ANNVILLE – ‘We have met the enemy…and he is us’. – Walt Kelly.
Once the Annville-Cleona football squad was able to defeat its true enemy – and it took all of four quarter, and then some, to do so – it had very little trouble with the team across from it.
Despite being a negative-four on the turnover ledger, the Little Dutchmen registered a stirring 42-41 overtime victory over Donegal, in a rare Thursday night Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three opener at A-CHS. After trailing by as much as 11 points early in the fourth quarter, the Little Dutchmen won it when they stuffed a Donegal two-point conversion attempt in overtime.
Trailing 35-27, Annville-Cleona forced overtime with one minute remaining in regulation, when freshman Noah Myers scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak, then hit tight-end John Groh with a two-point pass. The Little Dutchmen tallied a touchdown on the initial possession of overtime, courtesy of two Noah Connor runs and kicker Matt Light’s extra-point, to assume a 42-35 lead.
The Indians responded with a two-yard plunge of their own – from fullback Bryce Sadler – on their only possession of ‘bonus football.’ But when Donegal chose to go for two points and the win, Annville-Cleona was waiting for Sadler and the dive, and swarmed him under a good two yards short of the goal line.
The outcome was significant in that Annville-Cleona and Donegal are expected to battle it out for the same Section Three crown. With the win, Annville-Cleona improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the circuit, while Donegal slipped to 2-2 on the fall and 0-1 in the section.
“I know Donegal was forecasted to come out on top,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Terry Lehman, dripping wet from a celebratory dousing of water. “There’s a lot of tough games down the road. But what a high school football game!
“Yeah, we are a good football team,” continued Lehman. “I know this is going to sound funny because we gave up 41 points, but our defense is tough. We really are. Their offense isn’t a can of corn.”
“My adrenalin is just going off,” said Myers, who was making his first varsity start, for the injured Adam Fox. “I’m speechless. It was my first career start as a high school quarterback and I got a win.”
On its 11-play, 43-yard, last-ditch drive at the end of regulation, Annville-Cleona converted a pair of fourth downs, one of which was Myers’ culminating touchdown plunge. The other was Myers’ 23-yard completion to John Groh, a fade down the right sideline to the Donegal two-yard line.
Myers also converted a fourth down during an 11-play, 45-yard possession early in the fourth-quarter, which produced Matt Light’s 32-yard field goal that pulled the Little Dutchmen to within 35-27, with 8:03 showing on the fourth-quarter clock.
“Nope, not at all,” said Lehman when asked if he was surprised by Donegal head coach Jeff Polites’ decision to go for two. “We knew one of two plays was coming, and if I was in his shoes, I would’ve called one of those two plays too. But our defense stepped up. That wasn’t just one guy. I think that was called ‘team defense’.
“They (the Indians) won the toss and they went on defense,” added Lehman. “I wanted that (the east) end zone, because that’s the way the momentum was going.”
“Our defense fired out,” said Myers of A-C’s final stand, “every single person, and they made the play. We dug deep down and played with heart. Despite four turnovers, we did good.
“This win give us the top spot in the section,” Myers added. “But there’s a long way to go.”
The Little Dutchmen had played catch-up most of the night, after Donegal notched 20 points off turnovers. The Indians assumed a 28-17 margin four minutes into the second half, before opening a 35-24 advantage with 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“Probably, but I don’t remember,” said Lehman when asked if he had ever won a game in his career when being minus-four in the turnover category. “Four turnovers. Yeah. Wow! At halftime I said, ‘Hey guys, we should be up.’ But we didn’t quit. What a great Thursday night football game. I like to be different.”
“At first I was nervous,” said Myers. “I thought I might not do as well as everyone wanted me to do. But I played my heart out.
“I had two interceptions and two bobbled snaps,” Myers continued. “But we’ll fix it this week. We need to work on almost everything, offense, defense special teams. But everyone got to play their part.”
Myers got the Little Dutchmen to within 28-24 of Donegal with 5:08 left in the third quarter, on a three-yard jaunt to pay dirt. That capped an eight-play, 64-yard march by Annville-Cleona.
During the second half and overtime, Annville-Cleona held the Indians to 68 yards of total offense.
“He made plays,” said Lehman of Myers. “I know he had a couple of picks. But I thought he threw the ball fairly well. He had some key throws.”
Light’s 26-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining in the first half sent the Little Dutchmen to the locker room with a 22-17 deficit.
“We had a couple of scores we didn’t get,” said Lehman. “But another key was our special teams. Matt Light kicking two field goals was big. That really helped.
“Sure, I thought it would be a lower scoring game,” Lehman added. “I thought it would be in the 20’s or something.”
Annville-Cleona scored on its opening possession, a five-play, 47-yard drive that was consummated by Connor’s 18-yard touchdown scamper. Connor also ran one in from 11 yards out on the second snap of the second quarter, to make it a 15-14 affair.
“I hope they knock off everybody they play,” said Lehman of the Indians. “It was the game scheduled for tonight. We don’t look ahead, and we don’t look behind.”
Behind Connor, Annville-Cleona piled up 273 yards on the ground and amassed 375 total yards, 139 more than Donegal. Connor collected 151 rushing yards on 25 bruising carries.