Eagles roll past East Pennsboro

By on November 12, 2014

The Cocalico Eagles jumped into the District Three AAA Football Tournament Friday night with both feet Friday, blanking Mid-Penn Colonial Division Co-Champions East Pennsboro 35-0 in Denver.

Cocalico’s Stewart Martin (left) closes in on East Pennsboro quarterback Tyler Stahlman during Friday’s District game in Denver.

Cocalico’s Stewart Martin (left) closes in on East Pennsboro quarterback
Tyler Stahlman during Friday’s District game in Denver.

This was the third time the two had met in District play with the Eagles also coming out on top in the 1985 AA title game (31-27) and the 1995 AA semi-finals (33-17).

Eagle senior fullback Matt Weinhold put his teammates on his back from the start, carrying the ball on five consecutive plays, the last a 36-yard dash over right tackle that ended up in the end zone for 6-0 Cocalico lead.

The 63-yard drive set the tone for what would be 403 yards on the ground for the Eagles, 203 toted by Weinhold, which was the second-straight 200-yard game for the senior.

Despite all of the gaudy numbers, Weinhold pointed to the guys paving the way in front of him. “The line put me in really good situations, allowing me to make cuts off of it. That’s our style,” he said.

The Eagles earned the home game in Denver by going 7-3 in the regular season (5-2 and tied for second in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League) and capturing the seventh power ranking in the AAA Tourney. The East Pennsboro Panthers carried the 10 seed into the contest with an 8-2 record.

The challenge for Cocalico, in addition to the 38 degree game-time temperature and 20-30 mile per hour winds, was the balanced offensive attack, which provided the Panthers with a 35-point per game average coming into the contest.

The shut-down, turning point, play of the game came with 8:11 left in the first half and the Eagles clinging to a 7-0 lead. East Pennsboro rolled the dice, going for it on fourth-and-one from their own 45. From the snap, linebacker Jacob Keifer broke through the line, almost beating running back Bryton Fegley to the hand-off, dropping the Panther’s leading rusher for a four-yard loss.

Cocalico took over on downs, having knocked the wind out of the sails of the Panthers. Keifer talked about the preparation that the defensive unit put in.

“We were watching film all day,” he said. “The seniors didn’t want this to be our last game. We knew it was going to be that play or a toss.”

After taking over on the Pennsboro 41, the Eagles methodically worked their way down the field on three carries by Weinhold and two by fellow senior Devon Delpiano (43 yards rushing). With Cocalico breaking the huddle for third-and-goal from the two, Eagles’ head coach Dave Gingrich was frantically calling time out with 6:02 left in the half.

The move to regroup worked, as Weinhold bowled over the goal line to put the Eagles up 13-0. The point after, off the strong foot of junior Matt McKinney, put Cocalico up 14-0.

McKinney had barely missed a 29-yard field goal attempt with 3:20 to go in the first quarter. That kick had enough distance to clear the bar from 50 yards, but just missed to the left of the upright.

The Panthers started their last drive of the half at their own 25. Two consecutive false starts and it looked like East Pennsboro was self destructing, facing a first-and-20. But a 14-yard completion from quarterback Tyler Stahlman to Matt Dunkelberger and another of 11 yards to Robert Copp plus a defensive holding call found the Panthers inside Eagle territory for one of only two times that night at the 45.

The drive stalled, however, as the Cocalico defense stiffened, forcing an East Penn punt.

“Our defense played outstanding today,” said Gingrich. “They have an outstanding offense, and we didn’t give up a big play all night.”

The Eagles held East Penn to 128 total yards for the game, just more than half of their average of 247. Leading the way were defensive lineman Abdul Saad (14 tackles, 1 solo) and linebackers Justin Marderness (9,1) and Keifer (8,4).

The half-time statistics revealed that the Eagle offense wasn’t too bad either as Weinhold rushed for 131 yards on 18 carries and Delpiano and sophomore quarterback Brady Sawyer chipped in with an additional 72 yards on the ground.

If anything, Cocalico came out for the second half more inspired. McKinney’s kickoff skidded into the end zone for a touchback. The Panthers did manage one first down (the first of only three for the half) but were forced to punt from their own 25 following a sack, a false start and a defended pass attempt.

The Eagles took over after a 27-yard punt on the East Penn 48 with 8:52 left in the third quarter for a drive that would be the beginning of the end for the Panthers. Two quick openers by Weinhold resulted in a first down at the 35. Two carries each by Weinhold and Delpiano netted another first on the 24.

Then came Cocalico’s only completion of the game, a screen pass to the left side from Sawyer to Delpiano. The Eagles senior corralled the throw and dashed into the end zone. McKinney’s kick made it 21-0 and the rout was on.

East Pennsboro started their next possession at their own 23, having some success on pass plays of 19 yards to Copp and 14 yards to wingback Dakota Snedeker. However, the drive ran out of gas at the Cocalico 40 as the Eagles held again on downs.

That next drive lasted only two plays, as Weinhold broke through the line for a 52-yard score. The point after made it 28-0. That was the end of the night for Weinhold, whose stretching and limping raised some concern on the Cocalico sideline. After the game, the senior lessened those fears.

“It’s only a tight quad. Besides, we had to give Hunter (High) a chance,” he said.

High took over for Weinhold and the junior certainly took advantage of that chance, as the Eagles started the fourth quarter at the 50-yard line. High carried the ball five times for those 50 yards (83 for the game), the last of which was a 19 yarder for the touchdown which made the score 35-0 and invoked the Mercy Rule.

The remainder of the game flew by as the Panthers were forced to punt and Cocalico used up the remainder of the clock with a punishing ground game.

“We were prepared for a 48-minute game,” said Gingrich after the game. “They have some two-way players, and we do not have as many, so it was nice that we could lean on them as the game went on.”

Gingrich also commented on his quarterback, now starting for the third time, following the injury to junior Dante Haines.

“Brady made good decisions tonight,” he said. “If they are tackling him without the ball, that’s good for us. He has developed nicely, getting better every day. He is a smart player who gives us a great effort.”

Sawyer also gets extra help from Haines, who had season-ending surgery on his knee two weeks ago.

“It’s been heartbreaking, not to be out there, but I know Brady’s going to get the job done,” Haines said. “I tell him anything I can from the sidelines.”

The Eagles also dominated the stat sheet, racking up 18 first downs to 10 for the Panthers, out-rushing East Penn 403-50 while not requiring a single punt. Cocalico controlled the ball for 26 of the 48 minutes.

Another piece of good news for the Eagles was the return of leading runner D.J. Fabiani, who missed the last regular season game with a shoulder injury. Although restricted mostly to the defensive side of the ball Friday, Fabiani did have two carries for eight yards in the second half.

Up next for the Eagles is the number two-rated West York Bulldogs on the road in Friday’s District Three quarterfinal. Gingrich has a healthy respect for this week’s opponent.

“West York is well coached,” he said. “Their quarterback has thrown for over 1,000 yards and has run for over 1,000 as well. He’s the real deal. They’ll also be very physical. We’ll watch film and make adjustments.”

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