Manheim Central Shows Off Its Weaponry In Shutout Victory Over Garden Spot
Upon entering the quaint and homely town of Manheim, Pennsylvania, travelers are met with a sign just outside of the city limits that lists the various churches and organizations contained within this small town that oozes the essence of old-school Americana. And while those groups are certainly essential members of the community fabric at large, let’s be perfectly honest for a moment. The sign that welcomes you into Manheim could just as easily list one simple phrase on it that likely wouldn’t cause even the slightest stir. “Manheim, PA — Football Town U.S.A.”
It’s true. While there is certainly a smattering of other towns across the county that fit the mold, including even a few others around the greater Harrisburg area for that matter, you’d be hard-pressed to find many others that do football “right” better than the good folks residing in Manheim that have helped transform their high school football program into arguably the very backbone of the town itself.
Aside from the embarrassment of riches which take the shape of gold trophies sitting inside the school’s trophy case, the kind that would cause most other schools to salivate over for even just a morsel of, nearly the entire town’s population seems to travel to locales both near and far to support their beloved Barons each and every Friday night. And if production past the high school level is more your cup of tea, they’ve done just fine in that regard too. Scores of Barons have gone on to play college football at the highest levels, including a select few making it all the way to the grandest of all stages, the NFL, highlighted by one former alum who currently is the head coach of the league’s third-oldest franchise. Not too shabby huh?
Now sure, it’d be fair to say you cannot live off of previous history alone, but there’s just one problem with that line of thinking — The 2018 edition of the Barons appear to be right on pace to ultimately place their names amongst the very best in the rich and storied history that is Manheim Central Football.
Coming into their game Friday night at Garden Spot, the Barons were in a word, rolling. Entering the night with a sparkling 8-0 record to their name, Manheim Central had successfully played the role of Lancaster-Lebanon League behemoth of late, outscoring their previous four opponents by a staggering combined score of 182-37.
Standing on the opposite sideline Friday night, the Garden Spot Spartans were on the prowl for any sort of late-season momentum heading into their final two games of the season. And although Garden Spot came into the night with the exact opposite record at 0-8, the fact of the matter was that the GS offense would at least have the ability to keep the Manheim Central defense honest and go stride for stride with the mighty Barons as evidenced by the 49 total points the Spartans had been able to drop in their last two outings against Section 2 stalwarts E-Town and Cocalico respectively. And what better way to generate some positive, lifetime memories than by buckling up the chinstraps and lacing up the cleats with a shot at taking down one of the state’s very best on your home field on Senior Night.
So, with a Section 2 championship hanging the balance, the Barons and their ever-present faithful made the 40 minute drive eastward to the rolling farmlands of New Holland on a chilly Friday evening for the opportunity to cross off the first goal on their season-long checklist.
Needless to say, they would not disappoint.
Despite the fact that Garden Spot would be able to pick up a first down on their opening possession of the contest, the Spartans would ultimately be turned away by the stingy Manheim Central defense, leading to a punting situation with MC’s Colby Wagner trotting back deep to have the honors. From there, the game was forever changed.
Thanks to the suburb blocking by way of the Barons’ return unit, the 5’11 junior receiver/defensive back needed only to get to the outside edge along the Garden Spot sideline and it was lights out from there as Wagner’s 77-yard punt return touchdown quickly put the Barons up 7-0 with 8:58 to go in the first quarter.
And just as they had done their previous time out on the field, the Barons’ defense would end up yielding a first down to Garden Spot by way of the Spartans’ dangerous dual-threat sophomore quarterback, Jesse Martin, as Martin was able to slip through a would-be MC sack and proceeding to rumble 11-yards down the field on 3rd& 9 to give GS a fresh set of downs at the GS 47-yard line. Ultimately however, this drive too would peter out as a 4th & 6 pass sailed incomplete, giving the ball back to the Barons at the midfield stripe.
The good news for Garden Spot? The Manheim Central offense had been kept off the field for over half of the first quarter. The bad news? The Barons were already leading 7-0. Not only that, but once the Barons’ offense did arrive onto the field, Manheim Central needed to only navigate 50 yards. And right on cue, the Barons went right to work.
Aided by a sweet pitch and catch from dazzling junior QB Evan Simon on the edge to senior wideout Will Rivers, the Barons were in quickly business with the ball now resting at the Spartans’ 29-yard line. On the very next play, the Barons would find themselves even closer to paydirt after a 14-yard gallop by workhorse senior running back Tyler Flick as Manheim Central suddenly found themselves inside the GS redzone. Yet even though the Barons would be met with a formidable challenge on the ensuing few plays, Central was ultimately able to find the endzone once again as Flick was able to race in from 11-yards out on 3rd& 5, giving the visiting Barons the 14-0 advantage with 3:55 left to go in the opening period.
