The Cougars shook off a scoreless first half with a 21-point third quarter that set the tone for a 28-0 win and a third straight victory to open the season.
MYERSTOWN - By the end, it looked a lot like the Palmyra football team's first two lopsided victories.
This one, though, was different. This time, for a while, the Cougars met their match in the form of a physical, feisty Elco squad.
For a while. After the host Raiders battled on even terms in a scoreless but entertaining first half, Palmyra found the range in the third quarter, dominating both sides of the ball in a 21-point explosion that led to a 28-0 triumph at Elco High School on Friday night.
Now off to a wildly encouraging 3-0 start that has seen them outscore their opponents by a staggering 94-7 margin, the Cougars licked whatever wounds Elco had inflicted at halftime, then opened the third quarter with a quick four-play 83-yard scoring march that was all senior running Alon Rhette, including a 54-yard TD dash that set the tone for another rout to come.
Carl Reigle added a six-yard TD run and Braden Vernet a 28-yard scoring reception from Peter Robertson later in the period, both of which were set up by interceptions from Palmyra's seriously stingy defense.
Challenge faced, challenge met and then some.
"I'm really happy with the way they responded," Palmyra coach Chris Pope said of his squad. "These other two games, we kinda got out front and maintained that pace. But you always want to know how you're gonna react when things aren't going well. There was a time there when we weren't moving the ball and they started moving it and passing it, It kinda felt like we were out of sync. We talked (at halftime) and I liked how they responded."
The tide actually turned with 2:32 left in the first half, when Rhette picked off Kyle Knight at the Palmyra 13 to snuff out a very promising Elco drive.
That momentum continued to open the third, and four smashmouth plays later, Rhette was in the end zone and Palmyra was ahead to stay.
"I just remember screaming at the linemen, being ticked off going into the second half," Rhette said of the tone-setting scoring drive to open the third quarter, "and all of them saying, 'Hey man, we're gonna do better. We're playing crappy right now. We'll pick it up for you.' And sure enough they did it, and I love those guys for it."
"We knew what we wanted to do, we wanted to run inside the tackles," Pope said of the drive. "We drew it up on the iPad and said this is what we needed to do. Guys like Alon are good runners and if they keep getting five yards, eventually something's gonna break."
Rhette then set up Palmyra's next score with some defensive heroics on Elco's ensuing possession, rushing Knight into a throw that defensive lineman Xavier Vasquez picked off and set the Cougars up at the Raider 15. Three plays later, Reigle sliced in from six yards out and Griffin Weidler added the second of four extra points to make it 14-0 with 6:33 to go in the third.
Palmyra's defense wasn't done yet, as Robertson notched the team's third interception on Elco's next possession, and on the following play hit Vernet with a 28-yard scoring strike for a 21-0 lead.
Devan Sosnoski later added an exclamation point in the form of an 11-yard TD burst that closed out the scoring with 3:54 left.
Palmyra 28, Elco 0
Palmyra _ 0 _ 0 _ 21 _ 7 _ — _ 28
Elco _ 0 _ 0 _ 0 _ 0 _ — _ 0
P — Rhette 54 run (Weidler kick)
P — Reigle 6 run (Weidler kick)
P — Vernet 28 pass from Robertson (Weidler kick)
P — Sosnoski 11 run (Weidler kick)
_ Pal _ Elco
First downs _ 15 _ 8
Rushes-yards _ 37-270 _ 25-49
Passing _ 5-12-0 _ 9-19-3
Passing yards _ 55 _ 68
Total yards _ 325 _ 117
Punts _ 2-32.0 _ 5-44.0
Fumbles-lost _ 2-1 _ 1-0
Penalties-yards _ 3-35 _ 5-40
Rushing — P: Rhette 11-91, Reigle 12-86, Robertson 9-62, Cannon 2-17, Sosnoski 1-11, Templin 1-5, Hawkins 1- (-2). E: Knight 13-25, Horst 11-21, C. Miller 1-3.
Passing — P: Robertson 5-12-0-55, E: Knight 9-19-3-68.
Receiving — P: Rhette 2-7, Vernet 1-28, Cooper 1-12, Wasilewski 1-8. E: C. Miller 2-18, Eshleman 2-13, Horst 2-11, Beamer 2-10, Kline 1-16.