Cedar Crest Waits 16 Hours (Plus A Little Extra) To Keep Perfect Record Intact As Falcons Move To 3-0, Outduel Warwick In Walk-Off Fashion After Three Overtime Affair
Full disclosure here. We know this is a space solely dedicated to pigskin. But if you’re a fan of the high school sports scene in and around the Lancaster-Lebanon League, the truth of the matter is that if we get Cedar Crest and Warwick going against one another on the hardwood this winter in the league championship game, don’t be all that surprised considering both will be entering this coming season with some of the best odds of making it to that grand finale provided that Vegas had a vested interest in scholastic sports in central Pennsylvania. Now why do we make mention of a purely hypothetical matchup in an entirely different sport almost five months from now in this arena? Why because both rosters feature a bevy of multi-sport talent, but especially in football, at some of the most key positions no less. And in terms of both the Falcons’ and Warriors’ shared seasons exhibited on the gridiron thus far heading into Week 3 of the 2023 season, both Cedar Crest and Warwick had interesting narratives.
For the blue and white hailing from Lebanon County, Cedar Crest has turned in quite an impressive resume for themselves over the course of the first weeks of the season. Suppose it’s hard to find much of an argument to the thesis however when you turn in a pair of outings that end in you not only going 2-0 out of the chute, but also by a combined 57-7 clip against the likes of Philadelphia’s Northeast High and CD East out of the Mid-Penn for your first two opponents. Suffice to say, without putting the cart before the horse of course, but the Falcons certainly appear to be positioning themselves into a pesky foe that no one inside the ranks of L-L Section One will want to tangle with over the course of the next half dozen weeks provided they continue looking like this.
On the other sideline, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Warwick quite frankly. For the high, the Warriors prevailed in a white-knuckle 17-14 affair back on opening night against a Cocalico ballclub not only fresh off an appearance in 5A state semifinals one year ago, but it was also an Eagles’ crew with a freshly minted Top 5 state ranking by some publications to start of 2023 as well. For the low, that came last week not only did the Warriors slip up against backyard rival Ephrata in back-to-back years for the first time in over two decades, but they did so on their home turf while also failing to crack the scoreboard as the Mounts left with the George Male Trophy in tow from Lititz last Friday night in 14-0 fashion.
So, call it what you will, but this week’s matchup between two teams coming in riding on completely different wavelengths left no shortage of storylines in ample supply. As it turned out, however, the ones we thought we had initially somehow paled in comparison to what would take place in actuality. Shoot, even Mother Nature felt the need to get in on the act herself.
On Friday night, with oodles of games taking place nearby either falling victim to being delayed or postponed completely, Cedar Crest and Warwick tried their best to dodge the lightning bolts and get things rolling. And for a moment, the plan appeared to be working.
Granted, despite a late start courtesy of the literal electricity in the air, the game did eventually kick-off. And after a trifecta of Cedar Crest first downs to begin the evening that came in the form of tosses from Falcons’ junior QB Jackson Custer to Aidan Schomp and Logan Oriel respectively along with Custer using his wheels to move the chains for the third of the bunch, Crest’s early mojo was halted just as quickly as it began as Friday night’s action was shelved for good following another nearby lightning strike not even three full minutes into the opening stanza. As a result, action would pick up bright and early on Saturday morning at 11 am with Cedar Crest resetting the table with a first down at the Warwick 30-yard line.
Now, while there wouldn’t be the need for keeping an eye on the skies on Saturday morning with the threat of severe weather from the night before being eliminated, the weather outside was downright miserable regardless. Simply put, the game would’ve felt more at home had it been played in a greenhouse as opposed to Warwick’s revamped Grosh Field with the combination of abundant sunshine mixing in with oppressive humidity. Nevertheless, Cedar Crest was able to withstand all the early curveballs thrown their way.
Or so it would seem.
Yes, while Jackson Custer would begin Saturday morning’s festivities in front of a sparse crowd that had reassembled itself in the bleachers with a 9-yard gallop on the first play from scrimmage, Warwick’s Care Quinn was able to wipe out the Falcons’ early momentum as the junior defensive back snared an interception to successfully extinguish the early Cedar Crest threat.
However, as would quickly become a theme in this sweltering first half, turnovers wouldn’t be hard to find.
Case in point, almost as quickly as had Warwick taken it away they gave it right back as a nice QB hurry turned strip fumble recovery by Cedar Crest’s Cameron Simone awarded the ball right back to the Falcons’ offensive troops thanks to the senior defensive lineman’s handiwork in pushing himself back into the pocket against the offensive line.
This time, the visitors would make good on their newfound prize.
