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View a photo gallery from Manheim Township vs. Hempfield.

LANDISVILLE >> Hoping to be playing at home when the District 3-AAAA football playoffs next weekend, Mark Evans' Manheim Township Blue Streaks knew what had to be done to ensure they'd be checking into their own locker room one more time.

Quite simply, they had to win.

And the Streaks did not disappoint the sizable gathering that followed them into comfortable Georgelis Law Firm Stadium Friday night for their 28-14 victory against Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 playmate Hempfield.

Erik Benjamin tossed three touchdown passes and racked up 290 yards through the air — Kade Kubicki caught two scoring tosses and K. John Stutz grabbed the other — while Grayson Sallade rushed for another score as Evans' Blue Streaks (8-2, 6-1) secured second place in the L-L 1 standings.

Township also unofficially slipped into fourth place in the District 3-AAAA standings, meaning the Streaks could host two playoff games — if they open postseason play next weekend with their third straight win.

"We hope so," Evans cracked.

"It's definitely an advantage," said Benjamin, who completed 14 of his 22 pass attempts and also rushed for 53 yards. "We have one of the greatest home crowds in the L-L, I think personally. Hopefully we'll get one or two [home games], just to carry our momentum into the playoffs."

Will Blair rushed for 121 yards and one touchdown for Ron Zeiber's Black Knights (8-2, 5-2), who unofficially sit fifth in the District 3-AAAA power rankings and likely will open the postseason right back at GLF Stadium.

Sam Kramer added 67 yards and another score for the Knights.

"It was trying to play a very well-coached team," Zeiber admitted. "They're just massive up front and tough to move. They did a great job on their defensive line. The run game wasn't killing us, but that pass game.

"It was their athletes," Zeiber continued. "It was their Jimmys and Joes, not their Xs and Os that beat us tonight."

Locked up in a 7-7 tie some three minutes into the second quarter after Kramer wheeled 40 yards with an option keeper, Manheim Twp. marched right down the field with the ensuing kickoff to reclaim the lead — for good.

Benjamin made a pair of big throws on the eight-play march, connecting with Kubicki on a 32-yard pass that moved the ball into Hempfield territory. Then, on the touchdown pass, Benjamin lobbed an underthrown toss toward the right pylon that Kubicki reached over Jimmy Dizon to reel in the ball.

"Fade routes," Benjamin admitted. "Our athletes against their athletes. We just needed to make plays and we did. Sometimes they make me look pretty good."

"What a talent," Evans said, referring to Benjamin. "Just the want-to, just the want-to. And that's pretty impressive when you have guys that have been playing together for all those years; Erik Benjamin and his cast of characters.

"I call them characters because they are a bunch of characters," Evans added. "I call them wingnuts, that's a term of endearment. And that means I love them.

"They keep it light and they came to play tonight."

Although Hempfield drove the ball to the Township 20, they were stopped on fourth down just before the half. The Streaks responded by taking the second-half kick and rolling down the field to make it 21-7 just four-plus minutes in.

While Sallade bounced in from the 1 for the score, Benjamin hooked up with Stutz for gains of 28 and 29 yards during the drive. Stutz's latter reception, on fourth down in fact, immediately preceded Sallade's touchdown run.

"It was trying to play a very well-coached team," Zeiber said. "They're just massive up front and tough to move. They did a great job on their defensive line. The run game wasn't killing us, but that passing game [really hurt us].

"It was their athletes," Zeiber echoed. "It was their Jimmys and Joes, not their Xs and Os that beat us tonight."

Zeiber's Knights answered Sallade's score with one of their own, Blair crashing over from the 2 with 5:26 showing in the third to cap a six-play drive. Blair and Kramer each had big runs during the march to set up the score.

Benjamin wasn't done, however, as he found Kubicki in the deep left corner of the end zone on a 23-yard toss on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Yep, another fade route.

"I'm just confident they can win any 1-on-1 matchup they're presented with," a grinning Benjamin said.

Hempfield was poised to score again, but Blair coughed up the ball at the Township 1 and Sallade claimed the loose ball, his second fumble recovery of the game.

"What a player, huh?" Evans cracked. "Sophomore."

"Obviously, the fumble down there was critical," Zeiber lamented.

And it was.

Especially since Township already had more than enough points tucked away to turn back its heated adversaries.

"Since we've been playing these guys up from third grade, it's always been a constant rivalry," Benjamin said. "It's just great to come out with a W.

"It was a tough test, but we were able to come out on top."

Now the Streaks are headed back home for one game, maybe two.

"The No. 1 thing I talked to the kids about was The Plan — and we have five things on that plan," Evans said. "The bottom one on the plan is don't flinch. And they didn't flinch. They had a chance and we could have flinched big time.

"That's the big thing with this group is they're buying into the plan," Evans continued. "First is toughness. Second is fundamentals. Third is seven key areas. But the last two are the most important and that's togetherness and not flinching.

"And our guys didn't flinch."

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