LEBANON – First, COVID-19, then the injury bug bit. Now this.
Adversity comes in many different forms these days. What the Lebanon football team must absolutely guard against is preventing the game that got away to turn into the season that got away.
On an overcast Saturday afternoon at Lebanon Alumni Stadium, the Cedars let one slip through their fingers during a 21-15 loss to Donegal. Lebanon, which was without the services of injured senior star quarterback Isaiah Rodriguez, wasted an early 13-0 lead and a number of opportunities along the way.
The Cedars’ last wasted opportunity came in the form of a safety with 3:02 remaining, when a high snap through the Indian end zone pulled Lebanon to within six points of the lead. But despite good field position, the Cedars went four-and-out on their final possession.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic postponed its Week Five contest, Lebanon was sailing along with a 3-1 overall mark and looking good. Then last weekend, the Cedar coaching staff learned that Rodriguez would be unable to play due to an undisclosed injury.
As it stands now, Lebanon is 3-2 on the fall and 2-2 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Donegal jumped up to 3-2 on the year and 2-2 in the league.
“It did get away from us,” said Lebanon head coach Frank Isenberg. “We try not to make excuses, but we had two days of practice to get a quarterback (Alex Rufe) ready. But you’ve still got to be able to move the ball. You’ve still got to beat the man in front of you.
“We have a good group,” Isenberg added. “We have good senior leaders. We were on a roll. Maybe the coronavirus broke our momentum.”
It was all Cedars early, as their alert ballhawking produced a two-score advantage.
Some four minutes into the contest, Lebanon grabbed a 7-0 lead when Erik Ortolaza fell on a Rufe fumble in the end zone. Four minutes later, Matt Brown’s 52-yard scoop and score of a Donegal fumble pushed the Lebanon advantage to 13-0.
“Isaiah came make all the throws and he knows all the plays,” said Isenberg of Rodriguez. “We were almost one dimensional with Alex Rufe at quarterback. We wanted to get him outside, but Donegal penned him in a little bit. He had turnovers, but all in all, for not playing quarterback ever before, he did good.
“We got some turnovers early,” added Isenberg. “But offensively, it didn’t seem like we could get any rhythm. You’ve got to give all the credit to Donegal.”
In the middle of the second stanza, the Indians parlayed an interception into a Garrett Blake three-yard run that cut their deficit to 13-7. Before the intermission, the Cedars marched the length of the field, but ran out of time and couldn’t come up with points.
“Before halftime, we screwed that up,” said Isenberg. “We drove the ball and we were close. But we had to get out of bounds and get points. We didn’t have enough gas to finish the deal.
“Yeah, it’s a stinger,” continued Isenberg. “But they’re (the Indians) a good football team. They’re good up front. They beat us up front.”
Donegal scored twice, in a span of 35 seconds in the third quarter to take the lead for good, and both were set up by Lebanon turnovers.
The first touchdown was Blake’s 39-yard run around left end which resulted from a fumbled punt snap. The second was a Mason Ober two-yard plunge that came following an interception.
“The turnovers hurt,” said Isenberg. “But we’ve got to be able to move the football. It’s just one of those things. We have to play better.”
Lebanon out gained Donegal 334 total yards to 188. Rufe rushed 23 times for 116 yards.
“That is a silver lining,” said Isenberg, to the notion that both sides were able to play at all. “They’re (his players) bummed because they wanted to have a better showing today. We did have chances.”
at Northern Lebanon
at Lancaster Catholic