BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – The best thing about staying the course is that no turn-arounds are necessary. The next best thing about it is that there’s a certain level of natural improvement associated with it.
On a fall-like Friday night at Elco Stadium, the roll that the Raider football team has been on lately picked up momentum, during a 35-17 victory over rival Annville-Cleona. Elco tallied touchdowns on five straight possessions in the middle of the contest, after the Little Dutchmen had taken an early 3-0 lead.
Behind a physical offensive line and two long touchdown runs by junior quarterback Braden Bohannon, the Raiders piled 300 rushing yards in the second half, on their way to out gaining Annville-Cleona 473 total yards to 276. Bohannon finished the contest with 229 rushing yards on 17 keepers.
After starting the season with three straight tough losses, Elco has now rattled off six wins in-a-row. The Raiders, who are 6-3 overall and 6-2 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, were positioned tenth in the power rankings for a District Three AAAA classification that takes ten for its postseason.
On the other side, Annville-Cleona’s emotional, up-and-down season now stands at 5-4 overall and 5-3 in Section Three. The Little Dutchmen were situated fourth in the latest AAA power rankings, a classification that takes six for its tournament.
“We haven’t changed a single thing,” said Elco head coach Bob Miller of the Raiders’ current hot streak. “This team never blinked. They stayed the course. People say it’s been a turnaround. It’s been staying together.
“We’re a long way from 0-3,” continued Miller. “It comes down to having faith. We reference faith in each other. There was no doubt. There was faith. That’s the word that defines us.”
“This season has been the most difficult of my career,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Matt Gingrich. “Just from expectations to reality, to a car accident to injuries. For us to be successful, we need to play hard on Friday night. I’d love to get to the playoffs. I’d love to get a playoff win.”
It took some time for the Raiders to get their motor revving. But once they did, it was all systems ‘go’.
Down 3-0 with halftime approaching, senior Erik Williams ripped off a 35-yard touchdown jaunt that gave the Raiders the lead for good, at 7-3. Then 28 seconds before the break, Bohannon hit a wide-open Jordan Fernandez with a 26-yard scoring strike.
“Our guys came out and executed, and it showed,” said Miller. “That kind of set the tone for the kids. Yes, it was one of our best games, because of the competition. They’re (the Little Dutchmen) so well-coached. They shut us down the last two years.
“We had an indoor practice on Wednesday because it was pouring outside,” added Miller. “The players were so focused. They never took their eyes off the most important thing – the man next to them, the team.”
“We were not the most physical team,” said Gingrich. “It was obvious that what they did in the off-season was more than what we did in the off-season. They (the Raiders) were clearly the better team. They were the team I was expecting.”
The Elco ground game took control of the outcome in the third quarter. Elco notched three touchdowns in a seven-minute stretch to open a 35-3 bulge.
Luke Williams touched it off with a ten-yard scoring scamper that capped a five-play, 80-yard march, 1:34 into the second half. Bohannon kept it going with an 80-yard dash to paydirt, then he finished Annville-Cleona off with a similar 69-yard burst to the promised land.
“We definitely have a physical group up front,” said Miller. “They’re really coming off the ball and moving their feet.
“They (Bohannon, E. Williams and L. Williams) are the beneficiaries of it,” Miller added. “They’re great players in their own right. But they’re not doing it themselves.”
“The message at halftime was, ‘We’re down by 11. It’s a two-score ball game. We’ve just got to play,'” said Gingrich. “We were glossed over before the game. I could see it in their (his players’) eyes, and it came true.”
Thanks in part to a Raider fumble, Annville-Cleona enjoyed the better of the play early on.
Annville-Cleona took a 3-0 lead 3:44 into the second stanza on kicker Mac Plummer’s 33-yard field goal. It came on the heels of a 12-play, 48-yard Little Dutchmen possession.
The Little Dutchmen also notched the final two scores of the game. Trevor Porche ran one in from 24 yards away with 1:34 left in the third quarter, and Quamir Parker hauled in a 17-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Jeremy Bours late in the final quarter.
“They’re a heck of a well-coached program,” said Miller of the Little Dutchmen. “They have tough kids. They have strong kids. I don’t know if we saw their best tonight.”
“We did our best,” said Gingrich. “The kids didn’t quit.
“We played OK defensively,” continued Gingrich. “We had a good game plan. But we didn’t get beat by the game plan. We got beat by physicality. I knew we were going to struggle up front. We were having our linemen watch their linemen, because that’s how you block.”
In addition to Bohannon’s big game, E. Williams carried nine times for 113 yards and L. Williams rushed 13 times for 82 yards. For the Little Dutchmen, Porche posted 104 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
“We’ve got to win next week to have a chance (at a district berth),” said Miller of the regular-season finale at home against Columbia. “Starting 0-3 makes every week a playoff game. I’m just incredibly proud of these guys, for staying together and staying focused, week in and week out.”
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2019 Annville-Cleona Football Results
at Milton Hershey
at Northern Lebanon
at Lancaster Catholic
2019 Elco Football Results
at Northern Lebanon
at Pequea Valley
PIAA District Three
Class AAA Power Rankings
PIAA District Three
Class AAAA Power Rankings
|1||Berks Catholic School||6-||1-||0||0.744294||0.895105||0.559971||6.4||38.1||0.8||29.9|
|10||Eastern Lebanon County||5-||3-||0||0.560066||0.639241||0.463297||5.1||38.5||2.9||44.6|
|17||East Pennsboro Area||2-||6-||0||0.413073||0.253165||0.608516||2.0||51.5||5.9||33.1|
|18||West York Area||1-||7-||0||0.406488||0.140000||0.732195||1.1||62.2||6.5||22.8|
Section Three Standings