Cedar Crest Shines Under Bright Lights As Falcons Hold Off Hershey
It’s a phrase that coaches have said to their players seemingly seem the dawn of the time. “It’s a privilege, not a right to play.” And while that is undoubtedly true across the expansive sports landscape, playing high school football in the great state of Pennsylvania, especially within District 3 in particular, takes that saying to a whole different level.
Perhaps the biggest reason comes from the fact that the “big boy” classifications from within District 3—3A, 4A, 5A, and 6A, all have the opportunity to go and play their championships inside Hersheypark Stadium–the very same confines where the PIAA state title games are staged just a few weeks later. And if that weren’t already enough of an added perk, two in schools that lie just a stone’s throw away from the expansive Hersheypark complex, Lower Dauphin and Hershey, both have the privilege to call “The Concrete Palace,” their home field.
And as luck would have it, the Cedar Crest Falcons from nearby Cornwall just so happened to have a road date with the Hershey Trojans on Friday night which meant that one of the most underrated teams in the entire Lancaster-Lebanon League, and all of District 3 at large, would get their opportunity to play under the bright lights of Pennsylvania’s grandest stage for high school football.
But for as much hoopla and distractions that playing in a place like Hersheypark Stadium can bring with it, it was clear that Cedar Crest wasn’t having any of it. Just ask Cedar Crest head coach Rob Wildasin. “It’s a great opportunity don’t get me wrong, but we didn’t talk about it that much,” the head man said regarding this week during practices. Yes indeed, this was a business trip in the truest sense of the word for the Falcons.
When the Cedar Crest offense took to the field for their first offensive series following a successful by the defense stand to open up the contest, it was obvious that the Falcons weren’t about to hide any secrets on what their gameplan would be on this soaking-wet evening. Play sound defense and pound the rock.
The first of those assignments would be having to containHershey’s dynamic junior quarterback Jay Rodriguez—a task best impersonated by Cedar Crest sophomore Tyrese Stewart who had a “great week of practice,” as described by coach Wildasin leading up to Friday night.
After setting up shop at their own 16 yard line, the visiting Falcons were able to slash and dash their way all the way down to the Hershey 33 yard line while leaning on their potent rushing attack before taking their act to the skies when senior quarterback Logan Horn was able to connect with Kyle Poorman as the senior duo allowed Cedar Crest to draw first blood with Falcons jumping out on top of their hosts 7-0 with 7:22 left to go in the opening period.
And after forcing yet another punt on Hershey’s ensuing possession, the Cedar Crest offensive troops went right back to work.
This time with the ball resting on the midfield stripe, the Falcons continued to leave heavily on their offensive line to do the yeoman’s work. And with the big boys in the trenches helping pave the way, a steady, methodical Cedar Crest drive was starting to take shape with the Falcon ball carriers ripping off nice chunks of yardage on every single play. Yet ironically, it would Horn’s second attempt of the evening which would prove to be the best play in this series as well as the Cedar Crest senior QB flicked a swing pass out junior wideout Chris Rios who would go on to shimmy and shake his way down the Hershey 13 yard line for a 14-yard pickup.
Despite the fact that the Cedar Crest offense showed no signs whatsoever of slowing down, they ultimately were turned away as the Hershey defense rose to the occasion, not letting the Falcon march get any closer than the 8 yard line, as the white-clad visitors were left with nothing following a missed field goalat the conclusion of the drive.
Unable to do anything to that point in the ballgame, not all was lost for the Trojans’ offensive unit. And that fact is especially true when you have the very definition of the word “weapon” touching the ball every single play. Case in point, a 3rd & 12 scenario in which Hershey found themselves in on their ensuing drive. After the play initially broke down, Hershey QB Jay Rodriguez took off and running didn’t end up stopping until he was forced out at the Cedar Crest 49 yard line as the Trojans were able to cross midfield for the first time all evening following Rodriguez’s 32-yard scamper. And for as vaunted as the Cedar Crest defense had looked to that point, Hershey would be able to gash their way for 28 more yards on the very next play by way of senior ball carrier Glojere Hampton as the Trojans were mounting a serious attack. Shortly thereafter, the Trojans were ultimately able to find their way into the endzoneas a 12 -yard pass from Rodriguez to Hampton, who secured the greased pig off the initial ricochet, got Hershey on the board with the game now all tied up at 7-7 with 8:11 to go in the half.
Remember that last Cedar Crest that saw the Falcons grind their way down methodically down the field? Well, this drive would look eerily similar but would end up bearing much sweeter results.
As mentioned, the Cedar Crest running attack out of the shotgun was a force to be reckoned with all evening long. And perhaps the epitome of that best came from a Logan Horn run at the tail end of the drive with Horn showing off his fearlessness by loses his helmet in a crowd of would-be tacklers, yet still continuing to plow his way for an additional four yards following the lost lid. And after a play which featured Brody Dunlop take a snap from the wildcat in Horn’s mandatory exit, the multi-sport senior quarterback was able to trot back out with a vengeance as Horn bulled his way in from 9 yards out to give Cedar Crest immediate answer with the visiting Falcons now in front 14-7 with 5:42 to go in the opening half.
