Cocalico Gets Rid of Last Week’s Frustration In Dominating Road Win At Cedar Crest
When the latest version of the District 3 power rankings were released this past week, there was an undeniable theme that encapsulated the 5A field. The 5A bracket was littered with Lancaster Lebanon League flavor. More specifically, Lancaster Lebanon League Section 2 flavor. In fact if the postseason were to start at this very moment, 3 of top 5 seeds would hail from LL Section 2. Now of the course that isn’t the case, especially with most of the Section 2 heavyweights set to battle against one another in the coming weeks, but it’s still fun nonetheless to have an intriguing storyline heading into a Friday night battle. That just so happened to be the case this week when Cedar Crest welcomed Cocalico to the gorgeous confines of Earl BoltzStadium in Cornwall for a pivotal Section 2, and by default, District 3 contest in the bird of prey bowl between the Falcons and Eagles. And although this was a contest that matched the current #2 vs #5 seeds, it felt like both teams came in having different narratives to describe their seasons thus far.
On one hand, you had the visiting Cocalico Eagles who were the darlings of District 3 and deservedly so. Cocalico started off the 2017 campaign razor-sharp making scoreboard lights sizzle with heat as the Eagles had tallied performances of 69, 42, and 56 points the first three games of the year…. Then came last week’s rivalry game against Manheim Central.
In a game that was met with anticipation going all the way back to the offseason, both the Barons and Eagles did their part to help sell the hype of last Friday’s titanic matchup with both entering with undefeated records. In the end however, Manheim Central was able to steal the momentum away from Cocalico’searly season start by virtue of the 17-7 triumph in Denver as the Barons rode off into the sunset with a gigantic head-to-head win in their back pocket. So needless to say, Cocalico was more than eager to get back to their winning ways and prove why last week’s hiccup does not a season define.
Their opponents standing on the opposite sideline this week felt as though they had a different story to tell. Granted, Cedar Crest came into the weekend owning an undefeated record with a highly potent offense led by junior quarterback Logan Horn, but it felt as though the jury was still on just how good this Falcon squad truly was with the meat of their schedule still on the horizon. Fair enough, but it’s hard to discredit a team averaging nearly 44 points per game. Especially one that was knocking on Harrisburg’s door for the #1 spot entering this weekend.
So the question remained for both squads. Who were we going to find out more about after 48 minutes in South Lebanon? Well almost from the moment the opening whistle shrilled across the field, it was evident that Cocalico was here to turn the page on last week and author a brand new chapter to their season that Eagle fans are sure to renew over and over again.
After the Cocalico defense held Cedar Crest to a three and out to start the game, the Eagle offense got their hands on the ball eager to do damage. After just two plays on the ground, one by the most punishing back in the LL in Brandon Brubaker, and the latter by sophomore QB Noah Palm, Cocalico had already racked up 17 yards, and the tone had been set. A few plays later, Cocalico stuck to their bread and butter of rushing the football and it paid dividends yet again as senior running back Adin Frey scampered all the way down to the Cedar Crest 21 yard line. From there the formula was simple. Give the rock to Brubaker. A fullback who Cocalico head coach Dave Gingrich describes as “A bull inside.” The concoction worked wonders as the senior fullback rumbled 21 yards to the house to put the Eagles up 7-0 with 8:05 to go in the first quarter of play.
Although the ensuing Cedar Crest possession yielded more positive results with the Falcons being able to get inside Cocalico territory, the drive was abruptly put to an end with Noah Palm being the beneficiary of a well-timed Cocalico blitzthat brought the heat as the two-way standout nabbed his first of two interceptions against a fellow member of the quarterback fraternity.
Cocalico didn’t waste much time on this drive either. Shortly after the Palm interception, a 50 yard burst to the endzone by junior running back Garrett Longenecker put the Eagles up 14-0 with 5:57 to go in the first as a sense of shock seemed to roll into the stadium.
If there was a undeniable bright spot that Cedar Crest was able to take away from this game, it was the fact that the Falcons have some serious homerun hitters returning kicks in NeissoDorvil and Kendell Shand respectively as both were able to set their Falcon offensive mates up with fantastic field position nearly all night. The ensuing kickoff after the Longenecker TD run would prove to be no exception as Dorvil raced out to the 50 yard line before he was tripped up by the Eagle cavalry.
Once again however, the Eagle defense had an answer here too as the drive was put to an end on a 3rd & 20 sack administered by Ben Fromm. With the ball back nearfield after the Cedar Crest punt, the Cocalico offense continued to fire on all cylinders. After Noah Palm was able to negotiate past a 4th & 1 at midfield to extend the drive, the Eagles went up top where Palm was able to find a racing Austin Landers down the sideline for the 40 yard strike to put the Eagles on the doorstep, now at the Falcon 7 yard line. A few plays later, Palm called his own number and Cocalico suddenly found themselves with a 21-0 lead as time would later run out on the first quarter of play.
No, the change in the quarters would do nothing to slow down Cocalico on this night. After the Eagle defense stood tall and stuffed Cedar Crest on 4th & 1, the Cocalico offensive line continued to play the role of steamrollers blowing the opposition off the line of scrimmage. Never was that more apparent than the next Eagle TD when Garrett Longenecker picked up this second TD of the night, this one from 34 yards out, to give Cocalico the four touchdown lead at 28-0 with 10:38 still left in the half.
