Hempfield Outlasts Penn Manor 31-24 In Overtime Duel
Sure, in most cases a game featuring two teams bringing in combined records of 1-7 wouldn’t generate much fanfare or excitement, especially when the team sporting the lone victory got their first since 2014 last time out, but this is Penn Manor and Hempfield. In the last couple of years, the Comets and Black Knights have been in the upper echelon of Lancaster Lebanon Section 1 play, scratching and clawing on Wilson’s front door for the rights to be called the champ. Granted, 2016 hasn’t exactly resembled the recent success of both PM and Hempfield, but these two programs just don’t go awayunannounced. There is still plenty of young talent on both sides that is still growing and learning the ins and outs of what it takes to compete in Section 1 and never was that more apparent than Friday night in Landisville.
Hempfield would get the ball to start on the game, or so they thought. The Black Knights’ opening kickoff was fumbled and recovered by Penn Manor at the Hempfield 35 setting them up in great shape. Evann Jones picked up 13 yards on the ground on PM’s first offensive snap, but that would be the lone highlight of the Comet drive as Hempfield forced Liam Hart to come on and attempt a 33 yard FG which he booted home to give the Comets the early 3-0 lead with 1:26 of game time gone by.
After the two teams traded punts, Hempfield started out at their own 20 and began to move. The drive was in many ways amicrocosm of the entire game with David Martin literally carrying the load. Following a holding call that negated a Stephen Wenzel carry, Hempfield put it in the hands of their junior captain. After some nice runs by Brendan Flores got Hempfield to their own 38 yard line, it was finally Martin’s time to shine. The Black Knight signal-caller moved Hempfield into PM territory with a run to Comet 48 and followed that up with a five yard gainer to the 43. On third and one, the formula was simple. Keep it in the hands of #6. Martin moved the chains and then some as he refused to go easily, moving the pile to the Comet 30. Faced with a third and two from the 22 on the next set of downs, Martin kept in once more to extend the drive,taking it down to the Comet 15 yard line forcing Penn Manor to call a timeout and figure out how to stop the quarterback run game. The Comet D rose up following the timeout and forced Hempfield to convert another third down, this one of the tenyard variety that Martin tried valiantly to pick up, falling just two yards short bringing up fourth and two from the Penn Manor seven when the second quarter would get underway with Penn Manor holding the 3-0 lead.
Needless to say, the fourth down conversion was a success as senior Brendan Flores ran it up the middle to cap the 15 play 80 yard drive to put Hempfield on top 7-3 on the first play of the second frame.
The Hempfield defense was up to the task the next time out as they forced Penn Manor into a 3 and out when the screen pass to Evann Jones was stopped 10 yards short of the yard to gain.
The Black Knights would have opportunistic field position following the Comet punt setting up shop at their own 43 with 9:44 left before half. Martin would carry for seven yards onsecond and ten setting up a third and three for Hempfield that was picked up when Flores moved it across midfield the PM 45.On the next play, David Martin was on the scene again, this time scrambling all the way down to the Comet ten yard line for the 35 yard pickup. Go with who you brought to the dance was the idea of the next play as David Martin ran it in from ten yards out to make it a 13-3 Hempfield lead after the PAT was blocked.
In a football version of tug of war, Penn Manor would have answer to Hempfield’s touchdown in the form of lightning in a bottle junior running back, Theo McElheny. McElheny burst out to the Hempfield 40 yard line around end for a 21 yard play on the first play on the ensuing Comet drive. PM gave it to McElheny once again and he delivered as he bolted 38 yards to the house for the Comet response which made it a 13-10 ballgame with 6:40 still left before half.
Following a nice kickoff return by Nick Hoffman that gotHempfield out to the Comet 44 yard line, you know who was a key figure as the Black Knight offense trotted onto the field. All night long, David Martin had been hurting Penn Manor by getting carries out of the shotgun in the run game, but this time he lined up at receiver and was a thorn in their collective side there too. Junior quarterback Mark Himmelsbach got the keys to the offense for the time being and came up big for his team as the Himmelsbach to Martin connection got Hempfield to theComet five yard line to start the drive. From there,Himmselsbach called his own number for the five yard TD run and added on a 2pt conversion for good measure to extend theHempfield lead to 21-10 just 40 seconds after the Comet TD with 6:00 still showing on the first half clock.
Penn Manor looked to be on the move when they got the ball back as Grant Gale picked up 17 yards on the ground then caught a pass from Josiah Edwards down to the Hempfield 31. On third and five from the Hempfield 27 however, a sack by Hempfield’s James Hunter forced Penn Manor to punt it awaywhich for all intents and purposes ended the first half of action with Hempfield leading 21-10.
