Barons pluck Falcons with second half surge
MANHEIM, Pa. – The rapper Eminem once recorded a song titled “The Real Slim Shady,” and in that tune, the chorus invokes the question, “Will the real Slim Shady, real Slim Shady please stand up, please stand up?”
For the first 24 minutes of Friday’s season opener, youthful Manheim Central didn’t seem to have much going for it, racking up only 57 yards and trailing a seemingly game Lower Dauphin 6-0, who had doubled up the Barons in total first half offensive yardage.
But that all changed in the second half thanks to some adjustments in strategy. After a first half filled with figurative “pleases,” the Barons finally and resoundingly stood up.
Manheim Central (1-0) ran for 164 of their 189 yards in the second half, pummeling a suddenly defenseless Lower Dauphin (0-1) 28-12 from a muggy Elden Rettew Stadium.
The victory was Manheim’s first on the gridiron since the tragic deaths of John Griffith, DeVaughn Lee, Nicholas Bryson and Cody Hollinger, who were all killed in a vehicle accident in South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, in mid-January. The quartet was honored with a poignant pre-game ceremony. A fifth Manheim football player – Evan Heiser – lost his life in a car crash in August 2010, and he was not forgotten either, as one of his good friends, tight end/linebacker Derek Schaub, honored his fallen friend by wearing his jersey with the nameplate “Heiser”.
Baron skipper Mike Williams said he knew his squad was going to get off to a slower-than-normal start.
“We knew we were probably going to do that,” Williams said. “At times (in the first half), the only thing we did right was have 11 guys on the field.”
It was a comedy of errors (and growing pains) for the maroon and gray in the first half. Division-1 prospect kicker Bryant Myer missed a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter and later had a 43-yard attempt blocked. Manheim also had a turnover on downs but could not seem to move forward.
The only first half score – a Ben Goss 34-yard pass to Quincey Nissley – came with 6:12 in the half after the Falcons had strung together a pair of first downs on runs of seven yards by Josh Palmer and a 20-yard scamper by Travis Morrill. And the way MC’s offense – particularly the ground game – was scuffling, the six-spot may have been enough to stand.
But it wasn’t.
“We went over some strategy at halftime and asked our running backs to run harder,” Williams said. “They stepped up (in the second half) and did what we asked.”
The ground effort, paced by field general Caleb Walton and backs Hunter Root and Ian Hanselman, came to life from the onset of the third stanza. Manheim went on a 14-play, 80-yard, 6:54 drive, highlighted by 13 running plays (seven by Root) before Walton found receiver Joe Good from 11 yards out and a 7-6 lead.
“That was absolutely by design,” Williams said of the opening second half drive. “Once we saw we could get four or five yards each play, it became a no-brainer (what we would do offensively). It was kind of a no-brainer.”
After forcing LD three-and-out, Hanselman became the go-to back, registering a personal six-play, 45-yard drive, including three runs of 10 yards or greater, to push the Baron advantage to 14-6.
Walton stretched the lead to 21-6 with a deft 30-yard option keeper around left end and Hanselman capped the Baron scoring with a 15-yard reception from Walton with 2:18 left in the game. Sandwiched between those two MC scores was an 80-yard pass from Goss to Nissley to bring LD back to within 21-12 and add a little spice to the contest.
The first game out of the way – a “W” – was especially big for the confidence factor of the Barons, Williams said.
“This is one of the biggest victories in our program’s history,” Williams said. “It’s not the state finals or a district final, but from where we came from January 16 to now, it’s nothing short of amazing.”
Walton served as the offensive catalyst for a Baron effort which churned out 255 yards of offense and 20 first downs, running for a team high 80 yards on 13 carries and connecting on 7-of-14 passes for 69 yards. Hanselman added 54 yards on 14 carries and Root added 66 yards on 20 carries. In all, Manheim Central ran for 189 yards on 51 carries.
Lower Dauphin was paced by Morrill’s 54 yards rushing on eight carries and Palmer added one yard on seven totes. Goss finished with 124 passing yards for the Falcons and threw two touchdows, but did so on just a 3-of-16 night. The Falcons missed a chance to take a 9-0 lead into the locker room when kicker Joe Julius missed a 41-yard field goal wide right as time expired in the first half.
NOTES: The number 129 appeared high atop the Donald E. Yingst Pressbox in the slots normally reserved for the program’s all-time number of victories as a tribute to the four fallen Barons involved in January’s car accident. The number 129 is the sum of the four players’ jersey numbers. Additionally, the Baron team broke down its postgame huddle with a “129”.
In the last two meetings, Manheim Central has outscored Lower Dauphin by a combined margin of 75-22.
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