John Buffone and Pat Huggins break down four Week 8 matchups in the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Video by John Buffone
ENOLA - Speed has been known to kill.
On Friday night, the speed of East Pennsboro running back Onasis Neely mortally wounded a previously dominant Palmyra defense.
Neely ran for 224 yards and four touchdowns as East Pennsboro handed Palmyra a stinging 34-24 defeat in a Mid-Penn Capital Division clash on the Panthers' home turf.
Despite Neely's huge night, Palmyra battled valiantly behind a trio of 100-yard rushers - Alon Rhette, Carl Reigle and Peter Robertson - but never led after a Neely-led 95-yard scoring drive gave the home team a 13-10 lead with 7:01 to go in the first half.
In short, it was an uncharacteristically difficult night for the Palmyra defense, which entered the night with three shutouts to its credit and just 54 points allowed in its first seven games. But with the elusive and speedy Neely working his magic, the Cougars spent this particular Friday evening grasping more at air than opposing jerseys for the first time this season while falling to 6-2 and 3-2 in the Capital.
"I feel like we were in good position; I feel like we were there to make tackles," said Palmyra coach Chris Pope of his squad's defensive effort. "But we didn't make tackles. I gotta look at the video, but I feel like we didn't get body on body. He's a good back, and you gotta get into somebody like that. That was a problem."
The Cougars got on the board first, via a Griffin Weidler 26-yard field goal with 8:24 left in the first quarter, but in a hint of things to come, Neely and the Panthers responded with the first of their tailback's four TDs with 1:54 left in the first, a 9-yard scamper on fourth down for a 6-3 lead.
Palmyra answered in kind with a 17-yard scoring dash by Reigle just seconds into the second quarter for a 10-6 lead, but the game turned from there via the aforementioned 95-yard scoring march that culminated with Neely's second TD of the night, a 4-yard burst with 7:01 to go in the half. The Panthers would not trail again, extending the lead to 20-10 at the half and to 27-10 midway through the third.
"That was a big point in the game, I think," Pope said of the 95-yard drive. "In the end, though, I still felt like we battled back. That's a credit to this football team. We kept on fighting. I thought that showed a lot of character."
And they did so for part of the time without Rhette, who went down with an apparent rib injury in the second half and did not return.
But with Reigle leading the way with a 4-yard TD run in the third and a 15-yard scoring gallop with a Robertson screen pass with 2:57 left, the Cougars kept the outcome in doubt until Neely raced 20 yards for his fourth TD of the night with 24 ticks showing on the clock.
"I think right now it's stinging more than humbling," Pope said. "Everyone's upset, obviously. But that's the way it is. Sometimes you get beat by someone that's better."
East Pennsboro 34, Palmyra 24
Palmyra _ 3 _ 7 _ 7 _ 7 _ — _ 24
East Pennsboro _ 6 _ 14 _ 7 _ 7 _ — _ 34
P — Weidler 26 FG
EP - Neely 9 run (kick failed)
P — Reigle 17 run (Weidler kick)
EP - Neely 4 run (Copp kick)
EP - Nugent 12 pass from Morris (Copp kick)
EP — Neely 15 run (Copp kick)
P - Reigle 4 run (Weidler kick)
P - Neely 20 run (Copp kick)
_ Pal _ EP
First downs _ 26 _ 18
Rushes-yards _ 51-364 _ 37-268
Passing _ 9-18-1 _ 8-12-0
Passing yards _ 86 _ 88
Total yards _ 450 _ 356
Punts _ 1-0.0 _ 5-31.6
Fumbles-lost _ 1-1 _ 0--0
Penalties-yards _ 2-30 _ 5-55
Rushing — Pal: Rhette 15-134, Reigle 16-107, Robertson 16-104, Templin 2-6, Haus 1-10, Vernet 1-3. EP: Neely 33-224, Alejandro 2-33, Morris 2-11.
Passing — Pal: Robertson 7-16-1-70, Haus 2-2-0-16. EP: Morris 8-12-0-88.
Receiving — Pal: Vernet 3-26, Wasilewski 2-21, Rhette 1-16, Reigle 1-15, Hawkins 1-6, Carter 1-2. EP: Mason 5-45, Neely 1-25, Nugent 1-12, Orr 1-6.