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Late Mounts’ rally falls short against Township
By: JOHN CRAWFORD Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
Ephrata came within an eyelash of capturing its first win of the season Friday night in the Section One opener at Manheim Township.
Trailing 28-14, the Mounts responded with 14-unanswered points in the fourth quarter to tie the Streaks with just four minutes and change to go. Unfortunately, Scott Sallade’s 34-yard run with 1:35 to play ruined Ephrata’s chances and clinched a 35-28 Blue Streak win.
"(The comeback) shows me they have a lot of heart," said Ephrata Coach Jim Vieland. "The challenge was there to play 48 minutes of football knowing (that) against Township, we’re the underdog. No one gave us a chance and we had a chance to knock them off tonight. I told the guys, ‘I’m not proud of losing but I’m proud of the effort and I am proud of them.’"
"I told the kids that tonight was all about respect and we weren’t really getting it and I think Township, we earned their respect tonight," added Vieland.
Quarterback Jeremy Franck factored in all four touchdowns with two rushing and two passing. He finished the game with 11 completions on 16 attempts for 145 yards. Alex Pstrak led the Mounts with 103 rushing yards. Andrew Burkholder scored 10 points on a touchdown reception and four extra points.
The game opened in a steady rain and a steady rushing attack by the Mounts as they took the ball from the opening kickoff and went 90 yards on 13 plays. Only two plays were passes and both were completions to Timmy Murray for 15 and 16 yards respectively. The second catch was a crucial fourth-down conversion to set up first-and-goal on the Township eight-yard line. Two plays later, Franck scored his first rushing TD with 5:51 left in the first quarter.
Manheim Township wasted no time coming back in its opening drive and scored just 2:29 after the Mounts on a Scott Sallade run.
Ephrata started their next drive with better field position when Murray took the ensuing kickoff about 36 yards to set up the offensive on their 43 yard line. With another sustained drive, Ephrata added seven points on Franck’s second rushing touchdown to take a short-lived 14-7 lead. Matt Sallade’s eight-yard TD run evened the score at 14-14 with 7:47 left in the half.
Penalties as much as each team’s defensive play helped to keep the score tied entering half-time; however, after the break, scoring made a sudden and dramatic return.
Township opened the second half receiving the ball and Dillon O’Dell took the first play from scrimmage 64 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead.
"We weren’t really able to stop their off tackle play," lamented Vieland. "For weeks, we haven’t been able to do that. They hit a big off-tackle play and took 60-some yards on us and we just need to do a better job flowing over the top and filling our gaps."
O’Dell capped the Streaks’ next scoring drive with an 11-yard run to extend the lead to 28-14 with 34.6 seconds left in the third.
The sparse crowd that had endured the night’s finicky weather was treated to a display of determination from both teams in the fourth quarter. The Mounts put on the first display when Pstrak’s 39-yard run set the team on the Township 10-yard line. Three plays later, Burkholder came back on Franck’s pass to pull the Mounts to 28-21.
"We had a wheel route called so the side receiver Tucker was going to run a slant behind the safety," recalled Franck. "The guy on Burky was a little late getting over so we took advantage. I give the guys up front credit. They held their ground all night and got a good push on running the ball, too."
Manheim Township penalties again helped the Mounts’ defense force a punt and Ephrata began to drive from their own 29-yard line with mixture of runs and passes. Murray, coming back again around a Streak defender, caught a 29-yard completion. This followed a similar but shorter completion to Burkholder.
"We work on that during the week," explained Franck. "It really depends on what they give us. They were pretty tight on each guy so they didn’t give us much room to throw it over top so I just threw it a little bit behind them and let Tucker and Burky both make plays. Good players make great plays."
Murray’s completion was followed by disaster and a quick recovery as Township forced a fumble on the next play; however, the Mounts regained the ball on the next play as the Streaks fumbled the ball right back. With 5:29 left in the fourth, Ephrata was on Township’s 20-yard line. Two plays later, Tucker Keefer tied the game by corralling Franck’s pass in the right corner of the end zone with a Township defender draped on him hard enough to draw an interference penalty.
"It was a straight fade," recalled Keefer. "The kid was up on me since I released on him and, as I beat him on the outside, he grabbed on my arm. The ball just fell in and I made the play. I had to make a little bit of an adjustment going inside but that was pretty much a good throw by our quarterback."
With 4:04 left in the final quarter, the Mounts had come back to tie the score at 28-28.
The Blue Streaks proved they had some fight left when they proceeded to take back the lead with 1:45 left on a Scott Sallade 34 run with 1:45 to go. Their win was not secured until Tyler Karpinski intercepted Franck’s pass down the sideline with 1:16 left.
Vieland saw a lot of positives for the Mounts despite the loss.
"I like the way we were balanced on offense. We needed to throw the ball and I think the key for us (was) when we needed to throw the ball (and) everyone knew we were throwing the ball, we still completed passes and that was big for us. I think the difference in today’s game was we were facing a lot of second and fives and third and shorts, compared to the past where we were second and long, third and long."
Likewise, Franck felt the Mounts made progress on Friday.
"Coming into this game, we thought that we didn’t have much respect and respect isn’t given until you earn it. We were down two scores and we came back. We put ourselves into a position to win this game. This may very well be the best or second best team in Section One and we proved we could play with anybody tonight."
"There are no moral victories but we can keep our heads high after this one." More MOUNTS, page B-6