Red Lion Devours McCaskey En Route To Impressive Opening Night Victory
To say that every high school football team that plays in the state of Pennsylvania was looking forward to Friday night would be nothing if not a gross understatement. After all, this is the time of the season when the bright rays of eternal optimism shine their brightest given the dawn of a season while a perfect, unblemished record is promised to everyone as they all start off on the five-month marathon which will ultimately culminate in the crowning of six new state champions at Hersheypark Stadium come early December. But while teams from every corner of the commonwealth woke up on Friday to the promise a brand-new season rising like the morning sun, it would be equally accurate to say that a certain few programs began the 2019 campaign with perhaps a little more reason for excitement than most.
Take the McCaskey Red Tornado for example.
For the Red Tornado and their always adorning fans, the recent “glory days” if you will from the early 2000’s that included legendary names such as Perry Patterson (Syracuse), Niquan Lee (Delaware), and Joel Holler (Penn State & Delaware) suiting up on Friday evenings, those nights likely seem like they are a distant, far off memory at this point. And sure, while the road has almost always seemed like it’s been littered with its fair share of potholes throughout the last decade or so, Friday night in Lancaster city marked the beginning of a new era for McCaskey football. The Sam London era.
Granted, a coaching change at the top of the Red Tornado program is not exactly something that is a new theme here considering London became the fourth McCaskey head coach in the last 10 years when he accepted the position in late February, but if the Red Tornado brass got it right, something they truly feel when referencing Coach London, the McCaskey program likely won’t have to wait long until they are back where they belong in terms of competing for Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 titles on a yearly basis considering Red Tornado football is the literal definition of a sleeping giant or powder-keg waiting on an alchemist to concoct the perfect potion in order to explode.
But for all the excitement that encapsulated Friday evening inside Lancaster General Health-Penn Medicine Stadium, there was business to attend to. Serious business.
Standing in the way of Coach London and his troops collecting their first win on Friday night stood the Red Lion Lions, a program that has unapologetically always seemed to hover at or near the top of the YAIAA Division 1 standings in recent years, ultimately turning those successful jaunts through the regular season into District 3 playoff appearances. So yes, needless to say, London and the Red Tornado were jumping head-first into the deep end to start their season.
And if Friday is to serve as any indication, special things may once again be in store for Red Lion this season.
Sparked by a 3 & out generated by their gnarly defense right out of the chute, the Lions took over at the McCaskey 46-yard line and promptly began moving right down the field. In fact, Red Lion would march all the way down to the McCaskey 2-yard line before running into trouble when their creative flea flicker play was intercepted thanks to the heads up play by McCaskey’s Isaiah Thomas which thwarted the Lions’ early momentum.
But by then, the tone for the rest of the duration of the evening had already been set.
On the ensuing McCaskey possession, Randy Fizer quickly returned the favor for Red Lion as the Lions’ rangy defensive back snagged the errant Red Tornado pass and raced all the way back to the house with it. Or so he and everyone else in attendance had thought.
Yet even despite the fact that Fizer’s interception was called back for an illegal block which was whistled against the Lions, Red Lion went right back to work by establishing their punishing ground game. It would prove to be a wise decision too as the Lions would find eventually paydirt after a 2-yard touchdown plunge from senior battering ram Devyn Guerreri, making it a 7-0 Red Lion advantage with 7:44 to play in the opening quarter.
Ironically enough, the next few minutes would nearly be a carbon copy for both sides.
Following another McCaskey turnover, this one taken away via junior defensive lineman Kairen Gordon-Bey falling on the loose pill, the Lions found themselves setting up shop once again inside McCaskey territory with the ball comfortably resting at the Red Tornado 42-yard line eager with the Lions eager to pounce once again.
And pounce they would.
It would take Red Lion all of three plays to find the endzone for the second time on the young evening with Guerreri shouldering the burden both literally and figuratively on every single play of the drive as the 5’1 190lb brute eventually plowed his way across the goal line from 9-yards out to make it a 13-0 affair with 5:11 left in the first in favor of the visitors from York County following the PAT block.
While Devyn Guerreri largely was the most visible stud in terms of making things happen for Red Lion on the offensive side of the ball in the early going on Friday night, equally imposing was Randy Fizer for the Lions in the other two facets of the game.
