Muhlenberg Uses Dominating Rushing Attack To Withstand Elco 41-27
When Elco and Muhlenberg return home to their native Lancaster-Lebanon and Berks County Leagues next week, section titles won’t be on the line, but the final game of the regular season will still loom large for both the Muhls and Raiders. Why? The biggest reason is that both squads have the opportunity to ride momentum into the offseason with big win streaks with the week 9 matchup between the two being instrumental in trying to accomplish that task.
It didn’t take the home-standing Blue and Yellow to crack the scoreboard as Najee Smith raced 60 yards on the outside of the option attack to the endzone untouched on the first play from scrimmage to give Muhlenberg the quick 7-0 lead. The early momentum carried over to the Muhl defense their first time out on the field as Aaron Alphee tallied a sack on Elco’s first possession which led to a Raider punt.
The Muhl offense kept the run game operating in top gear the next drive as well giving a clear indication on what Muhlenberg’s intentions were offensively on the night. Facing a 3rd & 15 at their 15 following an illegal shift penalty, Muhlenberg called on junior running Josiah Brown who delivered as he raced all the way down to the Elco 28. Najee Smith was on the scene once again as his 20 yard run shortly thereafter set the stage for junior fullback Brandon Gassert’s 2 yard TD run to make it 13-0 Muhlenberg with 7:10 remaining in the first quarter after the PAT was no good.
Elco would strike back their next series after a crucial 3rd & 14 pass as the senior tandem of Kyle Knight to Nate Beamer went for 42 yards down the middle to the Muhlenberg 26 yard line.Elco would get as a close as the 8 yard line following a middle screen play to Ryan Eshleman, but the Muhls’ D would stand tall from there forcing Elco to settle for a field goal which was knocked home by Dane Miller from 26 yards away which would settle the first quarter scoring.
Elco would get the ball back on their next possession and startedmoving it once again. Once again, Nate Beamer came up huge for the Raiders on third down as he maneuvered his way to a first down after Knight was to replicate a Brett Favre flip to him after a low snap out of the shotgun. From there, Beamer hauled in a 17 yard reception across midfield down to the Muhlenberg 46. Later in the drive, Elco would have to get past a lengthy 3rd & 18 after Ethan Pizzo stormed into the Elco backfield for 8 yard tackle for loss. Seeing that the Knight to Beamer formula was working, Elco right back to it and once again, it paid dividends as the two hooked up for a 37 yard connection down to the Muhl 16 yard line. Moving ever closer, Elco was able to get Muhlenberg to jump on the hard count on 4th & inches to keep the drive alive. After the penalty moved the ball to the Muhl 4 yard line, Knight was able to find Joe Rittle for the 4 yard TD connection to make it a 13-10 Muhlenberg lead with 8:24 to go in the half.
Following a nice return by
Muhlenberg’s Damien Hernandez which allowed Muhlenberg to set up shop at the Elco 47, the Muhls went to what would be their bread and butter play all night. Run Brandon Gassert up the gut. The 215lb junior fullback carried the rock six times on the drive to move Muhlenberg down the field which led to J.J. Jonassaint’s 11 yard option keeper which moved Muhlenberg’s lead to 20-10 with 4:41 to go before the break.
For as much as Muhlenberg was relying on the run game to get it done, Elco was going to air in their attempt to topple the Muhls. Indeed, the Elco passing game working on the Raiders next series as Kyle Knight was able to find another senior wideout. This time it was Cory Kline for a 38 yard connection to get down to the Muhlenberg 14 yard line. Knight would then call his own number after that which proved to be a wise move as he scampered 10 yards to get Elco knocking on door at the Muhlenberg 4 yard line. Unfortunately for Elco, a false start penalty in the drive would set them back and the Raiders would move no closer as the visitors called on Dane Miller once more to boot home the 27 yard field goal, which he did, to cut Muhlenberg’s lead to 20-13 with 3:08 to go in the half.
Muhlenberg was threating to take an even bigger lead into the locker room as the half was coming to a close, however Elco’s Cory Kline rose up and prevented any further damage as his interception at the Elco 1 yard line brought the competitive first half to a close with Muhlenberg holding the 20-13 advantage.
Once they got the ball coming out the break, Elco was on a mission to knot the score up. Even with their mission in mind, they would still have to navigate past a 3rd & 11 which they were able to do when Kyle Knight found Joe Rittle for the 12 yard connection to move the sticks. Facing a 4th & 4 later in the drive, Elco found more success using the hard cadence as the Muhls jumped offside allowing Elco to keep the drive alive. More Raider success via the air was on display later on when Ryan Eshleman was the beneficiary of a 25 yard reception to get Elcoinside the redzone to the Muhl 18 yard line. A pivotal moment in the game would come a few plays later as Elco coughed it up and Najee Smith was there to recover for Muhlenberg, putting an end to the long Raider advance on the Muhlenberg doorstep.
