MYERSTOWN – When you’re undefeated, it’s hard to see the improvement.
When you’re concentrating on the here and now, it’s hard to see the consistency.
When you’re focused on the brother next to you, it’s hard to see the scoreboard.
On a cool Friday night at Elco Stadium, an improving Raider football squad put forth yet another consistent effort, doing what they’ve done all year, during a 42-7 triumph over Northern York, in the semifinal round of the District Three Class AAAA playoffs. Employing its trademark ground game, Elco didn’t attempt a pass in rolling to a 35-0 third-quarter lead and invoking the mercy rule.
The victory pushed second-seeded Elco to 7-0 on the fall and into next Friday’s District Three Class AAAA championship game at top-seeded Lampeter-Strasburg, which knocked off Conrad Weiser 56-35 in the other semifinal. Northern York, the number-three seed, concluded its campaign at 5-2.
Historically speaking, the win was significant in a number of ways for Elco. It was just the Raiders’ second District Three playoff win in program history, during their third straight postseason appearance and their seventh overall.
No Lebanon County football program has ever won a District Three championship.
“In the locker room last night, we had a talk about the book we’re reading,” said Elco head coach Bob Miller. “It was chapter ten and the lesson was never quit. I asked the question: ‘What is going to drive you tomorrow night, no matter what the score is?’ We had a bunch of hands go up, and I called on one guy and he said, ‘I want to come back because I want to be with my brothers on Monday.’ All the other hands went down.
“I think you’ve seen how we’ve grown from the beginning of the season to now,” continued Miller. “No one answered, ‘Play for a district title.’ They have fun everyday. That’s goal Number One. You can see it on the field and you can see it in practice. This win means another week of practice and another week with the guys. It’s about continuing the journey.”
“Coach preaches everyday that the team is bigger than football,” said Elco senior quarterback Braden Bohannon. “It’s about the guy next to you. It makes you love the game even more, especially when you know it can be taken away from you. We’re playing great. We don’t need to change anything.”
The play of the game was turned in by freshman Jake Williams, on the final snap of the first half, with the Raiders already up 14-0. It didn’t change momentum as much as it assured that Elco would not lose it.
With Northern York lining up to attempt a 22-yard field goal, the Raiders called three consecutive time outs. When the ball was eventually snapped, Elco lineman Reilly Peiffer broke through and blocked the field goal attempt.
The ball bounced right to J. Williams, who raced 95 yards down the right sideline to make it 21-0. Elco was never seriously headed after that.
“I thought it was a huge menetum-changer going into halftime,” said Miller. “I didn’t even see Jake grab the ball. We have a very good field-goal block team. R.J. (Peiffer) is really quick coming through the line. When we took the timeouts, we just wanted to give our guys a chance to catch their breath.
“It changed the momentum,” added Miller. “I’m not sure it changed the outcome. I’m glad it went that way.”
“We took all three timeouts,” said Bohannon. “I’d like to tell you that we drew it up that way. The ball bounced right to Jake, and sometimes it’s better to be lucky.”
Elco extended its lead to 35-0 with a pair of Luke Williams’ touchdown runs in the third quarter. On the second snap of the second half, L. Williams raced 64 yards to the promised land, and with 1:34 left in the stanza, he ran five yards off tackle.
J. Williams closed out the scoring with 6:06 remaining, on a 46-yard touchdown jaunt.
“They’re banged up. They were short-handed,” said Miller of the Polar Bears. “In terms of execution, our kids really played well. But even bigger, they played with heart.
“We’re going to see things on film that drives us (coaches) crazy,” Miller added. “We came into the game with the mentality of keeping eyes off the scoreboard and playing for the guy next to you. That part was pretty good. I didn’t see anything different tonight than in Game One.”
“We played really well,” said Bohannon. “We’ve been playing great football all year. We’ve been playing together and having fun. I don’t know what our ceiling is. As of right now, we try to get better each week.”
Elco scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the evening. Bohannon ripped off a 51-yarder on the Raiders’ second snap, then capped a nine-play, 79-yard march with a two-yard burst that made it 14-0.
“I get a little worked up every game,” said Miller. “Coming into this week, we had two weeks of practice. The kids had fun, but they really got after each other.”
“We came out right away and played hard,” said Bohannon. “Things were going our way right from the start. We had momentum throughout.”
With all of its yards coming on the ground, Elco out gained Northern York 341 total yards to 183. The Raiders did not have a negative play until their final possession of the game.
Bohannon rushed 13 times for 134 yards, while J. Williams contributed ten carries and 108 rushing yards. L. Williams piled up 90 yards on seven attempts.
“It was really good execution up-front, throughout,” said Miller. “Our quarterbacks and backs were making terrific reads, and just running hard. I think people are going to look at the 42 points, but our defense played phenomenal. The defense had one heck of a game plan, and the kids executed it.”
“We’re confident,” said Bohannon. “As long as we’re playing together, and love the guy next to us, we’ll do well. We’re focused on us.”
at Northern Lebanon
|2***||Eastern Lebanon County||6-||0-||0||0.734958||1.000000||0.411017||5.90||14.55||0.00||20.85|
|6||Bishop McDevitt (3)||5-||0-||0||0.671765||1.000000||0.270588||5.95||5.75||0.00||15.50|