When it comes to high school football, Saturday games are often unpredictable. Elizabethtown Area High School lived up to that notion on Aug. 25 in its opening home game against Donegal. The Bears defeated the Indians 49-33 in a wild contest that saw both teams put up some eye-popping numbers, as well as plenty of out-of-theordinary moments. Everything came together for the Bears, however, to give new head coach Andy Breault his first career win.
“I was nervous,” Breault said. “They looked pretty good on film, and they were gonna come to play. There for a while, it was a little bit of a track meet. Our guys came through here (and) shut them down early in the third quarter. That was the difference there. Our defense stepped up and got our offense back on the field.”
After Donegal began the game with a three-and-out, Elizabethtown started its first drive with a 31-yard screen pass from senior Cole Patrick to senior Cole Livingston. Patrick later threw a clutch third-down conversion to senior Dylan Sweger, leading to a 18-yard jet sweep touchdown for Livingston to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
The Indians utilized their lauded Wing-T offense to work their way down the field on the following possession. They decided to eschew a field goal attempt on fourth down inside Elizabethtown’s 10-yard line in favor of going for the first down, with senior quarterback Dylan Martin getting stopped short of the marker. The Bears immediately made them pay; Patrick launched a deep shot to Sweger for a 95-yard TD, putting the score at 14-0 near the end of the first quarter.
Both teams traded punts to start the second. Donegal finally got on the boardafter a long drive, which ended in a 5-yard rushing TD from senior Zion Gibbs.Livingston blocked the point-after kick to keep the score at 14-6. He then took another jet sweep 67 yards to the house on the first play of the next series to extend the Bears’ lead to 21-6. Not to be outdone,Martin found senior Jared Collazo on a 75-yard play action pass on the
first play of Donegal’s ensuing drive for yet another TD. Senior Jordan Minick was stopped short on a 2-point conversion though, putting the score at 21-12.
Following an Elizabethtown punt, Donegal was able to bleed the clock for the remainder of the first half. Minick scored on the ground from one yard out with just 8 seconds left, narrowing the gap to 21-19. With just 2 seconds to go for the Bears, Livingston scored a TD on yet another jet sweep as time expired, though it was called back due to an illegal block in the back, sending the game to halftime.
To start the second half, the Bears drove into the Indians’ red zone but failed to score after Patrick fumbled the ball away off a low snap. Their defense forced a threeand- out to give the offense the ball back, however. Patrick found sophomore Luke Pierson on a 62-yard TD early in the next drive, but the latter was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Patrick recovered quickly, finding junior Cole Rice on a 43-yard screen pass. A defensive pass interference penalty put the Bears inside the Indians red zone, setting up a 14yard TD toss from Patrick to Pierson for a 28-19 advantage. After another Donegal threeand- out, Patrick put Elizabethtown in scoring position again with passes to Sweger, Pierson and senior Alex Diahn. On fourth and goal, he threw a jump ball to junior Elijah Eberly, who made a terrific catch for a 6-yard score and a 35-19 lead.
Another deep play action pass from Martin to Collazo set the Indians up on the next series early in the final period, leading to a 15-yard rushing TD for Gibbs. Martin scrambled into the end zone on the 2-point conversion, narrowing the gap to 35-27. On the next Elizabethtown drive, Patrick completed passes to Sweger and junior Cole Hitz, leading to an 18-yard rushing score on a draw play to senior running back Zach Frank, putting the Bears up 42-27.
Livingston made an impact on both defense and offense shortly afterward, firstintercepting a deep pass from Martin and then scoring on a 71-yard bomb fromPatrick to give Elizabethtown a 49-27 lead. Donegal then had another long drive, which ended in a third Gibbs TD and a failed 2-point try. The Bears proceeded to run
out the clock for the victory.
Patrick finished the game with 415 yards through the air, the best in school history and the fifth-highest ever in the Lancaster-Lebanon League. He went 18 for 25 and tossed 4 TDs as well. The Bears were expected to heavily utilize the passing game, but even Breault was surprised at the team’s output.
“Hopefully, we can continue to do that,” he said. “We need to run the ball a little more, but I feel comfortable putting the ball in his hands. He makes good decisions most of the time.”
The running game was fairly sparse for Elizabethtown. Livingston led the team with 109 yards on 4 carries, but 85 of those yards came on his two scores. Frank had just 18 yards on 7 carries. On the flip side, however, Patrick was able to find nine different receivers on the afternoon. Sweger led the way with 4 catches for 142 yards and a TD, while Livingston had 2 catches for 100 yards and another score. Diahn added 4 catches for 74 yards.
“We know we have four, five, six guys who can catch the ball,” Breault said. “So spread the ball around, (and the) defense can’t key on one or two guys. Patrick just has to make the right reads. We had a couple of guys open where he picked one guy and the other guy was running free. If he just gets a little more experience, he’ll be fine.”
Donegal went all in with the running game via its Wing-T offense, rushing the ball 55 times for 273 yards. Minick led all players with 114 yards and a score on 17 carries. Gibbs found the end zone thrice on 16 rushes for 66 yards, while senior Dalton Mullhausen chipped in with 72 yards on 17 carries. However, Martin didn’t do much passing wise, going 4 for 11 for 149 yards, a TD and an interception, with 133 of those yards and the score going to Collazo on 3 catches. Rice, senior Tyler Lanza and junior Adnan Traore all hit doubledigit tackles for the Bears.
“I was offensive coordinator for nine years in the Wing-T, so I know it creates problems,” Breault said. “They were going unbalanced, and we were trying to slant that way, but we couldn’t contain the C-gap. There were times where we shut them down,
(especially) early in the third. They did all right. We had a lot of first-year players on the defensive line, so it takes a while to get used to that down blocking.”
While Elizabethtown’s season begins with a win, the road will not get any easier. The Bears will play host to Dover on Friday, Aug. 31; the Eagles had the same record as Elizabethtown last season and lost 35-28 to a solid Shippensburg team in their first game. Breault has preached a week-by-week philosophy, which will hopefully give the Bears a leg up on the competition.
“We’ll have to check what Dover’s doing, then we’ll come up with a game plan and try to attack with what we see as our strengths against them,” he said. “We’ll take one game at a time, try to stay healthy and see what happens.”