Eagles battle back to knock off Barons
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Faced with an early 14-0 deficit Friday in Manheim, Cocalico could have gone either way.
The Eagles could have settled and become the 489th victim in Manheim’s storied program history. Or, they could have clawed their way back to earn one of their biggest regular season wins under Head Coach Dave Gingrich.
Gingrich certainly thought he knew which way his team would go.
"To be honest, I didn’t think they’d quit. And they didn’t quit," Gingrich said after watching his team storm back for a 48-35 victory to remain perfect in Section Two play and avenge a heart-breaking 21-20 loss to the Barons a year ago.
Behind a determined rushing attack, three players went over 100 yards on the ground as Cocalico rolled up 444 yards in the come-from-behind victory. Nick Reitenbach went for 190 yards and a pair of scores on 14 carries to lead the attack. Spencer Moser added 101 yards and two scores on 16 carries while quarterback Brock Gosling did a masterful job running the Eagles’ veer attack. The senior signal caller ran for 149 yards and a score on 25 carries, and passed for another 105 yards and a touchdown, going 3-for-5 on the night.
"We never lost faith in ourselves," Gosling said of the early hole. "We knew we could come back because a lot can happen in 48 minutes. It’s been shown numerous times when we play Central that a lot can happen, so we just tried to keep our heads held high, and we pulled it off."
Eagle wideout Mitch Shober, who hauled in Gosling’s 46-yard touchdown pass, agreed.
"We never lost hope," he said. "We came out with big hearts the whole game and didn’t give up no matter what the score was. We just kept chugging away."
Manheim (2-1 section, 4-2 overall) appeared on the verge of a possible blowout early on as quarterback Colin Fry (18-26-0 308 yards) scored on a one-yard run on the Barons’ opening drive, and then hooked up with talented tight end Taylor Geib (8 catches for 192 yards) for a five-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles in the early hole.
But the Eagles (3-0, 5-1) finally got it going offensively on their ensuing drive as Moser capped a 10-play 72-yard drive when he took a pitch around right end for an 18-yard score to get his team on the board.
Then, after the Cocalico defense stiffened and forced a punt midway through the second, Reitenbach went around left end for a 26-yard touchdown run to draw his team even with 1:43 to go in the half.
"The game changed when we couldn’t tackle and we couldn’t do our assignments," Manheim Central Coach Mike Williams said. "We just stopped doing what you need to do to stop the veer, and then we didn’t really tackle anybody. We were grabbing shirts, grabbing around the head and we didn’t put any pads on them. We didn’t execute."
Gingrich said his team never lost belief that it could win, despite the early hole.
"They believed in one another and believed in what we do," Gingrich said of his team. "I think offensively, the drive after 14-0 was a big drive. Then we stopped them and took it down and scored again. That was big for us."
Moser said jitters played a role in his team’s bad start.
"That just wasn’t us," he said. "After that we just got the nerves out of us and we were just playing like we know how to play. Once we got the nerves out of us we were ready to go."
Cocalico took the second-half kickoff and marched 86 yards in 10 plays to grab the lead for good. Reitenbach had three runs of more than 10 yards on the drive, and Moser finished it off with a two-yard plunge. Then, after Manheim was forced to punt on its next possession, Gosling used a perfect play-action fake and hit Shober for his score to make it 28-14 with 1:40 to go in the third.
"At half-time, I was still thinking we are OK," Williams said. "We had to kickoff and we got good field position on the kickoff. We had to stop them but we didn’t stop them.
But the Barons did show some fight, and cut it to 28-21 early in the fourth when Fry capped a nine-play drive with a nine-yard touchdown run.
However, there would be no Manheim "magic" on this night as the Eagles then went to their own bag of tricks and opened up a two touchdown lead once again.
Gosling pitched to Jhett Janis, who then threw to a wide-open Casey Kerschner down the right sidelines for a 76-yard score which seemed to take some of the life out of the Barons.
Cocalico then added another score with 4:48 to play on Gosling’s 13-yard TD run to double up Manheim, 42-21.
The Barons did add a pair of touchdowns late, one coming on an eight-yard run by Ian Hanselman and the other on a four-yard TD pass from Fry to Andrew Seiverling. But Reitenbach added his second TD of the game between those two Manheim scores, and the Eagles held on for the huge victory.
"(Cocalico is) a relentless team and does as good a job as anybody with the option," Williams said. "We had a plan to be able to stop it, but we just didn’t do it."
Gingrich said his squad was determined to pull it off.
"They are a great group," he said. "I can honestly say there aren’t many times when you coach where your kids actually want to be more successful than you do. We as coaches want to be successful, but they want it more.
"What happened last year here…I knew we had some pretty determined kids who wanted to make up for last year. And this is pretty sweet."
Up next, Cocalico hits the road to face winless Lebanon Friday night while the Barons have another test in front of them as they battle host Lampeter-Strasburg. Both contests are set for 7 p.m.