Annville-Cleona outlasts Elco, 27-21
MYERSTOWN - Roughly a year ago, the Annville-Cleona football team failed to come up with a do-or-die 4th down stop and all it cost them was a wrenching 40-39 overtime defeat at the hands of county rival Elco.
It was a loss that lingered in the souls of the A-C players and coaches that made their way to Myerstown on Friday night for this season's battle with the Raiders.
It's not lingering quite as much anymore.
This time, the Little Dutchmen got the 4th down stop they were looking, stuffing Elco stud running back Tyler Horst just shy of the goal line with 26 seconds left to preserve a tense but thrilling 27-21 victory over the Raiders.
Now 3-2 overall after surviving the Section Three opener, A-C piled up 369 rushing yards thanks to the three-pronged attack of backs Caleb Turner and Dylan Bomgardner and quarterback Noah Myers and appeared to have the contest in hand after Bomgardner dashed 48 yards to paydirt with 10:42 left for a 27-14 lead.
But Elco, spurred on by heroic efforts from Horst, quarterback Kyle Knight and wideout Nate Beamer, refused to die. The Raiders pulled to within 27-21 on an 18-yard TD strike from Knight to Ryan Eshleman with 6:24 to go, then used a costly Myers fumble and ensuing recovery and return by Beamer to set up a potential game-winning drive in the closing minutes.
This time, though, the A-C defense said, 'Uh, uh', stopping Horst just short on a 4th down run from the 2 in the waning seconds.
"I'm happy they didn't see me calling timeout," A-C coach Matt Gingrich said slyly of the decisive 4th down play. "We haven't had many breaks, and I'm pretty damn happy we finally got something. The last two years we've been in this position every stinking game and come out on the bottom end. To finally get that, I hope these kids can get a little confidence in themselves. Because they can do it."
From where Elco coach Bob Miller was sitting, A-C made many of its own breaks. Though justifiably proud of the warrior-like efforts of guys like Horst, Knight and Beamer, Miller in the end saw an A-C team that wanted it more because of the time it had spent preparing in the offseason.
"Do you know what the difference is? The weight room over the summer," Miller said. "One of our parents is over there and sees 35-40 kids there over the summer. We didn't have half the kids commit. They pounded us. The game wasn't won at the goal line, it was won over the summer. They get more commitment from their kids, that's why they won. That's the difference from last year. Big time."
It was Elco that struck first, getting a 20-yard TD scramble from Knight with 4:02 left in the first quarter. But 20 of the next 27 points were A-C's as Myers ran for scores of 77 and 13 yards in the second quarter to sandwich a Turner 54-yard TD dash that gave the Dutchmen a 20-14 halftime lead and big chunk of their 369 rushing yards.
"Offense hasn't been the problem," Gingrich said. "We can run the ball and we can actually throw the ball. The big issue we have is aggression on defense."
Consider that issue at least temporarily solved after Friday night's goal line stand.
It didn't look good after Myers fumbled deep in Elco territory and Beamer returned it to the A-C 40 with 2:46 left. But it turned out pretty well, thanks to those long hours in the weight room when no one was watching.
"They played 48 minutes in 90-degree temperatures. The kids were spent," Gingrich said. "But the thing that we had was, we've been busting our butts in the weight room. I think our kids had something in the tank."
Annville-Cleona 27, Elco 21
Annville-Cleona _ 0 _ 20 _ 0 _ 7 _ — _ 27
Elco _ 7 _ 7 _ 0 _ 7 _ — _ 21
E — Knight 20 run (Miller kick)
AC — Myers 77 run (PAT failed)
AC — Turner 54 run (Frattarole kick)
E — Horst 8 run (Miller kick)
AC — Myers 13 run (Frattarole kick)
AC— Bomgardner 48 run (Frattarole kick)
E — Eshleman 18 pass from Knight (Miller kick)
_ AC _ Elco
First downs _ 13 _ 26
Rushes-yards _ 39-369 _ 45-245
Passing _ 3-7-0 _ 10-18-0
Passing yards _ 35 _ 180
Total yards _ 404 _ 425
Punts _ 3-26.4 _ 3-27.0
Fumbles-lost _ 2-1 _ 1-1
Penalties-yards _ 5-30 _ 7-54
Rushing — AC: Turner 15-130, Bomgardner 9-116, Myers 12-108, Hoch 3-15, E: Horst 35-162, Knight 10-83
Passing — .AC: Myers 3-7-0-35, E: Knight 13-21-0-180
Receiving — .AC: Hoch 3-35, E: Beamer 7-88, Kline 2-35, Eshleman 2-26, Miller 1-18, Rittle 1-13.