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Mounts struggle out of the gates, drop opener to Exeter
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
There was a lot of excitement in Ephrata heading into the 2013 high school football season.
Although overall numbers hovered in the dangerously low 30s, the Mounts returned a slew of seniors starters on both sides of the ball, leading fans and followers to believe that this could finally be the season the program returns to respectability.
That still may be the case, but Ephrata has a lot to overcome judging from Friday night’s season-opening 34-7 loss at home to Exeter.
Exeter junior QB Chase Yocum rushed for 107 yards and two scores, passed for another 120 through the air to lead the visiting Eagles to the convincing win.
While the Ephrata defense couldn’t slow down Yocum and the Eagle attack, which rolled up 341 yards in total offense, the Mounts managed just 34 total yards and four first downs for the entire game.
It was a start to the season the Mounts hope to forget. But to make matters worse, Ephrata saw their second two-way starter in two weeks go down when Jeremy Kachel left the game in the first quarter with what appeared to be a serious shoulder. No word as of Tuesday how long he’ll be out.
But despite the extremely rough start for the Mounts, Head Coach Scott Shelley tried to put a positive spin on a difficult first night.
"These kids really tried hard," he said. "They didn’t give up and I’m proud of them. We just got to keep plugging away. We just got to do it for these guys. These kids deserve it. We just got to make sure that they understand that they did some good things. And if things would have turned one way or another, this whole game may have turned our way. And that’s what you got to build on with them. I think we can do that. I thought we had some great efforts tonight."
Ephrata had some tough luck, beginning in the first quarter when the Mounts defense forced a three-and-out with Exeter pinned deep in its own territory. The Mounts expected good field position, and would have gotten after a punt. however, Ephrata was whistled for too many men and Exeter had a chance to re-kick. This time, the punt pinned the Mounts all the way at their own 11, and that would lead to Exeter grabbing it’s first lead of the night.
After Ephrata couldn’t move the ball and was forced to punt from its five yard line, Exeter took over at the Mounts 34 and went right to work. Just three plays later, Yocum hit Robbie Devich for a 29-yard score.
Ephrata was fighting for field position all night long, although a fake punt executed to perfection on its next drive seemed like it would change the field, and possibly the momentum. With the Mounts backed up on their own 26, punter/quarterback Bobby Nye hit Josh Gehman in the left flat, and he raced 44 yards all the way to the Exeter 30. Unfortunately, a holding call nullified the big gain, and Ephrata was forced to punt from its own five-yard line.
Exeter took over at the Ephrata 32 following the kick, and it took the Eagles just five plays to get into the endzone. Yocum called his own number from five yards out and the Eagles had a 14-0 lead with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.
"If we get that (fake punt) and we keep the ball, the whole game may have changed," Shelley said. "What do we get? We get a holding call, and that’s lack of discipline to some degree."
To make matters worse, Kachel left the game about that point, and all of a sudden the numbers game is starting to catch up on the Mounts.
"It’s hard when you don’t have a lot of kids, and then what happens in the first quarter yet, another one of our really good players is gone. Now we are trying to do all kinds of juggling,..I mean we are playing kids in positions that haven’t really even played there. It’s tough. We are throwing them into the fire saying, ‘give it everything you got,’ and they are really trying their hardest. That’s all they can do."
Ephrata’s offense continued to struggle, and after its fifth three-and-out of the night, and another fake punt attempt that this time went incomplete, Exeter scored on its third-straight possession to take complete command.
Taking over at the Mounts’ 34, the Eagles’ Manny Soto went off left tackle for a 25-yard score to make it 21-0.
"I told the kids, ‘I gave them the third touchdown," Shelley said. "I faked the punt because we are trying to make something happen."
Ephrata fell behind further midway through the third when Yocum broke three tackles and scampered 21 yards to make it 27-0 with 1:56 to play in the third.
But the Mounts’ one highlight of the night would soon follow. On the ensuing kickoff, Koty Keefer hauled in the kick at his own 10 and broke down the right sidelines and into the clear for a 90-yard touchdown return.
That made it 27-7, and Ephrata did drive deep into Exeter territory on its next possession but gave the ball up on downs at the 37 after Nye’s fourth down pass fell incomplete.
Exeter then put it away with 4:16 to play when Matt Hampton broke off a 50-yard touchdown run to clinch the 34-7 Eagle triumph.
It was a similar first game of the season as to last year, when Ephrata got thumped at Exeter. The Mounts did recover and went on to play better the rest of the way and capture a pair of wins.
Can they get up off the canvas again? Shelley has no doubt.
"I think you’ll see that again," Shelley said. "I have all the faith in the world in these guys. I really do. I thought we played these guys pretty tough. They had some good athletes and they made some big plays…We haven’t gotten there yet, but we’re on the cusp of doing so real good things."
The Mounts hope to turn things around Friday night (7 p.m.) when they travel to Garden Spot.
More MOUNTS, page B-2