Once again, any possible Cedar Crest response would be authored with only half the field to work with as this time it was Kendall Shand who set the Falcons up nicely with a return out to the Cedar Crest 45 yard line. After the Shand return, the Falcon offense started to move when Logan Horn hooked up with Cole Laney as the dynamic duo on the hardwood found success on the artificial turf down to the Eagle 21 yard line. Unfortunatelyfor Cedar Crest, yet another march inside Cocalico territory would end sooner than expected as a fumble recovery by Cocalico’s Adin Frey gave the ball back to the Eagles albeit deep inside their own territory.
No matter. After a dominating march that was executed down the field on the ground, Brandon Brubaker earned his second visit to the endzone with a 5 yard plunge to put Cocalico up by the commanding 34-0 advantage with 5:28 to go in the half.
After the Brubaker touchdown, the ensuing Cedar Crest drive would end with yet another ill-timed turnover. This drive stopper was courtesy of Noah Palm’s second pick of the night as he then proceeded to go back under center to lead the offense troops near midfield after the interception. After a Garrett Longeneckerrun down to the Falcon 42 yard line, Cocalico was in business yet again. The only sign of adversity of this drive would come in the form of a 4th & 1 which Cocalico was able to convert, with Palm on the option keeper to extend the drive. Shortly thereafter, Brandon Brubaker earned house call numero tres on the evening as his 4 yard TD run put Cocalico up the gargantuan 41-0 advantage with just 47 ticks remaining before the halftime break.
After you guessed it, another nice kick return by Cedar Crest, the Falcons set up shop at their own 41 yard line eager to get some momentum heading into the locker room. On this drive, they would. After a 37 yard pass from Logan Horn to Cole Laney, the Falcons were ready to kick the door in. They were able to do just that as Horn found his physically dominating safety-blanket in the 6’6 frame of Laney as the pair hooked up to put Cedar Crest on the board just before the halftime buzzer, trailing 41-6 at the intermission.
Not even a halftime break would take the wind of Cocalico’ssails on this night. On the opening kickoff to start the second half, sophomore running back Ronald Zahm appeared to get eaten up the Cedar Crest kickoff coverage unit, but Zahm would end up only considering them to be would-be tacklers as his magnificent return to midfield set the tone for final half. This drive too would eventually cross the goal line. It looked like that would take the form of an Austin Landers 33 yard touchdown jaunt, but laundry on the field tempered the Eagle celebration. The touchdown that was wiped away was of the 33 yard variety. The one that would stand for good would be from 31 yards out with Owen Zimmerman getting in on the action with Cocaliconow in control with the 48-6 cushion with 7:47 to go in the third.
Unfortunately for Cedar Crest, the same narrative seemed to follow them into the second half as well. A promising kickoff return set the table for an advance into the Eagle territory until the drive was ultimately stalled with a turnover. This time it was Owen Zimmerman showing off his prowess in the defensive backfield as the senior rose up and stole an interception to stop the Cedar Crest threat and send Cocalico into the final quarter leading 48-6.
Cocalico was able to keep their foot on the gas in the final quarter as well. Sophomore back Cody Shay was able to hear his name called over the PA system for his 1 yard TD dive which put Cocalico up 55-6. Likewise, the Cocalico defense continued to rise to the challenge as the final minutes ticked away with plays such as Paul Weaver’s sack on 3rd & 22 helping keep Cedar Crest from scoring any further points as Cocalico was able to ride back to Denver in style after a monstrous 55-6 victory.
As previously mentioned, the Cocalico offense started off this season red-hot. The last two weeks not so much as the Eagles were held down to just 21 points over the last two contests. Friday night however was a different story. “We just played quicker. We made quicker decisions,” Cocalico head coach Dave Gingrich offered up Friday night. “Our line has been great all year. They played really well tonight. I think our backs are very unselfish. If they’re not getting the ball they block for one another. The wideouts don’t get that many catches, but they block for one another.” But perhaps the statement that best summed up the night was when the head Eagle said simply, “There really wasn’t a lot to complain about offensively.”
Sure the offense was great, but the Cocalico defense was equally as a dominant, keeping the lid on a Cedar Crest offense that hovered around nearly 50 points per game. “That’s a good offense over there,” Coach Gingrich said of the Falcons. “We just kept pushing, pushing, and pushing. The defensive line did a great job. I think our fronts and maybe some linebackers with blitzes and stuff like that put them in bad position.”
NEXT UP: The Cocalico defense will have to be up to the task once again next week as the Eagles entertain the high flying attack from Garden Spot for yet another pivotal Section 2 clash. The Spartans come in averaging 42 points per game on the nose and are likely to have an extra pep their step fresh off this week’s 49-7 victory over Ephrata which snapped a two game losing skid for the team from New Holland.
Cedar Crest will have to regroup as the Falcons prepare for the stretch run of their schedule. It doesn’t get any easier for the Falcons next week when they welcome a similar style option offense engineered by the Solanco Golden Mules next weekend at Earl Boltz Stadium. Solanco is likely to come in with a vengeance after Lampeter Strasburg was able to topple the Golden Mules on their home turf this weekend in a rivalry game 46-0. Even with what would appear to be an intimidating slate the rest of the way, Cedar Crest certainly has the ability to regroup and pick up some gigantic wins of their own down the final furlong as the Falcons hope to stay right in the thick of the District 5A playoff picture.
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