Exeter holds off Ephrata, 20-12Mounts come up just short on late drive

By on September 7, 2011

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor truth.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

There certainly were plenty things to like about Ephrata’s performance in its season opener Friday night at home vs. Exeter.

Defensively, the Mounts kept the Eagles in check for most of the night, surrendering just 188 total yards and one touchdown to an offense with a pair of Division One players as two of its key weapons. Offensively, the Mounts did some good things too, rolling up nearly 300 total yards.

However, when they look back on this game, the Mounts will undoubtedly focus on the mistakes made at key times which paved the way to a 20-12 loss to the Eagles.

Special teams-wise, Ephrata missed a key extra point and two-point conversion, and had a punt block returned for a touchdown. Offensively, a fourth quarter interception of a Jeremy Franck pass was also returned to the house which in the end provided Exeter with the game-clinching points.

Despite the mistakes that led to the loss, Ephrata Coach Jim Vieland said his was pleased with his team’s overall effort in Week One.

"They gave it their all," Vieland said of his team. "They played with heart and emotion. We had a blocked punt for a touchdown, a pick six for a touchdown… But I’m proud of the way the defense played. We tackled great compared to where we were….We just had a lot of opportunities that we wasted away. But the challenge was to play four quarters of football, and we did. We just came up a little short."

Ephrata got off to a fast start in this one, marching 84 yards in just six plays on its initial drive to put up the first points of 2011.

A quick screen to wideout Tucker Keefer (3-65) went for 55 yards to set up the score, which came five plays later on an Alex Pstrak (five carries, 21 yards) six-yard run. A missed extra point try kept the lead at 6-0 with just 10:29 gone in the first.

"We do have some weapons," Veiland said when asked about the play to Keefer. "I think the challenge is using them at the right times and being able to do that and knowing when to do that. But that play was huge to set up the score."

Following the Ephrata touchdown, Exeter enjoyed the field position for the better part of the first half. In fact, the ball remained in Ephrata territory for 23-straight plays but the Mounts’ defense stood tall. Perhaps Exeter’s best chance to score came late in the half when the Eagles moved the ball to the Mounts’ 32-yard line. However, Ephrata’s Blake Weaver picked off QB Kyle Yocum in the endzone to keep it 6-0 at the break.

But the Eagles responded early in the second half, taking advantage of their size upfront to grab their first lead of the night at 7-6. Exeter took the opening kickoff of the second half and pounded the ball on the ground, going 63 yards on nine-straight running plays. Running back Cody Manmiller finished off the drive with a one-yard TD plunge with 8:17 left in the third to give the Eagles the one-point advantage.

The Eagles then made it 14-6 just two minutes later when Christian Menet broke through the line and blocked a punt off the foot of Ephrata’s Ryan Brubaker. Thomas Herb was Johnny-On-The-Spot, picking up the loose ball and taking it 27 yards for the score.

Trailing by eight, the Mounts’ offense responded on their ensuing possession. Ephrata, which ran a spread offense throughout most of the first half, went to itsflexbone set and marched down the field. Tim Murray (7-43) opened the drive with a 38-yard run around right end to take it to the Exeter 27. Then, after Pstrak gave the Mounts another first down at the Exeter 14, they went to the air as Weaver (3-49) made a diving catch in the endzone to get Ephrata to within two at 14-12.

"The team can do two things (when you fall behind)," Vieland said. "You respond and go out and play or you give in. Last year, we folded (against Exeter). This year we fought back and made it a game."

Unfortunately for the Mounts, they couldn’t convert the ensuing two-point try which would have tied the game as Franck was stuffed on his sneak attempt.

Still, Ephrata’s defense allowed the Mounts several chances in the fourth quarter by keeping Exeter’s offense in check.

After going three-and-out on their first two drives of the fourth, the Mounts looked to go ahead when they took over at the Exeter 21 with 4:23 to play. However, on a Franck pass to the right flat, Exeter’s Brian Beissel stepped in front of the EHS receiver and went 32 yards the other way to now put the Eagles up by eight. The Mounts did manage to keep their hopes alive however with a big blocked kick on the extra-point try.

And it nearly paid off.

Ephrata took over at the Eagle 30 with 3:20 to play, and moved to midfield before Franck (15-30-1, 187 yards) hit Weaver for 30 big yards to the Exeter 10 with 1:48 to go. Unfortunately, the Mounts wouldn’t get any closer as Franck failed to connect on four-straight incompletions and Exeter held on.

Despite the loss, Vieland saw a lot that he liked from his team in Game One.

"The fact that we didn’t give up I think speaks tons about our kids, and especially the growth we’ve had from last season," he said. "We still have to get better. It’s a journey. I’m proud of these guys, but they are not satisfied. Nobody is happy with a loss the first week."

"But we’ve gotten better every week. We know we lost this game but we got better. You point to things like that and this is one game. We got a huge game this week coming up against Cocalico, and I look at the way we grew and got better last year from Week One to Two…I think our guys are going to look to do that this week too."

Ephrata will face a young Cocalico team that got stung in Week One in a 49-21 loss to Schuylkill Valley. The Eagles will be looking to not only get in the win column for the first time this season but also avenge last year’s stunning 21-20 Ephrata victory.

"It’s a great game, a rivalry game. If you can’t get up for that game you don’t have a heart," Vieland said.

Kickoff for Friday’s game in Denver is set for 7 p.m. More EPHRATA, page B-2

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