For the honors, Cedar Crest let Fernando Marquez tote the rock which turned out to be a wise decision seeing as how the burly senior running back was able to bully his way into the endzone through would-be Warwick tacklers from seven yards out as Marquez’s TD made it a 6-0 Falcons’ cushion following the missed PAT with 6:15 left in the opening frame.
Then, as far as the remainder of the opening quarter was most concerned, the defenses stole the show.
In fact, both teams’ ensuing offense series would meet quick conclusions given how each ended on third down on a pair of sacks registered by either club in the form of Malachi Victor from Cedar Crest and Aiden Richey from Warwick getting the nod respectively. And if they weren’t ending drives in the traditional sense, the Falcons were more than comfortable doing so in a much greedier fashion, such as the case when senior DB Leo Tirado was able to highpoint an errant Warwick throw and come down with the interception that not only promptly ended a worrisome Warwick advance in Cedar Crest territory following a gutsy Falcons’ fake punt that went awry moments prior, but it also preserved their 6-0 advantage heading into the second twelve minutes.
Whether it be the early wakeup call and/or the aspect of playing in what felt like the Amazon jungle at times, but both sides struggled to get their offenses in gear for the rest of the opening half. In fact, not only did the 6-0 Cedar Crest lead hold firm as both teams retired to their locker rooms for the intermission, but both teams had to trudge into the recess feeling as if the game was there for the taking, even despite a litany of penalties whistled against either side which helped define the narrative of a relatively sloppy first half of play.
In some ways though, it might have seemed at first blush once the third quarter got underway that more of the same would be in store here too. Hard to find much of a counterargument to that considering how both teams saw their initial second-half offensive possessions end in three-and-outs.
However, on their second offensive series, Cedar Crest tried their best to deliver what could have easily felt like a knockout blow to the opposition.
Of course, given how treacherous it seemed for the offenses to try and operate all day long, a little assistance could certainly go a long way. Well, in that regard, the Falcons weren’t about to turn down a back-breaking offsides penalty whistled against Warwick with Cedar Crest facing a 4th & 3 at the Warriors’ 32-yard line. And with their new lease on life as far as this drive was most concerned following Warwick’s ill-timed eagerness, a pair of Jackson Custer to Owen Chernich pitches and catches not only gave the Falcons two more first downs, but it also ushered the ball all the way down to the Warwick 2-yard line. From there, while trying to negotiate past a hard-headed Warwick defensive unit that refused to budge over the course of the next few plays, Cedar Crest eventually found paydirt in the form of a 4-yard touchdown plunge across the chalk courtesy of another battering-ram type back found in Falcons’ backfield, Alex Abreu, as the senior’s successful tote made it a 13-0 ballgame in the visitors’ favor following Ethan Bowman’s PAT with 2:11 left in the third quarter by that point.
And a baker’s dozen would be exactly where the margin of separation would remain once the third quarter horn blared out as Cedar Crest appeared to be sitting pretty, especially with the Falcons back out on offense to start the final quarter following a quick Warwick three-and-out that ended with another Cedar Crest sack, this one courtesy of senior defensive lineman Tristan Long to help conclude the third quarter festivities.
Needless to say, if ever there was a time for some sort of spark that could potentially ignite the Warriors’ engine, the situation had arrived. But who says turning the key in the ignition must be the offense?
Here, with Cedar Crest inching ever closer to what would have certainly served as a decisive knockout blow given the way in which the Falcons were methodically inching themselves down the field, Warwick found the antidote in the form of a timely interception return by junior linebacker Jackson Shelby who rumbled his way all the way down to the Falcons’ 21-yard line with ball in hand. And while it wasn’t by initial design, the Warriors’ sideline couldn’t have cared any less in the end result as a tipped ball on a 3rd & 10 from Trevor Evans ricocheted off a couple of different hands before eventually wandering into the mitts of Keldyn Loraw as the 21-yard touchdown connection between the pair of Warwick seniors cut the once impressive Cedar Crest cushion down to a manageable 13-7 difference with 8:59 left to play following Tyler Schoffstall’s PAT.
That said, if you can get momentum, you’d be wise to try and keep it. In that regard, Warwick would assuredly pass that test with flying colors.
In fact, even despite all the fits and starts that had beset them up until that point on the day, all of those prior difficulties appeared so much easier to reconcile seeing as another Warwick interception would mean curtains on Cedar Crest’s ensuing offensive possession. Not only that, but this particular INT came complete with all the spoils of a Pick 6 as Warwick sophomore defensive back Bode Madara read his keys and snagged himself a 57-yard interception touchdown return that totally swung momentum in Warwick’s favor had that not already been apparent. However, even with the Warriors rolling downhill right then and there, the door remained open just ajar for Cedar Crest given how the PAT sailed no good, leaving it at a 13-13 stalemate with 5:55 left to play.
