K-D Lands A KO In Season Opening Victory Over Pequea Valley
At this time a year ago, they were the darlings of the preseason. And rightly so.
Yes, for the summer months of 2017, one of the most prevailing questions surrounding Lancaster-Lebanon League football that kept rising to the surface was whether or not that this would be the year? Would this be the year that the Pequea Valley Braves, the L-L’s version of the “Little Engine That Could,” finally at long last be able to reach the postseason for the first time in school history. An achievement that would certainly be reason to celebrate in the quiet outpost of Kinzers for a program that found itself on the outside of the playoff cut line by meredecimal points two of the three previous seasons.
But then the season moved away from ink and paper and onto the gridiron where things certainly did not go according to plan for the Braves.
Beset by an early second half injury to star quarterback Jordan Lapp in the season opener against Schuylkill Valley, PequeaValley almost immediately had the wind cruelly taken out of their sails at the outset of a season that was met with so much promise which ultimately culminated in a 1-4 start, including a home loss to the Kennard Dale Rams within that frustrating early season stretch.
Fast forward to 2018 and it’s clear that PV is eager to makeamends for the 2017 edition. And first up on this year’s redemption tour was a trip to just north of the Maryland state line to tangle with the aforementioned upstart Kennard Dale Rams. A K-D program just as eager to prove that their 2017 product was by no means a flash in the pan as the Rams bucked their way to a .500 record which was a welcomed change for a program that had won a total of 5 games the previous four seasons combined.
And if Friday night’s opener is to serve as any indication, one thing is perfectly clear these days in Fawn Grove. The days of penciling in a win against Kennard-Dale appear to be long gone.
After both Pequea Valley and Kennard-Dale took turns authoring 3 & Outs defensively to start the contest, Kennard-Dale got the ball back with 8:08 left to go in the opening quarter at their own 45 yard line and took off running. Literally.
Aided by big holes generated by the bullies along the K-D offensive line, junior fullback Wyatt McCleary began to reap the rewards of his teammates’ hard work in the trenches by promptly ripping off two big gainers through the heart of the Pequea Valley defense to get the Rams’ offense in high gear and on the verge of the redzone.
From there, the baton was passed off to fellow backfield mate Josh Vipperman as the talented 5’9” junior running back blazed a path to the endzone from 20 yards out to put the home crowd into a frenzy as the Rams drew first blood with the early 6-0 advantage with 6:31 still showing on the first quarter clock.
But they weren’t done there.
After yet another stout defensive series that ended in style with a Gabe Hulsander sack for Kennard-Dale, the Rams’ offense went back to work with the ball at their own 46 with 3:57 left to go in the opening quarter.
And once again, K-D recognized that their best course of action would be via the ground attack.
It didn’t take long either. After a 14 yard run by Wyatt McClearywhich got the drive underway, senior fullback Jacob Rose followed suit on the very next play by busting off an 11 yard jaunt up the gut with the K-D offensive line clearly owning the line of scrimmage.
After a 17 yard gallop by McCleary later on in the drive, Kennard-Dale then found themselves knocking on the door once again with the ball now resting inside the Pequea Valley 10 yard line.
What came next you ask? If you guessed K-D keeping it on the ground, you would be correct. If you guessed Kennard-Dale handing it off to Wyatt McCleary you would receive extra credit as that is precisely what occurred as McClearly dashed up the middle for the 8 yard house call to give Kennard-Dale the 13-0 advantage with just 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
Once the second quarter began, it was more of the same for Kennard-Dale.
Aided by a sack that sent PV back to their own 2 yard line at the conclusion of the first quarter, the K-D defense continued to see blood in the water shortly thereafter by forcing and recovering a fumble which saw the Rams on the verge of busting this one wide open.
And that they did as a 1 yard sneak across by the goal line by senior quarterback Noah Hulslander saw the Rams climb to what felt like a commanding 20-0 advantage with just 8 seconds elapsed off the second quarter clock and Pequea Valley being forced to find answers. And fast.
But unfortunately for those who had made the lengthy trip across the rolling farmlands of Lancaster and York Counties on this night, the task of solving the Kennard-Dale defense continued to be a tough assignment as a pair of sacks promptly ended the next PV series with Patrick Maloney and Noah Kull having the honors respectively for the Rams.
However on their next defensive series, the Pequea Valley defense was able to return the favor as a solid run stuff by PV’s Nate Miller on a crucial 3rd & 2 gave the ball back to the Braves’ offensive troops with 6:52 left in the half.
How good was the Kennard-Dale defense throughout the opening quarter and a half? Well, considering Pequea Valley had yet to cross midfield up until that point, pretty darn gnarly.
However that all changed on 3rd & 9 as a Collin Bailey strike across the middle to Dalton Temple got the Braves in business with the ball now resting at the K-D 46 yard line after the 21 yard hookup.
