End of the Road: Eagles’ run snapped by MC in District semi-finals

By on November 22, 2016
Cocalico’s Noah Palm (10) tries to corral Manheim Central running back Jay Barreto as he heads around left end.

Cocalico’s Noah Palm (10) tries to corral Manheim Central running back Jay Barreto as he heads around left end.

As one of Manheim Central’s defensive QBs, senior linebacker Nick Brown just smiles at the mention of his offensive counterpart Kody Kegarise.

“I’m primarily defense, and just being able to watch him make plays,” Brown said, “it gives us confidence knowing that if we make a mistake, our offense is there for us.”

Last Friday, the Barons’ defense didn’t make a lot of mistakes, limiting Cocalico star running back Brandon Brubaker to 49 rushing yards and one TD, and Kegarise brought his normal standout dual-threat play, accounting for 405 yards of offense and four TDs, as Manheim Central knocked off Cocalico 50-13 in the District Three 5A semi-finals at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Field.

With the victory, No. 2-seeded MC (11-1) not only avenged an earlier 28-24 loss to the Eagles (8-4), but also punched its ticket to the District Three championship game this Friday at Hersheypark Stadium at 7 p.m. vs. No. 5-seeded Harrisburg (9-3), a 46-21 winner over Governor Mifflin (10-2).

It’s their first trip to the finals since suffering a 48-7 loss to Bishop McDevitt in 2013.

“It feels good,” said Kegarise who rushed for a game-high 228 yards and three TDs, while completing 14-of-19 passes for 177 yards and a score. “We haven’t been there in (three) years and we just said we’re going home.”

“We’ve been dreaming about this ever since we were little kids coming to games,” Brown said, “so we’re glad to finally be there.”

For Cocalico, the loss ended a remarkable run, in which the Eagles recovered from an 0-2 start to the season and won eight of their final 10 games while earning a share of the Section Two championship with Manheim Central.

Eagles’ Brandon Brubaker (25) congratulates the Barons after the 50-13 MC victory. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

Eagles’ Brandon Brubaker (25) congratulates the Barons after the 50-13 MC victory. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

“I’m proud of the team,” Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich said. “Unless you are a State champion or you don’t make the playoffs, you are going to lose your last game. And nobody likes to lose their last game, nobody likes to lose it to your rival, nobody likes to get beat the way you did. But they can’t take away the Section championship, they can’t take away the fact that you won a game in Districts, and we are playing in the district semifinal game. None of those things can be erased. We didn’t play our best tonight … Manheim played a great game. They were more physical than us the entire game — offensively, defensively and special teams.”

The Eagles were, however at their best back on Sept. 30, when Brubaker rushed for 190 yards to help knock MC from the unbeaten ranks.

In the rematch, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound back obviously had the attention of the Barons’ defense, whose smothering style of play held Brubaker and the Eagles’ offense to just one first down on their first three possessions.

Brown said the Barons just made some tweaks in terms of their defensive alignment.

“I just think we had more will for this game,” Brown said. “We really wanted to win and show them that we shouldn’t have dropped one earlier in the season.”

“I don’t know if Brubaker had a carry over five yards tonight,” Manheim Central coach Dave Hahn said. “He’s a tough kid, but we pounded on him tonight a little bit, but we needed to because we needed to stop him. He gets their offense going. You’ve got everybody else that they use out of the backfield, but he gets them going.”

Kegarise didn’t waste any time getting the Barons going, showing his quickness and elusiveness while darting down the left sideline for 50 yards on the second play from scrimmage to give MC a first-and-goal from the Eagles’ 8.

“I just remember staying inside, getting a pretty big hole, then I cut off a good receiver block and just beat it down the sideline for some extra yards,” Kegarise recalled.

“He’s a great player, a wonderful player,” Gingrich said. “He did it with his arm, did it with his legs … I mean, he’s just phenomenal. We’ve been playing these guys for a long time and that’s one of the best quarterbacks that I’ve seen them have. He’s that good.”

