As the cool October night turned cold, Kyle Sprenkle got an unexpected bucket of ice water thrown on him.
Although he admitted to "freezing" as he gathered his team, the Spring Grove football coach didn't mind it one bit. After his team's physical battle at Central York, one he considered a must-win for his group, Sprenkle could only smile.
The Rockets played tough football for all 48 minutes of a rugged game and came away with a 24-14 YAIAA Division I victory.
"We've been preparing each week the same. In Division I, there are no easy games," Sprenkle said after his team improved to 3-1 in the league and 4-3 overall. "We've been really preaching effort."
Spring Grove got plenty of effort on both sides of the ball from workhorse Nick Erickson, who ran 25 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns, while anchoring the Rockets defense.
"We came into the game knowing it was a must-win. My motivation was: this game is going to control the rest of our season," Erickson said.
Erickson also made a key early defensive play, intercepting a pass after it went in and out of the hands of a Panthers receiver.
His team drove to the Central 6-yard line and on fourth-and-1, Erickson ran up the middle for the first score of the game.
"I just followed the big boy up front, (6-foot-4, 280-pound lineman) Andrew Lawson. He made a huge hole, and I have to give a lot of credit to him," Erickson said.
Nearly four minutes into the second quarter, the Panthers tried a surprise fake punt deep in their own territory. However, punter Carter Luckenbaugh was tackled for a loss, and four plays later, Erickson capped the 11-yard drive with a score from a yard out, making it 14-0.
With first downs and yards at a premium for both squads, those two scores were huge.
Nik Strine got Central on the board with 13 seconds left in the half on a quarterback sneak, capping a four-play, 58-yard drive that took only a minute and eight seconds.
However, any momentum from that score was squelched. After receiving the second half kickoff, the Panthers lost yardage in penalties, going three-and-out.
Seven plays after the ensuing punt, Rockets quarterback Jake Messersmith hit a wide open Anthony Beddia for a 25-yard touchdown. Andrew Luckenbaugh capped the next Spring Grove drive with a 37-yard field goal.
"Collectively, we've gotten better each game," Sprenkle said.
Despite a season of struggles, Central (1-3, 2-5) wouldn't let the Rockets pull away. The Panthers defense clamped down, allowing only 64 yards in the second half.
Strine made it closer with his 7-yard scoring strike to Corbin Chevaux and his two-point conversion run. But Spring Grove fell on the onside kick attempt that followed.
Shyheim Goff led Central with 81 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Spring Grove77100—24Central York0608—14
SG — Nick Erickson 6 run (Andrew Luckenbaugh kick), 4:40.
SG — Erickson 1 run, (Luckenbaugh kick), 7:01.
CY — Nik Strine 1 run (kick failed), :13.
SG — Anthony Beddia 25 pass from Jake Messersmith (Luckenbaugh kick), 6:46.
SG — Luckenbaugh 37 FG, 1:44.
CY — Corbin Chevaux 7 pass from Strine (Strine run), 8:44.
SGCYFirst Downs109Rush-yards37-7830-91Passing10-19-09-25-1Passing yards106139Total yards184230Punts5-33.05-32.6Fumbles-lost1-01-0Penalty yards8-806-56
Rushing — SG, Erickson 25-61, Ryan Daugherty 4-28, Beddia 2-6, LJ Chisolm 1-(-3), Messersmith 5-(-14). CY, Shyheim Goff 20-81, Strine 4-8, Elzir Stroman 3-3, Noriega Goff 2-1, Carter Luckenbaugh 1-(-2).
Passing — SG, Messersmith 9-19-106-0. CY, Strine 9-24-139-1, S. Goff 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — SG, Chisolm 4-34, Brady Stein 2-21, Connor Reed 2-16, Beddia 1-25, Erickson 1-10. Dt, Sakai Barton 2-44, Chevaux 2-24, Eddie Santiago 2-17, Sandy Paulino 1-30, S. Goff 1-13, Brandon Faulkenstein 1-11.