Mules pull away late, hand Ephrata ninth loss of season
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
What seemed like Ephrata’s best remaining chance for a win came and went Friday night on a crisp autumn evening at War Memorial Field.
The Mounts hung with visiting Solanco for three-plus quarters. However, in the end, the Mules put together a big second half to capture an eventual 37-17 victory over Ephrata.
Running back Robbie Hassel, subbing for the injured Toby Kreider, rushed for 119 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries to key a Mule ground game that churned out 305 yards (40 carries).
His four-yard TD run late in the third period period increased the Mules’ lead to 23-10. Then after Ephrata’s Ethan Sipe coughed the ball up on the ensuing kickoff, Hassel’s one-yard TD gave his team an insurmountable three-score lead (30-10) with 11 minutes left.
Both teams traded scores late, but Solanco held on for its second-straight win to improve to 2-4 in Section Two play (2-7 overall).
Ephrata, which fell to 0-6 (0-9 overall) will now close out its season Friday night at Cocalico in the battle for the Ephrata Review Cup.
Following the loss, Mounts Coach Scott Shelley credited his team for giving its best effort despite still coming up short on the scoreboard.
"What more can you ask from anyone but to give it your all?," he said. "Life is not always fair. Sometimes thing happen that are out of your control and we find out the character of someone in dealing with adversity. These young men had a great deal adversity thrown at them this season. Did they quit? Not a chance. Did they complain? Not a chance. Did they give it everything they could even when things did not go their way? You bet they did. These players are the epitome of great character and they will all be winners in the biggest game they play – life."
With both defenses shining early on, it was the Mounts who actually drew first blood when quarterback Gyree Durante (8-17-1, 110 yards, 2 TDs) found a wide-open Bobby Nye down the right sidelines for a 33-yard score with 41 seconds left in the first quarter. Keagan Remp added the extra point and Ephrata held its first, first quarter lead of the year at 7-0.
But, it didn’t last long.
In fact, on its first play from scrimmage following the Ephrata score, Solanco hit paydirt when Kreider went straight up the gut untouched for a 67-yard touchdown run. to make matters worse for Ephrata, Noah McCardell hit Evan Hess for a two-point conversion following the touchdown and the Mules grabbed the lead at 8-7.
It remained a one-point Solanco advantage until late in the half when Hassel broke into the clear and raced for a 54-yard touchdown run with 1:23 remaining in the half. This time, Prosper Eguzouwa ran in a two-point conversion to up the Mules’ lead to nine at 16-7.
Asked if his team was deflated following Solanco’s first score, Shelley said he didn’t believe they were.
"I don’t believe it took any air out of them," Shelley said. "We played a real good first half with two plays that hurt us, but they were competing with everything they had. Even to the last they kept fighting and I told them that. I was extremely proud of them and the way they refused to stop fighting."
The Mounts did respond to drive deep into Solanco territory midway through the third quarter. That drive stalled but Remp split the uprights with a 37-yard field goal to close the gap to 16-10.
But the Mules’ ground attack began to chew up yardage at that point. Ephrata couldn’t get its defense off the field as Hassel ran for his two late scores to up the Mules’ lead to 30-10 early in the fourth.
Ephrata’s Josh Gehman did cut it to 30-17 when he made a nice diving catch in the endzone to complete a 17-yard hook-up with Durante. However, the Mules answered that score late as Roy Ingerson capped the scoring with a one-yard run with 1:35 to go.
Offensively, the Mounts’ Koty Keefer continued to be productive out of the backfield, lead the team with 110 yards on 22 carries.
"Again, they kept fighting and trying," Shelley said of his team. "It is only frustrating if you give in. As I told them after the game, from the bottom of my heart, I am so proud of them and the way they refused to quit or give in. We had some players out there that were hurting and would not give into the pain. What a role model they are for the younger players. They were the true essence of the Jimmy Valvano speech, ‘Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.’ Our (0-9 record) is not a measuring stick for the kind of people these players are and will be. These are young men everyone in this community should tip their hat to and celebrate."
Up next, Ephrata is a heavy underdog in its season finale at Cocalico. Shelley was asked his goals, besides winning, heading into Friday’s matchup, which kicks off at 7 p.m.
"I hope and want the players to have fun and give it their all," he said. "For many it will be their last game and I want them to enjoy every minute of it. They will battle to the end that I am sure. And they will give it their all and play with pride and passion. When you do that, you never know. But either way the outcome falls, I will be so very proud of them and know when they leave us, they will know what it takes to be successful."
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