But the overall zaniness was only just getting ramped up by that point.
Flash forward to Warwick’s next offensive series after successfully holding Cedar Crest to a punt following the Madara theft. All would appear routine and ordinary with the Warriors being forced to line up for a punt, yes? Well, not exactly.
As if it could not have come at a more unfortunate time as far as the home patrons were most concerned, a high snap over the punter’s head not only meant that Warwick would fail to actually flip the field on the Falcons with time winding down, but it could have also spelled much greater disaster seeing as how the loose pill was ultimately pounced on at the Warwick 8-yard line with just 1:27 left to play and the Cedar Crest offensive troops trotting back onto the field to potentially put the game on ice.
Instead, however, it would be the Falcons’ offense that would be the ones freezing up.
Despite their backs being pushed firmly up against the wall, the Warwick starting defensive unit responded marvelously to the challenge in front of them. In fact, not only did the Warriors’ D fail to give nary a yard over the next couple of plays –despite giving up a touchdown run that was ultimately called back due to a penalty– but a bad snap on Cedar Crest’s potential game-winning field goal try led to a frantic incomplete pass to try and save face that eventually fell onto the blistering hot turf which meant that this wacky and wonky game was fittingly so good that it was going onward to overtime with the score deadlocked at 13-all.
In the first overtime, Warwick would be the one to draw first blood. And remember all the way back to the earlier theme of both these rosters featuring hoopers found all over the field? Well, the Warriors called upon two of their own then and there for an alley-oop play as a 9-yard fade route from Trevor Evans to Thomas Jeanes into the back corner of the endzone gave Warwick their first lead of the contest, 20-13, following another Tyler Schoffstall PAT after the touchdown.
So now, in do-or-die time, it was Cedar Crest who was forced to answer the dinner bell. Fortunately, for those who had come down from Lebanon County on this day, their white-clad heroes would respond in kind on 3rd & Goal as a 4-yard touchdown strike from Custer to Jack Waranavage, a pair of Falcons’ hoopers too if we’re playing along at home, meant that the game would continue onward to a second frame of overtime provided that the PAT would get booted through. And as if to be the epitome of how much of an adventure the day had gone in totality up until that point in almost all facets, a tipped ball on said PAT that then resembled a wounded duck somehow crept itself over the crossbar with just enough juice to make it a 20-20 contest as the Cedar Crest sideline undoubtedly wiped the sweat beads from their collective foreheads not just from the heat, but purely as a sign of relief as well with the battle waging on to overtime numero dos.
In the second session, the Warwick defense would successfully keep the Falcons from protruding from the endzone. As a result, a critical FG try was knocked home pure by Cedar Crest junior kicker Ethan Bowman who made it 23-20 Falcons with the Warriors being the ones to try and end this one right then and there.
And for a brief moment, it appeared as if the home team would indeed conclude the outing on their terms seeing how a nice Andrew McClune run with the rock ushered the Warwick attack right on the precipice of a 2-1 start to the season. However, with the margin for error between these two clubs being nothing if not nonexistent it seemed, that miscues could be fatal. In that regard, an ill-timed unsportsmanlike penalty against Warwick not only took the wind out of the Warriors’ sails by and large, but it more importantly moved the ball back near the 20-yard line for an offense that had struggled to get going all day long by and large. As a result, Warwick would indeed be kept out of the endzone over the course of the next several plays which meant that a freshman would be the one tasked with keeping the Saturday matinee alive and well. And like a thief in the middle of the night, Warwick’s Tyler Schoffstall responded to the gargantuan task before him in coldblooded fashion as the 5’6 137lb 9th grader showed the moxie of someone well beyond his years by knocking home the game-extending kick through the uprights to make it a 23-23 ballgame as the game careened toward its third OT session with neither side giving an inch in a metaphorical sense.
Once inside the third overtime, Warwick’s offense again couldn’t quite find its way to paydirt albeit with the ball starting out on the Falcons’ 10-yard line. And this time, the field goal operation wouldn’t be nearly as successful as a low snap on the try felt eerily similar to Cedar Crest’s attempt all the way back at the end of regulation seeing as how it not only took place in the exact same endzone, but it also led to a frantic scenario that eventually culminated in an incomplete pass and the Warriors coming up with nothing to show for their possession.
