Lebanon s Jeremy De La Cruz looks for some open running room around Elizabethtown defender Thomas Stephens on Friday night.
Lebanon s Jeremy De La Cruz looks for some open running room around Elizabethtown defender Thomas Stephens on Friday night. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS ASHLEY WALTER)
ELIZABETHTOWN - The Lebanon football team saved its best effort for last, although it wasn't enough to avoid a winless season.

Elizabethtown chopped down the Cedars for the final time Friday night, handing Lebanon a 45-22 setback in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Bears used a rugged ground game - combined with a couple big plays - to drop the Cedars to 0-10 overall and 0-7 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. As a whole, E-town chunked out 416 yards on 48 rushing attempts against an undersized Cedar defense.

"I'm proud of our guys. We know we haven't been strong enough all year. They know that and never quit," said Lebanon head coach Gerry Yonchiuk. "You saw how hard they played tonight. And they played with great intensity. (E-town) had three huge plays, and I understand the could've, should've, would've. But if we don't give up that 80-yarder?"

Junior halfback Arthur Quaye did the most damage for the hosts, carrying 13 times for 173 yards. Sophomore Armani Mongo also eclipsed the 100-yard plateau and added a pair of touchdowns.

Still, it was an 80-yard scoring jaunt by Quaye that changed the complexion of the contest late in the first quarter.

Lebanon's junior quarterback Mark Pyles engineered a 15-play, 73-yard opening drive to give the visitors an early lead. Mixing short passes and scrambles, Pyles capped off the five-minute march with a two-yard keeper to the right side. A wide-left extra point attempt kept the Cedars up 6-0.

"I thought we could win this game. We came in thinking we could, and we had the confidence," said Lebanon's senior wide receiver Zac Norman. "We played all four quarters very well. It was probably our best game of the year."

The lead would last all of two minutes when E-town answered with a 38-yard scoring strike from Max Daley to Luke Longenecker. Austin Hilsher's point-after gave the Bears a 7-6 advantage they would not relinquish.

They extended it to 14-6 with 31 seconds to go in the first quarter when Quaye busted an 80-yard run down the Cedar's sideline.

Lebanon appeared to be letting the game slip away midway through the second stanza after a muffed punt set up a four-yard touchdown for Mongo 4:23 before halftime to make it 21-6. However, Pyles and company continued to run their no-huddle, hurry-up offense, resulting in a 26-yard connection to Norman 1:17 before the break.

Pyles then found Michael Rivera for a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 21-14.

After Hilsher closed out the first half with a booming 38-yard field goal, E-town held a 24-14 edge at intermission.

The Bears increased the lead to 31-14 nine plays into the third quarter on a short plunge by Logan Farris.

The Cedars  Jeronimo Rodriguez tries to elude the one-armed tackle of the Bears  Luke Longenecker on Friday night in E-town.
The Cedars Jeronimo Rodriguez tries to elude the one-armed tackle of the Bears Luke Longenecker on Friday night in E-town. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS ASHLEY WALTER)
After a Cedar three-and-out, E-town struck again when Kirby Breault spun his way to a one-yard touchdown for a 38-14 count.

Lebanon, however, did not roll over. Pyles again guided the Cedars down the field, leading them on a 77-yard scoring drive. De La Cruz dove in from a yard out with 1:46 left in the third to make it 38-22.

E-town's final touchdown came with 50.4 ticks left in regulation when Mongo bulled in from two yards for the 45-22 final.

Elizabethtown, which finished 0-10 last year, ends the season at 4-6 overall and 4-3 in Section Two.

"They should be 5-5 and going to the playoffs," Yonchiuk said. "(Head coach) Mike Cottle has done a great job with the kids, and they never quit. They believe in him and he's a good man. Those guys rallied around him and played hard for him."

Pyles finished 22-of-37 passing for 184 yards. The rugged 6-foot, 200-pounder also rushed for 153 yards on 27 tries.

De La Cruz, an agile junior, hauled in 11 of his passes for 77 yards. Norman had four catches for 46 yards to go with his touchdown reception.

"We played hard all four quarters, and that's all you can ask," said Pyles, who also had punts of six yards and 63 yards in the loss.

"Mark is a warrior, he is tremendous. To me, he is a Division I football player," explained Yonchiuk. "He plays with such tenacity and pride and never comes off the field. He plays so hard with everything that we asked of him."

The Cedars had won the past four meetings against E-town, including a 20-13 victory at Alumni Stadium last year.

"This group is a great group of character guys," Yonchiuk added. "They never complained. They knew the battle we were against. It was obvious all year. We couldn't stop people because we are not physical. I'm hoping it was a learning lesson for our guys."

Pyles described the Cedars' future in two words.

"Weight room, weight room, weight room, weight room," he said. "We're going to work."

Norman, who played his final game for the red and white, agreed.

"We have our younger skill guys working, and with Mark behind center making good reads and making his passes, I think they have a good chance and good future," Norman said. "I know they will all be working their hardest in the weight room, so I'm looking forward to see how they do next season."

ELIZABETHTOWN 45, LEBANON 22

Lebanon 6-8-8-0 - 22
Elizabethtown 14-10-14-7 - 45

First Quarter

L - Mark Pyles 2 run (kick failed)

E - Luke Longenecker 38 pass from Max Daley (Austin Hilsher kick)

E - Arthur Quaye 80 run (Hilsher kick)

Second Quarter

E - Armani Mongo 4 run (Hilsher kick)

L - Zacariah Norman 26 pass from Pyles (Michael Rivera pass from Pyles)

E - Hilsher 38 FG

Third Quarter

E - Logan Farris 7 run (Hilsher run)

E - Kirby Breault 1 run (Hilsher kick)

L - Jeremy De La Cruz 1 run (De La Cruz pass from Pyles)

Fourth Quarter

E - Mongo 52 run (Hilsher kick)

L - E
First downs 20 - 17
Rushes-yards 33-169 - 48-416
Passing 22-37-2 - 4-10-0
Passing yards 184 - 102
Total yards 253 - 518
Punts 3-34.5 - 3-39.3
Fumbles-lost 2-1 - 4-2
Penalties-yards 4-25 - 9-70

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing: L - Mark Pyles 27-153, Jeremy De La Cruz 4-14, Michael Rivera 2-2; E - Arthur Quaye 13-173, Armani Mongo 9-127, Kirby Breault 13-94, Logan Farris 9-35, Max Daley 4-(minus-13).

Passing: L - Pyles 22-37-2, 184 yards; E - Daley 4-10-0, 102 yards.

Receiving: L - De La Cruz 11-77, Zac Norman 4-46, Rivera 4-23, Xavier Baez 2-23, Jose Gonzalez 1-11, Jeronimo Rodriguez 1-4; E - Breault 2-50, Luke Longenecker 1-38, Farris 1-14