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Fast start fuels Warwick in win over Ephrata Warriors claim George Male Trophy for 8th straight year
BRUCE MORGAN Review Staff
, Staff Writer
Warwick’s Jake Shillady was dropping into contain on the first play of the game last Friday when his eyes lit up.
While going back to pass, Ephrata QB Gyree Durante had the ball knocked from his hands by Warwick defensive tackle Austin Maguire, leaving it free for Shillady to pounce on.
And when the senior defensive end returned the fumble 11 yards to the end zone with just 13 seconds elapsed in the game, the Warriors were off and running.
"Tommy Garner and I jammed the tight end and then we went into our reads," Shillady recalled. "I saw (Durante) go into his drop and put his arm up ready to throw and Maguire just took him out and I saw the ball rolling on the ground and I grabbed it and headed the other way."
That was the first of two defensive TD’s that Shillady scored against the Mountaineers, and the Warriors got scores from three different ball carriers and Anthony Fatjo on a kickoff return en route to a 49-14 win at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field in the annual battle for the George Male Trophy.
"(Jake) got us off to a good start and then we were able to move the ball offensively early on," Warwick coach Bob Locker said. "Their offensive line struggled with our defense and things snowballed a little bit on them. I don’t think we’re that much better than they are. If you coach long enough, it happens both ways. I mean, we had all the breaks go our way. They couldn’t catch a break. So I’m grateful for what we got tonight."
Actually, Ephrata (0-3) caught a bad break when two-way starter Bobby Nye was unable to go after sustaining an injury in a 27-7 loss to Garden Spot in week two. Nye joined other top players Blake Weaver and Jeremy Kachel on the disabled list, further depleting their experienced depth, but coach Scott Shelley was pleased with his players’ effort.
"The kids are trying as hard as they can," he said. "We have anywhere from five to seven kids who are first-year players. They haven’t played since Midget football who we’re throwing out on the field in varsity experience and to expect any more from them, it’s not fair. They can’t help that three of our best players are sitting on the sideline. They’re giving it all they can and they’re trying. But it’s just the way it is."
For Warwick (2-1), the win enabled them to take home the Male Trophy for the eighth straight year while improving its record to 40-38-6 in the all-time series, which dates back to 1930. Prior to the Warriors’ current streak, neither team had won more than four in a row, although Ephrata had seven-game unbeaten streaks from 1946-52 and again from 1990-96, including a tie.
"Before the game, Coach (Locker) was telling us how important it is to him and to our team, it’s one of the longest rivalries in the L-L League and this was the eighth year that Warwick’s won it," Shillady said. "So we really wanted to keep that streak going and extend the streak longer than it’s ever been before."
"George Male was my high school coach and he was a good mentor to me," Locker said. "He’s somebody that I’ve had respect for my whole life. So the Male Trophy means something to me. We talked about, ‘We want to take the trophy home. It’s ours, I want to take it back with us tonight and keep it.’ So it meant a lot. I thought the kids did a good job."
The goal for the Warriors was to play a complete game, and they certainly did that after Shillady’s early score gave them a 7-0 edge. Warwick added to its lead by scoring on three of its next four offensive possessions.
They covered 77 yards on seven plays midway through the first quarter, with QB Matt Pennypacker tossing a 33-yard TD strike to Austin Meyers in the right corner of the end zone with 6:57 left in the stanza. Kobi Biemesderfer, who was 7-for-7 in PAT’s, split the uprights for a 14-0 lead.
Pennypacker finished 14-of-18 for 172 yards, with one touchdown and one pick. For Meyers, his TD grab was one of a game-high six catches worth 78 yards.
"I would like to have thrown a little bit more tonight, but I think that would have been the wrong thing to do," Locker said. "I thought Matt threw the ball well at times. He might have stared a little bit on the pick (in the second quarter), we’ve got to watch film. Other than that, I thought he did a real good job tonight. The receivers did a good job – I thought our patterns were pretty crisp. That’s a good sign and this is two weeks in a row where we’ve done a better job running the football."
After Warwick got a short field on a failed fake punt by the Mounts, junior David Weaver (6-30 rushing) ran off left tackle for a five-yard TD run with 11:11 to go in the second quarter.
As a team, the Warriors ran for 115 yards and Tommy Garner’s 15-yard scamper around left end with 6:52 left in the half made it 28-0, which is how it remained at the break.
"We thought we had to stop (Warwick’s) running game, as far as their backs coming out of the backfield," Shelley said. "They showed that against CV. But then we also knew with our inexperienced secondary, they were going to throw at us and all we’re trying to tell the kids is, ‘Learn as you go. Keep everything in front of you and don’t get beat deep.’"
Overall, the Warriors outgained the Mounts 194-55 in yardage in the first half, and they had an 11-2 edge in first downs. Ephrata’s longest play in the opening half was a 22-yard run by Koty Keefer.
"(Ephrata running back Koty) Keefer was a really good athlete," Shillady said. "Our game plan was just try to keep him in contain and basically not let anybody that we didn’t know about just come out and surprise us. We just wanted to play our game."
That mindset continued to pay dividends in the third quarter, when Warwick received the kickoff and put together an 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive, capped by Gabe Taylor’s (10-27 rushing) four-yard run on a toss left to invoke the mercy rule.
Just over a minute later, with Ephrata on its own 10-yard line, a bad snap went over the head of Durante in shotgun formation, and Shillady jumped on the loose ball in the end zone to put Warwick up 42-0 with 5:51 remaining in the quarter.
"I thought I had the opportunity to dive underneath of (Durante) and get it," Shillady said, "and I just took it."
The Mounts finally had something positive go their way on its first possession in the fourth quarter. Durante scrambled away from pressure and raced down the right sideline for a 37-yard gain and five plays later, the Mounts’ sophomore QB connected with junior wideout Ethan Sipe for a 21-yard TD pass. Keagan Remp added the PAT to make it 42-7 with 7:34 remaining.
"I give them credit every day of the week," Shelley said of his players. "They don’t quit and that’s what is so neat about them. It’s not for a lack of effort or anything else. They’re playing to the end of the game, until the zeroes are up."
On the ensuing kickoff, Fatjo found a lane and raced 78 yards to paydirt to give the Warriors their final points of the game.
But Ephrata buckled its chinstraps and answered with one final drive. Freshman running back Randy Barrett ran three times for 14 yards to help set up Keefer’s 28-yard touchdown run on an option pitch left with 2:53 to go in the contest. Keefer finished with a game-high 119 yards rushing on 23 carries.
"(Koty) is fantastic," Shelley said. "He’s giving it everything he has, every play. He’s the epitome of what you hope that you have with a player. And that’s what we have with a lot of the other kids that basically don’t have the chance right now because they’re sitting on the sideline. This is something that got away from them and that’s just the way it is. But (Koty)’s been fantastic."
Both teams begin league play this Friday night, Ephrata traveling to Lebanon in its Section Two opener and Warwick heading to Cornwall to face Cedar Crest.
"I want them to be successful because I know how hard they worked in the off-season," Shelley said. "They lifted, they ran, they did everything we asked them to do and now I would just love for them to be able to taste some success, to understand that hard work leads to success. But when you have adversity that can’t do anything about, so be it. That’s what we try to talk to them about. Hey, I just hope they go the rest of their life with no adversity and they had it all during high school football."
More EPHRATA, page B-4