While the details have changed, the Elizabethtown football team is off to a 3-1 start for the second consecutive season after Cocalico came away with a 14-0 victory over the Bears on Friday, Sept. 22.
“I’m a little disappointed. You know, just not being able to capitalize on some of the momentum that we could’ve. I thought we’d be better offensively, especially rushing the ball. I thought that was going to be key to the game. Being able to run the ball a little bit and not be forced into throwing situations,” coach Bill McDonald said.
After Elizabethtown was forced to punt on the opening drive of the game, Cocalico took over at their own 10-yard line, but the Bears defense forced Cocalico to go 3-and-out and punt for the first time all season.
The Eagles came into the game averaging just under 56 points per game, which was the highest total of any team in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
At the end of the first quarter, Cocalico faced a 3rd and 12 from their own 36-yard line. Quarterback Noah Palm took the snap, pitched it out to his left and running back Austin Landers did the rest to give Cocalico a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
As they were driving in the second quarter, Cocalico fumbled and Isaiah Sheetz was able to pounce on it for the Bears at their own 34-yard line. Later in the drive, Elizabethtown converted a 4th and 4 via a defensive holding penalty. On 3rd and 10, with the ball at the 24-yard line, Elizabethtown Cole Patrick took off to run after he was pressured and fumbled the ball. The play resulted in a 24-yard loss and Elizabethtown was forced to punt rather than attempt a field goal.
Cocalico struggled to move the ball, which gave E-Town a chance to put points on the board before the half. With no timeouts and 1:35 on the clock, Patrick tried to connect with Alex Diahn, but the two miscommunicated on which route should be run and Patrick was intercepted. Cocalico took a 7-0 lead into halftime.
The Eagles started with the ball in the second half, but fumbled for the second time and it was recovered by Bears safety Cade Robinson. Elizabethtown’s offense advanced the ball to Cocalico’s 34-yard line before kicker David Shank was sent out to attempt a 51-yard field goal. The snap was low, which through off the hold and the kick was short. The third quarter ended and Elizabethtown was still down 7-0.
Cocalico was the first team to reach the red zone and appeared ready to make it a two possession game. On 1st and goal from the 1 yard line, Cocalico fumbled again, but recovered at the 10 yard line. Two plays later, Cayden Livingston made contact with the Cocalico running back and, rather than take him to the ground, ripped the ball straight from his hands to give Elizabethtown the ball.
The Bears’ offense went 3-and-out, however, and punted the ball back to Cocalico. The Eagles took over with 8:58 left on the clock and proceeded to run 5:16 off of it before they scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
As the Elizabethtown offense tried to mount a comeback, Patrick tossed his second interception of the game and Cocalico ran the clock out to preserve their fourth victory of the season.
Elizabethtown came into the game featuring an offense that hinged on running backs Devyn Clair and Livingston as their two primary weapons. The Bears’ running game was limited to 42 yards on 20 carries. In total, the offense gained 140 yards and eight first downs. Three of those first down came on the first three offensive plays of the game.
“Couldn’t generate enough offense on the ground. We’ve gotta fix it. Look at the film and see what we’ve gotta do.” McDonald said.
The inability to run the ball and gain positive yards on a consistent basis played into the fact that Elizabethtown was 1-10 on 3rd down conversions. Six of those were 3rd and 6 or longer.
“That’s something we’ve gotta look at. Obviously, you’re not going to win a game if you only convert one 3rd down out of 10,” coach Bill McDonald said.
McDonald was happy with the defensive performance as they only allowed 14 points to the highest scoring team in the league.
“They did a heck of a job. I can’t fault the defense at all. It’s a difficult offense to stop and the kids really did a nice coach. [Defensive coordinator TJ] Rudy did a nice job getting them ready,” McDonald said.
Starting middle linebacker Paul Beiler left the game and was on the sideline with his right arm in a sling and an ice pack on his right shoulder. McDonald said that he was scheduled to get checked out fully on Sunday, Sept. 24.
The Bears will look to bounce back against visiting Solanco (2-2) on Friday, Sept. 29. Elizabethtown will have an additional day to recover/prepare as Solanco played Garden Spot on Saturday, Sept. 23.