PALMYRA – It’s imperative in high school sports to identify positives in every situation, and critical to keep the faith. It’s also very important to talk about improving and to practice improvement.
But it’s even more important to realize results from that improvement.
On a chilly Friday night at Buck Swank Stadium, the Palmyra football squad’s positivity, faith and improvement manifested itself in a convincing 42-21 triumph over neighbor Lower Dauphin. After the Falcons opened a 14-7 lead late in the opening quarter, the Cougars outscored them 35-7 over the three remaining periods.
The positive result was the second in as many weeks for a Palmyra club which had opened an uncertain season with four straight, somewhat disheartening setbacks. The outcome dropped Lower Dauphin to 0-5 on the year.
With quarterback Seth Robertson and Sam Landon leading the way, the Cougars ran the ball better than they had to date, racking up 235 yards on the ground, 201 of which came in the second half. But there were contributions from up and down the Palmyra roster.
“In the end, you’ve got to win,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope. “Everybody likes to hear about trying. But in life, they don’t care about trying, they care about winning. They’ve (his players) been working hard in practice. They could’ve shut down. But they’ve come to work each day and they’ve responded to coaching.
“They’re (Mifflin County and Lower Dauphin) different teams,” continued Pope. “But both wins came after a four-loss skid. There was a different feel at practice this week. I felt better all week because we won, and so did the kids.”
The Cougars switched the momentum to the side of the home team late in the second half, and never relinquished it. It was Robertson’s 14-yard touchdown run with 5:35 left in the second quarter that flipped the switch, and knotted the score at 14.
Then late in the third quarter, Palmyra notched the decisive touchdowns in a span of 3:42. Landon’s 56-yard race to the left pylon was followed by another Robertson touchdown scamper, this one from seven yards away that made the score 27-14.
“We started kind of moving the ball,” said Pope. “I felt like we got some momentum at the end of the second quarter. At halftime, we talked about what we needed to do in the second half. But we finished.
“Mifflin County was a pretty good team as well,” added Pope. “I’m happy with every win. I thought this was a good team win. They (the Falcons) had a lot of fight, but so did we.”
After Lower Dauphin had pulled to within 27-21 early in the fourth quarter, Palmyra iced the outcome with two more touchdowns. Robertson’s 26-yard jaunt to paydirt turned an interception into a 35-21 advantage, and Landon applied the exclamation point from 30 yards out, with 43 seconds remaining.
“It has been a struggle running the ball,” said Pope. “I think it’s about coming around. I feel like we’ve started to gell up-front. We were able to move the ball successfully.
“I think we’re coming together some,” Pope added. “We have a lot of younger linemen and first-year seniors who are starting to focus more and raise their intensity. It’s been better.”
Palmyra grabbed a 7-0 lead on the first play of the game, when Tony Mansfield returned the opening kick-off 82 yards for a touchdown. But on their next two possessions, the Falcons pieced together eight-play and ten-play touchdown drives.
“We started slowly and it’s very frustrating because we talk about starting fast, defensively,” said Pope. “But then, maybe after our first two defensive series, we started to tighten up. There have been times this season when we haven’t been able to get off the field. We’ve been harping on that.”
Landon carried seven times for 103 rushing yards, while Nick Wallaesa contributed 13 totes and 80 yards to the Cougar cause. The Palmyra defense limited Lower Dauphin to 279 total yards.
“I think Seth did better, and ‘Rooster’ (Wallaesa) ran the ball well,” said Pope. “We were able to get Seth going on the ground, which is what we’ve wanted to do. I do get the feeling we had some good runs.
“Sam deserves it,” Pope continued. “He’s worked hard. He’s lived in the weight room and he took it to the ‘nth degree.”