Two plays into the second half, Spring Grove recovered a Red Lion fumble deep in Lions' territory. Down only seven at the time, it was the play that could have led to a tie game.
However, the Rockets lost yards on the ensuing snap, and on third down, Red Lion junior Ben Frey sacked Spring Grove quarterback Jake Messersmith, forcing a field goal attempt that came up short.
That series, along with the next one that ended when Frey pounced on a Spring Grove fumble, displayed the defense that dominated for the Lions on senior night.
Red Lion limited the Rockets to 176 yards, 76 of which came on one play, with 71 coming on the final drive of the game, in a 28-14 Division I win.
The Lions improved to 4-2 in the division and 6-3 overall heading into next week's showdown at rival Dallastown.
After his team made 14 tackles for losses, Red Lion coach Jesse Shay acknowledged that defense was the key to victory.
"That Spring Grove team has some playmakers and to bottle them up for as long as we did ... The consistency I saw is what I liked," he said. "And for the second week in a row, we are getting off the field on third downs. That's tremendous."
Nine plays after Frey's second sack of the contest - one of five on the night for the Lions - Alex Keough ran in from 3 yards out, putting Red Lion up 21-7.
"Individual statistics to us go out the window," Frey said. "The biggest thing that matters is we have more points than they do when the clock hits double-zero."
Later in the half, Josh Donaldson intercepted a Messersmith pass on the Lions' 11-yard line. Red Lion followed by going 89 yards in 11 plays, chewing up more than six minutes of the fourth quarter in the drive that was capped by Dalton Grove's 1-yard run.
"The way we approach offense is we've got the ball. If we've got the ball, they can't score," Shay said. "When you hit playoffs, when you hit teams like the very good Dallastown team we are going to play next week, you better be able to grind the ball."
The tone was set on the first play of the game when Nick Argento sacked Messersmith. The Rockets gained no yards on their next possession and Kendrick Boyd-Gillespie's punt return put Red Lion in business on the Spring Grove 30.
Three plays later, Patrick Daugherty got the scoring started with his 1-yard touchdown run. On the next series, Boyd-Gillespie's diving catch of a Grove pass from 16 yards out gave the Lions a 14-0 lead late in the opening quarter.
The Rockets had negative yards until Nick Erickson (16 carries, 115 yards) burst up the middle for a 76-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter.
Spring Grove looked to be in business after recovering a Red Lion fumble on the ensuing possession, but a long Erickson run was negated by a penalty and Frey stuffed that drive with his first sack.
"I think the biggest thing is we go into every week with real good preparation and that comes from our defensive coordinator, our head coach and all our defensive position coaches," said Frey. "That and every single one of us giving the effort that we need to get into the postseason to send these seniors out right."
Messersmith hit Adam Warehime to close the scoring for Spring Grove (3-3, 4-5) with 14 seconds to play.
Spring Grove0707—14Red Lion14077—28
RL — Patrick Daugherty 1 run (Sam Emig kick), 3:54
RL — Kendrick Boyd-Gillespie 16 pass from Daulton Grove (Emig kick), :43.
SG — Nick Erickson 76 run (Andrew Luckenbaugh kick), 6:21.
RL — Alex Keough 3 run (Emig kick), 4:07.
RL — Grove 1 run (Emig kick), 1:22.
SG — Adam Warehime 14 pass from Jake Messersmith (Luckenbaugh kick), :14.
SGRLFirst downs919 Rushes-Yards27-10747-223 Passing5-14-19-14-0Passing Yards69125 Total Yards176348 Punts5-30.22-32.0 Fumbles-Lost1-14-2 Penalties-Yards5-405-42
Rushing — SG, Erickson 16-115, Ryan Daugherty 1-(-1), Messersmith 8-(-3), LJ Chisolm 2-(-4). RL, Grove 18-80, Dylan Gurreri 9-77, Keough 17-51, P. Daugherty 3-15..
Passing — SG, Messersmith 5-14-69-1. RL, Grove 9-14-125-0.
Receiving — SG, Warehime 2-45, Anthony Beddia 1-21, Brady Stein 1-8, Erickson 1-(-5). RL, Keough 3-52, Boyd-Gillespie 3-47, Ben Frey 2-14, James Jackson 1-12.