Trending upward from a 2-8 season in 2015 to a 6-4 season in 2016, the Elizabethtown Area High School football team was looking to progress in further in 2017. Although the Bears didn’t finish with a better record this time around, they also didn’t take a step back either, closing out the season at 6-4, just two spots out of the District 3 Class 5A playoffs.
Elizabethtown began the year hot, shutting out Donegal and Hershey 28-0 and 42-0 respectively before topping Lebanon 38-19. Through the first three games, running backs Devyn Clair and Cayden Livingston combined for 9 touchdowns on the ground, while quarterback Cole Patrick had more than 400 passing yards.
However, things swung around on the Bears over the next three games. They first were blanked 14-0 by Cocalico. They then lost to Solanco in a tough double overtime game 28-27, with the Golden Mules winning on a two-point conversion. Finally, they fell to eventual District 3 Class 5A champion Manheim Central 35-12.
The Bears would get an overtime victory of their own over Lampeter-Strasburg, 44-38. Patrick scored the goahead touchdown in the extra period, and the defense held firm on the final possession. The team followed that up by squeaking past Garden Spot 16-14 on a game-winning field goal from David Shank late in the fourth quarter.
Cedar Crest dominated Elizabethtown in the secondto- last game of the season 317. The Bears didn’t score until the final period. However, they recovered nicely to end the year, stomping Ephrata 70-6.
Patrick finished the season with 1,610 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions with a completion percentage of just under 60 percent. He was also third on the team in rushing yardage with 140, adding 3 more touchdowns.
Clair and Livingston both tied for the team lead in rushingtouchdowns with 8. The former led the team in yardage with 719, while the latter was second with 563.
Anthony Funk had the team high in receptions (28), receiving yards (502) and touchdowns (4). Alex Diahn was second with 21 catches for 359 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Grant Gaumer chipped in with 18 catches for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns.
On defense, Clair hit the century mark, leading the team with 100 tackles. He also had the team lead in sacks with 8. Dane Hilsher was right behind with 96 tackles, also recovering 5 fumbles, while Paul Beiler had 78. Diahn and Cole Rice each had 3 interceptions to lead the team as well.
Shank was 31 for 34 on extra points and 7 for 11 on field goals, also 34.4 yards per punt. He made the first team for the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two All-Stars at both kicker and punter, while Clair and Hilsher both made the first team defense at outside linebacker and defensive back, respectively. Clair was also an honorable mention at running back.
Funk got honors at both receiver (second team) and kick returner (honorable mention). Bieler (inside linebacker), Zach McNitt (center) and Isaiah Sheetz (interior defensive lineman) were all named to the second team, while Livingston (running back), Greg Good (offensive lineman) and Cade Robinson (defensive back) earned honorable mention nods. Although the Bears had an overall positive season, they’ll face adversity heading into next season. Head coach Bill McDonald resigned in December, and 17 seniors will graduate, including Funk, Gaumer, Hilsher, Livingston, McNitt, Robinson, Shank and Sheetz. Clair has also transferred to Bishop McDevitt.
However, Patrick will return at quarterback, and the remaining roster is still talented. Former Elizabethtownquarterback Andy Breault has also taken the reins as head coach, providing the team with both a hometown connection and plenty of experience. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bears can continue their recent success when the new season begins in August.
This is part of The Elizabethtown Advocate’s 2017-18 season recap series covering every sports team at EAHS.