Cocalico Tops Cedar Crest in Battle of the Birds For Section Lead
Pound for pound, it’s hard to find a much tougher division in South Central Pennsylvania high school football than Lancaster Lebanon Section 2. It’s one of the very few divisions around where you could say any team can be beat on any given Friday night and not have it come out as a cliché as it is absolutely loaded top to bottom. On Friday night in Denver, the stakes couldn’t have been higher with first place on the line whenCocalico, fresh off their impressive road win at perennial power Manheim Central, hosted Cedar Crest who is learning to navigate these waters as they are in their first foray in Section 2 after coming down from Section 1 this season.
Cocalico would get the ball to start the contest and went right to work with their trademark Veer Option offense. The Eagles leaned heavily on the efforts of Brandon Brubaker on the drive.The junior fullback helped extend the initial Cocalico drive by converting the Eagles’ first three third conversions up the middle ala Joel Makovicka to get near the redzone. The fourth third down conversion was not as successful however as the Cedar Crest defense stood tall and limited Brubaker to just a three yard gain to set up fourth and seven from the Cedar Crest 22. Fourth and long proved to not be too tough of a task as senior quarterback Brady Sawyer was able to scramble out of the pocket and pick up the big first down at the CC 13. The long time-consuming first swing by Cocalico would eventually stall out thanks in part to a false start and holding calls, as well as big hit by Cedar Crest’s Devon Bernard to boot and suddenlyCocalico was faced with a 3rd & 20 which was not picked up after the Falcons brought the heat. Cocalico’s field goal attempt was short of the uprights signaling an initial victory for the Cedar Crest defense.
Sophomore quarterback Logan Horn got the Cedar Crest offense humming through the air the first time the Falcons touched it as he connected with senior Tate Seyfert on the first play for 13 yards to move the chains. Following a run stuff by Cocalico’s Brady Maxwell, Horn then found Nate French to get near midfield to the Eagle 46. Cedar Crest found more success through the air albeit in an unconventional way, as the Falcons were the beneficiaries of a pass interference call that got Crestdown to the Cocalico 39. Cedar Crest went with the hurry up and junior running back AJ Apple was able to pick up a first down to the 29 with the first quarter coming to a close with the game still scoreless at 0-0.
Entering the second stanza, Cedar Crest was faced with a fourth and one from Cocalico 20, which Horn was able to pick up giving the Falcons a fresh set of downs. Cedar Crest went to the bag of tricks on second down when Seyfert threw to Horn for the touchdown, however it had to come back due to an ineligible man downfield call. Cedar Crest was able to withstand the penalty by reversing the formula when Horn found Seyfert along the sideline to the three. AJ Apple was able to finish it off from there as his 3 yard TD run made it a 7-0 Cedar Crest lead with 11:16 to go before the half.
Cocalico went right back to it with workhorse Brandon Brubaker as he ripped off a 33 yard gallop to Cedar Crest 47 on the first offensive play of the drive. Brubaker got the rock again and wouldn’t go easy which helped create a facemask call which aided the Eagle cause. A toss play to sophomore Colton Goodman followed suit and Cocalico was suddenly down to the Crest 35. The Cocalico drive seemed to hit a wall going against the Falcon D as they were later faced with a fourth and three from the 27. Once again, Brady Sawyer answered the dinner bell on fourth down. This time he kept it on the option and got down to the five yard line. Cedar Crest, who played remarkable first down defense in the first half, stood tall once again as Garrett DeBien was on the scene to stuff the Cocalico run play, howeverCocalico struck through on the next play as Brandon Brubaker rumbled in from three yards out to tie the score at 7-7 with 7:44 to go in the half.
The next Cedar Crest drive would find Horn hooking up with fellow sophomore Brady Dunlop twice, however it also saw them attempt a fake punt near midfield that was stopped short. After disagreement over the spot of the ball, an unsportsmanlike conduct call was called against Cedar Crest and Cocalico set up shop at Falcon 35.
Faced with a third down, Cocalico gave it to you guessed it, Mr. Brubaker, as he picked up seven yards to move the chains. The Eagles then sprinkled in a dash of Colton Goodman for eight yards to 15 yard line, however a fumble recovered by Greg Munnion of Cedar Crest at nine yard line to stop the Cocalico advance.
Cedar Crest was later forced to punt on their next possession as yet another ineligible man downfield call was whistled against the Falcons on a third and two conversion from Horn to Nate French. Cocalico muffed the punt, but luckily Conlan Kerschner was Johnny on the spot recovering for the Eagles at the Cedar Crest 38.
