Bringing their ‘A’ game Cocalico cranks out impressive 43-8 win over Gettysburg
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
Since it’s Week Six lost to Manheim Central, Cocalico has been trying to regain the groove it had at the beginning of the year when the Eagles plowed through their first five opponents.
The Eagles certainly have played well in spurts since then, winning their final four regular season games, but they have sputtered at other times.
This past Friday in Denver, however, Cocalico finally put it all together for 48 minutes in the District Three AAA playoff opener vs. Gettysburg.
With their season potentially on the line, Cocalico was running on full cylinders. The third-seeded Eagles scored on five of their first six drives, jumping out to a commanding 36-0 half-time lead. Cocalico added one more score in the third period before handing it over to its reserves for the final quarter.
Gettysburg, the 14th seed, did get on the board in the final minute of play, but the Eagles walked away with a very impressive 43-8 victory.
"We’ve played good segments of games the last four or five weeks but tonight I thought we played a great game," Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich said of his club. "I was very pleased with our execution."
Spencer Moser led the Eagles offensively with 145 yards on the ground and one touchdown on just 13 carries. Moser said the fear of failure led he and his teammates to ramp up their games.
"(The playoffs) are win or go home," he said. "The coaches pretty much instilled that into us from the end of last week. If you don’t play well, your season’s over, and I think everybody just took that to heart and it showed tonight. We all played together, played hard and got the win."
With the victory, Cocalico (10-1) advances to Friday’s quarterfinal round (7 p.m.) where the Eagles will host Lancaster Catholic (6-5), a 49-21 winner over Lampeter-Strasburg in the first round. A year ago, the Crusaders earned a 20-7 victory over Cocalico in the quarterfinals, thus ending the Eagles’ season. Now, they’ll get a chance to return the favor on their home turf.
"Coach is definitely going to be reminding us about last year," Moser said. "I think we are all going to be ready. Catholic is a good team, and so are we. It would be great to win and get a little bit of revenge on them next week, but we’ll see how it goes."
Friday night, the Eagle defense, as well as some ill-fated punting by Gettysburg, had the Warriors hemmed in deep in their own territory for nearly the entire first quarter.
Gettysburg (6-5) punted from its own 28 after failing to move on its opening possession, and the Eagles got great opening position after a seven-yard kick gave them the ball at the Warrior 36. Five plays later, Matt Weinhold (cashed in on a seven-yard run off right tackle for the game’s first score.
The extra point try failed, but the Eagles would be back in business a few minutes later after another poor Gettysburg punt gave them the ball at the Warrior 32. Eagle quarterback Jhett Janis (11 carries, 59 yards) then needed just one play as he went around the left side for a 32-yard TD run to up the lead to 13-0.
Another duck of a punt that traveled 21 yards set up the Eagles next score as Brad Whittaker’s five-yard run capped a quick four-play, 33-yard drive as Cocalico made it 20-0 with three minutes left in the first.
"In a playoff game, field position is a big thing, and we had it the first three drives," Gingrich said. "I’d say that’s attributed to poor execution on (Gettysburg’s) part, but I think our defense played well and put us in good position.
"I thought we played a pretty good game tonight in all facets," he continued. "I thought we played great defense and I thought our offense was very efficient tonight. We didn’t have long drives…we had good field position most of the night, and I thought our special teams did a great job too."
Cocalico added a score early in the second to up its lead to 27-0. Moser’s 44-yard run put the Eagles in position before Weinhold finished it off with his second TD of the game on a one-yard run with 10:21 remaining in the half.
The Cocalico special teams, as well as its defense, continued to shine midway through the period when Moser hit a punt for 42 yards, which was downed inside the Gettysburg one-yard line. Two plays later, Moser tackled Warrior running back Lane Sherman in the endzone for a safety to make it 29-0.
Off the ensuing free kick, Cocalico hit paydirt again when Janis used play-action and hit a wide-open Casey Kerschner for 39 yards and the touchdown to up the lead to 36-0 heading to the half. Two personal foul calls and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, all on Gettysburg, set the Eagles up inside the Warrior 10-yard line on their first drive of the third quarter. Moser capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run to make it 43-0, and the Eagle starters called it a night.
Gettysburg did ruin Cocalico’s chance at a shutout late when quarterback Jesse Stouch (9-for-23, 137 yards) connected with Tyler Lampe on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds to play. Stouch then hit Sherman on a two-point pass for the final points on a night that clearly belonged to the Eagles.
"I’m just thankful we get another 48 minutes," Gingrich said when asked about advancing to the quarterfinals. "We got another week with these guys, another 48 minutes to be with our team. We have 23 seniors, and a lot of them have played a lot of football, and along with the other guys on our team, they are just fun to be around. They work hard and they want to have fun, but they know when to work. I’m just thankful to have another week with them.
More COCALICO, page B-4