On Hershey’s next offensive series, the Trojans appeared to take a page out of the Cedar Crest manual as the hosts began to prod and nudge their way down field in steady doses after starting at their 25 yard line to being the drive. However the Cedar Crest defense, namely Brody Dunlop, would put a stop to those plansas the Falcons’ senior safety was able to cheat the route and snag a wonderful interception and proceeded to take off running with his newfound prize. When all was said and done following the Dunlop theft, Cedar Crest found themselves 56 yards away from the paydirt with just 56 seconds left to go in the half.
In fact, the Falcons would need only 47 of those seconds as awonderful hurry-up series would be capped off with a 2 yard walk-in touchdown from Tyler Cruz which gave Cedar Crest the dramatic first half mic drop with Falcons heading into the break with the 21-7 advantage.
The third quarter of Friday’s night game between Cedar Crest and Hershey need only be defined by just one word. Defense. And there was surely plenty of it as both teams took their turns trading punts with one another until Cedar Crest regained possession at their own 35 yard line with just 42 seconds left in the third. And although their late 3rd quarter drive would not nearly be as their quick and dramatic as the drive which put a bow on the 2nd quarter, it would still end up being a success as Tyler Cruz burned his way through the heart of the Trojans’defense from 35 yards out for his second TD of the night, this one giving the Falcons the 28-7 cushion with 10:37 left to play.
Needing to score with time of the upmost importance, Hershey let Mr. Rodriguez run the with the keys to the offense which always seems like a sound offensive gameplan. Ignited by a long 36 -yard connection from Rodriguez to senior wideout Casey Shipman, the Trojans suddenly found themselves knocking on the door at the Cedar Crest 27 yard line following the successful 3rd & 3 conversion. Yet even despite the fact that Hershey would end up getting down as far as the Falcon 15 yard line following another Rodriguez keeper on the drive, the Trojans were ultimately turned away on downs following a nice pass breakup by Crest’s Chris Rios which gave the ball back to the Cedar Crest offense, albeit deep in their own territory.
Unable to move the ball on their ensuing series, Cedar Crest ended up punting it back to Hershey with the Trojans setting up shop at their own 46 yard line needing to score. And unlike their previous drive, the Trojans would indeed find the endzone here as a 3-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Nate Lopez trimmed the Falcons’ lead in half at 28-14 with 3:56 left to play with an onsides kick upcoming.
Typically in a late-game situation such as the one following the Lopez score, underclassman, specifically freshman, are nowhere near the field with the game hanging in the balance. But sure enough, Cedar Crest had the upmost confidence in sending outfreshman Brayden Koehler as a member of the hands team with Koehler proving his worth in spades by coming up on the onsides kick, keeping the ball out of the hands of a now white-hot Hershey offense with time winding down.
From there the Cedar Crest offense was able to essentially salt the game away following a pair of Horn to Dunlop 3rd down conversions as the Falcons were able to fly to a 2-0 on the young season after toppling the Trojans on their massive home field by way of a 28-14 decision.
The old adage in football in that teams generally make their biggest leaps from Week 1 to Week 2. And while that may be true, Cedar Crest head coach Rob Wildasin was not one for mincing words when offering his thoughts following his team’s performance on Friday night.
“Honestly I feel like we regressed,” Wildasin said candidly. “We had too many mistakes that we can control. How many penalties? How many times did it look like we didn’t know which personnel group was going in? That’s on me. I gotta fix it.”
NEXT UP: Cedar Crest will look to move to 3-0 next week as the Falcons prepare for another dangerous offense attack as evidenced by their 63-16 drubbing of Reading in Week 1 when the Falcons entertain the York High Bearcats for their first home game of the season inside Earl Boltz Stadium. Provided that can navigate their way past York next Friday evening, the Falcons have a favorable shot at rolling into Neffsville for a pivotal game at 6A state semifinalist Manheim Township on October 12th, quite possibly with an unblemished record. However make no mistake about it. There is still plenty of work to do ASAP according to Coach Wildasin.
“We have to take care of the things that we can take care of,” the 5th year head coach stated regarding the outlook of his 2018 ballclub. “We preach it all the time. If we do that, we’ll be in some games but we just made too many mistakes tonight.”
Provided they can make those necessary adjustments and improvements, the Cedar Crest Falcons remain a team to keep an eye on in what appears to be a wide open L-L Section 1 race this season and yes, the loaded for bear District 3 6A field come playoff time.
With their setback on Friday night now behind them, Hershey will look to get sweet revenge in one of Central PA’s best backyard rivalries, the Cocoa Bean Bowl, as the Trojans will make the roughly 1-minute bus ride to tangle with the Milton Hershey Spartans. From there, Hershey will look to make a name for themselves this season in the Mid-Penn Keystone Division, starting off with a winnable home game against Mechanicsburg.
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