Elizabethtown trailed by two points on their own 4-yard line with 3:15 remaining before the offense was able to set up kicker David Shank for a game-winning field goal to defeat Garden Spot 16-14.
This was the second consecutive week that Elizabethtown won on the final play of the game. The defense forced a game-ending fumble against Lampeter-Strasburg the week prior.
“The kids were resilient and that’s the word I use when I think about them. A lot of ups and downs this season, a lot of guys filling in and I’m really proud of them. Last two weeks have been a roller coaster, but in the end, we found a way to get it done,” coach Bill McDonald said.
Shank is a starter on the Elizabethtown boys soccer team that won a Lancaster-Lebanon League championship the night prior on Thursday, Oct. 19.
“David Shank is a mature athlete. Let’s just say what it is. Soccer-wise, he’s run the gamut of experience there and he’s had success there. You just can’t rattle the guy. He keeps his cool back there and he’s confident. He brings some confidence to the football team,” McDonald said.
After a two-week hiatus from Thompson Field, Elizabethtown (5-3, 2-3) returned to face a Spartans offense that was averaging 40 points per game. Elizabethtown won the toss and elected to send Garden Spot on the field first on Friday, Oct. 20. It didn’t take long for the Elizabethtown defense to make its presence felt.
Safety Cole Rice undercut a route and intercepted his third pass in the past two weeks. His brief return brought the ball to Garden Spot’s 21-yard line, but the offense wasn’t able to take advantage.
Quarterback Cole Patrick was sacked on 3rd and 11, which resulted in Shank attempting a 47-yard field goal that fell short.
Garden Spot opened the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown pass after the Bears secondary suffered their third breakdown of the game with 52 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The touchdown pass capped off a 95-yard drive that began after Shank’s punt was downed on the 5-yard line by Cole Livingston.
Livingston is a defensive back that starts opposite of Grant Gaumer and it was Gaumer that returned the ensuing kickoff to Garden Spot’s 38-yard line.
As the Bears moved inside Garden Spot’s 10-yard line, Patrick turned to his left to hand the ball to Zach Frank on 3rd down. That carry would ordinarily go to Cayden Livingston or Devyn Clair, but Livingston missed the game due to injury and Clair carried the ball on the previous play.
After Frank’s carry, Shank made a 25-yard field goal with 8:17 left in the second quarter to cut Elizabethtown’s deficit to 7-3.
“We knew that we were going to have to mix the ball around a little bit. The quarterback did try to run a few times on some reads and they bottled us up for most of them, but I’m just glad that we settled down,” McDonald said.
Garden Spot fumbled on the following possession and middle linebacker Paul Beiler was able to recover for Elizabethtown on the Spartans’ 40-yard line. The short field was advantageous for the Bears as Patrick connected with Anthony Funk for a 24-yard touchdown pass down the left seam.
A 24-yard touchdown pass from each team and Shank’s 25-yard field goal gave Elizabethtown a 10-7 lead going into the half.
On the first drive of the second half, Patrick was intercepted by fellow quarterback and safety Cameron Roth. Elizabethtown’s first turnover gave Garden Spot the ball on Bears’ 40-yard line.
The drive didn’t progress much further as Zach McNitt was able to fall on a Garden Spot fumble at the 30-yard line to quickly put an end to the Spartans’ scoring threat. On their next possession, Garden Spot fumbled and Beiler made his second recovery of the night.
Elizabethtown was able to move into the red zone on the heels of Garden Spot’s fourth turnover, but Patrick was hit as he tried to pass and fumbled the ball back to Garden Spot.
“They [Garden Spot] did a nice job getting to the quarterback. We just didn’t make the adjustments as properly as we should as soon as we should, but eventually we figured it out and there wasn’t too much damage,” McDonald said.
Garden Spot’s trend of turning the ball over continued with a fourth fumble and fifth turnover on their own 38-yard line. Despite the combined five turnovers in the third quarter, the scored remained the same and Elizabethtown took a 10-7 lead into the fourth quarter.
The first score of the fourth quarter belonged to Elizabethtown as Shank made a 32-yard field goal to give the Bears a six-point lead.
Seventy-two seconds later, Roth scored on a 71-yard touchdown run that came on 3rd and 1. Roth’s run gave him more than 2,000 in his career and it also gave the Spartans a 14-13 lead.
Patrick was intercepted for a second time before both teams exchanged 3-and-outs. Garden Spot was able to down a punt on Elizabethtown’s 4-yard line.
Facing a 3rd and short, Patrick went to his second most targeted receiver, Funk, for the first down. Devyn Clair, who came into the game seventh in Section Two with 496 rushing yards, added 22 yards to move the ball to Elizabethtown’s 40-yard line.
Patrick also found Alex Diahn for a completed pass before Clair added 15 more yards to get the ball Garden Spot’s 35-yard line. The Bears had enough time on the clock to have Patrick slide down in the middle of the field to set up Shank’s 37-yard field goal attempt.
After Patrick’s slide, McDonald called a timeout with one second left. As Shank lined up the kick, Garden Spot’s coach took a timeout as well to try and ice Shank.
It was of no use, however, as Shank made his third field goal of the night to give Elizabethtown a victory on Homecoming.
On the game-winning drive that began on their own 4-yard line, Patrick was 5-6. He completed three passes to Funk, one pass to Diahn and one to Gaumer.
“He’s a smart young guy. He threw a couple balls tonight that he wanted back, but he stuck with it. He wiped away some of the mistakes that he made and he was able to continue on. He kept his cool. He’s got ice in his veins. Very proud of him,” McDonald said of Patrick’s performance.
Garden Spot’s 14 points were the fewest they have scored this season. The 30 combined points were the fewest in a Garden Spot game this season. The next lowest total is 56, from a 49-7 victory over Ephrata.
Elizabethtown is scheduled to play its final road game of the regular season at Cedar Crest (6-2, 3-2) on Friday, Oct. 27. The Falcons are coming off a 42-6 loss at Manheim Central.
In the most recent District Three Class AAAAA power rankings, Elizabethtown is ranked ninth and Cedar Crest is ranked sixth. The top eight teams qualify for the District Three playoffs. Each team in front of Elizabethtown has two or fewer losses with the exception of No. 8 Exeter Township, who shares an identical 5-3 record with Elizabethtown.
The Eagles are scheduled to play at Reading (2-6) before playing Daniel Boone (2-7) in their regular season finale on Friday, Nov. 3.