Eagles get another shot at Catholic
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
A year ago, Cocalico had its season ended at Rossmere Stadium in Lancaster as host Lancaster Catholic pulled out a 20-7 victory in the District Three AAA Quarterfinals.
Now, the Eagles not only will get a chance to return the favor, but they’ll be doing it on their own turf.
The third-seeded Eagles (10-1) earned their way into the second round with a very impressive 43-8 victory over Gettysburg this past Friday. The sixth-seeded Crusaders got past Lampeter-Strasburg, 49-21, to advance.
Now, with the two L-L powers set to lock horns again in two days, Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich was asked if revenge is on his team’s mind.
"Our kids are excited about the opportunity to play a great team at home in the playoffs," he said. "We get to spend another week together. We haven’t talked about revenge."
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Crusaders, who started the season at 0-3 before turning it around, winning six of their last eight games, including three in-a-row.
Catholic opened the year as one of the favorites to dethrone Wilson in Section One. With a massive offensive line that averages 6-4, 260 across the board, and with McCaskey transfer C.J. Gantz at quarterback, the Crusaders appeared to have re-loaded after seeing former star running back Roman Clay move on to Kent State.
However, the Crusaders took awhile to get going, but have finally come around since last year’s QB Evan Purvis has re-assumed the position in place of Gantz, who has since moved back to McCaskey.
Also, running back Trey Miller has revived the Crusaders’ rushing attack in recent weeks, and is coming off a whopping 305 yards and five touchdown performance in their win over L-S.
Gingrich certainly has taken notice of the progress Catholic has made.
"They are a much different team from the beginning of the season," he said. "They are big, strong, and physical, and they have one of the hottest running backs in District Three over the last three weeks."
For the year, Miller has rushed for 707 yards and 11 touchdowns on 85 carries, which averages out to 8.3 yards per touch. Nassir Weaver has had the bulk of the rushing for the year with 679 yards on 134 carries and nine scores.
Passing-wise, Purvis has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 1336 yards, completing 92 of his 149 attempts (almost 62 percent). His favorite target has been Rafael Mateo, who has 25 catches for 489 yards and eight scores. Also, 6-6, 235-pound Division One tight end Charles Scarff (46 catches for 516 yards and six scores) is a big load across the middle.
But the key to their success is upfront, according to Gingrich.
"They use their size upfront to create running lanes for Trey," Gingrich said. "He has had some big weeks recently and their line has a lot to do with that success. In addition, Evan Purvis has some nice weapons at his disposal (Mateo and Scarff) and has been very efficient in the passing game. With all the other big name QBs in the league, I feel Evan’s play has flown under the radar. But I see a kid who runs this offense very well."
Defensively, the Crusaders are led by linebacker Kurt Kessler.
"Upfront, they are big and tough," Gingrich said. "They are solid in the linebacking corps., as well as the secondary. Kessler is a ballhawk who always seems to be around the ball making big hits."
As for the Eagles, they are coming off one of their more efficient games of the season in Friday’s blow-out over Gettysburg. Cocalico has won five-straight games since its Week Six loss to Manheim Central.
The Eagles are led out of their veer-option offensive attack by senior quarterback Jhett Janis, who has rushed for 866 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing for an additional 589 yards and five scores.
Spencer Moser is the top Eagle rusher with 994 yards and 14 touchdowns on 111 attempts.
Defensively, Janis has eight interceptions to lead the team in that department while linebacker Dalton Kern has registered 106 tackles, with two sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Asked the keys to beating Lancaster Catholic Friday, Gingrich mentioned a few key things.
"Well, to beat a great team, you need to win the turnover battle, which we didn’t last season," he said. "You also need to execute in all facets of the game. Field position also plays a big part in the outcome. It should be an exciting 48 minutes of football."
Friday’s winner will advance to play the winner of the quarterfinal match-up between second-seeded Manheim Central (11-0) and Susquehanna Twp. (6-5) in the semifinals which are set for Friday, Nov. 22.
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