BY JEFF FALK
CAMP HILL – You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from kids, especially in first games. Last night, the Palmyra football team got plenty of the unexpected.
But they were good unexpecteds, pleasant ones. In fact, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Cougars if they had scripted it themselves.
On a hot Friday night 0n the road, Palmyra opened their 2016 campaign in Week Zero – a week earlier than the traditional start of the season – with an eye-opening 31-0 demolition of Camp Hill. After working out some second-quarter kinks, the Cougars put their gas pedal to the floor and didn’t leave off of it until they inserted reserves in the middle of the final stanza.
But the key moment of Palmyra’s flow may have come late in the first half, when it tallied a pair of touchdowns in a 48-second span. As if to accentuate the team aspect of the performance, the Cougars scored in four different ways – on the ground, through the air, with its defense and via a field goal.
“I was cautiously optimistic about it,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope. “I’d like to feel like we were prepared. In the end, these guys worked hard. We talked about maximizing every second at practice. They (his players) were focused.
“When it’s your first game, you’re always concerned about mistakes and miscommunications,” continued Pope. “We had to replace linemen and we had to replace a quarterback. Those were the concerns going in.”
Nursing a 7-0 lead with time running out in the second quarter, Palmyra popped end Braden Vernet open over the middle for a 33-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Petey Robertson. Then on the ensuing Lion possession, defensive end Mason Cooper scooped up a Camp Hill fumble and rambled 27 yards down the right sideline for a 21-0 Cougar lead, with just 19 seconds left in the half.
“That was a great opportunistic moment,” said Pope of Cooper’s decisive play. “I thought our defense was really good. Obviously it was a big focus containing (Lion star back) Bill Williams. We knew him getting out in space was going to be a problem.
“In the off-season, we really focused on leadership,” Pope continued. “I think our team is coming together. They’re really policing each other. It’s like a family. They’re not afraid to hold each other accountable.”
Palmyra scored on its second possession of the season, after being set up with good field possession from its first – a 14-play, 41-yard march. Alon Rhette did the honors from a yard out, as the Cougars assumed a 7-0 lead, with 45 seconds remaining in the open stanza.
“Obviously I feel better now,” said Pope of the pluses and minuses of playing in Week Zero. “I learned a lot this year. You’ve really got to consider conditioning when you build your practice plan. We didn’t condition on Wednesday or Thursday. We thought their (his players’) legs looked dead.
“It (the offense’s performance) might get a little lost in the outcome,” Pope added. “They put up a lot of numbers. It was a solid effort. And we even had some penalties that slowed us down.”
Rhette’s 122 tough yards on 14 hard totes fronted the Cougars’ 208-yard rushing attack. But even more impressive was the 116 total yards and the six first downs that the Palmyra defense held the Lions to.
The Cougars did it by limiting the dynamic Williams to nine touches and 35 yards. Camp Hill didn’t cross midfield all night, and its biggest play from scrimmage – 25 yards – came out of punt formation.
In his first varsity start at quarterback, Robertson completed seven of ten attempts for 78 yards. But he did not throw a pass in the second half.
“I thought our defensive performance was really great,” said Pope. “When you face a guy like Bill Williams, you’ve got to contain him. I thought we came out and made a statement. I thought Mason Cooper was a force on defense. And Devon Sosnoski came out of nowhere on defense.
“I thought we were able to do what we wanted to do on offense, which is run the football,” added Pope. “They (his players) came in here, and we talked about playing confident.”
“We just kept pounding it and pushing and grinding it out,” said Rhette. “We just kept going and going and going. All that practice and sprints paid off.”
The Cougars discouraged any Lion thoughts of a comeback by driving their first possession of the second half 67 yards in six plays for Griffin Weidler’s 25-yard field goal.
Rhette notched his second TD of the evening 30 seconds into the fourth period, a 28-yard jaunt to the right pylon. Rhette’s score was set up by a long punt return by Reigle.
“There was a point at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when we got a short field, at that moment I thought if we could drive the football and score, we could put them away,” said Pope. “I think our guys are working. They have to continue to work hard, and I think they will. I really did feel like they were focused when they came here.
“It (a 28-24 loss to Camp Hill) was a big game last year,” continued Pope. “The guys have looked forward to this game. They prepared all year long for it.”