Cocalico then ran Colton Goodman for nine yards, then Brubaker down to the Crest 25. The Cedar Crest defense was up to the task once again as they stopped Cocalico on downs when Tanner Miller came up with the tackle on fourth and five which brought an end to the first half with the score knotted up at 7-7.
Cedar Crest got the ball out of the break and promptly began marching down the field, but the drive was stopped when freshman Noah Palm rose to the occasion, literally, as his acrobatic one handed snag on the interception ended the Falcon drive at the seven.
Faced with a third down from their own 32, Sawyer pitched it out to Goodman for eight yards, setting up a fourth and two. Cocalico was able to keep the drive alive, not with a play, but laundry on the field as Cedar Crest was hit with jumping on the hard count. Following the penalty, sophomore running back Austin Landers ripped off a 40 yard run down to the Falcon 15. Sensing the perfect time to pounce, Cocalico gave it to Brubaker the next two plays to get down to the seven which brought up third and two. Third and two quickly became a third and seven following a false start against Cocalico. Cedar Crest was up the challenge once again as the Falcons stuffed the inside run which brought out Ben Puodziunas who booted the 28 yard field goal through the pipes to give Cocalico the 10-7 lead with 1:48 to go in the third.
With time winding down in the third, junior Ben Fromm busted through the line and picked up a key sack which would set up a 3rd and 13 for Cedar Crest when the fourth quarter got underway. Fromm was the man of the hour once again as he earned himself yet another sack on said 3rd & 13 bringing up punting time for the Falcons. Cocalico would set up shop at the Falcon 38 following the punt.
By now you know what’s coming; Brubaker up the middle for eight. The home-standing Eagles then went outside to Goodman on the pitch down to the 25. On third and five, Brubaker carried it for four yards which set up fourth and one from the 16, which Brubaker was able to pick up to the 14. Cocalico went from Mr. Inside to Mr. Outside as Colton Goodman took the pitch in from 14 yards out. The PAT went wide, but Cocalico was still in control leading 16-7 with 7:39 to play.
Cedar Crest got the ball back at their own 37 needing to answer. Logan Horn did his part as he picked up a first down on a long scramble to get the Falcons to the Eagle 38. CC then dialed up the perfect play with Cocalico over pursuing defensively as Horn found sophomore lightning bolt running back Neisso Dorvil open on the backside screen down to the 22. Horn then found Tate Seyfert for 19 yards down to the three. Brady Maxwell wouldn’t let Cedar Crest cross the goal line on the next play as he stuffed the run for a loss of two. On the next play however, there was no remedy for keeping Tate Seyfert out of the endzone as he ran it in from five yards out. The PAT was blocked, but Cedar Crest was now within a field goal trailing 16-13 with 5:19 left.
On third and three on the ensuing possession, Cocalico was trying to ground and pound it, however Cedar Crest would have something to say about that as the Eagles would turn it over with Brandon Showers pouncing on the lose pill for Cedar Crest deep in Cocalico territory with time of the essence.
On third and nine from the Cocalico 34 with 3:09 left, the nail was put in the proverbial coffin when Brandon Brubaker added to his already impressive night by diagnosing the Cedar Crest screen pass and taking it back to the house for the pick six which gave Cocalico the 22-13 lead with 2:56 following Seyfert’s block on the PAT.
Cedar Crest would march down into Cocalico territory later on, however Conlan Kerschner came in unabated on the field goal blocking the last ditch Falcon effort to chip away at the deficit.
When all was said and done, Cocalico came out on top on the night, both on the scoreboard and in the standings, as Cocalico earned the top spot in Section 2 following their 22-13 victory.
Earning that top spot is an understatement. For the third week in a row, Cocalico had prevailed as the victor in a contest that was worthy of Game of the Week billing. When asked about this team’s mental makeup and their ability to come back and grind every week following big wins against E-Town, Manheim Central, and now Cedar Crest, Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich offered, “When we watch the film on Monday, that game is over, our focus is on the next week. Our kids have done a nice job of that and our coaches coach that way. I think when you have coaches that coach that way and you have leadership that buys into that, then the kids follow right along. We knew going in this was going to be a great game against a good team and we knew it was going to be a dogfight, but every week in our Section seems to be a dogfight.”
NEXT UP: Cocalico will have to follow the same routine they have the last couple weeks as they come off a big win with another big game looming as the Eagles travel to New Holland to tangle with Garden Spot who is fresh off scoring 71 points against Ephrata.
Cedar Crest will look to bounce back as they make the long trip down to Quarryville to meet Solanco who is coming off an impressive win of their own topping their neighboring rival Lampeter-Strasburg 41-33.
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