Elizabethtown (3-2, 0-2) led Solanco (2-3, 2-0) 13-6 midway through the fourth quarter and had the ball on Solanco’s 1-yard line until Cayden Livingston fumbled and the Golden Mules recovered with 7:36 left to play.
Solanco methodically marched 95 yards on 13 plays before scoring the game-tying touchdown with 2:25 left to play. Elizabethtown moved the ball to Solanco’s 44-yard line with 30 seconds remaining in regulation, but they weren’t able to score and the Bears were set to play their first overtime game of the season.
Solanco got the opening possession of overtime, heading towards the scoreboard and away from the Elizabethtown student section, and scored on the very first play to take a 20-13 lead.
Elizabethtown’s first play didn’t go quite as well as Solanco’s as they were called for a false start to begin the drive. The Bears quickly faced a 4th and goal from the 12-yard line with the game on the line, but junior quarterback Cole Patrick delivered as he was being hit and junior Alex Diahn held on to a contested catch to bring the Bears within one point. Cade Denlinger, filling in for the injured David Shank, made the point after touchdown and sent the game into a second overtime period.
Patrick found a sliding Greg Good in the right corner of the end zone to give Elizabethtown a 27-20 lead over the Golden Mules.
Solanco responded with a touchdown of their own and, after taking a timeout, decided to go for the two-point conversion to try and win the game rather than go to a third overtime. Alex McDonald dashed off right tackle and made it to the pylon to give Solanco a 28-27 victory in double overtime.
The Bears’ fumble at the goal line was a microcosm of the entire game for both teams. Solanco had four red zone opportunities, but fumbled on two of them, including one at the 1-yard line. In addition to Livingston’s fumble, sophomore running back Devyn Clair fumbled twice.
Clair was responsible for the Bears’ first touchdown of the night. Trailing 6-0, he pounded the ball in from 1-yard out with 33 seconds left in the first half on 4th down. Delinger’s PAT was no good, which sent the teams to halftime tied 6-6.
Solanco’s fumble on the 1-yard line was midway through the third quarter and the Bears were driving towards midfield before Clair fumbled for the second time. Solanco’s ensuing possession stalled before they attempted a fake punt that failed.
Much like the game against Hershey earlier this season, coach Bill McDonald decided to take a shot at the end zone immediately after a turnover. Patrick hit Diahn for a 58-yard touchdown on the first play after the failed fake punt to give the Bears a 13-6 lead at that point in the game.
The three turnovers committed by the Bears were the most in a game this season. In their three victories, they turned the ball over twice and were +9 in the turnover margin. In their three losses, they turned the ball over five times and were +1 in the turnover margin.
“You just can’t make that many mistakes. It’s as simple as that. You can’t expect to win a football game like that if you’re going to put the ball on the ground. You’ve gotta be able to know how to line up, offensively and defensively. You’ve gotta be able to know how to line up. You can’t be making that many fundamental mistakes and expect to win,” McDonald said.
One situational area that the Bears were much improved in was 3rd down conversions. In the loss to Cocalico, Elizabethtown was 1-10 on 3rd down. Against Solanco, the Bears were 8-14. They also converted 2-3 4th down conversions against the Golden Mules. Despite the improvement, McDonald lamented that the Bears did not make the most of their goale line opportunities.
“We had a poor offensive performance last week [against Cocalico]. We should’ve punched it in to win this game in regulation and we didn’t because we made too many mistakes. What’d we have, three fumbles? Obviously, that wasn’t the whole thing, but you can’t turn the ball over. Bottom line. Whether it’s NFL, college or high school you can’t turn it over,” McDonald said.
Elizabethtown went into the game missing three starters in safety/wide receiver Cade Robinson, middle linebacker/tight end Paul Beiler and kicker/punter David Shank. Livingston filled in for Robinson as the starting safety. Good was responsible for calling in the defensive plays as Beiler does when healthy. Denlinger filled Shank’s role on PATs while Colin Hudak handled punting duties and Good managed kickoffs.
The loss was Elizabethtown’s second consecutive home loss heading into a stretch of two road games. The first of which comes on Friday, Oct. 6, against Manheim Central.
The Barons (5-0, 2-0) head into the game coming off a 17-7 victory at Cocalico. The only other common opponent they share with Elizabethtown is Donegal, whom they beat 46-0.