There was a ton of pressure on the Elizabethtown Area High School football team heading into its Section Two opener against Cocalico at Thompson Field on Friday, Sept. 14. The Bears were coming off a tough 29-6 loss at Conrad Weiser the previous week, a game that saw them lose a few players to injury as well. The Eagles were entering the game unbeaten, compounding the difficulty. Ultimately, Elizabethtown couldn’t put up enough of a fight, falling 41-14.
“I liked the way our guys didn’t give up,” head coach Andy Breault said. “They kept fighting to the end. It’s refreshing that they didn’t quit. Defensively, I think we played well early. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot on offense. That puts your defense in a bind right off the bat.”
Cocalico began the game by driving quickly down the field on the back of senior running back Garrett Longenecker, who first ran 31 yards into Elizabethtown territory, then finished off the series with an 18-yard rushing touchdown. The point-after try went wide right to keep the score at 6-0.
The ensuing drive began great for the Bears. Senior quarterback Cole Patrick connected with fellow senior Alex Diahn for a 65-yard pass-and-catch. However, a sack and a couple of penalties ended up stalling the drive, forcing a punt. After a three-and-out for Cocalico, Elizabethtown once again drove onto the Eagles side of the field but would turn the ball over as a result of an interception of Patrick by Longenecker, who returned the ball inside the Bears 5-yard line. Junior QB Noah Palm scored from one yard out on a sneak shortly afterward for a 13-0 lead.
The two teams traded punts around the start of the second quarter. Elizabethtown once again had the ball inside Cocalico territory but turned the ball over on downs after a Patrick sneak on fourth-and-one was ruled short of the first-down markers. Palm then took an option play 61 yards for a TD, giving the Eagles a 20-0 lead.
Another turnover occurred on the next drive after senior running back Zach Frank got stripped by junior Austin Sauder for a fumble. Palm finished off the next Cocalico drive by connecting with junior Ronald Zahm for a wide-open 27-yard score. The Bears failed on another fourth-down try right near the end of the half, sending Cocalico to the break up 27-0.
Following a three-and-out to start the second half for Elizabethtown, Zahm ran the ball inside the red zone on an option play, scoring on another from 14 yards out on the next play to give the Eagles a 34-0 advantage. Another Bears three-and-out followed, which Palm capitalized on by taking yet another option play into the end zone from 25 yards out late in the third.
With Cocalico up 41-0, a running clock was put into effect. Elizabethtown finally showed signs of life on its next drive. Patrick found sophomore Luke Pierson for 27 yards on a fourth-and-long try right at the end of the quarter, and Frank capped off the drive on the first play of the final quarter with a 7-yard rushing score.
The backups for the Eagles offense punted the ball away after a three-and-out, though the kick was downed deep in Bears territory. That ended up not mattering, as senior Cole Livingston took a jet sweep run 97 yards to the house. Still, there was simply not enough time left on the clock for a serious comeback, and Cocalico used up the remaining time to walk away with the victory.
Longenecker made an impact on both sides of the ball, rushing for a game-high 107 yards and a TD on 11 carries in addition to picking off Patrick. Palm scored thrice on the ground as well with his 9 carries for 91 yards. Through the air, he had 47 yards and a score on 4 for 5 passing. Zahm added 60 yards and a TD on 4 carries, along with a 27-yard TD catch. Senior Austin Landers caught the other 3 passes for 30 yards.
“They just kept pounding it in there, waiting for something to break through,” Breault said. “The fullback (Longenecker) made a couple of nice cuts. We were overpursuing a couple of times tonight. The quarterback (Palm) is dangerous once he pulls the ball (back).”
Like Elizabethtown’s loss to Conrad Weiser the previous week, Patrick was under duress from Cocalico’s pass rush for much of the night. He finished with 198 passing yards and an INT on 15 for 28 passing, getting sacked 4 times in total, the first time this season that the Bears offensive line has given up more than one QB takedown.
“Some of it wasn’t even blitzing,” Breault said. “It was one-on-one blocking. We just got to work on (improving) that this week”
Diahn led the Bears in receiving with 4 catches for 85 yards. Pierson added 3 catches for 49 yards, while senior Dylan Sweger chipped in with 4 catches for 42 yards. Livingston had 3 catches for just 10 yards but led the team in rushing with 106 yards on 3 carries, 97 coming on his rushing score. Frank had 7 carries for 27 yards and a score. On defense, senior Tyler Lanza and junior Adnan Traore shared the team lead in total tackles with 7.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Elizabethtown. Now at 2-2 on the year, the Bears will have an away contest at Manheim Central, the other powerhouse in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, on Friday, Sept. 21. They’ll then face Solanco, who is off to a strong start to the season, away from home on Friday, Sept. 28.
“We’ll come out and regroup,” Breault said. “We’ll fix some of the things on offense that went wrong tonight. We (need to) come out and have fun. The guys are getting uptight with these (close) games. They need to learn to relax and be loose out there on the field, then good things will happen. I don’t think it’s nerves or anything, but they need to realize they’re gonna get beat on some plays. You can’t be perfect. It’s how you respond and move on to the next play.”