Coming off of two consecutive losses, the Elizabethtown Area High School football team had to make a huge statement at Manheim Central on Friday, Sept. 21, in order to get its season back on track. Unfortunately for the Bears, the complete opposite happened.
Manheim Central trounced Elizabethtown 50-0. The Barons offense was on fire, putting up 36 points in the first half alone, and their defense continually put pressure on senior Bears quarterback Cole Patrick, sacking him 5 times.
“Penalties killed us again,” head coach Andy Breault said. “(There was) a little bit of confusion on offense at times. They were bringing a lot of pressure even up 50 to nothing on third down. My hat’s off to them. They did that the whole game, and we couldn’t take advantage of one-on-one opportunities.”
The Barons got the game started with a quick drive, highlighted by a long run from senior running back Tyler Flick, who then scored from 2 yards out. Elizabethtown would go three and out on the next series. On a third down, junior quarterback Evan Simon found junior receiver Colby Douglas, who slipped a few tackles to go 55 yards for a touchdown. Manheim Central used a swinging gate formation and a Simon pass to senior kicker Nico Gavala on the point-after try to get 2 points.
The Bears were able to get a first down on the following drive but ended up punting away again. Manheim Central converted a couple of third-down tries to advance into Elizabethtown territory, where Flick got another 2-yard TD run to put the score at 22-0.
Patrick had an 11-yard pass to senior Dylan Sweger and a 51-yard option run at the close of the first quarter to put the Bears in the red zone. However, the Barons defense stiffened up, forcing Patrick out of bounds on a fourth-down try to take over on downs. Elizabethtown’s defense let up a fourth-down and a third-down conversion on the next series but eventually forced a turnover on downs of its own via pass breakups from senior Cole Livingston and junior Cole Rice to take over at midfield, though the offense didn’t move the ball far before again failing on a fourth down attempt.
Flick took off on another long run to get inside the Bears 10-yard line, scoring on a 7-yard run with a helpful push from his offensive linemen. After an Elizabethtown three-and-out, the Bears defense finally made some noise, with junior Adnan Traore forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior Brandon Fotibu at midfield. However, another three-and-out came, and Wagner had a nice punt return to set himself up for a 40-yard catch-and-run for a TD with 27 seconds to go before the break, giving the Barons a 36-0 lead at halftime and a running clock in the second half.
Elizabethtown went three and out to start the second half, and Manheim Central took advantage, with Simon hooking up with junior Ben Wagner, who was left wide open, for a 65-yard score on the first play of the ensuing drive. The Bears were able to pick up a couple of first downs on the following series, but on third and long, Patrick was intercepted by Colby Wagner, who returned it into Elizabethtown territory.
The Barons had a short scoring drive which ended early in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard TD run from senior Chris Shaw. The Bears converted a fourth-down try shortly after, but a miscommunication resulted in Patrick throwing a second INT, this time to senior Isaac Perron. Manheim Central’s second-string offense got the ball into the red zone, but Elizabethtown’s defense stopped them on fourth and short. The offense went three and out, however, and the Barons kneeled down for the win afterward.
Simon played solidly for Manheim Central, finishing with 268 yards and 3 TDs on 11 for 20 passing. Colby Wagner caught 2 passes for 95 yards, both for scores. Perron led the team with 5 catches for 53 yards. Flick had a game-high 103 rushing yards and 3 scores on 16 carries.
“Defensively, we tried to keep them in front of us and prevent big plays,” Breault said. “We had a blown coverage there on the one (wide-open touchdown). Things like that will happen against good teams. I think we’re not breaking down sometimes and going in too fast. Those guys are strong kids who run hard.”
Patrick went 14 for 27 through the air for 130 yards and 2 INTs, though a number of those incompletions were drops. He also led the Bears in rushing with 6 carries for 53 yards, though that’s not counting the 5 sacks. Sophomore Luke Pierson had a team-high 3 catches for 34 yards. Senior linebacker Tyler Lanza finished with 9 total tackles.
“We need to control the ball on offense,” Breault said. “Run good routes, make good throws, catch the ball when it’s thrown to us (and) block up front. Tonight, I don’t think our blocking was that bad; they blitzed a couple guys and got through. But when we get down to the 20-yard line, we can’t have a sack and a penalty, (especially) against good teams. I don’t want to take anything away from Cole. He was under pressure at times, but he also had balls that could’ve been caught.”
Now 2-3 on the year after winning its first two contests and losing the last three, Elizabethtown will have another tough road game on Friday, Sept. 28, at Solanco, who started the season well at 4-0 but is coming off a close loss to Conestoga Valley. The Mules still have senior quarterback Joel McGuire, who led the Lancaster-Lebanon League in rushing yards entering week 5.
“We need to get things fixed on offense,” Breault said. “They’re (Solanco) gonna be running the ball, so we got to pack the box and shut down the quarterback, who’s really fast. He’s similar to (Noah) Palm from Cocalico, so at least we’ve had a game of prep to see what they’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll be able to regroup Monday, come out and have a good showing.”