Eagles take bite out of Bulldogs

By on November 19, 2014

Cocalico has accumulated a lot of wins in its illustrious history as a District Three football power.

But according to Eagle Coach Dave Gingrich, Friday’s 28-18 victory over second-seeded West York, which vaulted Cocalico into the District semifinals, was as big as any.

“That was one of the best wins our school has ever had,” Gingrich said following the victory.

Judging by what was at stake, the level of the opponent and the injuries and everything else the Eagles have had to overcome, Gingrich may well have been right. Whatever the case, his Eagles now find themselves one win away from returning to the District Three AAA finals. The lone team standing in their way, Daniel Boone, punched its ticket to the semifinals with a 28-16 triumph over Milton Hershey. The two teams, who faced each other in Week One with the Eagles winning a 32-14 decision, will meet Friday in Denver, beginning at 7 p.m.

“(We beat) a fabulous team tonight,” Gingrich said of the win over West York. “I mean (they average) 500 yards of offense a game, 46 points a game…our defense just played outstanding. We bent a little bit but you are going to against a good team like that. But our kids just played with so much heart and determination, I couldn’t be more proud.”

Cocalico’s John Fry (54) and Jake Keifer (67) celebrate the Eagles’ 28-18 victory over West York. Abdul Saad (68) recovers a fumble in the Eagles’ 28-18 victory over West York Friday night. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Cocalico’s John Fry (54) and Jake Keifer (67) celebrate the Eagles’ 28-18 victory over West York.
Abdul Saad (68) recovers a fumble in the Eagles’ 28-18 victory over West York Friday night. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

“I said earlier and I don’t know if it’s true or not but this is one of the best wins in Cocalico history,” Gingrich reiterated. “I think it is for how good (West York) was and everything like that, but also how decimated we are. We are limping in and we are doing the best we can, but the kids don’t see it that way. They don’t see, ‘you don’t have your starting quarterback, you don’t have your starting fullback, your flanker and strong safety is out this week…’ they don’t see it that way. The next guy just steps up and does the job.”

And what does it mean to this team, a group that has stepped in for 22 graduated seniors from a year ago and has not skipped a beat?

“It feels like our hard work throughout all of the years is paying off,” Cocalico senior Devon Delpiano said.

Fellow senior Denny Boyer added, “It’s an awesome feeling right now. Just to get to spend another week and be together with our brothers is amazing.”

And Friday’s win was indeed a collective effort.

Offensively, behind a dominant line, back-up fullback Hunter High, a junior, stepped in for the injured Matt Weinhold and rushed for a career-high 184 yards and a pair of scores on 32 carries to pace the Cocalico ground attack.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles did give up some yardage (188 on the ground and 110 through the air) but were stingy when it counted. In fact, five times throughout the night Cocalico forced West York (10-2) to turn the ball over on downs in Eagle territory, including three times in the first half when the Bulldogs could have tied the game or gone in front.

“That’s a nice statistic to know,” Gingrich said. “I know we gave them the ball on a short field on a bad turnover but they didn’t get any points off of that. I thought offensively we did some good things too. Hunter High is filling in for Matt Weinhold, who went for 200 yards the last two games. He gets hurt, but Hunter High stepped in and played a great game, along with our offensive and defensive lines.”

The Cocalico defense was tested early, after an Eagle fumble gave the Bulldogs the ball at the 10 midway through the first quarter. But Cocalico held serve, stuffing a pair of runs before forcing two incomplete passes by QB Ross Campbell (7-24-0, 110) to end the threat.

The Eagles (9-3) then took over at their own 20 and promptly marched 80 yards in 11 plays for the game’s first points. High and backfield mate DJ Fabiani (10-51) each picked up significant yardage on the ground before Delpiano took a toss and raced around end 39 yards for an apparent score. That play was called back for an illegal block, but three plays later, High barreled in from two yards out. Matt McKinney’s extra point kick made it 7-0 Cocalico with 3:37 to play in the first.

