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Octorara Picks Up Much Needed Road Win Over Rebuilding Columbia

Written by: on Saturday, September 2nd, 2017. Follow Andy Herr on Twitter.


When Octorara unloaded the buses Friday night high atop “The Hill” in Columbia after a road trip across Lancaster County, there was a definite sense of newness in the air. Newness because the hometown Crimson Tide were on the brink of starting a fresh chapter in their storied history. New head coach Bud Kyle, a York County native, came across the Susquehanna River to lead a program looking to get back where they belong. competing for section and district titles.

Standing on the other side of the field were the Octorara Braves, a team that would help contribute to the new and exciting flavor that encapsulated the evening with the Braves poised to enter the Lancaster Lebanon League as a full time member starting next season. It’s a long-term move that Octorara head coach Jed King is certainly excited to command, “I’m stoked to be up here because I like playing schools that are a little bit more matched up with our size,” the head man offered. “I’ll be glad to be up here and have some new excitement. I love the Lancaster County excitement.”

Not only was Friday night’s contest a matchup of future league compatriots, but it also took on an added twist as both squads will become future L-L Section 3 foes once Octorara officially becomes indoctrinated next fall. But even for all of the surrounding factors that made Friday night’s contest so intriguing, especially for a Week 1 contest, there was important business to take care of over the next 48 minutes. And if Friday night is to serve as any indication, it’s a place where Octorara should enjoy success for years to come.

After a somewhat sluggish start for both teams which saw the majority of the first quarter be nothing more than an exchange of punts between the two sides, the Crimson Tide began to rise up and put their initial stamp on the game when Tide senior interior lineman Shawn Kemmerer scored a sack on an Octorara third & five attempt, which resulted in a punt back to his offensive mates.

Columbia was able to make the most of their opportunity from there as senior running back Isaiah Acosta rumbled for a 20-yard pickup to get the Tide out of the shadows of their own goalposts. From there, the Tide drew first blood when sophomore quarterback Matt McCleary dialed long distance and found Kobie Wakefield along the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown connection to put the Tide up 6-0 with 1:13 to play in the opening eight minutes.

From that point on, however, it was a night that belonged the visiting Braves. Octorara was able to get their offense in gear following the Crimson Tide score when veteran senior signal-caller Trent Pawling went up top to sophomore wideout Janson Schempp for a big pickup that spanned from the Octorara 33-yard line all the way down to the Columbia five as the final seconds of the first quarter ticked away.

Octorara wasted no time scoring to begin the second frame. On the first play of the quarter, Pawling found John Easterday for the seven-yard pitch and catch TD to put the Braves up 7-6.

Not to be deterred, Columbia began mounting a drive of their own in response, aided by a critical 4th & 2 conversion which saw quarterback Matt McCleary call his own number to get a fresh set of downs. The Tide would advance down to the Octorara 27 yard line, but the drive would eventually flame out when Octorara junior linebacker Jude Unitis collected a sack on fourth down to end the Tide march.

Octorara would need all of two plays to author their next rebuttal as senior running back Brandon Jackson raced 54 yards to the house to give the Braves the eight-point cushion at 14-6 with 7:46 to go in the first half. A score that would remain intact when the remaining 7:46 melted away.

In many ways, the third quarter seemed like a mirror-image of the first quarter with both teams trading offensive opportunities back and forth. Just when it appeared that the third batch of 12 minutes would be nothing more than ho hum, Trent Pawling was able to fire two critical completions on third down attempts, the last of which coming on a third & 17 which saw Pawling hook up with sophomore Nick Mattingly for a big chunk play down to the Tide 16. Whatever momentum was built up from those successful conversions was quickly wiped away by Columbia’s Shawn Kemmerer as the two-way lineman ripped the ball away to give the ball back to Columbia, albeit deep in their own territory.

Unfortunately for the hometown fans that made the trip up to the beautiful summit of their town, the Tide could do nothing with it, giving the ball back to Octorara with a short field to work with.

The Braves were able to seize the opportunity as the Trent Pawling found paydirt again, this time via the draw to scamper in from seven yards out to put the visitors up by the now commanding 21-6 advantage with 10:39 to go.

As the final quarter progressed, Columbia would have their share of opportunities to draw closer on the scoreboard, but the Octorara defense stood tall staving off any threat of a Crimson Tide comeback. The Tide would eventually find the end zone once again however. Matt McCleary took to the air for his second TD pass of the night, this one to Collyn Christmas, to make the score 21-12. Unfortunately for the home team, their last score of the evening came with just nine seconds left to go which was too little too late as Octorara undoubtedly had a happy bus ride home after picking up just their second win since 2014, posting the 21-12 victory.

After the game, there was nothing that would take the smile away from Octorara head coach Jed King. Clearly it was a win that was much deserved, but especially for the Braves’ senior class. “Victory is important,” King said following his team’s triumph. “I say it again and again. You need some wins. They have to enjoy playing the game. There’s some things we have to clean up, but I’m proud of them tonight. My seniors fought through two tough seasons and to get a win like this is big for us.”

NEXT UP: Octorara will look to keep it rolling next week as the Braves entertain Pequea Valley in “The Brave Bowl.” PV currently owns a two game winning streak over their Chester County counterparts, but Octorara will undoubtedly be excited to get a crack at their neighbors fresh off a victory. “I think we needed to win going into next week. It was a must,” King went on to say previewing Brave Bowl 2017. “We’re going to work them to get ready and I think this is going to help their intensity at practice.”

Columbia on the other hand showed flashes on Friday night of being a team that no one would want any parts of as the season moves along. The Tide’s next opportunity to the impress and give Coach Kyle his first W will be next week as Tide host Delone Catholic of the York Adams League. Last season, the Squires were able to top the Crimson Tide 43-14.

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