CV explodes early, spoils Miller’s Ephrata debut

By on September 7, 2016
First-year Ephrata Coach Kris Miller (left) gives instructions to his troops during a timeout in Friday’s season opener at Conestoga Valley.

First-year Ephrata Coach Kris Miller (left) gives instructions to his troops during a timeout in Friday’s season opener at Conestoga Valley.

Conestoga Valley graduate Kris Miller received a nice pre-game ovation Friday night by the CV faithful when he was introduced to the crowd as Ephrata’s new head coach.

But the Buckskins were anything but hospitable hosts once the game began as the Mounts were trying to end a 31-game losing skid.

Led by senior quarterback Grant Stoltzfus, who threw for four first-half touchdowns, the CV offense erupted for 47 points over the first 24 minutes to ruin Miller’s coaching debut at Ephrata with an eventual 54-7 Buckskin victory.

Stoltzfus, who eclipsed the 5,000-yard career mark at CV, completed six of his eight attempts on the night for 212 yards and the four scores that went for three, 47, 55 and 83 yards before taking a seat for the second half. Connor Brinton, who led the CV rushing attack with 99 yards on 12 carries, added a pair of touchdown runs as CV (1-0) broke it wide open early.

“I’m excited for the kids,” said CV Coach Gerad Novak, who was making his return to the sidelines in Witmer after coaching 15 years during his first stint. “The kids have been working really hard since I took over in February. They’ve bought into the ideas of what we are trying to do, from conditioning all the way through the offensive and defensive schemes we are doing. They came out and performed the way we had hoped they would perform in the first game, and I’m pleased. It’s exciting to be back here at CV and being in charge of what is a storied program and one with great tradition. I’m thankful that I have an opportunity to be a part of it again.”

On the other side of the field, Miller, who played his high school ball for Novak, credited the Buckskins for their win.

“They are a good team,” he said. “They are a well-coached team and when you go against a great quarterback, he’s going to make some throws. We gave him some time to make the throws, he completed them and got some touchdowns.”

CV recovered an onside kick to open the game at its own 47-yard line and drove 53 yards for the game’s first touchdown. Brinton capped the drive with a four-yard run off right tackle to give his team the 7-0 lead.

While the Mounts’ offense sputtered on its first two possessions, the Ephrata defense forced a three-and-out. But late in the period, CV took over at its own 44, and Stoltzfus took advantage of the Mounts’ press one-on-one coverage. He lofted a deep pass down the left sideline for wideout Jose Barbon, who hauled it in and took it to the house for a 56-yard touchdown play to increase the lead to 13-0.

CV would beat the one-on-one coverage on the first play of its next two possessions, and Stoltzfus made connections both times. First, he found Barbon on a 47-yard strike, and then he hooked up with Zach Mowrer on an 83-yard go route to the endzone to make it 26-0 early in the second.

“That’s kind of built into the offense,” Novak said when asked if they checked into those plays based on the coverage. “Any time we are going to get coverages like that we are going to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups. We have some very skilled kids…Jose Barbon is very good, Zach Mower and Tyre Stead…they are three real good receivers so he has three different choices that he can get the ball to. It makes it hard on the defense because you have to decide whether you are going to play coverage and try to take away the run or not take away the run and give it to us. Conner Brinton is a good running back. He kind of showed a little bit of what he can do when he gets the ball in his hands. We try to soften them up from the passing standpoint, get them back on their heels and then run the ball right at them.”

Brinton did just that on CV’s next possession, getting the call every play on a quick four-play, 58-yard drive. He capped it off with a 20-yard touchdown run with 8:27 left in the second to make it 33-0.

Ephrata, which had 17 yards in total offense to that point, finally found the end zone late in the period. and the Mounts used a big play to do it.

Following a timeout and facing a third-and-18 from their own 18, Mounts’ quarterback Brendan Holbritter (11-23-0, 144) rolled right and lofted a ball down the sidelines for wideout Tyler Mentzer. A CV defender undercut the throw but the ball deflected off his hands right to Mentzer, who hauled it in at midfield and waltzed the rest of the way for an 82-yard scoring strike.

“Right before we scored that touchdown, I called a time out and just told the offense to take a deep breath and relax,” Miller said. “We were just playing a little tight. And once we kind of relaxed…yeah it was a broken play touchdown but it was a touchdown. It got a little bit of excitement going.”

But the Buckskins answered back with two more scores to close the half leading 47-7.

In the second half, Ephrata put together two long drives but came up empty on each. CV then added the final score of the night with 1:04 to play when Tanner Schwilk scampered in from 18 yards out.

“The kids just need to hold their heads high and we’ll live to fight another day and move on,” Miller said following the loss. “I thought in the second half, the kids came out, didn’t quit and did some things well offensively and we took another step. It might have been a baby step, but we are going to keep going forward.”

“There were a couple times we were able to get some first downs and move the football. Our kickoff return team put our offense in good position every time so that’s certainly was one aspect I thought we did well. We got to look through the film and see what else we can build on and find what else is going to be able to work for us, and go from there.”

Ephrata, which was outgained 500-183 in total yards Friday, will look to rebound this Friday at home when the Mounts entertain Lebanon, beginning at 7 p.m.

 

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