As mentioned, Fizer had already returned an interception back to the house from his secondary spot which unfortunately was taken off the board thanks to an unfortunate case of laundry sitting on the field. And wouldn’t you know it, Fizer would once again have his handiwork wiped away as the 6’1 junior swiss army knife of a player for Red Lion saw his punt return for a touchdown in the waning stages of the opening stanza removed from the scoreboard thanks to yet another penalty flag tallied against the Lions.
Although the Red Lion offense now had to trot back onto the field following the illegal block on the Fizer punt return, it simply allowed them to flex their collective muscle by way of the ground game.
With the ball now sitting at the McCaskey 26-yard line, the Lions’ offensive staff found themselves calling upon Guerreri to carry the load once more.
After just a small handful of plays, Red Lion found themselves celebrating in the endzone once again following a 14-yard touchdown jaunt from Devyn Guerreri, his third of the evening at that point, as the Lions’ advantage had quickly swelled to 19-0 with 11:17 left to go in the opening half.
From there, say hello once again to Randy Fizer.
On the ensuing McCaskey offensive possession, Fizer continued to create havoc for McCaskey by picking off another errant Red Tornado pass, giving the ball back to his fellow offensive mates with the dam just about ready to burst.
And burst it would.
Following a handful of successful quarterback draws from senior triggerman Nic Shultz, the 5’11 signal-caller would then proceed to up top where he would find Fizer for another Red Lion score as the nifty 13-yard bubble screen from the firm of Shultz & Fizer led to a 26-0 Red Lion bulge on the scoreboard with 7:12 left in the first half.
Another McCaskey offensive series, another Red Lion takeaway.
With the Red Tornado offensive struggling to even tread water against the fierce Red Lion defensive troops, the hill only continued to get steeper to climb for the hosts following a fumble recovery by Lions’ senior defensive lineman Bailey Royer, giving the ball back to Red Lion at the McCaskey 12-yard line.
Give the ball to Devyn Guerreri? Yeah, good idea.
Shortly following the Lions’ takeway, Guerreri was able to bolt his way up the gut from 12-yards out untouched as the Red Lion lead quickly increased to 33-0 with 6:45 left in the second quarter.
Yet even with the first half clock slowly melting away from there on out, that would prove to be more than enough time for the Lions to author yet another score before the break.
After a handful of the successful third down conversion on their ensuing offensive possession which included Nic Shultz hooking up with Guerreri and Fizer respectively through the air, Red Lion was able to tally another touchdown with the second quarter clock running out as Shultz found senior wideout Gerald Zapata for the gorgeous 7-yard fade in the corner of the endzone to up the Red Lion lead to 39-0 with just 15 seconds to go in what had been a dominating exercise of Red Lion football in the first half of action.
Yet even while the lead and more importantly, the mental mindset that Red Lion was able to establish in the first half was likely too big for the Red Tornado to eventually overcome, McCaskey continued to press on until the bitter end before eventually nabbing two touchdowns for their efforts in the fourth quarter on Friday night.
The first of which came on the defensive side of the ball as 6’0 senior athlete Ben Desmarais was able to rumble in from 44-yards out on the scoop and score to get the Red Tornado on the board for the first time this season, making it a 39-7 ballgame with 9:51 left to play following the successful PAT from junior placekicker Sam Hershey.
Fittingly, the second and final McCaskey score of the night come via the offense as 5’9 sophomore running back Bassir Epps was able to dart his way in from 23-yards out along the Red Lion sideline to trim the Lions’ advantage down to 39-14 with a shade over two minutes left to go.
But by that time, the damage inflicted by Red Lion in the first half had indeed proved too much for McCaskey to rally past as the Lions were able to impose their will on Friday night, earning a 39-14 triumph for their efforts to start the year off on a good note at 1-0.
NEXT UP: For Red Lion, the message appears to be relatively simple. Try and replicate pretty much an exact carbon copy of the same things seen visible this coming Friday night when the Lions load up the buses once again for a date with Waynesboro with the chance to keep their early perfect record intact.
On the other side, the road over the six days appears to be anything but easy as McCaskey will find themselves having to regroup and make the necessary changes come next Friday night for the annual renewal of their city series with York as the Bearcats come racing into Lancaster, a team that truly tested their mettle this past weekend by traveling out to Pittsburgh to tangle with mighty Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
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