In the game’s opening quarter, the same familiar theme seemed to repeat itself when the Garden Spot offense was pitted against the Manheim Central defense. The Spartans would be able to generate a first down early in the drive and start moving the ball down the field, only to be met with much more stronger resistance later on in the series, leading to extremely difficult third and fourth down scenarios. And sure enough, those same things seemed to play themselves out once again on the Spartans’ third possession. On this drive, the Garden Spot offensive momentum would grind to a halt courtesy of Nick Griest as the MC senior linebacker was able to storm through the Spartans’ offensive line, stuffing the GS 4th& 2 attempt, and giving the ball back to the Barons’ offense at their own 48-yard line.
Once the second quarter got underway, the Barons found themselves on the move once more, but faced with a quandary in the form of 3rd& 7 from the Garden Spot 36-yard line. However, when you have the talents of a savvy signal-caller like Evan Simon at your disposal, those sometimes inauspicious situations can often shift and be viewed as opportunities. Case in point, Simon dropping back to pass and finding wideout Ben Wagner sitting down on his route, as the Manheim Central junior duo was good for the 13-yard pickup and 1stdown with the ball now sitting on the GS’ 23-yard line. From there, it was time to call upon Tyler Flick as the Barons’ bully of a tailback bulldozed his way across the chalk line, giving Manheim Central the 21-0 cushion following the Hunter Hess PAT with 10:58 still left to play in the opening half.
Unfortunately for the Garden Spot offense, Friday night’s second quarter would be much tougher sledding than the opening act with the Barons already playing with a big lead and the MC defense starting to smell blood in the water. The evidence? Garden Spot’s ensuing offensive series which would come to an end by way of a Troy Kolk sack on third down.
However, the Garden Spot offense would return to the field just one play later as the Spartans’ punt found itself taking an odd bounce and ultimately touching a member of the Manheim Central return unit with the Spartans pouncing on the loose pill, giving the ball back to the Garden Spot offensive troops at their own 43-yard line.
It would quickly turn out to be a brief return to the field however as MC’s Colby Wagner was able to read his keys perfectly and snag the errant Garden Spot pass before turning up field and proceeding to race 56-yards to the house with his new prize as Wagner’s pick 6, his second TD of the ballgame, gave Manheim Central the commanding four score advantage at 28-0 with 8:25 to play in the first half.
But they wouldn’t stop there.
After another three and out that was administered by the Manheim Central defense, the Barons’ offense returned to the field with the ball sitting on Garden Spot’s side of the field eager to inflict more damage. It wouldn’t take them very long to do exactly that.
On the first play of the drive, Evan Simon was able to connect with Isaac Perron for a 38-yard pickup as the senior wideout was able to put the Barons right on the precipice again with the ball just inside the Spartans’ 10-yard line. From there, the gameplan was simple — Give the ball to Tyler Flick. Sure enough, Flick would be able to carry the mail once again for the Barons as Flick’s third touchdown of the contest, this one of the 7-yard variety, put Manheim Central up 35-0 following the Hess PAT with 6:43 to go in the second quarter.
Another Garden Spot punt, another short field for Manheim Central to work with. And just like last time, it would take the Barons all of two plays to find the endzone as a 16-yard pitch and catch from Evan Simon to Isaac Perron quickly put the Barons over the 40-point bulge at 42-0 with 3:47 to play in the half.
Unfortunately for the home-standing Spartans, it quickly went from bad to worse on the first play of their ensuing offensive series as a fumble was scooped up the Manheim Central defensive unit with the Barons sitting in prime position to score once again following the takeaway. And score they would as Tyler Flick’s 15-yard touchdown, his fourth of the first half, made it a 49-0 affair with Manheim Central in front with 2:07 still left to tick off the second quarter clock.
Truth be told however, the Garden Spot offense was able to do some things Friday night against the Barons’ starting defensive unit. And never was that more evident than with the Spartans’ final drive of the first half as GS flashed elements of the tempo-game, picking up yards in chunks.
The first key play of the Spartans’ drive was shaped by a dart across the middle from QB Jesse Martin to senior wideout Zeb Fisher as the 17-yard strike on 3rd& 7 quickly moved the Garden Spot troops out to their own 40-yard line. From there, Martin was able to show off his arm talent once more with a nice pass, this one on the outside to sophomore running back John Dykie, as the Spartans’ sophomore tandem moved GS into Barons’ territory at the 43-yard line.
