Rockets fueled by late-season playoff push
After their original goal of winning the Division I regular season title was gone, Spring Grove could have packed it in.
When the Rockets lost to Red Lion in Week 9, putting their record below .500, they could have given up.
However with a final regular season game against a rival, Spring Grove not only showed it had not given up on the season, it made a statement.
A loss against favored South Western would have ended the season and high school careers of several Rockets seniors. A win and they earned another game -- a District 3 Class AAA playoff game at that.
Spring Grove put its best game of the season together against the Mustangs, scoring a 28-21 upset win.
“We knew it came down to playing a Quad-A schedule really helped us in the power rankings, especially with South Western being 7-2 at the time,” said senior Nick Erickson. “That really jumped us up. We knew when the clock hit zero we had another week.
“It was really exciting. A rivalry is always a great game, especially ours with South Western. It was a physical, chippy game and we kind of came out and did what we finally could do.”
Erickson added that for the first time all season the team was outstanding on both sides of the ball in the same game.
First-year Rockets coach Kyle Sprenkle likes how his squad battled all season.
“I wish it didn’t have to come down like that and been a little more secured earlier in the season,” he said. “But I am very proud at the way the kids continued to fight throughout the season.
“They kept their eyes on the prize basically and we reached that goal now. Especially for the seniors, they get one more opportunity guaranteed to strap it up one more time.”
Earning the 14th seed, Spring Grove (5-5) will travel across the Susquehanna to face No. 3 Manheim Central. While the Barons may not be quite as feared as they once were, they will still be a formidable foe under their own first-year head coach Dave Hahn.
Manheim Central is 8-2, coming off a dramatic comeback win against Solanco and sharing yet another Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 2 title with Solanco and Lampeter-Strasburg.
Senior running back Damon Camacho has rushed for 924 yards and 13 touchdowns and averages 5.8 yards per carry for the Barons. Junior quarterback Kody Kegarise topped 700 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns and 913 passing yards with six more scores.
Of course, last week was a tall order too. And Sprenkle said he simply stressed the importance of finishing the season strong. He even brought up his alma mater Lafayette and its rivalry with Lehigh, the most-played college rivalry in the nation.
“I knew how special that rivalry game was and I knew how that momentum could build into South Western,” he said. “I used some of my experiences playing in that rivalry to build up this one.”
Rockets senior wide receiver Adam Warehime said that after missing two games and playing a few more with “a club” on his injured arm, that he is now healthy and ready to go. He credits Sprenkle for the team’s turnaround.
“It’s a whole new attitude, a whole new program,” Warehime said. “We have a good group of seniors and are rallying around him. We support everything he does.”
Friday's YAIAA schedule
*All District 3 tournament football games are scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.
No. 10 Central Dauphin East at No. 7 Dallastown
No. 11 Red Lion at No. 6 Cumberland Valley
No. 12 South Western at No. 5 Hempfield
No. 15 Northern Lebanon at No. 2 Northeastern
No. 9 York Suburban at No. 8 Northern York
No. 14 Spring Grove No. 3 Manheim Central
No. 5 Biglerville at No. 4 Hanover
Note: York Catholic begins the Class A tournament next weekend at Steel-High