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2016 Palmyra Football Schedule
|08/26 *||@Camp Hill||7:00 PM||Camp Hill High School|
|09/02||@West Perry||7:00 PM||West Perry High School|
|09/09||@Elco||7:00 PM||Elco High School|
|09/16||Donegal||7:00 PM||Palmyra High School|
|09/30 *||Boiling Springs||7:00 PM||Palmyra High School|
|10/07 *||@Middletown||7:00 PM||Middletown High School|
|10/14 *||Steel-High||7:00 PM||Palmyra High School|
|10/21 *||@East Pennsboro||7:00 PM||East Pennsboro High School|
|10/28 *||Trinity||7:00 PM||Palmyra High School|
|11/04 *||Milton Hershey||7:00 PM||Palmyra High School|
2015 Palmyra Results
|09/04||@East Pennsboro||7:00 PM||W 27-6|
|09/11||Elco||7:00 PM||W 30-22|
|09/18||@Donegal||7:00 PM||W 31-0|
|09/25 *||Trinity||7:00 PM||W 49-23|
|10/02 *||@Steel-High||7:00 PM||W 17-6|
|10/09 *||@Boiling Springs||7:00 PM||W 19-0|
|10/16 *||Camp Hill||7:00 PM||L 24-28|
|10/24 *||@Middletown||2:00 PM||L 13-49|
|10/30 *||Milton Hershey||7:00 PM||L 7-28|
|11/06 *||West Perry||7:00 PM||W 42-23|
|11/13 #||@Lampeter-Strasburg||7:00 PM||L 20-41|
2016 Palmyra Football Roster
|Sean Carter||10||5′ 8″||135||WR/DB|
|Nate Hawkins||12||5′ 10″||150||WR/DB|
|Devon Sosnoski||11||5′ 4″||135||RB/LB|
|Griffin Weidler||10||5′ 7″||185||K|
|Peter Robertson||12||6′ 0″||170||QB/DB|
|Caleb Hawkins||10||5′ 4″||120||RB/DB|
|Hunter Dorn||10||5′ 9″||145||QB/DB|
|Evan Keener||11||5′ 9″||145||WR/DB|
|Braden Vernet||12||6′ 3″||185||WR/DB|
|Robert Taylor||11||6′ 0″||175||RB/LB|
|Kyle Wasilewski||10||5′ 10″||155||WR/DB|
|Alberto Perez||11||6′ 0″||160||WR/DB|
|Nijir Brown||10||5″ 10″||140||WR/DB|
|Trevor Binner||10||5′ 5″||140||RB/DB|
|Grant Haus||10||6′ 0″||155||QB/DB|
|Sean Stauffer||10||6′ 1″||160||RB/LB|
|Mason Cooper||12||6′ 5″||210||TE/DE|
|Carl Reigle||12||5′ 10″||185||RB/DB|
|Damien Carpenter||10||6′ 0″||155||WR/LB|
|Eddie Cannon||11||5′ 8″||155||RB/LB|
|Jared Bowman||12||5′ 10″||145||K|
|Matt Hines||9||5′ 10″||145||K|
|Dylan Templin||11||5′ 9″||200||RB/LB|
|Alon Rhette||12||5′ 8″||185||RB/LB|
|Zach Quinn||11||6′ 0″||175||RB/LB|
|Sean Reedy||11||6′ 0″||175||RB/LB|
|Derek Offei||12||5′ 10″||270||OL/DL|
|Logan Kaylor||11||6′ 2″||185||OL/DL|
|John Pallone||10||6″ 0″||235||OL/DL|
|Logan Cavalier||10||5″ 10″||175||OL/DL|
|Braden Barker||11||6′ 2″||245||OL/DL|
|Nick Henry||11||5″ 10″||270||OL/DL|
|Garrett Miller||10||6″ 0″||220||OL/DL|
|Brandon Blauch||12||6′ 3″||210||OL/DL|
|Xavier Vazquez||11||6′ 1″||215||OL/DL|
|Tyler Ebling||12||6′ 4″||240||OL/DL|
|Zach Speece||10||6′ 1″||215||OL/DL|
|Cory Frey||11||5′ 11″||350||OL/DL|
|Matt Weaver||11||6″ 0″||250||OL/DL|
|Gabe Leffew||10||6″ 0″||275||OL/DL|
|Shane Gregris||12||6′ 3″||225||OL/DL|
|Kris Day||11||6′ 3″||245||OL/DL|
|Mason Blanchard||10||6′ 0″||165||TE/DL|
|Peyton Stretch||11||5′ 11″||155||WR/DB|
|Jared Stauffer||11||6′ 5″||185||TE/DB|