Statement game Eagles rout Mifflin, 59-7 to remain perfect on year
JOHN CRAWFORD Review Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Strange things happen on Friday the 13th, but nobody saw this one coming.
Coach Dave Gingrich didn’t expect it. And prior to Cocalico’s game Friday against Governor Mifflin, Gingrich wondered how well his team would face adversity.
"This team is a little bigger, a little stronger (and) more physical than the teams we played the last two weeks," he said. "They’ve beaten us the last three times we played them. Physically, we haven’t matched up very well. We are looking at this as ‘are we there yet or not there yet?’"
Gingrich got his answer.
What happened was a 59-7 romp by Cocalico over a team that has tormented the Eagles over the last few years.
"I was surprised," said Gingrich afterwards. "I thought it would be a competitive game. I thought it would be a four quarter game. We haven’t had a four quarter game yet."
The first quarter seemed more in line with expectations but also showed omens of things to come. The Mustangs received the ball to open the game and the Eagles’ defense demonstrated the ability to play with a talented offense. GM started with three-straight run plays, two by their highly regarded quarterback Jan Johnson. Johnson averages 5.9 yards per rush but gained only four yards on these two carries. The snap on the ensuing punt went over Johnson’s head, who recovered but netted four yards on the kick.
Set up on the Mustang 38, runs by Spencer Moser and Brad Whittaker took Cocalico to a first and 10 on the 26. The drive nearly stalled until quarterback Jhett Janis connected with Moser for 13 yards on fourth down. Two plays later, Whittaker ran up the middle for a five yard touchdown.
A small run of adversity followed Cocalico’s first touchdown. First, Mifflin ran an eight-play drive of 2:58 that evened the score with 5:05 to go in the first period. Then, two plays after Mitchell Shober’s 23-yard end-around run set up Cocalico on the Mustang’s 31, Janis fumbled and the Mifflin’s defense recovered the ball.
Cocalico’s defense responded by immediately taking the ball back and putting the offense on Mifflin 40 yard line. Following an incomplete pass, Janis went 39 yards by weaving around several players and just missed stretching over the goal line pylon. He finished the drive by diving over the line one play later for the 14-7 lead.
The game’s two most crucial plays may have been consecutive plays early in the second period. Following a defensive stop by Cocalico, the first period ended on a nine-yard Janis-to-Whittaker completion to the Eagles’ 36 yard line. Two plays later, the ball remained on the 36, but Cocalico decided to gamble on fourth and one.
"I like going for it on fourth down," admitted Gingrich but this time, he needed to be convinced. "At that point in time, I didn’t think it was the right decision, so we were going to try to draw them offside. (Governor Mifflin) called time out. I went out and said ‘Hey, we could try to draw them offside again or punt.’ They said ‘let’s go for it.’ I called the play but we talked about it. I think Jhett said we could sneak it."
Janis did sneak the ball and covered the needed yard.
"Thank goodness I trusted them and they came through," said Gingrich.
The Eagles followed the conversion by striking 63 yards for a touchdown when Janis hit a wide open Mitch Deering down the middle of the field.
"(Deering) was my first progression so I put it out there for him," explained Janis. "I saw he was open and like I said, with my progression, if it’s there, I threw it up there. I was pretty confident about what I saw."
Deering did not initially share that confidence.
"I saw it in the air and I thought it was going a little bit past me," recalled Deering. "I started to turn on the burners and I don’t even remember catching it. I just remember seeing the back of the end zone."
He does recall seeing the possibility before the snap.
"Before the play started, I saw the safety roll down so I knew right where I was running."
With 9:38 left in the first half, Cocalico missed the extra point but led 20-7.
Another three-and-out forced by the defense set up the Cocalico offense on its own 38 yard line, and the Eagles started a drive that featured Moser running for 38 of the 62 yards covered in 11 plays. Moser (12-131) capped it off with a nine-yard touchdown run and an ensuing two-point conversion, and the Eagles finished the half with a 28-7 lead.
Janis, who had a monster night, finishing with 144 yards and three TDs on the ground and 90 yards and another score through the air, scored two touchdowns in the third quarter as the Eagles continued to pound the Mustangs. His first touchdown came 1:21 into the quarter when he took the ball up the middle of the line and went down the left sideline for a 67-yard run. The second covered only two yards but still counted for six points.
Daniel Graybill kicked a 30-yard field goal in between the Janis runs and he finished the night with six points.
Janis and most of the first team finished the night on the sidelines as the second team took the field. Sophomore running back Dominic Fabiani scored on a 16-yard run and junior Mitchell North finished the scoring with a 16-yard run.
Following the game, Gingrich summed up what he has learned about the 2013 Eagles so far.
"I know that they will rise to meet any challenge now," he said. "Whether we win or lose, I know every Friday night, we’ll get their best and they will play hard and they will play together. We didn’t know that going (into the season). Last year’s group was that way but year to year, the chemistry of the team changes. This group plays hard."
Up next, the Eagles (3-0) open Section Two play Friday night (7 p.m.) at Conestoga Valley.
More STATEMENT, page B-4