Eagles blank Mules, clinch share of Section Two title

By on November 9, 2016
Cocalico’s Ethan Steffey (6) wraps up Solanco QB Joel McGuire during Friday’s win in Quarryville. Photos by Scott Krall

Cocalico’s Ethan Steffey (6) wraps up Solanco QB Joel McGuire during Friday’s win in Quarryville. Photos by Scott Krall

Last November, Cocalico closed out the regular season with a 35-7 victory over Lancaster Catholic.

It was a good way to go out, but the damage at the beginning and middle of the season was already done as the Eagles finished 5-5 overall and missed the post-season for the first time in four years.

That finish left a bad taste in the mouths of the coaching staff, and the returning players, who vowed 2016 would be a different story.

Well, Friday night in Quarryville, the Eagles had a chance to write their happy ending, and could do so with a win over host Solanco in the regular season finale.

A win over the Mules and the Eagles not only would punch their ticket to the post-season but clinch a share of the Section Two title with Manheim Central.

Mission accomplished.

Sparked by a big first half in which the Eagles rushed for over 200 yards and built a 14-0 lead, Cocalico kept the Mules at bay in the second half and held on for the victory by that same score.

Brandon Brubaker and Colton Goodman each scored a touchdown in the first half and the Eagle defense did the rest, earning a shutout for the second-straight week to wrap up the section co-championship with the Barons.

“We are very proud of this accomplishment,” Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich said. “Going into this season, we all knew how competitive Section Two was going to be. It did not disappoint. Every week, you had to play at the top of your game to have a chance. Our kids prepared very well and competed week in and week out.”

Both the Eagles and Barons finished with identical 6-1 records in section play, although Cocalico did win the head-to-head battle in a 28-24 victory back on September 30. It is the first section title for Cocalico since 2012.

“For us, it started in November of last year after our last game,” Gingrich said of his team’s motivation this season. “The returning players and last years’ freshmen met and discussed the 2015 season and how we were disappointed in the outcome. No one was happy about 5-5…that day we made a commitment to one another to work harder so we would not be disappointed again in 2016.”

The win over Solanco also gave the Eagles the sixth seed in the upcoming District Three Class 6-A Playoffs, which begin this Friday. Cocalico will travel to York County to face third-seeded Northeastern at 7 p.m.

Back to this past Friday’s game where the Cocalico defense made a big early stand to swing the game in the Eagles’ favor.

After an Eagles’ drive sputtered, the Mules took over and drove 82 yards all the way to the Cocalico 13-yard line. From there, the Eagles stiffened and forced an incompletion on fourth-and-10 to get the ball back.

The Eagles then drove the length of the field before Brubaker (22 carries for 115 yards) got his team on the board with a four-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter. Ben Puodziunas added the extra point and Cocalico led 7-0.

The Cocalico defense came up with another stoppage deep in their territory on Solanco’s next possession, stuffing the Mules on a fourth-and-two run from the Eagles’ 12-yard line.

Goodman, who would wrack up 159 yards on 16 carries for the night, broke off a 61-yard touchdown run four plays later to double the Eagle lead to 14-0.

The Cocalico defense shut the door on the Mules (3-4, 4-6) in the second half, as neither team could find the endzone. In the end, while it gave up 213 yards on the ground to Solanco, Cocalico’s D clamped down and keyed the all-important win.

“Coach Laudenslager and his guys have done a wonderful job,” Gingrich said when asked about his defense. “I have been very happy with our defense all-year long. We have had some bumps along the way, giving up some big plays, alignment errors, and some communication issues…but they have battled all year. We do a good job of swarming to the football. They have improved and have done a super job of getting some timely turnovers.”

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