Behind a wrecking-ball performance by Pyles, the Cedars regrouped for a 30-14 Homecoming victory over Solanco on Friday night at Alumni Stadium.
Lebanon's senior signal-caller scored three touchdowns - all one-yard keepers - and accumulated 194 rushing yards on 38 carries. Pyles also connected with Jeronimo Rodriquez through the air for a 35-yard scoring strike, his 19th passing touchdown of the season.
"He was a warrior. Everything he did he was physical," Lebanon coach Gerry Yonchiuk said of Pyles. "He laid the hammer running the ball. I don't know how else to say it. He's a tailback playing quarterback; he's a hybrid kind of guy."
Lebanon's triumph improves its record to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. It also wipes away the memory of last week's 72-0 debacle at Mannheim Central and snaps a four-game losing skid to Solanco.
"I think it was important because we were overmatched last week - but that's over with," added Yonchiuk. "We wanted to come back. It didn't matter if we won 2-0 or whatever. We had to come back and get a 'W.'"
After holding Solanco (0-6, 0-3) on its opening series, Pyles put the offense into high gear on the first play from scrimmage. The 6-foot, 215-pounder scrambled off-tackle, lowering the boom on a waiting Golden Mule defender in the secondary. The play went for 26 yards but proved to be a sign of things to come for the "Air Raid" offense.
Lebanon uncharacteristically ran the ball 50 times as opposed to only attempting 18 passes. The Cedars chunked out 229 yards on the ground versus 159 passing. Yonchiuk cited humidity and sweat as the reason for taking less chances in the air.
"The ball slipped out of my hand a couple times," said Pyles (8-of-18 passing). "My towel - I don't know - I kept switching it, but it kept getting soaked. I couldn't hold on to (the ball)."
The Cedars scored on their first two possessions - both eight-play drives. Pyles finished off both series with one-yard plunges, and Jeremy De La Cruz converted a two-point conversion out of the wildcat formation for a 14-0 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Lebanon increased the lead with 1:34 left before halftime on a 35-yard connection between Pyles and Rodriquez. Nicholas Negron hauled in Pyles' two-point pass to make it 22-0 at the break. The Cedar defense allowed just 82 yards of total offense in the first half.
"They stepped up when they needed to. That's the part I like," said Yonchiuk. "They were swarming around the ball and getting hats on the football."
Solanco and head coach Joseph Pears did not roll over in the third quarter. The Golden Mules intercepted a tipped pass on the third play to change momentum.
The visitors continued to apply pressure on the ensuing series, blocking a punt to take over the ball on the Lebanon 1-yard line. The Cedar defense, however, did not break, stopping Solanco on four consecutive plays from inside the 5-yard line.
"That was huge - because we haven't been able to do that," added Yonchiuk. "I'm very proud of our defense tonight. (Assistant coaches) Frank Isenberg and Bud Getz had them ready to go."
Pyles coughed up a fumble late in the third to give Solanco another short field. This time, the Golden Mules capitalized with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Noah McCardell to Toby Kreider on the first play of the fourth quarter. They would not get any closer than 22-14, though.
Pyles removed any drama with a methodical 13-play drive, which ate up 76 yards and roughly 6:30 of clock. He kept the ball for 11 of the 13 plays, racking up first downs along the way. Pyles finished the drive with his third scoring run, while De La Cruz (three catches, 98 yards) converted his second two-point conversion for the 30-14 final.
"It's great for us, especially after last week," added Pyles. "It was just a good win. We had our mistakes, but we played until the end and got the 'W.'
"We're looking forward to next week. It's going to be a tough one."
Lebanon travels to Denver on Friday for a 7 p.m. clash against Cocalico in Week 7. The Cedars follow with a Week 8 trip to Conestoga Valley (Oct. 18) before closing out the regular season with home dates against Lampeter-Strasburg (Oct. 25) and Elizabethtown (Nov. 1).
LEBANON 30, SOLANCO 14
Solanco 0077 - 14
Lebanon 14808 - 30
L - Mark Pyles 1 run (kick blocked)
L - Pyles 1 run (Jeremy De la Cruz run)
L - Pyles 35 pass to Jeronimo Rodriquez (Pyles pass to Nicholas Negron).
S - Darren Whearry 20 run (Karson Beane kick)
S - Noah McCardell 26 pass to Toby Kreider (Beane kick)
L - Pyles 1 run (De la Cruz run)
S - L
First downs 9 - 18
Rushes-yards 32-106 - 50-229
Passing 4-12-1 - 8-18-1
Passing yards 108 - 159
Total yards 214 - 388
Punts 1-37 - 0-0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 - 4-2
Penalties-yards 6-45 - 4-40
Rushing: SOL - Douglas Hassel 10-45, Darren Whearry 3-20, Noah McCardell 7-19, Toby Kreider 8-15, Troy Berry 1-6, Karson Beane 2-1, Bo Spiller 1-0; LEB - Mark Pyles 38-194, Daniel Caricabeur 7-19, Luke Eisenhour 5-16.
Passing: SOL - McCardell 3/9 90 0-0, Vincent Ortiz 1/3 9 0-1; LEB - Pyles 8/18 159 1-1.
Receiving:SOL - Rafik Butler 1-45, Toby Kreider 2-35, Colby King 1-19; LEB - Jeremy De la Cruz 3-98, Jeronimo Rodriguez 1-35, Luke Eisenhour 1-16, Omel Francois 2-7, Luke Fureman 1-3.