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HARRISBURG — The day after Thanksgiving, it’s usually best to avoid the leftovers in the refrigerator.

Force-fed a little extra stuffing on big A.J. “Refrigerator” Perez’s 10-yard game-winning score in overtime, however, the Hempfield Black Knights found themselves on the losing end of a physical, 27-24 bout versus top-seeded Central Dauphin in the District 3 Class AAAA semifinals.

“They have four downs to load up with those big guys, put the big guy in the backfield and say stop us for four (plays),” said Hempfield coach Ron Zeiber of the overtime. “You can’t get away with field goals when you face a team that’s going to come at you like that.”

After Hempfield (10-3) managed just 2 yards on three plays from the 10-yard line, the Knights were forced to settle for Chris Kosmela’s 25-yard field goal for a 24-21 lead.

On Central Dauphin’s first-down play, however, Perez — who at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, shares his moniker with Chicago Bear legend William “Refrigerator” Perry — pummeled the Knights’ defense with the 10-yarder up the gut behind a tight formation.

“That’s a lot of man coming at you,” Zeiber said. “He has good mobility and pretty good balance for a big guy. It’s tough but you use what you have, and certainly that’s what they have.”

With the win, No. 1 Central Dauphin (12-1) advances to next Saturday’s AAAA final opposite No. 6 Cumberland Valley, a 22-13 winner over CD East. CV was the only team to defeat the Rams this season.

The Knights had Central Dauphin on the ropes in the first half, however, building a 14-0 lead with the help of a handful of Rams’ mistakes.

Central Dauphin muffed an Evan Pritchard punt at the 2-yard line to set up Will Blair’s 2-yard score for a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Pritchard had his punt partially blocked, but the ensuing scramble for the ball after it was touched by a Rams player gave Hempfield new life at their own 35-yard line. Runs of 25 and 32 yards by Blair (16-85) set up quarterback Sam Kramer’s 3-yard dive for a 14-0 lead.

“The big turnover, the punt, kind of put us in position with an extremely short field,” Zeiber said, “That was obviously the big play in the first half.”

In the third quarter, however, Kramer (15 rushes, 32 yards; 9-of-15 passing for 44 yards) fumbled on Hempfield’s first play from scrimmage, and the Rams immediately went heavy, with Perez (8-41) taking it in from the 1. Raleigh Sirb (16-78) was also an important piece to the Rams offense, scoring on a 13-yarder around the edge to knot the score at 14-all.

Sophomore defensive end Micah Parsons blocked another Pritchard punt in the fourth for a 21-14 advantage, before Hempfield marched 69 yards in nine plays, including a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kramer to Darnell Lathon. The drive was set up by a series of lateral passes from Kramer to Andrew Green on the outside.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Zeiber said, lamenting the loss of successful group of seniors. “They weren’t underdogs every week but they certainly were undersized and they never stopped. If you get a team that can do that every year … you can’t ask for more than that as a coach.”

Central Dauphin 27, Hempfield 24 (OT)



First quarter

Hem - W. Blair 2-yd run (C. Kosmela kick), 4:32

Second quarter

Hem - S. Kramer 3-yd run (C. Kosmela kick), 4:59

Third quarter

CD - A.J. Perez 1-yd run (H. Rowe kick), 9:51

CD - R. Sirb 13-yd run (H. Rowe kick), 3:32

Fourth quarter

CD - M. Parsons 18-yd return (H. Rowe kick), 8:55

Hem - D. Lathon 7-yd pass from S. Kramer (C. Kosmela kick), 5:30


Hem - FG, C. Kosmela 25

CD - A.J. Perez 10-yd run


First Downs_9_15



Passing Yards_44_43

Total Yards_197_219

Sacked Yds Lost_1-2_3-23


Punts-Avg._ 9-28.7_8-35.6


Individual Statistics

Rushing – Hem, W. Blair 16-85, S. Kramer 15-32, A. Green 5-29, T. Jackson 1-7; CD, R. Sirb 16-78, A.J. Perez 8-41, A.J. Millar 7-29, M. Wise 4-23, R. Albright 3-5.

Passing – Hem, S. Kramer 9-15-0-44; CD, A. Millar 5-13-0-43.

Receiving – Hem, D. Martin 3-14, B. Sahd 2-10, W. Blair 1-7, T. Jackson 1-11, D. Lathon 1-7, S. Kramer 1-(-5); CD, R. Elliot 2-19, L. Gabrielson 1-19, M. Burgwin 1-3, R. Albright 1-2.

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