The Elco defense was able to put the clamps down on the Muhlenberg rushing attack the next drive, handing the ball back to their offensive unit 72 yards away from paydirt.
Elco went into the bag of the tricks as Nate Beamer was able to run 15 yards on the reverse, however Elco would also have to punt it away as the sluggo route went incomplete on 3rd & 6. When Elco lined up to punt however, junior Aaron Alphee was able to come free and block the punt giving Muhlenberg a golden opportunity to cash in. The Muhls did just that as J.J. Jonassaint’s quarterback run from 26 yards out gave Muhlenberg the 27-13 cushion with 1:53 to go in the third. Additionally, Jonassaint’s dash was the Muhls’ second 1 play scoring drive of the night through three quarters of action.
Much to Elco’s credit, the Raiders wouldn’t go quietly back to Myerstown as evidenced when Kyle Knight rolled right and threw it up to Ryan Eshleman who was able to come down with for the 49 yard TD grab with just 51 ticks left to go in the third to answer the Muhlenberg score which got Elco right back in it heading into the final stanza with Muhlenberg leading 27-20.
As the fourth quarter got underway, it was apparent that Muhlenberg would rely heavily upon the efforts of Brandon Gassert to carry them home to victory. On the Muhls’ next drive he barreled his way for a 26 yard pickup down to the Elco 27 to get Muhlenberg in business. He carried the mail a few more times in the drive leading up to a 4th & 2 from the Elco 19 which was converted on the pitch to Josiah Brown for a 10 yard pickup down to the 9 yard line. From there, Gassert bullied his way to the 4, and capped it off with the 4 yard TD plunge to make it a 34-20 Muhlenberg lead with 8:46 to go.
Sensing the urgency to answer back, Elco went to the back pages on the playbook once again was Nate Beamer found Kyle Knight for a little role reversal on the flea flicker pass for 21 yards which moved it to the Muhl 46 yard line. The big play in the passing game was on display once more for the Raiders as a 25 pass and catch combination from Knight to Joe Rittle got Elco to the Muhlenberg 32 as Knight was able to extend the play with his legs. It was then time to implement the Wildcat as senior running back Tyler Horst took the snap out and slung it out to Rittle to get inside the redzone to the 19 yard line. Although Elco was able to move the ball on the drive, thatwould be all the further they would get as they were turned away on a 4th & 10 with 6:14 remaining.
It appeared that Brandon Gassert was putting the final touches on the Muhlenberg victory as he rumbled his way to the 50 yard line on a long run using a beautiful stiff arm in the process. The outcome was still in doubt however as Muhlenberg fumbled it away on the drive with Ryan Eshleman there to recover for Elco at their own 40 yard line with 3:59 to go.
Elco was able to get a shade past midfield, however they were again turned away by the Muhlenberg defense on 4th & 2 when Frank Cheek was there to knock it away.
Much like they did during the exchange with the blocked punt, Muhlenberg was there to capitalize. Although this was not a oneplay scoring drive, it certainly looked it as Gassert raced 47 yards down to the Elco 1 yard line, nearly earning himself his 3rd TD of the evening. Instead, Josiah Brown was there to finish it off as the junior took it in from there to give Muhlenberg the now commanding 41-20 lead with 2:47 left to play.
Even with the Muhlenberg lead swelling to now 21 points, Elco rallied the troops one more time. It would be a long rally thoughas the Raiders were forced to start at their own 12 yard line following a personal foul on the ensuing kickoff. Three catches by Cory Kline and two catches by Dane Miller were critical in getting the Raiders down the field, in addition to a 15 yard horse-collar penalty as well. Ultimately, it was Kyle Knight cashing it in from 3 yards out with 28 seconds left to go that would close the scoring and give Muhlenberg the 41-27 victory.
No question about it, the Muhlenberg rushing attack was punishing all night, and the biggest reason as to why the Muhls were able to prevail. When asked where this performance ranks this season, Muhlenberg head man Pat Sisk remarked, “It’s right up there. We probably had one or two games that would’ve competed with that, but that was pretty good. The kids looked good on the edges and up the middle.”
Although it was just their third win of the season, coach Sisk sees a positive future for the Muhl football program, using the remainder of this season to build upon. “We’re working on it and we’re getting there. The kids are working hard every day, so we’re taking steps in the right direction. We can’t look back. We have to look forward to next week.”
When asked what a 3 game winning streak would mean heading into the offseason, coach Sisk stated, “It would be huge. We have the opportunity to do better than we did last year. I don’t care if it’s by one game, two games, we made improvements and that’s what we’re trying to do next week.”
NEXT UP: Muhlenberg will ride the positive vibes into a matchup with neighboring Reading High on the road at Albright College as they try to finish the season with the chance to finish with three straight victories.
Although Elco will not have the opportunity to finish 4-0 as they were hoping to do with a victory over Muhlenberg, the Raiders will still have an excellent chance to finish the season 3-1 as they make the trek to Pequea Valley.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
Share This Post: