DENVER — For those fans expecting extra momentum for teams that started their regular season a week early, Friday night’s contest between Red Land and Cocalico proved otherwise.
In a physically exhausting affair, Red Land survived the Eagles comeback bid, 29-22, after the gritty Eagles came within a yard of a game-tying score late in the fourth quarter.
Cocalico (0-1) actually knotted the contest at 22-all in the third quarter on Brady Sawyer’s 15-yard pass to Mitchell Caffrey. But Patriots’ back Justin Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff up the gut, easily distancing himself from the Eagles’ last defender for the winning score.
Johnson also rushed for 115 yards on 25 carries, including a 9-yard burst that gave the Patriots (2-0) a 15-7 lead at halftime.
That Patriots’ lead quickly ballooned to 22-7 after Hunter Briner (4 catches, 163 yards, 2 TDs) hauled in a 77-yard touchdown pass from Jake Radic on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
“Their kids, they made plays,” said Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich. “A return touchdown 98 yards, that breaks your back. First play of the second half, 70-yard pass, that breaks your back. I thought our kids played with great effort, great intensity, we just didn’t get the result that we wanted.”
The Eagles vaunted rushing attack racked up 336 yards on 56 carries, the bulk coming from Colton Goodman (18 carries, 175 yards, 2 TDs). This, after Red Land appeared to have Cocalico’s veer figured out in the second quarter.
“They’re very good at what they do, and it’s something that we don’t really see,” said Red Land coach Chad Weaver. “Even in practice we try to simulate what they do, and we can’t do it. I’m proud of the guys. They had some really big defensive stands, a couple of them. They found a way to get it done.”
Red Land’s defense forced Cocalico into three turnovers on downs, not to mention forcing a fumble on second-and-goal from the 4-yard line with 2:20 to play, resulting in the Patriots’ possession from the one.
From there, Johnson ran out the clock, managing a pair of first downs including an 8-yard gain on third-and-7 to seal the win.
The Patriots, which won their season opener last week versus Bishop McDevitt, finished with 329 total yards, but 133 came on Briner’s touchdown two grabs, including a 56-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter.
“Hunter is a kid that is a four-year starter for us, I think this is probably one of his better games he’s played,” Weaver said. “I think he’s been waiting for the opportunities, and he got them, and he certainly shined.”
Red Land_ 3_ 12_ 14_ 0_ — _ 29
Cocalico_ 7_ 0_ 15_ 0_ — _ 22
RLa — Stout 29-yard kick, 5:31
Coc — Goodman 14-rush (Puodziunas kick), 1:27
RLa — Briner 56-pass from Radic (pass failed), 8:41
RLa — Johnson 9-rush (pass failed), 1:38
RLa — Briner 77-pass from Radic (Stout kick), 11:39
Coc — Goodman 20-rush (Brubaker rush), 7:18
Coc — Caffrey 15-pass from Sawyer (Puodziunas kick), 4:40
RLa — Johnson 98-yard kick-off return, (Stout kick), 4:34
_ RLa_ Coc
First downs _ 12_ 18
Rushes-yards _ 33-135_ 56-336
Passing _ 5-13-0_ 1-5-0
Passing yards _ 194_ 15
Total yards _ 329_ 351
Punts _ 3-40.3_ 3-34.3
Fumbles-lost _ 1-1_ 2-1
Penalties-yards _ 3-40_ 1-5
Rushing — RED LAND - J. Johnson 25-115, J. Espinosa 1-2, T. Myers 1-8, H. Briner 1-0. COCALICO - B. Sawyer 13-54, B. Brubaker 19-83, C. Goodman 18-175, A. Frey 4-17, A. Landers 1-1, O. Zimmerman 1-6.
Passing — J. Radic 5-12-0-194, C. Stout 0-1-0-0. COCALICO - B. Sawyer 1-5-0-15.
Receiving — RED LAND - M. Moody 1-27, H. Briner 4-167. COCALICO - M. Caffrey 1-15.