BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS BY LORI MESSERSMITH
The more plays you run, the more chances you get to score, and the more chances you get to score, the more opportunities you have to win.
And what’s the best way to get more plays? Turnovers.
On Friday night at Fred Gahres Stadium, in a duel between two squads desperate for a win, it was Northern Lebanon which won the turnover battle 6-3, and the war 33-26. The Vikings notched 23 points off four of their take-aways, and enjoyed a 58-46 advantage in snaps from scrimmage – Northern Lebanon ran 47 running plays to Annville-Cleona’s 29.
Dating back to last season, the win was the first in 11 tries for the Vikings, who are now 1-3 overall and 1-0 in what could turn out to be a wide-open Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon. The Little Dutchmen, who had high hopes for 2013 coming into it, are now 0-4 and 0-1.
“We played well and they played well,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Roy Wall. “Unfortunately, they turned the ball over. It was two evenly matched teams. We were a hard-luck team. We were 11 points away from being 3-0.
“We were getting field goals, but we needed touchdowns,” Wall continued. “At halftime, we should’ve been up 14. But we’re still a work in progress.
“Turnovers,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Terry Lehman. “It was as simple as that. It was as white and black as that. It was our own mistakes. We made turnovers. Some of them were giveways and some they (the Vikings) forced with big hits.
Northern Lebanon used turnover-fueled, quick scores to first get the lead, and then to take control of the outcome. In fact, Annville-Cleona fumbled away consecutive second-quarter snaps and they produced ten Vikings points.
Exactly 29 seconds after kicker Mike Hauck had gotten the Vikings on the scoreboard, Northern Lebanon’s emerging junior back Dominic Trader took a pitch 51 yards to ‘The House’ for a 10-6 advantage. Five minutes later, Hauck connected on his second field goal of the evening, this one from 34 yards away, to give Northern Lebanon a 13-6 margin.
In the third quarter, Northern Lebanon parlayed a fumble and an interception into 13 points in 1:54, and a 26-12 lead. Derek DiAnegelis scored on a four-yard plunge and quarterback Isaac Ray ran one in from three yards out.
“They did need this win,” said Wall of his charges. “Every week I’m coming in on Saturday morning saying, ‘We’re right there. We played well enough to win.’ But it gets old after a while. We made mistakes in this game, but they weren’t crucial.
“We didn’t capitalize on the turnovers early,” added Wall. “But Mike (Hauck) stepped up and had a big night. He’s a weapon. We feel when we get inside the 20, we can score.”
“I’ll put it this way: It was a seven-point game and we had six turnovers,” said Lehman. “They (the Vikings) beat us. They plain did beat us.”
But Northern Lebanon put the game away with a 16-play, 71-yard march which chewed up more than eight minutes of clock and culminated with DiAngelis’ second score of the evening. The drive was kept alive by a roughing-the-kicker penalty, on a fourth-down play in which Hauck had misfired on a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Annville-Cleona, which was without the services of star quarterback Mitch Rodkey for most of the second half because of a bum ankle, did add a late touchdown, when reserve QB Zac Southall scored from four yards out, but it came with just 30 seconds remaining.
“Derek DiAngelis stepped up and gave us some tough running inside,” said Wall. “There wasn’t much finesse. They (the Little Dutchmen) knew where we were running, and our offensive line was making plays. We feel like we have a lot of weapons. It’s not just the same person every week.”
Hall took Annville-Cleona’s first snap of the game 73 yards down the right sideline, and the Little Dutchmen had a 6-0 lead, 2:23 in. Two minutes before halftime, on a fourth-down-and-five, Rokdey connected with Paxson Hayes for a 22-yard touchdown play that pulled A-C to within 13-12.
“When I saw them (the Little Dutchmen), it was really a mirror-image of us,” said Wall. “Their quarterback (Rodkey) was dinged up. That really hurt them. Their kids played hard. They’re going to win some games. They’re a very good 0-4 team. We were fortunate. To their credit, they kept playing to the end. They made it scary at the end.”
“I think that every game we’ve walked on the field this season,” said Lehman to the notion of being confident coming in. “We just didn’t make the plays we needed to. We made too many mistakes.”
With 140 yards on seven carries, Trader paced a four-pronged Northern Lebanon running attack that churned out 334 yards. DiAngelis contributed 95 yards and 20 totes to that total.
“I think the section is wide open,” said Wall. “Other than Garden Spot, and Donegal is tough too. We can’t worry about the section. We have to worry about Pequea Valley (next week).
“Our kids needed this win,” Wall continued. “They were starting to question themselves and their teammates. They needed a tangible result.”
“The section is wide open, and everybody has Garden Spot on top,” said Lehman. “There’s only one way for us to go, and that’s back to work on Monday.”
Scholastic Football Rankings
1. Cedar Crest (2-2)
2. Lebanon High (3-1)
3. Palmyra (1-3)
5. Elco (1-3)
6. Annville-Cleona (0-4)