Warwick tops Ephrata for Red Rose Midget A title

By on November 20, 2018

Ephrata’s Drew Hurst makes the grab in the end zone at Manheim Central High School in Manheim, PA on November 18, 2018.

Warwick avenged a regular season loss to Ephrata Sunday afternoon on Eldon Rettew Field at Manheim Central High School. With the 26-16 victory over the Mounts, the Warriors are the Red Rose Football League A Division Champions.

“There’s a lot of parody in this league,” explained Warwick head coach Dan Smith after the win. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. Fortunately, I would rather be on the losing end during the regular season than in the playoffs.”

That same scenario happened to the Warriors in the semifinals, besting undefeated Hempfield 22-14 after losing in the regular season.

“We scouted both teams well,” added Smith. “We knew their strengths and weaknesses and we took advantage of them.”

The same could be said for Ephrata, whose revenge tour in the playoffs included a 41-0 quarterfinal win over Willow Street and a 20-0 win over Conestoga Valley in the semifinals. The Mounts had lost to both during regular play.

“Given that we lost our first two games, we never really thought we’d be here,” said Ephrata head coach Rod Snyder. “But the kids responded throughout the season and continued to get better.”

Early in this game, Ephrata looked like the better team. Mounts’ running back Noah Keller ran for 30 yards on the first play of the game. Quarterback Elijah Knowles kept the ball twice for 11 yards in the second series for another first down. He again handed the ball to Keller for a 12-yard pickup for a first-and-goal.

But the Warwick defense stiffened, forcing a turnover on downs, following a Knowles QB draw on fourth down. After a three-and-out, the Warriors were forced to punt from their own end zone.

Starting at the Warwick 37, Coy Schwanger picked up eight yards on a misdirection play. After a running back slip lost one yard, the first quarter ended with no score.

The scoring drought would end in a big way in the dramatic second nine-minute period. On the first play of the period, Knowles was picked off by Warrior defensive back Brendon Snyder, who returned the interception 20 yards to the Warwick 47.

The very next play was a backward pass from Warrior quarterback Jack Reed that bounced on the turf. Knowles scooped up the loose ball, dashing 38 yards for the first score of the game. With Schwanger’s kick, the score was 8-0 Ephrata.

The Warriors struck back quickly, taking advantage of two big plays on the ensuing drive. The first was a 35-yard, fourth-down run on a counter to the left side of the line by running back Bishop Villarreal. Reed completed the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Christophel.

A pass attempt on the two-point conversion fell incomplete, maintaining the Ephrata lead at 8-6. For the moment.

After the kickoff, Knowles had a successful run to the Warwick 46. But three untimely penalties and a 15-yard sack of Knowles led to a fourth and 49 from their own five-yard line. Schwanger boomed a punt from his end zone which shifted the field position by 40 yards.

Reed scrambled for 16 yards, then 38 yards to the Ephrata six. Three plays later Villarreal burst through the line for the touchdown. When Reed passed to Cody Kirchner for the two-point conversion, the Warriors led 14-8 with 1:18 left in the half.

When Andre Weidman returned the kickoff all the way to the Warwick 23, the Mounts appeared poised to regain the lead. But the penalty bug struck again, pushing Ephrata back 25 yards. A pass over the middle by Knowles was picked off by Warwick’s Tanner Weik, who returned it 15 yards.

Reed quickly hit receiver Colin Winters for an 11-yard first down and a time out. Two plays later Villareal went untouched for a 48-yard touchdown on the last play of the half. Despite the unsuccessful point after, the Warriors led 20-8 at the break.

“The key was our offensive line,” explained Smith. “Plus both running backs ran the ball extremely well. They did not want to go down. And Jack Reed stood there with poise. He played a great game.”

When Schwanger blocked a Warwick punt midway through the third quarter, it looked like the tide could turn again. But after a single first down, the Mounts turned the ball over on downs at the Warwick 26.

Villarreal once again proved that speed kills, finding the right end for a 74-yard touchdown run. He was untouched into the end zone. The conversion attempt failed but the Warriors led 26-8.

“I told them at halftime, we were still in the ballgame,” explained Snyder. “We hadn’t played our best football yet. We needed to get a stop on defense, get the ball back and get a score to make it a game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

Ephrata scored a second touchdown with 4:26 left in the game when Knowles threaded the needle on a pass to Drew Hurst for a touchdown. Schwanger once again kicked for the extra points to make the final margin 26-16.

Warwick covered the attempted on-side kick, then converted three-straight first downs to run out the clock.

“Words can’t explain it,” gushed Smith when asked about the championship. “It’s a long journey to get here and I am so excited. Excited for the team, excited for the kids. It’s a great feeling.”

“They had a great game plan,” added Snyder. “All credit to Warwick.”

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