West York’s next two possessions took the Bulldogs into Eagle territory but they again came up empty. On the first drive, Cocalico stuffed the Bulldogs on a fourth-and-one play at the 40 yard line

Then after a Cocalico fumble, West York marched to the Eagle three before Cocalico linebacker Jake Keifer brought down Bulldog running back Garrett Stauffer in the backfield on fourth-and-goal.

“I thought our defense just came up with a great gameplan, and I thought our kids executed,” Gingrich said. “Our kids came out believing it was going to be a great game. If you would have read all the press clippings and all that, (West York was) just going to walk all over us. But our kids didn’t buy into that. Our kids know what kind of team we have and they played inspired football.

Delpiano said the defense played with an attitude.

“Our mindset defensively is to be animals out there,” he said. “Hit everything you see, and that’s how we get stops on these teams that are expected to score 40 some points a game. We hold them to how many? It’s just a mindset. We come out, get it done, make big plays and just keep it up all game long.”

West York finally was able to cash in after forcing a three-and-out on the Eagles’ next possession. Taking over at the Cocalico 49, the Bulldogs needed just six plays before Campbell called his own number from five yards out with 4:44 to go in the half. Cocalico maintained the lead at 7-6 when the extra point attempt went wide left.

The Eagles then answered just before the half. An 18-yard pass play from quarterback Brady Sawyer (2-4-0, 64) to Delpiano, and a personal foul call on West York following the play got Cocalico to within striking distance. Four plays later, High went off left tackle for a 23-yard touchdown run to up the Eagle lead to 13-6 at the half.

After forcing a West York punt to start the second half, the Eagles increased the lead to 21-6 midway through the third. High broke of a 43-yard gallop to the West York 20. Four plays later, Fabiani took a pitch four yards around left end for the score.

Both teams then traded scores as West York’s Brett Kinneman ran it in from three yards out to cut the Cocalico lead to 21-12, only to see the Eagles answer with a 44-yard scoring pass from Sawyer to Delpiano to make it 28-12 with 1:09 to go in the third.

The Eagle defense stood tall in the fourth, twice holding off a surging West York offense on a pair of fourth downs deep in Cocalico territory. The Bulldogs finally were able to punch it in with 2:10 to play on a five-yard run by Campbell, who rushed for 133 yards on 21 carries, which cut the deficit to 10. However, the Eagles recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock with a pair of first downs in the final minute to clinch a spot in the final four.

“We just rose to the occasion and made the plays tonight,” Boyer said. They have a high-powered offense but we just stepped up and stopped them when we had to.”

Mission accomplished.

Gingrich was asked to comment on how this team keeps persevering, in spite of its mounting injuries.

“That’s assistant coaches,” he said. “Our assistant coaches do an outstanding job of getting all of our kids ready. You never know when someone is going to be hurt. The next man up and they’ve stepped up. That’s a tribute to our kids, the type of kids we have, and our coaches.”

Delpiano said it’s about this team, led by its seniors, making its own mark in Cocalico history.

“All we heard in the pre-season was, ‘you guys lost 22 seniors so what are you going to do without them?,’” he said. “’You are going to have a rebuilding season,’ but our seniors have worked too hard and put too many hours in and we are too good of a group to let that happen. We really buckled down and said, ‘this is our year, and we aren’t taking any games for granted and we’ll treat every play like it’s our last.’ That’s how we get it done.”

And they’ll try to get it done one more time Friday night against a Daniel Boone team they soundly defeated back in late August.

Gingrich warned that the early-season win shouldn’t have any bearing on the outcome this time around.

“That was back in Week One and it was hotter than blazes,” he said. “It was our first week and it was so many weeks ago….they are a much improved team. For where they’ve been to where they are right now they are in improved team. But I think our kids are looking forward to that. It’s great, we are going to play another home game, and any time you get a chance to play at home for a shot at going to Hershey, that’s real exciting.”

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