CAMP HILL - Last season, a disheartening Week 7 loss knocked the Palmyra football team permanently off stride, turning a 6-0 start into a still good 7-4 campaign. But 2015 ended up being not quite what it could have for the Cougars.
Not that they even remember last season after what happened Friday night.
Whether it was thinking that way or not, Palmyra exacted considerable revenge on Camp Hill in its season opener at Siebert Park, riding an inspired defensive effort to a 31-0 throttling of the Lions on their home turf.
Senior defensive end Mason Cooper led the dominant defensive effort that held the hosts to 114 total yards and six first downs, controlling the line of scrimmage throughout and adding a defining 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half that staked Palmyra to an insurmountable 21-0 halftime lead.
Oh, there was offense, too, as senior back Alon Rhette came up with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, Peter Robertson hit on 7 of 10 passes for 80 yards in his debut as starting QB, and Griffin Weidler booted four extra points and a field goal.
But it was defense that told this season-opening story of success for Palmyra.
"It's really big coming off that loss to Camp Hill," Cooper said. "It's really good to have a win in our first game, especially a 31-0 statement. I think we're just gonna keep building off of that and getting better every day."
"It's just the first game," said Palmyra coach Chris Pope, trying to keep the big win in perspective. "But I really feel like we were focused when we got here, and that was a good sign. It was a good night."
It wasn't all roses, though. The Cougars were guilty of nine penalties and wrecked a promising opening drive that ate up plenty of clock with several of them.
But Rhette got Palmyra on the board and provided all the points the defense would need by bulling in from a yard out with 44 seconds left in the first quarter. Robertson then hit Braden Vernet with a 33-yard scoring strike with 1:07 to go in the half, and Cooper followed with his scoop and score with 19 ticks left for a 21-0 lead at intermission.
"It was just us sticking to our assignments and not trying to do anything we're not supposed to do," Cooper said. "Because we know the guy next to us is gonna do their job. If we do our job things will go our way,"
The Cougars did their job so well that Camp Hill, which was without star tight end Zack Kuntz because of injury, could never get game-breaking running back Billy Williams untracked. Williams managed just 33 yards on 10 carries, 25 of which came on a fake punt in the first half.
"Really great," Pope said of the effort of the defense. "You have a back like Billy Williams with incredible speed and great athleticism who's gonna play at the next level, you want to control that. And I thought they did a good job of that. All week we talked about gang tackling and that it was gonna take more than one guy. I thought they really came out and made a statement defensively."
Palmyra 31, Camp Hill 0
Palmyra _ 7 _ 14 _ 3 _ 7 _ — _ 31
Camp Hill _ 0 _ 0 _ 0 _ 0 _ — _ 0
P— Rhette 1 run (Weidler kick)
P — Vernet 33 pass from Robertson (Weidler kick)
P — Cooper 27 fumble return (Weidler kick)
P — Weidler 24 FG
P — Rhette 28 run (Weidler kick)
_ Palmyra _ Camp Hill
First downs _ 13 _ 6
Rushes-yards _ 39-209 _ 23-72
Passing _ 7-10-0 _ 4-21-0
Passing yards _ 80 _ 42
Total yards _ 289 _ 114
Punts _ 5-25.6 _ 5-39.8
Fumbles-lost _ 0-0 _ 3-2
Penalties-yards _ 9-63 _ 5-48
Rushing — P: Rhette 13-119, Reigle 9-56, Robertson 7-21, Sosnoski 5-13, Haus 3-9, Cannon 2-0. CH: Williams 10-33, Labine 3-21, Buffington 6-10, Perry 4-8.
Passing — P: Robertson 7-10-0-80. CH: Buffington 3-18-0-37, Labine 1-3-0-5.
Receiving — P: Cooper 4-32. Vernet 2-41, Carter 1-7, CH: Guyer 2-36, Williamson 1-5, McHugh-Moore 1-5.