Ultimately however, the drive and the first half at large would come to a fitting conclusion as a pair of sacks back-to-back authored by Ben Sheaffer and Colby Wagner respectively put a bow on a resounding opening statement as the Barons from Manheim jogged off into the locker room firmly in command at 49-0.
Starting off the second half, it was quickly more of the same from Manheim Central. Literally.
On the second half opening kickoff, Manheim Central’s Will Rivers was able to blaze a path to the endzone from 89-yards away, returning it all the way back for a touchdown which put the Barons up 56-0 with just 14 seconds having expired off the third quarter clock.
And once again, the Manheim Central defense was looking to feast in their first exhibition of the second half. Sure enough, they were able to do precisely that as MC’s Isaac Perron was able to snare an interception and bolt up field all the way down to the Garden Spot 26-yard line, setting the Manheim Central offense up with a golden opportunity once again.
From there, it was Chris Shaw’s opportunity to get in on the action as the Barons’ senior running back was able to put his name up in lights after the 26-yard touchdown run, completing the one-play drive with Manheim Central firmly in command at 63-0 with 9:30 left in the third stanza.
But it wasn’t all bad for Garden Spot defensively on Friday night. In fact, their next time out on the field saw the Spartans turn in a magnificent series with big sticks administered by Luke Shirk and Daniel Yang respectively. From there, Jesse Martin was able to put the exclamation mark on the stellar GS defensive series by collecting an interception, adding to his already well-rounded night of work.
Ultimately however, the bulk of the damage had already been done as the Barons were able to cruise home from there, earning the shutout victory and Section 2 crown in the process, turning away Garden Spot 63-0.
Even despite the eventual final score, this week was still far from easy in the days leading up to Friday night. It’s been said that the biggest intangible in life is human emotion. Well, seeing such a polar opposite in overall records can be a mental exercise for teams — An exercise that sometimes witnesses undisciplined squads venture off into left field. But not Manheim Central. They’ve been here before.
“I think we were as locked-in as we could be,” Manheim Central head coach Dave Hahn said following Friday night’s triumph. “You’re battling 15, 16, 17, 18-year old kids and getting them to focus on the task at hand and to not look ahead. We knew the situation. I just tried to stress to them that it’s not about the records. It’s about us and preparing for the next week and the week after that and just keeping that mental edge.”
If Friday night is to serve as any sort of indication, it appears that the message was received loud and clear.
NEXT UP: From here, Manheim Central will look to finish off the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record and firmly entrench themselves on the #1 seed line heading into the District 3 5A playoffs when the Barons collide with Solanco back home at the friendly confines of Elden Rettew Field in Manheim next Friday night. And sure, from the outside looking in, it’d be fair to question what Manheim Central could possibly polish up on before the postseason kicks off for real considering their dominance thus far in the regular season. But when you see the team on daily basis such as someone like Coach Hahn does, the Barons’ head man knows full-well that his squad is far from the finished product in order for this year’s team to achieve all possible goals set forth before them.
“Everything,” Hahn said simply in regards to what he hopes to clean up in the days and weeks to come. “We’re looking at our run game and just becoming more solid in our perimeter runs. We did pretty well with our passing game tonight, but we didn’t get enough work and that is what it is. We’re still looking for continued consistency there.”
And as far as the third phase of the game?
“Special teams played really well tonight,” Coach Hahn went on to say. “That kept us from being on the field as much offensively so that was a good spot, but we’ve got to get better on special teams. Tonight was a step in the right direction.”
“We have a lot to work on,” the Manheim Central boss went on to sum up matter of factly. “Every day is a new day and a new challenge.”
For Garden Spot, the Spartans will take their show on the road next week into Lebanon County for the final L-L League mandatory crossover game with GS looking for their first win of the season in Cornwall against Cedar Crest. Yet even though this season has certainly not gone the way that those in New Holland had hoped for, the Spartans are certainly not void of talent as evidenced on Friday night against the best of the best. Heading into next season, Garden Spot will retain the potent 1-2 tandem of then-junior quarterback Jesse Martin and running back John Dykie which bodes well for the immediate future in New Holland. Add in the fact that the Spartans’ roster is already littered with juniors and sophomores, and it’s easy to see why Garden Spot quickly becomes one of the more intriguing ballclubs to keep an eye on over the next few years in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
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