Suffice to say, if ever there was a time for Cedar Crest to get on out of here and bid the Warriors adieu, the opportunity in front of them now couldn’t have been served up on a much cleaner silver platter. And after going back to using the tried and true method of “ground and pound” football, the dam eventually burst once and for all as a 2-yard Fernando Marquez touchdown run –yes, one of the top returning guards on the hardwood this season in keeping with the day’s theme if you’re wondering—etched this one into stone as an impromptu Cedar Crest field storming aka bench storming to greet Marquez in the endzone signified the 29-23 final score now emblazoned in the red lights shown on the scoreboard as Cedar Crest kept it’s perfect record alive and well at 3-0 following a gritty, workmanlike, and downright heroic victory to stick with it given all the ebbs and flows that came within those 48+ minutes of play which could have easily tilted the game onto an entirely different axis at various points along the way.
As for the man in charge of it all? While there certainly is plenty to clean and address once he and the brain trust return to the lab this week, it was largely mission accomplished this weekend from the Falcons’ perspective seeing as how it culminated in a 3-0 record by the end of it all.
“Listen, a ton of credit to Warwick. You know they’re going to throw their kitchen sink of blitzes at you. They did. I don’t think they had another blitz they had left. We knew that, but it’s hard to prep for that and be ready for it. They got us rattled a little bit,” Cedar Crest head coach Rob Wildasin candidly admitted postgame while lauding the challenge the now-conquered opponent had brought to the table, or the kitchen table most specifically it would seem given the metaphor used.
“I think we just settled in,” Wildasin continued. “There’s so many things you can look back on and say, ‘We should have won it going away.’ Warwick is going to probably feel the same way. Both teams are going to feel like that. I felt like we had some control of things through the first quarters, but we lost it in the fourth quarter just by shooting ourselves in the foot and then Warwick really had the momentum even throughout overtime until the very end there…I’m on the winning side, but I easily could’ve been on the losing side of this one.”
But how does a team persevere and withstand the peaks and valleys not just of a football game, but a season as a whole? By being nothing but the definition of resilient. And if you’re one of those folks with knowledge of the local high school sports community as mentioned off the top, there is arguably no school overall that epitomizes that in spades better than Cedar Crest. Seems only right that this 2023 edition of the football team has that woven into their fiber too, yes?
“Our kids are tough,” the Falcons’ boss was quick to mention still in the afterglow of victory Saturday afternoon. “They grind. They just grind and they grind, and they grind,” Wildasin went on to say. “We’re never going to be cute and pretty. We don’t want to be. But we will work like crazy. Again, win or loss, I don’t see that changing about us. That’s something I’ll be proud of them forever about.”
And if we’re keeping score at home, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Cedar Crest accomplished its mission over the course of a two-day period, all while being away from the friendly confines of Earl Boltz Stadium at their place back in Cornwall.
“It’s hard being the away team in a situation like that to go home (Friday night) and come back,” said Wildasin. “I don’t want to say that was a factor because I don’t know if it was or think that it was, but it is hard. It’s hard in general. Listen, it’s what you have to do. But isn’t that what you love about football though? Like hey, ‘Let’s go do this.’ That’s part of the reason why I fell in love with the sport is the toughness of it. Not just physically, but mentally.”
“For both teams today, that was a mental grind,” Cedar Crest’s head coach continued while gracious with his time afterward donning a jet-black polo and long pants while continuing to stand on an artificial surface with the heat waves bouncing off of it visibly as if he were standing on some sort of gas stove. “That was a good football game. A tough football game. A lot of lessons to be learned on both sides. I kept waiting for one team to wilt. Didn’t seem to happen did it?”
No Coach, it didn’t, which most certainly serves as a testament to both clubs as you alluded to. But by the end of a good old-fashioned high school football game that seemed to contain just about everything, it would be your team who prevailed over the finish line to get the job done. For that, you enter league play unblemished.
NEXT UP: Following their win over Warwick here this week, Cedar Crest formally enters the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One picture while toting that 3-0 record when the Falcons welcome Penn Manor to town next Friday night. And provided that Cedar Crest can get past the Comets to move to 4-0, the Falcons will get their first crack at one of the perceived “big boys” found inside the division when they tangle with Wilson back at home on the 22nd which certainly appears to be a tantalizing matchup albeit still two weeks away.
For Warwick, there is next to no time to be had licking wounds or anything of the like in Warriors’ camp. Over the course of the next several weeks, there are arguably few and far between with what appear to be more daunting challenges on the upcoming horizon when you consider that Warwick will face Conestoga Valley next week, a team just one point shy of having a perfect record in their own right thus far, Manheim Central, need we say more? Along with Exeter and Souderton in back-to-back fashions immediately afterward with both the Eagles and Indians owning combined 6-0 records through the season’s first three weeks. However, if they can figure things out and piece together some W’s while also factoring in what looks like a much more favorable slate down the homeward stretch just by initial comparison sake to the naked eye, there’s an opportunity for Warwick to once again reenter the postseason, but with a little of momentum at that.
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