Penn Manor got the ball out of the break and wasted little time going down the field. The drive started at their own 27, but PM’s Theo McElheny helped field position with a couple nice runs that got into Hempfield’s side of the field down to the 38. Faced with a third and ten from that same spot on the field, PM gave the ball to McElheny again who picked up eight yards setting up a fourth and two. Give the rock to McElheny again. The Comets did just that as he got enough for the first down to keep the drive alive. Hempfield helped the Penn Manor cause out when the Knights got jumpy on third and two from the eight and were hit with an offside penalty to keep the Comets moving. That was all the help PM needed as Josiah Edwards put a period on the 12 play 73 yard Comet drive taking it in from 1 yard out to come within striking distance of the home-standing Black Knights at 21-17.
The ensuing Hempfield drive began at their own 15, but a reception by Zeke Rodriguez got Hempfield out near midfield to the Black Knight 45 yard line to allow the offense to open it up a bit more. On third and one from the Penn Manor 46, David Martin kept it himself to the 42 to give Hempfield a fresh set of downs. Martin promptly followed that up with a ten yard jaunt that led to Mark Himmelsbach reentering the game at quarterback. Rodriguez came up with another big catch on the drive when Himmelsbach found him for the ten yard pickup to the PM 22 which took us to the final quarter.
The Penn Manor defense was up to the challenge when the quarter began ultimately ending the Hempfield drive which resulted in a Matt Sheerin 28 yard field goal to increase theHempfield lead to 24-17 with the fourth quarter just underway.
Needing to answer, Penn Manor found junior tight end Ben Wright for some monster catches on the drive. The first came when Josiah Edwards just got the pass off at the last second in the face of pressure and found Wright for a first down near midfield. Wright was the man of the hour again as he posted another catch, this one taking the Comets to the Hempfield 39, clearly on the move. On third and eight later in the drive, Penn Manor found success in the air again, only this time it was Xavier Roman getting in on the action taking PM to the 23 yard line. Needing a big play on the drive after a tackle for loss by Hempfield’s Nick Kauffman, Penn Manor got it in the hands of Ben Wright again as his catch got Penn Manor on the doorstep at the Hempfield seven yard line. Grant Gale’s TD reception with 5:24 remaining finished the drive off and tied things up at 24-24.
Hempfield’s next series got into Penn Manor territory, but the third and nine attempt from the PM 39 went by the wayside and Hempfield had to punt it away to the Comets having to travel 95 yards with just 2:22 left.
On third and seven from the eight, Mark Himmelsbach added to his big night with a key interception for the Black Knights setting them up on the Penn Manor side of the field. Even with the short field however, the Hempfield drive ended when Penn Manor stuffed the third and nine attempt allowing the Comets to get ball back one more time with 42 seconds left.
Ironically, PM would run out of downs, but not time as the Penn Manor fourth and four attempt fell incomplete, but still allowing Hempfield one last gasp at the Penn Manor 47 with just four seconds remaining. Penn Manor allowed the pass to get off, but Grant Gale was there in the back end for the pick to put a stop to any last second Hempfield heroics that took take the game to overtime.
Hempfield got the ball first in the overtime session and didn’t mess around. Brendan Flores bounced the first play outside tothe two yard line where he finished it off to give Hempfield the 31-24 advantage.
It was now Penn Manor’s turn, but the sledding would be much tougher for the Comets with Hempfield eager to get their first win of the season. On second and ten, Matt Sheerin came through and nabbed himself a tackle for a loss of three. The PM third and thirteen attempt resulted in Xavier Edwards hauling in a pass to set up fourth and five and the last chance for Penn Manor. Fittingly, it was David Martin who broke up Penn Manor’s last play to preserve the well-earned 31-24 overtime victory.
When asked about his quarterback’s busy night which included 21 carries for 157 yards, Hempfield coach Ron Zeiber said, “He’s an athletic kid, an extremely smart kid so anything you tell him he picks up quick, and on top of that, he’s a hard-worker. When’s he out there doing what he needs to do, it’s not all about him. It’s about doing what’s necessary for the team to be successful and we love that about him.”
To the outside world, the perception of Hempfield picking up their first win as the calendar moves to October may be that the Black Knights are down and out. Not the case if you ask Coach Zeiber. “I don’t know how it sounds in the papers or the articles online, but our guys have really improved a lot since we started. Even their attitude at practice has gotten better. They’re starting to understand what it takes to do this at this level and they’re getting better every time. Like a tree, you’re either growing or you’re dying, you can’t stay the same. If we’re going out there and growing a little more every day, then we’re going the in the direction we need to go. Again, it’s a really a tribute to these guys for staying all in and working this hard.”
NEXT UP: Hempfield will look to make it two in a row when they host the upstart Warwick Warriors while Penn Manor is next in line to try and snap Wilson’s 59 game Section 1 winning streak as the Comets host the Bulldogs in Millersville.
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