticks left, not only pushing MC’s lead to 27-17, but taking some wind out of the Eagles’ sails.

“You make a mistake (on the fumble), but you make up for that and make a play, and all of a sudden it’s 21-17,” Gingrich said. “We have a chance to go into halftime only down by four and then we give up that late score. That, to me, was more of a dagger than the 21. It was the 27.”

In the opening eight minutes, the big plays all belonged to Palm, running back Garrett Longenecker (7 carries, 102 yards), and the Eagles.

Longenecker’s 36-yard sprint around right end set up a 33-yard field goal by Danny Engle with 2:40 gone, and then after Cocalico’s defense forced a three-and-out, Palm (14-79 rushing) found daylight and went 65 yards to the house, giving the Eagles a quick 10-0 advantage with 4:22 to go in the first.

“I thought we played pretty good in the first quarter,” Gingrich said. “We came out with a lot of energy and executed well on both sides of the ball.”

Palm — who also finished 2-of-8 through the air for 118 yards and a TD — did nothing to hurt Hahn’s opinion of him.

“(Noah)’s a fantastic athlete,” the Barons’ skipper said. “He’s one of the better athletes in the league. And he’s a heck of a defensive player too.”

Flick proved that he’s a pretty good athlete in his own right, and his 11-yard run on third-and-short on the Barons’ next possession kept their drive alive. Later, he capped a nine-play, 66-yard march by scoring on a one-yard run with 16.2 seconds left in the first quarter, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 10-7.

A couple of minutes later, Palm’s punt pinned the Barons at their own 13.

But that’s where Simon (12-of-22, 156 yards) and Co. went to work. The Barons’ QB ran for 16 yards on third-and-4, then connected for 29 more through the air with Will Rivers, who made a nice diving catch on the right sideline.

“We just started executing,” Flick said. “I think we came out and we were a little hyped up and we just decided to settle down and execute.”

Eventually, Flick scored on a three-yard run off the right side, giving the Barons a 14-10 lead with 5:58 remaining in the half.

“When we can get our offense clicking and get our passing game going, we get energized and we know we’re going to start having fun,” Hahn said. “And that’s what we talk to the kids about is having fun out there. Don’t make it hard, don’t make it pain-staking. Take what they give you and have fun.”

The fun times continued after Chris Shaw recovered an Eagles’ fumbled punt return. Three plays later, Flick’s third TD run of the night — this one from two yards out — made it 21-10.

The fireworks weren’t done there.

With the Eagles needing a spark, they got one when Landers hauled in Palm’s aerial and outraced the Barons’ defenders to the end zone for a 72-yard scoring strike with 1:19 left in the half.

“Noah did some good things out there,” Gingrich said. “He makes our offense go, and when he’s clicking, he’s able to run and throw, and when we give him a little time to do either, he’s pretty special.”

That, however, set the stage for a key point in the game, as Simon got the ball back and completed five passes for 55 yards, including a short floater to Harbach to put the Barons up 27-17 at the break.

“(Cocalico) doesn’t usually turn the ball over much, so when they do that, you have to be opportunistic,” Hahn said. “So that was helpful. That, and getting that score before half after they scored was huge knowing we were going to get the ball (to start) the second half.”

The Barons did exactly that and immediately turned to their linemen to open up holes in the ground game. Flick carried the ball 10 times for 48 yards on a 12-play drive, which ended with Simon plowing across the goal line on a one-yard QB sneak, pushing Manheim Central’s lead to 34-17 with 7:04 left in the third quarter.

“They just really bullied us in the second half,” Gingrich said. “They’ve got a good line up front and they do a good job.”

“(The linemen) mean everything to me,” Flick said. “I like to pump them up and it’s fun running behind them. I embrace (the workhorse role) a lot.”

Meanwhile, junior Tyler Hartl recorded a team-high 11 tackles for a Baron defense which limited Cocalico to just 81 second-half yards.

“We weren’t really getting any kind of push in the second half like we did in the first half,” Gingrich said. “The first half, I thought we had pretty good push, but the second half, not much push at all.”

Late in the third quarter, Simon showed some shortstop skills while fielding a low snap, then took off for a 20-yard TD run, giving Manheim Central a commanding 41-17 lead with 1:26 left in the period.

The Eagles kept their hopes alive when Longenecker stepped in front of a pass from Simon and returned it 75 yards for a pick-six. The two-point try failed, but Cocalico cuts its deficit to 41-23 with 10:38 remaining in the ball game.

Just over four minutes later, Cocalico recovered a fumble, but turned it over on downs, and that all but sealed the outcome.

“We’ll continue to fight,” Gingrich said. “We’ve got really good kids and they won’t quit. We’ve just got to learn how to handle adversity quicker. We’ll handle it. It just takes us a little bit of time to get through it. You need to get over a play and move on to the next thing and that’s something we need to grow and learn to do, and right now, we’re just not doing that.”

As for Manheim Central, they will look to improve to 7-0 when they host L-S this Friday night.

“(The win over Cocalico) is really special, but it’s just another win and just another week,” Flick said. “We’ve got to keep on going.”


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