Fueled by a 28-point first quarter, Elizabethtown scored a season-high 70 points to hand Ephrata its 51st consecutive loss, 70-6, on Friday, Nov. 3.
The 6-4 campaign finished coach Bill McDonald’s third season as coach and it was the first time that Elizabethtown finished with back-to-back winning seasons since 2008.
“This group were sophomores when I took over, so they’ve been through the ups and the downs of trying to get this program turned around. They’re a great group of kids and a very tough group of kids too. I’m really proud of them. It was a real good team this year,” McDonald said.
Six different Bears scored touchdowns and three of them scored two or more. Cayden Livingston led the way with touchdown runs of 1 yard, 2 yards and 10 yards, while Devyn Clair and Zach Frank each scored two touchdowns. The trio of running backs contributed to an attack that carried the ball 30 times for 312 yards. It was their most rushing yards in a game this season, which topped the 305 rushing yards against Lebanon.
Prior to the game, Elizabethtown honored its 15 seniors on Senior Night, which corresponded with many of them starting the game for the Bears. That included Dane Hilsher, who got the nod over junior quarterback Cole Patrick.
After handing the ball off on first and second down, Patrick relieved Hilsher on 3rd and 10 before he connected with Grant Gaumer to keep the drive alive. A few plays later and he connected with Alex Diahn on a 32-yard catch and run for Elizabethtown’s first touchdown.
On the Bears ensuing drive, Livingston carried the ball 55 yards before he was tackled on the 1-yard line, but he scored on the next play.
Ephrata responded with a touchdown of their own with a 49-yard touchdown run from quarterback Caden Keefer.
A 10-yard rushing touchdown from Clair and a 27-yard rushing touchdown from Patrick gave Elizabethtown a 28-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Livingston scored his 2-yard touchdown and Clair caught a 5-yard touchdown from Patrick to provide Elizabethtown with a 42-6 halftime lead.
Anthony Funk scored the only touchdown of the third quarter with a 51-yard punt return. Livingston’s 10-yard touchdown run was the first of the fourth quarter and made it 56-6 in favor of Elizabethtown.
As McDonald shuffled players on and off the field in the fourth quarter, that is when Zach Frank took advantage of his opportunity with touchdown runs of 3 yards and 38 yards to cap the scoring for the Bears. His 3-yard touchdown was set up by an interception from Diahn, which tied with him Cole Rice for the team lead (3).
Patrick, a first-year starter, finished the game 11-19 for 183 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. On the season, he was 105-184 (57 percent) for 1,610 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
In his first four weeks as a starter, he completed 33 passes on 53 attempts (62 percent) for an average of 121 yards per game with four touchdowns and two interceptions. In the final six games of the season, he completed 72 passes on 131 attempts (55 percent) for an average of 180 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The numbers display McDonald’s growing trust in Patrick as a decision-maker to lead the offense, but he was complimentary of what he saw from the first-year starter after the win over Ephrata as well
“He’s got a big upside. Obviously, he still needs to improve, but I don’t think there’s a player in the league that has bigger upside than Cole Patrick. His size, his smarts and, obviously he needs to improve on his decision-making, but he has a couple things that you can’t teach,” McDonald said. “He’ll stand in that pocket and he’s got ice in his veins. I’ve seen a lot of players come and go that didn’t have it like that. I watched him in the JV games last year and all they do is send linebackers and he’s willing to stand in there and keep his eyes downfield. He’s got some room to grow, but it’s all out there for him if he wants it.”
The Bears’ offense averaged 28.4 points per game while the defense gave up 18.5 points per game. Elizabethtown finished +16 in the turnover margin. Oddly enough, Elizabethtown finished with a negative turnover margin once all season and it was against Ephrata.
Clair was a driving factor both offensively and defensively for the Bears all season. He was first, tied for first or tied for second in seven different statistical categories.
Offensively, he was first in rushing yards (719), tied for first in rushing touchdowns (8) and first in total touchdowns (10). Defensively, he was first in tackles (100), tackles for loss (19.5), sacks (8), forced fumbles (5) and tied for second in fumble recoveries (3).
“He’s a special player. With the injuries we had, he was steady. He was always there for us and once you get to know Devyn a little bit you understand that he’s a different kind of cat. The future is bright for Devyn and I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s a great young man,” McDonald said.
While Cade Robinson was not injured, he did miss five games with an illness. The 2016 All-State safety returned to play Ephrata and contributed two tackles, 35 rushing yards and two receiving yards. He finished the season with 46 tackles, seven receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown, which came in the season opener against Donegal.
Heading into the game against Ephrata, Elizabethtown was No. 13 in the District Three power rankings. After their victory over the Mounts, the Bears finished the season No. 10 in the power rankings. The team missed out on a playoff berth by two spots, as the top eight seeds qualify.