Notes from Red Lion-Dallastown Part II
About the only disappointing thing about Friday's Red Lion-Dallastown rematch is that we can't get these two teams to play again. In two games, the Lions and Wildcats produced two distinctly different, yet equally intriguing contests. The first edition was a shootout. Round Two, on the other hand, was more of a slugfest. But it was hard not to notice the parallels. In the first game, Dallastown was the second half team, rallying to erase a 22-point first-half deficit. This time, Red Lion barreled out of halftime to notch the go-ahead scores in a 14-6 victory. Lions senior running back Mike Gray summed it up best. "Tonight," he said, "we were a second-half team." More than anything, though, this was a game befitting these two squads. In 96 minutes of football, Dallastown and Red Lion showed why both are among District 3 Class AAAA's top teams this year -- and why their rivalry is one of the best you'll find almost anywhere. Once again, it was just about impossible to cover every angle of this contest in a single game story (which you can read here). Click the jump for a few notes on Friday's game. Lions D up: We've written a lot this year about Dallastown's defense, and rightfully so. But Red Lion proved once again Friday it can play a little defense, too. The Lions completely took away Dallastown's ground game. Not including sacks, the Wildcats finished with 25 rushing yards on 20 carries. Their leading rusher, senior Ryan Behrmann, ended up with just two rushing yards on eight carries. The Wildcats were able to have success with the pass (205 yards), but Red Lion also sacked Dallastown QB Josh Luckenbaugh four times and plucked two interceptions. Then again, the performance of Red Lion's defense Friday can't be told solely with numbers. The Lions came up with key stops at critical points. After Dallastown's opening touchdown, the Wildcats started their next two drives in Lions territory, with a great chance to deliver a crippling blow. Red Lion forced a punt the first of those possessions, and cornerback Erik Althoff made a great leaping interception later in the first quarter. "Our defense always had their backs to the wall," Lions coach Pat Conrad said. "They did a great job (in the first half)." Later, a botched snap gave Dallastown the ball at Red Lion's 42-yard line in the fourth quarter. On the very next play, Wildcats running back Ryan Behrmann fumbled, and Mitch Fisher pounced on the ball to turn the momentum back in the Lions' favor. Mistakes loom large: While Red Lion's defense did plenty to stuff the Wildcats, the home team didn't help its own cause with costly errors. Start with penalties. Dallastown committed nine of those for 72 yards, including six in the first half. A few of those stunted promising drives. Then there were turnovers. The Wildcats committed three costly ones -- two interceptions and the fumble mentioned above. Two of those turnovers came with the Wildcats in possible scoring range. "Execution is what it comes down to," Dallastown coach Kevin Myers said. Halftime adjustment: After struggling on offense for two quarters, Red Lion's coaches tweaked their strategy a bit at halftime. "(Assistant coach) Brian Freed and our offensive coaches got together and said we're just going to punch them in the mouth and run the football," Conrad said. And so they did. Red Lion racked up 113 of its 118 rushing yards in the second half, keyed by senior running backs Jeremy Knaub and Mike Gray. Knaub finished with 19 rushes for 63 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Gray chipped in 10 carries for 56 yards. The strategy seemed to wear down a Wildcats defense that was on the field far too much in the second half. "I was very excited," Gray said of the halftime adjustment. "The line blocked good, and we just had to keep running it down their throat." Special teams trouble: For the second straight week, a special teams gaffe nearly cost Lions. Early in the fourth quarter, an errant snap sailed over punted Tanner Klinefelter's head to give Dallastown the ball in Lions' territory. The previous week, a similar play had set J.P. McCaskey up for what looked like a game-tying touchdown. Red Lion atoned for the error when Andrew Zeller blocked the ensuing extra point, helping the Lions preserve a 14-13 victory. This time, Red Lion got a key turnover the very next play, when they forced Behrmann's fumble. "It's frustrating as a coach," Conrad said, "because they'll do things to shoot themselves in the foot, and then they find ways to come back and make up for it." "It's just the way these kids are. They've probably taken 10 years off of my heart." Esiaba returns: Dallastown defensive end Bobby Esiaba made his return Friday, after missing the previous four games with a leg injury. The senior defensive end provided a big boost early, pulling down Klinefelter for a big sack in the second quarter. Esiaba finished with a team-high 6.5 sacks this season.