Statement win: Mounts gut out 27-20 comeback victory over Donegal

By on September 26, 2018
Ephrata’s Sammy Knowles celebrates his late touchdown which put his team up by seven points in Friday’s 27-20 victory over Donegal. Photo by Dwight Palm

Ephrata’s Sammy Knowles celebrates his late touchdown which put his team up by seven points in Friday’s 27-20 victory over Donegal. Photo by Dwight Palm

Richard Greer wants everyone to know the Mountaineers have changed.

Following their victory over Donegal Friday, he sprinted from one celebration to another and proclaimed loudly, “This is the new Ephrata!”

The sophomore running back and linebacker did not play the starring role in the Mountaineers’ 27-20 comeback win over Donegal. That role went to senior Caden Keefer, but Greer scored the winning touchdown with 3:01 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 17-play, seven-minute drive.

On the drive, Keefer completed a fourth-and-six pass to a diving Samuel Knowles for a 15-yard gain to the three yard line. On second-and-goal from the three, he gave the ball to Greer.

“I knew we needed a touchdown and that end zone was mine,” said Greer of the winning score. “I wasn’t going down. No one was taking me down before that end zone.”

The Mounts (2-1 Section Three, 2-3 overall) now led 21-20 and needed to protect their lead.

A long kick-off return and then a nine-yard run by halfback Jordan Minnick had the Indians near mid-field; however, Donegal fumbled the snap on their second play from scrimmage and Greer recovered the ball on the Donegal 40-yard line.

“We needed a stop and I saw the ball on the ground,” he recalled. “That was my ball.”

Following the recovery, Keefer found Knowles on another fourth down for a 38-yard TD with 1:56 left to play and soon afterwards, the celebration started.

Keefer finished with 108 rushing yards and 128 yards passing but seemed more impressed with Greer’s 39 yards.

“He is the hardest and angriest runner I’ve met for someone his age,” said Keefer. “I am just so proud of him and the way he played tonight.”

The game started in a way that could have crushed the “old” Ephrata. Both offenses started with long possessions that ended with failed fourth down conversions.

Donegal (3-1, 3-2) then opened their second possession with a 45-yard run by Zion Gibbs that Knowles just managed to save from being a touchdown. From there, the Indians nearly stalled their momentum by themselves. Running back Jordan Minnick lost a touchdown run because of a holding penalty. A five yard Gibbs run and an Dylan Martin incompletion left the Indians with fourth-and-13.

The Mounts jumped offside to make the next snap a fourth-and-eight from the 18. Martin dropped back and sent a screen pass to Dalton Mulhausen. Mulhausen reached the end zone to give Donegal a 7-0 lead.

Keefer’s pass on fourth-and-two from the Donegal 40 fell incomplete on the following series and the Indians needed only six plays to make the score 14-0 with 9:14 left in the half.

Down two scores, the Mounts began their first scoring drive. Two Keefer runs and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Donegal moved the ball into Indian territory. A high snap that nearly got over Keefer could have stalled the drive but he and Greer connected for a 29-yard gain on the next play.

Greer lined up to Keefer’s left as Brock Boyer went in motion. Faking the hand-off to Boyer, Keefer hit Greer in stride as he ran over the middle. Two attempted tackles failed to stop Greer until he was knocked out of bounds by a third defended at the 18. Three six-yard runs by Keefer and the Mountaineers had cut into the deficit.

“It was a counter play,” recalled Keefer. “I faked it to (Tucker Parmer) in jet motion and then went to the other side. My linemen made some good blocks and I (got) five yards from them. I had a guy (to beat) on the two-yard line. I knew I had to run through that. I put my head down and just got into the end zone.”

The extra point was blocked but Ephrata cut the lead to 14-6.

The Ephrata defense forced a three-and-out possession when Boyer sacked Martin for a six yard loss on third down. Initially, Boyer seemed to run past Martin but he had grabbed him and never let go before dragging him down.

With 2:42 left in the half, Ephrata used all of it to score its second TD. The drive started with an illegal procedure penalty and a three-yard loss on second down. But Keefer ran up the middle for 11 yards to set up fourth-and-five.

Coach Kris Miller decided to go with a fake punt.

“I talked to the coaches,” said Miller of the call. “Let’s go for the momentum. It worked out, luckily.”

Standing back in punt formation, Boyer took the snap and moved to his right. Castor Shuman ran a hook pattern to the first down marker, where Boyer’s pass reached him.

“No one covered me,” recalled Shuman. “Brock just threw it up. He didn’t see me. I didn’t think I had made (the first down) until I looked over to the sideline.”

Shuman later dove to make a four yard catch on second and 10. Ephrata converted another fourth down on the drive when Greer caught another pass over the middle and reached the two with seconds left in the half. Keefer was able to spike the ball with one second left. He then ran to the left to complete the scoring drive. Keefer followed the TD with a two point conversion to tie the score.

“We knew that scoring before the half and then getting the ball (after the half) was huge,” said Keefer. “We knew that we needed the momentum to carry us through the game.”

Neither offense maintained the momentum as they played to scoreless third; however, Donegal took the lead 33 seconds into the fourth when Gibbs broke through the middle of Ephrata’s line then towards the sidelines for a 61 yard touchdown. The start of the comeback began when Knowles blocked the extra point.

“I was close to the first two,” recalled Knowles. “We’ve been working on it in practice. I read my keys and it worked out.”

The block gave the Mounts a chance to take the lead with a touchdown. It was then that they started their long drive that resulted in Greer’s TD. They converted the extra point to take a one point lead at 21-20. Knowles then converted Keefer’s slant pass for the final margin of victory.

“The first time we ran that slant, the middle was wide open,” said Knowles. “We went back to it. The line did the hard part and Caden threw a good ball. I had the easy part. I just had to catch it. I was going to run and hope I didn’t get caught.”

Donegal’s Jared Collazo took the kick-off back to the Mounts’ 45 but the Indians never threatened from there. The D-line forced Trent Weaver into an intentional grounding on first down, resulting in a loss of yardage and the down. Two plays later, Kyle Cramer and Brandon Walton sacked Weaver and his fourth down pass fell incomplete.

“I am just so proud of the kids,” said Miller. “There were so many opportunities to quit. They got up on us early and held the momentum. Our kids didn’t quit and found a way to finish.”

Welcome to the new Ephrata.

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