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Late miscues cost Mounts in finale
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
Turnovers have been their Achilles Heel all season long and Friday night in the season finale at home vs. McCaskey, they bit Ephrata again.
Coming off their first win of the season a week ago at Cedar Crest, the Mounts were poised to make it two in-a-row to end the season on an up note. But leading the Red Tornado 15-14 in the fourth quarter Friday, two critical mistakes down the stretch cost the Mounts a chance for the win.
A fumble on a bad pitch set McCaskey up at the Ephrata 31 with 5:32 left on the clock. One play later, quarterback Jonathan Huylo connected with talented receiver Diante Cherry on 31-yard TD pass to give the Red Tornado the lead.
Then, with the Mounts driving for the potential game-tying score, an Ephrata fumble at the Red Tornado 25-yard line ended the threat and ultimately the game as McCaskey held on for a 22-15 win.
"I think the turnovers at the end were the difference," Ephrata Coach Jim Vieland said following the loss. "You are driving with a chance to at least tie it up and we lose the ball there…but it doesn’t come down to one play. We just needed to obviously take care of the football."
Injuries also played a factor on this night, particularly when the Mounts lost senior running back Tim Murray to what appeared to be a head injury in the first half.
"That really hurt us," Vieland said. "That was big, and then we lost one of our tight ends down the stretch. Our lack of depth definitely hurt us."
Injuries aside, Ephrata (1-6 Section One, 1-9 overall) still managed to lead 9-6 at the half and looked well on its way to a victory. Even after the Red Tornado took the second-half kickoff and marched 56 yards in seven plays before 5-10, 282-pound lineman Gregg Jones punched it in from one-yard out to give McCaskey the lead. Huylo then connected with Cherry for the two-point conversion to make it 14-9.
But Ephrata responded with perhaps its best drive of the night to re-take the lead. Quarterback Jeremy Franck (10-13-0, 126) started the 13-play, 72-yard drive with an 11-yard pass to tight end Kevin Sollenberger (5 catches for 47 yards) and ended it the same way. Franck rolled right and hit Sollenberger in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 2:21 to go in the third and the Mounts were back on top at 15-14 heading to the fourth.
It appeared as though that would be enough as McCaskey fumbled on its next drive before Ephrata corner Evan Weaver picked off his second pass of the night with just 6:17 to go.
However, after a three-yard run by fullback Alex Pstrak (20-72) started Ephrata’s ensuing drive, a Franck pitch to Andrew Burkholder in the backfield wasn’t handled and McCaskey’s Avery Wilson pounced on the loose ball at the Mounts’ 31.
One play later, Huylo (11-20-2 188) hit Cherry (6-106) in the left corner of the endzone to put McCaskey (3-7) up to stay.
"McCaskey is a good team," Vieland said. "That was a squad that was picked to challenge Wilson. They had some injuries but they have some Division One talent in Cherry. That’s a good team."
The Mounts still had life and drove to the McCaskey 30-yard line with 1:36 to go. Three plays later, Franck hit Sollenberger, his favorite target on this night, and the big tight end appeared headed for a first down. However, in his fight for extra yardage, Sollenberger lost the ball and Marcel Hawkins fell on it at the 25 to clinch the win for the Red Tornado.
"In a win and loss sense, this has been a disappointing season," Vieland said. "They can’t be satisfied with being 1-9. But in the sense that we are trying to build young men and work hard and not quit, I think our guys will take away valuable lessons. I still think there is nobody who works harder in this school than our football players, and that’s going to take them far. I’m proud of the guys’ efforts. We never quit or gave up and I think that’s a valuable life lesson for these guys to take with them."
"These are nice kids and they work real hard," he continued. "I appreciate everything they did and I’m sure they are disappointed in the year but once again, wins and losses don’t make you a loser in life. That’s an act, it doesn’t define a person.
"The thing is, they had a chance to play 10 great games in Section One as a family, and the life lessons that football teaches I hope is what they take that away from this." More MOUNTS, page B-3