Eagles face biggest test of season in Lancaster Catholic Lancaster Catholic (8-3) Cocalico (9-1)
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Cocalico impressively cruised through the opening round of the District Three AAA playoffs last week, shutting out West Perry by a 37-0 score.
However, things are about to get a whole lot tougher for the fifth-seeded Eagles this week as Cocalico heads to Rossmere Stadium in Lancaster to face defending State AA champion Lancaster Catholic.
The fourth-seeded Crusaders (8-3), who moved up to the AAA level this year, had an impressive debut a week ago, throttling Hershey, 32-14 in Round One.
As impressive as Cocalico was in Week 11, the Eagles will need to step it up a notch in Week 12 in order to knock off Catholic and move on to next week’s semifinals.
"We are excited about this opportunity to play the defending state champs," Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich said Tuesday. "They have such a great history and we are still trying to trying to expand on ours. This game will be a measuring stick with how much our team has grown in 2012."
If you want to stop the Crusaders, who moved up from Section Three to One this season, you have to find a way get a handle on senior running back Roman Clay, who last week rushed for a whopping 354 yards and four touchdowns to become the all-time leading rusher in the L-L League.
Clay now has 2,318 yards on the season and 5,717 for his career. In last Friday’s win, he surpassed former Ephrata AD and Lebanon Catholic star Tommy Long, who had 5,662 yards in his stellar career.
"Obviously you can’t talk about Lancaster Catholic without talking about Roman Clay," Gingrich said. "What an outstanding football player… you are talking about the best back, at least statistically-speaking, to ever come out of our league. It will be quite a test for our defense. As far as trying to contain him, that is no easy task. We will have to be disciplined and swarm the ball."
Cocalico’s defense has done just that recently and is playing arguably its best football of the year. Last week’s shutout was its fourth on the season and second consecutive as the Eagles are allowing just 219 total yards per contest.
In addition to Clay, the Crusaders have also had some success throwing the ball. Quarterback Evan Purvis has completed 86 of 154 attempts for 1,165 yards and 11 touchdowns. Sean Titus is his top receiver with 52 catches on the year for 827 yards and seven scores.
Like Cocalico, the Crusaders’ defense has been stellar in recent weeks, and it will have to be to stop a surging Eagle attack led by its two 1,000-yard rushers Nick Reitenbach and Spencer Moser, and its impressive offensive line.
Asked what the keys will be to move the ball against the stout Crusaders, Gingrich said, "Execution. They have a super defense as well and they are very aggressive. We will have to be patient and persistent. Our kids know our offense and we will just have to execute it very well."
Faced with their biggest test of the season, Gingrich said the keys to winning will remain as they always are.
"(It will come down to) tackling, creating some turnovers, and field position," he said. "That is usually the same in any game, especially in the playoffs."
Friday’s winner will advance to play the winner of Conrad Weiser and defending District Three champion Bishop McDevitt. Dallastown(W) 41-33
Governor Mifflin(W) 27-20
Erie McDowell(L) 49-20
Manheim Township(W) 28-14
Penn Manor(L) 28-14
Cedar Crest(W) 49-0
Hershey(W) 32-14 Daniel Boone(W) 40-7
Gov. Mifflin(L) 28-14
Conestoga Valley(W) 48-0
Manheim Central(W) 48-35
West Perry(W) 37-0 More CATHOLIC, page B-5