Eagles fend off L-S in rain
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich is never one to look ahead. However, after watching his team take care of business Friday night in monsoon-like conditions in Denver, knocking off Lampeter-Strasburg, 34-18, the path to the Section Two title is pretty clear.
The Eagles (5-0 Section Two, 7-1 overall) need wins over E-town (3-2, 3-5) at home this Friday and Ephrata (1-4, 1-7) next week to clinch the championship. Manheim Central (4-1) is one game behind while L-S (3-2, 4-4), CV (3-2, 3-5) and E-town all are two games back with two to play.
"I like the position we are in but we are still two games away from accomplishing one of our goals," Gingrich said following the win. "We’ll prepare this week for E-town, to get their best and they got a couple really nice players and a good coaching staff so I think they’ll give us a good, competitive game."
Friday night, Cocalico got exactly that from an L-S team that was poised to stay in the race. But thanks to several big plays by the Eagle defense, the Pioneers never could quite overtake Cocalico.
The Eagles got off to a fast 14-0 start, thanks to a blocked punt by Dalton Kern and a fumble recovery by Zach Rissler in the opening period. Spencer Moser (10-74) capped off both short drives with touchdown runs of 14 and seven yards, and Cocalico appeared to be in business.
However, L-S responded and narrowed the gap to just one by quarter’s end, thanks to an 85-yard touchdown run by Josh Kwalalon, who incidentally transferred to L-S from Cocalico a year ago.
The PAT was no good, but the Pioneers struck right back after a Cocalico turnover led to a 10-yard touchdown run by Ryan Lawler to cut the deficit to 14-13.
But Cocalico put together perhaps its most important drive of the game, marching 60 yards in 14 plays as the Eagles twice converted on third down runs. That set the stage for a one-yard TD run by Jhett Janis to make it 21-13.
"Offensively we were sporadic but the 14-play drive was big," Gingrich said. "We executed real well and made a couple third-down conversions. And to go up 21-13 late in the first half, that was pretty big."
L-S did cut the deficit to 21-16 at the half after another Eagle turnover led to a 37-yard field goal by Matt Wright in the final minute.
After a 70-minute rain delay at the half put a damper on Cocalico’s Homecoming festivities, play resumed and the Eagles notched the lone score of the third quarter.
Midway through the period, Cocalico freshman Tucker Lescoe picked off a pass and set up a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brock Gosling to tight end Casey Kerschner to make it 28-16 with one quarter to go.
In the fourth, L-S got to within 28-18 when a bad snap with the Eagles in punt formation resulted in a safety. However, after the Eagles’ ensuing free kick pinned L-S at its own 15-yard line, the Cocalico defense came up big to finally slam the door.
Rissler, who had two-and-a-half sacks on the night, got one, and then Kerschner and Zach Feltch combined for another on fourth down and the Eagles took over at the Pioneer four. One play later, fullback Nick Reitenbach (14-68) put the finishing touches on this one with a four-yard TD run.
"The (free kick) was huge," Gingrich said. "It went over the kid’s head… I think we stopped them at the 15, our defense played really strong and we took over at the four."
Case closed. More EAGLES, page B-3