Second-half surge propels Cocalico past Weiser

By on August 29, 2018
Cocalico’s Garrett Longenecker hauls in a pass on his way to scoring his second touchdown of the night and sealing the 21-13 victory over Conrad Weiser Friday in Denver. Photo by Travis Boyd

Cocalico’s Garrett Longenecker hauls in a pass on his way to scoring his second touchdown of the night and sealing the 21-13 victory over
Conrad Weiser Friday in Denver. Photo by Travis Boyd

In a little more than a two-minute span Friday, Cocalico not only erased a 13-0 deficit but rid itself of what could have been a disastrous start to the 2018 football season.

Trailing visiting Conrad Weiser by 13 late in the third, a one-yard Ronald Zahm touchdown run got Cocalico on the board and started a momentum swing in the Eagles direction. A huge sack by sophomore Craig Neal forced a Weiser three-and-out on its next possession early in the fourth, then the Eagles needed one offensive play to take the lead for good

Senior fullback Garrett Longenecker got behind two Scout defenders down the left sidelines, and junior QB Noah Palm found him, leading to a 73-yard scoring strike, giving the Eagles the eventual lead and ultimately paving the way to a 21-13 come-from-behind Cocalico win.

“I know my adrenaline was pumping,” Longenecker said of his go-ahead score. “I don’t usually get passes like that from the fullback position. But I felt the adrenaline, and Noah said he felt it too…It gave us a rush on defense and we just kept pushing forward after that.”

Longenecker, who along with Palm combined for a big sack of Scouts’ QB Alex MacKenzie following the go-ahead touchdown, put the nail in the coffin with 2:54 to play when he and Palm connected again, this time from 16 yards out.

“What turned the tides in the second half were the emotion and the effort by our kids,” Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich said. “(In the first half, Conrad Weiser) played inspired ball…they were whipping us all over the field in terms of being quicker, more physical and being aggressive. We weren’t. In the second half, our guys decided they were done with that. They made the decision to be more aggressive. Football is a game where you are going to face a lot of adversity. You can either quit and hang your head or you can battle back. We battled back, and I was pleased to see that.”

As stated above, Cocalico got off to an inauspicious start. The normally potent Eagle offense churned out a solid 84 yards but only three first downs through the first half of play. More troubling, the Eagles were whistled for five penalties in the first 24 minutes, causing them to never truly get in sync.

Weiser, on the other hand, was sharp early and cashed in on its second drive of the game. The Scouts drove 73 yards on 14 plays before running back Owen Dautrich (18-59) capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to draw first blood. Kicker Matt Noll added the extra point and the Scouts led 7-0.

While the Eagles’ offense continued to sputter, Noll extended the Weiser lead to 13-0 by the half, drilling a 34-yard field goal midway through the second before ending the half with a 41-yarder.

“We just were unsure of ourselves,” Gingrich said of his team’s first-half offensive woes. “We didn’t block very well on the perimeter, we weren’t carrying out our fakes…we were just pretty lethargic, lazy and not committed to one another. That’s what I saw. There was nothing scheme-wise…we were just getting beat.”

The tide may have changed at the half, according to Longenecker.

“(Assistant) Coach Lockhart gave a speech in the locker room and he was just talking about how everybody just seems so dead,” Longenecker remembered. “He said, ‘when you are playing, you should want the ball to come to your side. You should want them to throw it your way, you should want them to run it your way…’ That inspired me to say anybody on this team can step up and start leading everybody and it can change the tide, and I think that’s exactly what happened. Everybody just started stepping up and doing their jobs and playing physical.”

The Eagle defense, which would go on to allow Weiser just 16 yards in total offense and two first downs in the second half, set the tone midway through the third, stuffing the Scouts on a fourth-and-four play at the Cocalico 34.

The Eagles took over with 5:40 left in the period, and Palm got them going with a 19-yard scamper to midfield. Two big hook-ups with Zahm (6 carries for 45 yards) out of the backfield netted 11 and 21 yards and gave the Eagles a first down at the Weiser 17.

Five plays later, on third-and-goal, Zahm powered in from one yard out on the final play of the third. Danny Engle’s ensuing PAT cut the deficit to six at 13-7.

Weiser momentarily had something going when Dautrich returned the kickoff into Eagle territory. However, the Scouts then faced a third-and-13 from the 50 when Neal blitzed off the left side and sacked MacKenzie (7-17-0, 41 yards) for a nine-yard loss.

That play forced a punt and the Eagles took over at their own 27. On first down, Palm went deep looking for Longenecker. The ball was thrown down the left side, just over the tips of the fingers of the Weiser defensive back where Longenecker hauled it in at the 30 and took it to the house. Engle tacked on the extra point and Cocalico led 14-13 with 9:43 to go.

The Scouts got the ball back and eventually faced a fourth-and-three from their own 38 with 7:10 to play. That’s when Palm (5-8-0, 125) and Longenecker broke through and dropped MacKenzie to end the drive, and set up the Eagles’ final score.

That came seven plays later when on fourth-and-six from the Weiser 16, Palm used play-action and found Longenecker alone in the flat. The senior fullback, who rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries, hauled it in and took it in for the touchdown with 2:54 to go.

Trailing by eight, Weiser had one final opportunity but after a three-yard run, MacKenzie threw three straight incompletions to seal the deal.

“Going into the season everyone was saying the offense was going to have to carry the defense. I think tonight the defense carried the offense,” Gingrich said. “I thought our defense played pretty well. We’ll fix the offense and I think the defense will continue to get better. I’m most excited because defense I know will get better and offensively I know things will come together.”

Longenecker added, “I think a lot of our guys, especially our d-ends, stepped up in a big way. We had a younger sophomore (Neal) step up and get a sack. I think we had big plays on defense and I think we realized, eventhough we lost all those guys from last year, we have other guys who can fill in and do just as well. Once we realized that, then it was just play football.”

Up next, Cocalico will host Cedar Cliff Friday night in another non-league tussle in Denver. The Colts opened the season this past week with an impressive 30-0 shutout victory over Governor Mifflin.

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