Cocalico reclaims the CupCapitalizes on six Ephrata turnovers in 28-15 win
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
Kyle Felpel admitted one of the best parts to Cocalico’s 28-15 win over Ephrata Monday night in Denver was his own personal redemption.
It has been a long year for the Eagle senior, who has been reminded time and time again about his fateful kick last season against Ephrata.
Felpel could have won the game for his team that night, but his field goal attempt on the final play of the game was blocked, and Ephrata preserved a stunning 21-20 win over the Eagles.
Monday, with the help of his teammates, he exorcised his demons.
"I heard about it all summer so there was definitely some motivation for me coming into this game," Felpel, who contributed three sacks from his defensive end position Monday, said following Cocalico’s win. "It’s my senior year and I really wanted to finish out on a good note because I’m going to hear about that blocked kick for the rest of my life…now, when people bring up that kick, I’ll always have a comeback."
Cocalico avenged its most stunning loss from a year ago and reclaimed The Ephrata Review Cup, thanks to an impressive ground attack and an opportunistic defense that produced six Mountaineer turnovers.
The Eagles rolled up 255 yards (190 of it in the first half) en route to their eighth win in the last 10 years against Ephrata in the storied back-yard rivalry. More importantly, the Eagles rebounded from a rough 49-21 season-opening loss to Schuylkill Valley, evening their record at 1-1.
"I thought for the most part we played pretty good football," Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich said afterward. "I don’t know how you (turn it around from last week). You don’t coach any different but they came out and did a great job. They executed and played hard. The thing I noticed between last week and this week is they played harder. And when you play harder, good things are going to happen to you. You are going to make mistakes and you can live with that, but you are going to cause some mistakes too."
The Eagles certainly did that to Ephrata, which put the ball on the ground seven total times, surrendering it six times, as the Mounts fell to 0-2.
"Some of it was (our own doing) but I also think Cocalico really hit us," Ephrata Coach Jim Vieland said. "You can say it was self inflicted but I also say credit Cocalico for hitting us so hard."
The Eagles’ defense forced Ephrata fumbles on the first two plays of the game, the second of which was recovered by Cocalico’s Mitch Shober near midfield. From there, Cocalico marched 58 yards in 12 plays (all on the ground) with fullback Nick Reitenbach (19 carries, 71 yards) capping the drive with a one-yard plunge.
Then after an Ephrata punt by Ryan Brubaker pinned the Eagles inside their own 10, Cocalico drove the field in just seven plays with running back Spencer Moser cashing in on a five-yard TD run with 2:07 to go in the first to make it 14-0. Quarterback Brock Gosling, who led Cocalico with 97 yards on 17 carries, set up the score with a 59-yard scamper.
"It definitely helped our confidence a lot knowing we could drive the ball," Gosling said. "I think it’s just a confidence builder that we can do long drives like that. Last week (vs. Schuylkill Valley) they were just rookie mistakes that we made. At least tonight we fixed them and hopefully we can keep up what we’re doing."
"Last week we really did nothing (offensively)," he continued. ‘We didn’t fire off the ball, we weren’t getting our initial push and without that our offense isn’t anything. I thought tonight our line was determined to make their blocks and stick to their blocks and that really opened up the running game."
Ephrata did respond after the Moser score, marching 65 yards in nine plays to produce it’s first score of the night and cut Cocalico’s lead in half. A 21-yard pass play to running back Tim Murray on the final play of the first quarter moved the ball to the Eagle 33. Four plays later, Franck (17-27-0, 224 yards) used play-action and found Murray all alone for an easy 21-yard score.
Murray, by the way, had a huge offensive night, catching six balls for 124 yards while also rushing for 52 yards on just six carries.
Ephrata seemed to gain momentum from that score, but again a turnover deep in its own territory put the Eagles in good shape. The Mounts’ defense forced its first three-and-out of the night and Ephrata looked to get the ball back one more time just before half. However, Andrew Burkholder muffed a Felpel punt and Cocalico’s Michael Bair was there to pounce on the loose football at the Ephrata 11-yard line.
Three plays later, Moser (11-54) scored his second TD of the evening on a two-yard run to make it a two-score game at 20-7 heading to the half as the Eagles’ defense held off a late Ephrata threat.
"I thought defensively we played a much better game (than last week)," Gingrich said. "They have some weapons offensively and I thought for the most part they had some plays here and there, but they earned those plays. I thought we really forced some good turnovers. I don’t know how many we got but if you win the turnover battle you are going to win most games."
Ephrata’s defense, meanwhile, did stiffen in the second half. But the damage was already done.
" I think it took us so long to figure out the speed of their option game," Vieland said of his team’s first half defensive struggles. "Once we did, we were fine, but it was too late. They had over 200 yards rushing in that first half, but give credit to their kids. They run that option so well and they hit it so fast, it literally took our guys a half of football to figure out the speed that they had to play at. Once they did I think they did relatively well. But turnovers get you every time."
Indeed. Ephrata’s first drive of the second half ended in another fumble as Eagle linebacker Jerrad Seifrit drilled Franck on a blitz and jarred the ball loose. Then, early in the fourth, Cocalico scored the game-clinching touchdown when the Eagles went 52 yards in seven plays as Dalton Kern (6-34) took it in from three yards out. Gosling added the two-point conversion on a nifty run to make it 28-7 with 9:48 to go.
The Mounts did eventually get one more score in the waning seconds of the game as Burkholder hauled in a three-yard TD pass from Franck with just 10 ticks left. Murray’s two-point run closed out the scoring.
"Once again I credit Coach Gingrich and those kids," Vieland said. "They were ready to play football. They didn’t do anything different. We knew what they were going to run. They just run it so darn well…it’s hard to emulate practice the way they run that and it’s really a credit to them."
The Ephrata loss, especially with all the turnovers, took away much of the positive vibes that were flowing following last week’s 20-12 loss to a solid Exeter team. Ephrata now faces a dangerous Conestoga Valley team Friday night in its final tune-up before Section One play begins.
"I told the guys they have nowhere to go but to get better," Vieland said. "That’s been our message since I’ve been here. There are only two places you can go from here…it’s either up or down, and the decision is on them. I place a lot of the blame on (the staff) for not working on ball security the way we should have. We got to cover up the football, and that’s a coaching point."
While Ephrata must re-group, Cocalico can now put last’ year’s loss to the Mounts in the rearview mirror and head into Friday’s game at Berks County heavyweight Governor Mifflin with new-found confidence.
"Last year’s (Ephrata) game was a bummer," Gosling said. "That was the low point of our season. This year, after losing last week, I feel it’s good starting point and we are just going to keep building on that. We have to make sure it doesn’t go to our heads. If we keep our heads straight we should be fine all season." More CUP, page B-5