Indians cruise past Ephrata in season finale

By on November 11, 2015

 

Ephrata’s Hunter Lehman (50) returns a kick during Friday’s loss at home to Donegal. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata’s Hunter Lehman (50) returns a kick during Friday’s loss at home to Donegal. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

If Ephrata is going to break its long losing streak, which is now three years strong, it will have to be next season or beyond.

Friday night at home in the season finale vs. Donegal, the Mounts simply couldn’t stop the Indians’ attack as they rolled up 499 yards in offense, including 451 on the ground, as Donegal rolled to a 61-25 victory.

Tanner Shirk led the way for the Indians (4-2 Section Three, 6-4 overall), rushing 208 yards and four touchdowns. He added an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as once again the Ephrata tackling was an issue.

“Defensively you have to be able to react and read without saying, ‘here’s where you go, here’s where you go…’ That has been a problem for us all year,” Ephrata Coach Scott Shelley said.

While the Ephrata defense struggled, the Mounts did produce their biggest offensive production of the season. The Mounts rushed for 250 yards in the game, led by senior Jerrad Malmer, who ran for 152 yards on 16 carries splitting time between quarterback and running back.

But it wasn’t nearly enough to avoid another loss, which put them at 0-6 in Section Three play and 0-10 overall. With the loss, Ephrata tied the school record for consecutive losses with 31, which was set in the early 70s.

Despite not getting a win, Shelley praised his team’s effort throughout the year following their latest loss.

“Listen, our kids have competed to the very end in every game,” he said. “I’m as proud of them as possible. Nowhere that I’ve ever heard, on a college application, on a job application, do they ask you, ‘what was your record as a high school football player?’ These guys have character, they have integrity and they showed that with their fighting spirit.”

“Let’s face it, they were 0-9 going into the game, and they could have just said, ‘the heck with it,’ but they played it for all it was worth the whole time, and that is a credit to them. They’ll be fine when the time comes, when they get out in the real world. They might have had some adversity now, but they know what it’s like to fight through, and they will do that. I’m extremely proud of them for that. They never blinked. They never did anything except play hard, and that’s all you can ask.”

Friday night, Donegal put Ephrata in a big hole early, scoring on its first six possessions.

The Indians led 14-0 after one period as Shirk scored from 15 yards out before Tyler Amspacher broke a 51-yard touchdown run off right tackle.

After Shirk added his second score of the night on a one-yard run early in the second, Ephrata finally got on the board when senior Charlie Warden swept around the left side and sprinted down the left sideline for a 79-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked and the Mounts trailed 21-6.

Donegal quickly gained back its three-score advantage on the ensuing kickoff when Shirk broke free on his long 85-yard return, but Ephrata would go on to add two more scores in the half.

First, after recovering a fumble at the Indian 34-yard line, Malmer took it in from 10 yards out four plays later to make it 28-12. Then after Donegal QB Derek Mohr hit Amspacher on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 3:33 to play, Ephrata fullback Evan Frees ran it in from 13 yards out after Malmer set them up with a 38-yard run.

Shirk added a 48-yard score just before the half to make it 41-18, and Donegal then made it 48-18 in the third with a 72-yard scamper by Shirk.

The Indians would go on to score twice more in the fourth to make it 61-18, before Ephrata struck for what turned out to be its final score of the season.

With one minute to go, QB Brendan Holbritter hit wide out Alex Rummel in stride, and the senior took it 71 yards to close things out on a positive note.

“What I’m proud of is how we actually improved,” Shelley said. “This senior class, they’ve improved every year. You got to realize, in their sophomore year, they didn’t get a chance to play JV football (because of a lack of players), so for them to improve the way they did is a credit to them. They put the hard work in. Now the problem we had was strength. Strength is still an issue, and that has got to be addressed.”

Shelley strongly believes, in order to compete, Ephrata needs a bigger and better weight room than the antiquated current room located at the high school.

“I didn’t think Donegal was any bigger than we were, but they were still blowing us off the line,” he said. “It comes down to strength, and I’m not afraid to say it. I talked to (former Manheim Central Head Coach Mike) Williams for an hour and a half on Sunday and the main thing he said to me was, “if you don’t have a weight room, you might as well not have football. That’s what we need. We need a weight room. I’m not saying anything other than give me a space and I’ll find the money to do it. But find me a space somewhere, somehow, so we can get in a top of the line weight room and start getting bigger, faster and stronger.”

He was asked what his message would be heading into an off-season that will be one of transition as Ephrata moves back to Section Two next year.

“First we have to find out if they are going to give me the opportunity to continue (as coach),” he said. “But let’s face it, we started a flag football program. We took over the midget program and look what they’ve done…three teams were in the playoffs. They are all doing very well. Everyone said we couldn’t get an A team together, and we had an A team this year. Now it was not a great amount of kids but we got it going and now next year they should have more kids. We got the Gridiron Club going…these are all things I put down in my five-year plan. And now it’s a matter of getting those kids to work their way up. I hired Jeff Werner to come on as the junior high coach, and everybody loves Jeff and he does a great job. He did it back at Cocalico as well as an assistant. We bring him in. What happens? We are very successful there. The thing people have to realize is junior high is a level playing field. You don’t have to worry about a ninth grader playing against a senior. It’s more of a level playing field, so what happens when you get up to the varsity level becomes the issue.”

“My main goal going in is going to be we need a weight room,” he continued. “And the kids need to get in there and do it. I think, little by little, they are starting to understand they have to get in that weight room and pound weights. We are just not strong enough. Look at all the tackles that are broken. It’s strength.”

“It does take time and effort, and I’m willing to put the effort in. I said, I’m never going to be Mike Williams as far as wins and losses are concerned. I think I was brought here for one reason, and that was to turn this program around. Do I want the kids to win? You bet I do. I want them to win more than anything else. I’ve won championships at Cocalico. I know what it’s like. But I want to get this program to their level and to Central’s level. I want the kids to win games, but the only way that’s going to happen is for everybody to push in the same direction. And until that happens, the naysayers blaming everybody does nothing for anybody. We need to all start pushing the rock up the hill together..and that’s what my goal is. I just hope I get that opportunity to see it through.”

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