Another 3rd down, another successful conversion under the direction of junior quarterback Collin Bailey. This time Bailey was able to find Tony Lazar on a 3rd & 6 to get PV down to the K-D 32 yard line. However the next 3rd & 6 attempt would prove to be not nearly as successful as Bailey’s pass was deflected away by K-D’s Ryan Gibney. From there, the ensuing 4th & 6 play fell victim to another incomplete pass, this one giving the ball back to Kennard-Dale on downs with still plenty of time left to inflict further damage before the half came to a close.
And they almost did exactly that had it not been for the fine play in the defensive backfield by PV’s Tony Lazar as the gritty sophomore picked off a pass near the goal line and returned it out near midfield as the first half clock showed all zeroes in a half that by and large was dominated by those donning the all Blue apparel on this beautiful southern Pennsylvania evening.
New half. Same ole Kennard-Dale.
Yes, the new half did little to slow down the momentum of the snowball that the Rams were rolling downhill as 3 & Out continued to set the tone defensively. But it soon became crystal clear that they had even bigger aspirations.
Following the ensuing K-D offensive series which ended with a turnover on downs, the Rams’ defense returned to the pitch with bad intentions. Most specifically Wyatt McCleary as the physically imposing 6’ 200lb middle linebacker got his mitts on an errant pass and proceeded to rumble 32 yards to the house for the Pick 6 as the Rams’ cushion grew even comfier with K-D now out in front 26-0 with 5:48 left in the third.
Sensing a theme here? That’s right, yet another Pequea Valley offense drive would eventually stall out thanks to the handiwork of the Kennard-Dale defensive unit, this time with back to back sacks registered by the Rams’ Shane Reinhart and Noah Kull to thwart yet the ensuing PV offensive series.
And with Kennard-Dale getting their hands back on the ball with a sizeable lead, the Rams were on the prowl to put an exclamation mark on this eye-popping opener.
Well sure enough, they were able to do precisely that.
Ignited by a nice run bounced outside by Guy Shrewsbury, the K-D offense found themselves on the verge of the redzone with the ball at the PV 22 yard line. Yet for as much damage as K-D was able to inflict on their houseguests via the ground on Friday night, it would be an air strike which would help put this one on ice.
Faced with a 3rd & 11 with the third quarter clock melting away, K-D quarterback Noah Hulslander was able to hook up with fellow classmate Garrett Lowe as the senior tandem gave the Rams’ offense a fresh set of downs with the ball at the PV 7 yard line.
Seven yards is all it would take as the man of the hour, Wyatt McCleary, was able to find paydirt once more as the junior’s 7 yard TD jaunt across the chalk gave Kennard-Dale the 33-0 lead with 11:54 left to play.
And although Kennard-Dale would not be able to add any more neon to the scoreboard on this night, the latter half of the game was not without it’s fair share of highlights as evidenced by a handful of bruising runs administered by junior running back Nolan Heaton which fittingly helped put a bow on Kennard-Dale’s emphatic season opening shutout win over PequeaValley.
As mentioned, last Fall within the 4-way stop sign village of Fawn Grove was one certainly filled with excitement and promise as their beloved Rams had finally appear to turn the corner on the gridiron by virtue of their 5-5 mark. Talk to Kennard-Dale head coach Christopher Grube and that quickly becomes even more apparent.
“Numbers are going up. It’s a great thing to see down here,” the head Ram said regarding the jolt of energy received in helping revive the program following his team’s successful 2017 campaign. “My senior class last year left a great foundation for these guys,” Grube went on to add. “My seniors this year, our captains are doing a great job keeping these guys together and expecting more. The 0-10’s, the 1-9’s, that’s no more. Last year we were 5-5 and we have to build on that and continue to grow as a team.”
NEXT UP: Kennard-Dale will look to keep the good vibes rolling next week as the Rams continue with their abbreviated tour through the Lancaster-Lebanon League with a trip to Quarryville to tangle with the Solanco Golden Mules who appear to be on the rise after a dominating road win to start the season at Northeastern. And it’s a game that already has Coach Grube’s full attention. “We’re taking one week at a time,” Grubesaid in the glow of Friday night’s resounding victory. “We have a tough one in Solanco next week. Coming out of halftime tonight I heard their score against Northeastern and I’m definitely looking forward and looking ahead.”
“They’re a great football team,” Grube added regarding next week’s opposition. (Solanco head coach Tony Cox) is building it and doing a great job. I’m excited. I think our kids are ready for the battle.”
For Pequea Valley, the Braves’ nonconference slate is already complete. That’s right, just one week in and nothing but divisional competition from here on out. But such is life is a new and restructured L-L Section 3 landscape which welcomes Lebanon, Ephrata, and new league member Octorara into the fold. Next week however the Braves will look to right the shipon the road against the Donegal Indians who begin their season in earnest with a Saturday afternoon affair with backyard rival Elizabethtown.
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