When two section rivals looking to stay alive in the playoff hunt face off, things will get chippy. That’s how the football game between Elizabethtown Area High School and Lampeter-Strasburg went on Friday, Oct. 19, with the two teams combining for over 160 penalty yards.
In the end, however, the Pioneers were able to outlast the visiting Bears 20-13 thanks to a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Elizabethtown certainly had its opportunities but was bested due to coming up short in the red zone, along with a barrage of L-S sacks.
“My hat’s off to L-S,” Elizabethtown head coach Andy Breault said. “They came out here and played hard for four quarters. Our guys fought, but it wasn’t enough.”
The contest moved slowly near the start of the first quarter. After the Pioneers went three-and-out to begin the game and gave Elizabethtown good field position off a shanked punt, the Bears offense failed to move the ball far, with senior quarterback Cole Patrick ultimately throwing an interception to L-S junior Logan Bradley.
The following Pioneers drive ended up stalling, however, and L-S punted the ball away for the second time. Elizabethtown then went three-and-out as well. The Pioneers finally broke through near the end of the quarter, using five different rushers en route to a 10-yard touchdown on a QB keeper from sophomore Sean McTaggart.
Elizabethtown rebounded on its next series, driving inside the L-S 10-yard line in 13 plays. Patrick converted a fourth-down attempt with an 18-yard pass to senior Alex Diahn to keep the drive going at one point but was sacked on 3rd-and-goal, leading to a 38-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Cade Denlinger.
Both QBs would each turn the ball over during the course of five plays; McTaggart was picked off by Bears sophomore Luke Pierson two plays into the Pioneers’ next drive, while Patrick threw his second INT to sophomore Austin Stoltzfus three plays later.
L-S used a 42-yard scamper from McTaggart to get into Elizabethtown territory on the ensuing series. The Pioneers would turn the ball over on downs after a successful fourth-and-short try was erased by a holding penalty and the follow-up play was shut down by the Bears defense.
Patrick wasted little time in giving his team its first (and ultimately only) lead of the night, finding Diahn for 15 yards, then again for a 45-yard TD on back-to-back plays. The Pioneers punted away on the next drive after getting pinned deep in their own territory via 2 sacks from Elizabethtown junior Elijah Eberly. Pierson returned the ball into the red zone to give the Bears a shot at a score before halftime, but a Patrick throw to the end zone on fourth down as time expired fell incomplete.
Holding a 10-7 advantage to start the second half, Elizabethtown gave the ball up after Bradley picked off Patrick for the second time. On the first play of the next drive, senior Joey Underwood ran 47 yards inside the Bears 5-yard line, with McTaggart scoring from 3 yards out two snaps later. The point-after kick was blocked by junior Jacques Mortha, keeping the score at 13-10.
Patrick was sacked deep in his own territory shortly into the next series, leading to another Elizabethtown punt. L-S immediately committed another turnover, however; junior Bryan McKim was stripped by Bears senior Amos Kollie, with Pierson recovering the loose ball. Elizabethtown used some short passes and a couple of Pioneers penalties to get inside the red zone for the third time but was unable to score a TD. Denlinger tied the game at 13-13 on a chip shot 28-yard field goal instead.
L-S got into Bears territory but wound up punting away to start the fourth. Elizabethtown got going with some runs from senior Zach Frank on the next series, taking up half the quarter in the process, but had to punt after a blown up screen pass and a Patrick sack. The snap on the punt went over senior Collin Hudak’s head, though he was able to get a short kick off. Unfortunately, the Pioneers started their following drive at midfield.
McTaggart took over from there, running the ball four times to get the L-S offense moving. After a 28-yard TD pass on a tipped ball to Underwood was called back due to a holding penalty, he ran 24 yards to the Bears’ 6-yard line, scoring for the third time on the next play with just over four minutes to go to give the Pioneers the lead. Elizabethtown’s attempt to tie was stifled by yet another failed screen pass and a sack on Patrick. The Bears turned the ball over on downs, and L-S was able to run out the clock for the victory.
Despite committing 13 penalties for 121 yards, L-S got the win off thanks to its running game. Underwood ran 5 times for 54 yards, while sophomore Alex Knapp had 4 rushes for 46 yards. However, it was McTaggart who put the Pioneers over the top; the sophomore finished with 17 carries for 94 yards and all three of the team’s scores.
“He’s ready to take off,” L-S head coach John Manion said. “We just have a lot of young weapons around him. I like how he ran the offense and (the fact that) we could turn to him in the tough times at the end. He was the guy that stepped up.”
“He’s a player,” Breault said. “And he’s a sophomore, so he’s a guy we’re gonna have to contend with the next two years. Welcome to Section Two. Every week, you can’t take anything for granted.”
While the rushing totals weren’t in their favor, the Bears defense had perhaps their best outing of the season, holding L-S to a season-low 274 yards on offense and limiting McTaggart to just 38 yards on 4 for 11 passing. They also forced 2 turnovers. Senior Tyler Lanza and junior Adnan Traore shared the lead in tackles with 9.
“Our defense played well,” Breault said. “At times, there were some breakdowns on third and long, but we’re really happy with the way they performed for four quarters. (L-S’s) offense is good, so keeping them to 20 points was a tough task.”
However, Elizabethtown’s offense was off for much of the night. Patrick finished with 172 yards on 22 for 36 passing, mostly settling for shorter throws thanks to pressure from the Pioneers defense, who sacked him 6 times. His 45-yard TD throw to Diahn (7 catches, 104 yards) was a bright spot, but he also threw 3 INTs.
“The strategy was to give them looks they hadn’t seen from us on film,” Manion said. “Put as much pressure on the quarterback as possible or drop back and get as much cover as possible.”
Now at 5-4 on the season, the Bears will close out the regular season at home against Conestoga Valley in a monumental matchup. The two teams currently rank 12th and 13th in Class 5A for District 3, which will feature 14 teams in the playoffs. The victor will definitively secure a spot in the postseason, while the loser is likely to be on the outside looking in. Despite the increased pressure, Breault has continued to preach his “one week at a time” philosophy in preparation for the game.
“We’ll be ready for it like we were tonight,” he said. “We’ll have a full practice Monday after looking CV on film over the weekend and hopefully come up with a game plan to have more success on offense.”