York, PA - The pressure built little by little on the Dover football team's defense, like a plugged-up dam about to burst.
It started in the second quarter. The Eagles had already staked themselves to a two-touchdown lead vs. visiting Red Land -- a product both of Dover's power-based ground game and the Patriots' own sloppiness.
Then Red Land put together a 13-play scoring drive.
And the Eagles fumbled on their next offensive play.
And everything started to snowball on Dover during an eventual 34-14 defeat Friday night. Red Land's three-pronged rushing game asserted itself one bludgeoning run after another. The Eagles offense, in turn, couldn't find a way to stay on the field.
By the third quarter, Dover's defense was gassed.
"Every week it's like that," said Red Land senior quarterback Kyle Biddle, one of the Patriots three running threats, who overcame a flurry of early interceptions to finish with 109 rushing yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns.
"Our running game was there. That's all we need to do."
So it went for the Eagles (2-1), in a game billed as this rebuilt team's first major test. A year after it graduated 20 seniors, Dover opened its 2012 campaign with blowout wins against Hanover and Solanco.
The Eagles showed flashes of promise early Friday. They intercepted three Biddle passes in the first half and gained traction early behind the hard running of sophomore fullback Isaiah Green (nine carries, 69 yards).
But as the game wore on, Red Land's strength and experience showed. Tailback John Ford notched 131 rushing yards and a back-breaking, 65-yard punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter, while fellow junior Connor Parsons pitched in 79 rushing yards of his own.
Red Land (3-0) finished with 385 yards on the ground. It didn't attempt a pass after halftime.
"Our defensive guys saw a little bit faster pace tonight than we've seen the first two weeks," Dover coach Bill Miller said.
Still, Dover seemed to seize control early. Curtis Harman's interception midway through the first quarter set the Eagles up at Red Land's 27-yard line. That led to a 5-yard, Logan Ambrose touchdown run.
Later, Green thundered 23 yards to give Dover a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Red Land was able to blunt the Eagles' momentum with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive to cut the gap in half. But Dover also hurt its own cause, fumbling on its next possession after a kick return set the Eagles inside the Patriots' 20.
"We knew we could beat them in the first half, but we turned the ball over and had penalties and stuff," Biddle said. "We were down mentally, but we came back."
There would be no such issues after halftime. Biddle dashed 14 yards to tie the game at 14-all midway through the third quarter. And after another three-and-out by Dover, Parsons put the Patriots ahead with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Then came the back-breaker: On the first play of the fourth quarter, Dover punted away to Ford. The senior picked up the ball and began a slaloming return -- darting up the left sideline, reversing course all the way across the field, then weaving in between a slew of bodies on his way to the end zone.
"With a player like that, you hold your breath," Miller said of Ford. "You have to hold him in check for 48 minutes."
The game was delayed for approximately 15 minutes after that play while trainers and coaches attended to Ambrose, who was injured during Ford's return. Ambrose left the field on a stretcher and was taken away by ambulance.
Miller declined after the game to speculate on the severity or nature of Ambrose's injury.
Red Land 0 7 14 13 -- 34
Dover 7 7 0 0 -- 14
Do -- Logan Ambrose 5 run (Dalton Heim kick), 3:48.
Do -- Isaiah Green 23 run (Heim kick) 11:50.
RLa -- Kyle Biddle 7 run (John Stoner kick), 5:58.
RLa -- Biddle 14 run (Stoner kick), 5:37.
RLa -- Connor Parsons 7 run (Stoner kick), 1:40.
RLa -- John Ford 65 punt return (kick failed), 11:36.
RLa -- Josh Hershey 17 run (Stoner kick), 5:08.
-- RLa -- Do
First downs -- 19 -- 10
Rushes-yards -- 58-385 -- 31-97
Passing -- 2-8-3 -- 6-12-0
Passing yards -- 19 -- 42
Total yards -- 404 -- 139
Punts -- 1-26 -- 4-30.5
Fumbles-lost -- 1-0 -- 3-2
Penalties-yards -- 7-72 -- 2-10
Rushing -- Red Land, John Ford 24-131, Kyle Biddle 12-109, Connor Parsons 12-79, Josh Hershey 5-49, Jake Hershey 4-11, Christian Fetrow 1-6; Dover, Isaiah Green 9-69, Logan Ambrose 9-26, George Tischler 7-9, Dylan Ehrlinger 1-8, Gabe Jackson 2-(-4), Jake McLean 2-(-5), Jordan Wynegar 1-(-6).
Passing -- Red Land, Kyle Biddle 2-7-3-19, John Ford 0-1-0-0; Dover, George Tischler 4-7-0-27, Jordan Wynegar 2-5-0-15.
Receiving -- Red Land, Kyle Searfoss 1-11, DeRyan George 1-8; Dover, Curtis Harman 3-21, Dylan Ehrlinger 1-11, Isaiah Green 1-6, Grant Hoover 1-4.