Two plays later, Kegarise’s one-yard TD run with 2:15 elapsed, coupled with Bryce Kready’s PAT, gave the Barons a quick 7-0 lead.

It was the first of seven straight possessions on which MC scored, extending their streak to 15 including their win over Cedar Cliff.

Following a three-and-out, Central got it back at its own 44 and Tyler Flick’s one-yard TD run with 5:48 left capped a six-play, 56-yard drive and extended the advantage to 14-0.

“It would deflate anybody, especially since we are an option-based team,” Gingrich said of the Barons’ start. “If we get behind by two, three or four scores, it’s hard to come back doing the things that we do. We did try to throw the ball at times, but … you are asking kids to do things they haven’t done all year, and that’s not fair to them. We battled, we did some things offensively and made some plays, but they were just that much better than us tonight.”

Field position again factored into MC’s next drive. Taking over at their own 41, the Barons needed five plays to score on an eight-yard carry by Kegarise, who ran right, then cut upfield into the end zone with 1:19 remaining in the first quarter, making it 21-0.

“Field position definitely hurt,” Gingrich said. “We just didn’t execute things. There wasn’t an area where we were better than them tonight. They out-coached us, they out-hit us, they just out-executed us all the way around. The better team definitely won tonight.”

Sophomore running back Tyler Flick (6-59 rushing) got into the scoring column in the second quarter, getting around left end and taking it 37 yards to the house for the first of his three TDs with 11:08 left in the half.

Just over six minutes later, Flick scored on a two-yard run on a sweep right and it was 33-0.

“I was pleased with our execution,” Hahn said. “I knew we had the capability of doing that. Did I think we were going to do that every series? I don’t know. I didn’t want to punt, I know that.”

Following a 28-yard return by Cocalico’s Colton Goodman on the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles put together their best drive of the half, highlighted by a 50-yard run by QB Brady Sawyer (12-75 rushing). Two plays later, Brubaker scored on a one-yard dive with :37 left in the half. Ben Puodziunas’ PAT cut the deficit to 33-7.

It appeared the score might stay that way at the half, but Kegarise and the offense had other ideas. After completing all four of his pass attempts for 33 yards on sideline patterns to Gunnar Royer and Mitchell Ruth, Kegarise finished the quick-strike drive himself, scampering 21 yards to paydirt with :03 on the clock to make it 40-7 at the half.

“It’s probably elusive speed,” Hahn said of Kegarise. “I don’t know if you put him in a 40-yard dash if he can run much faster than a 4.8. But if you put a football in his hand, it looks like he runs a 4.5. So it’s amazing.”

To the Eagles’ credit, they didn’t go down quietly. Sawyer and Goodman had first-down carries of 9 and 11 yards on Cocalico’s opening series in the second half, and then Goodman’s 43-yard TD run with 2:54 elapsed cut MC’s lead to 40-13.

Goodman finished with 103 of the Eagles’ 227 total yards on the ground.

“We played hard,” Gingrich said. “They played at a different speed. When you have momentum like that and you have the energy and the lead that they had, you can play with a little more juice.”

Central continued to bring the juice on their first drive of the second half, and Kegarise’s 11-yard TD pass to Jake Novak with 5:25 left in the third quarter pushed the Barons’ advantage to 47-13.

Cocalico threatened again early in the fourth, eating more than five minutes off the clock with an 11-play drive into the Barons’ red zone before turning the ball over on downs.

From there, Kready’s 22-yard field goal with :59 remaining finished off the scoring.

It also finished off a three-year wait for the Barons to get back to the District finals.

“I’m excited, obviously, going to Hershey,” Kegarise said. “I’d be excited no matter who we play, but (Harrisburg) is a great team. I’ve heard stuff about them. We’re going to practice really hard this week and we’ll be prepared.”

 

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