MYERSTOWN – It’s no secret how the Annville-Cleona football team is going to come at you. What’s difficult to decipher is the direction from which the Little Dutchmen are going to attack.
And what complicates matters for opposing defenses even more is the fact that they’re usually engaged with some big guys in front of them, while traffic is headed their way.
On Friday night at Elco Stadium, Annville-Cleona’s unrelenting power running wore down and ultimately wore out the host Raiders, for a 42-21 Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three triumph. Behind an active and distracting offensive line, the Little Dutchmen ran for 291 yards and recorded five rushing touchdowns – from four different sources.
After the Little Dutchmen had opened an early 14-0 lead, Elco came back to tie the score early in the second half. But a critical personal foul penalty and a key fumble ultimately turned the tide in Annville-Cleona’s direction, and the Little Dutchmen notched 28 of the game’s final 35 points.
The win was Annville-Cleona’s first over the Raiders in its last eight tries. It also pushed the Little Dutchmen to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the section, while Elco fell to 2-3 on the fall and 1-1 in the section.
“We wore them down at the end,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Terry Lehman. “We knew they were going to throw the ball, and they did throw the ball. But our offensive line took over and the defense played well.
“This group is hard-nosed and hard working,” added Lehman. “Nobody wants to be a star. Everybody wants to be a team.”
With the score deadlocked at 14 midway through the third period, the Little Dutchmen created a takeaway at the Elco 28-yard line. But it may have been a 15-yard spearing penalty on Elco five plays earlier which had swung the momentum to the A-C side.
On the second snap after the Raider fumble, Cameron Hoch took a reverse 26 yards to the promised land to give the Little Dutchmen the lead for good, 21-14. Annville-Cleona, which threw only one pass during the entire second half, would score on its next two possessions to open a 35-14 advantage.
First senior fullback Noah Connor rumbled 14 yards off left end, with 10:24 remaining. Then quarterback Adam Fox sneaked a yard for a score three minutes later, to cap off four consecutive Will Langan carries which had netted 54 yards.
“They (the Raiders) did get the momentum at halftime,” said Lehman, who defeated his alma mater on its homecoming. “We got up early and let them back in the the game. But we got it back, and then put our foot down. We knew they couldn’t stop our running game.
“It was eight years since we beat them,” added Lehman. “But it doesn’t matter. This team is 1-0 against them. It feels great. The kids worked hard. We came here expecting to win. The kids were super.”
“I thought the turning point was the kickoff when we lost Ryan Rolon (to penalty),” said Miller. “I have to do a better job of preparing our kids so they can step up.”
The Little Dutchmen marched the opening kickoff 55 yards on eight running plays to get Langan’s five-yard scoring scamper and a 7-0 lead. Annville-Cleona also employed a short field early in the second quarter, as Fox hit Alec Barr 24-yards over the top to up its advantage to 14-0.
But Elco got things going offensively just before the break, when Tyler Horst sprinted 13 yards for a touchdown to culminate a nine-play, 63-yard drive and cut its deficit in half. Then after the break a 47-yard jaunt by Horst and a 21-yard connection between quarterback Jeff Martin and Dylan Stoops set the stage for Martin hooking up with Dustin Miller in the left corner of the end zone for a TD and a 14-all tie.
“They’re about Martin throwing the ball and their receivers,” said Lehman of the Raiders. “We did what we wanted to do. We wanted to take (Elco receiver Dustin) Miller out of the game. They run a lot of things.
“We have one more running back we need to get some carries,” continued Lehman. “Yeah, we have some good backs. But the offensive line makes the running backs.”
“Yeah, they were as physical as I thought they’d be,” added Miller. “And so were we.”
The Raiders pulled to within 35-21 of the Little Dutchmen with 3:40 left, when Martin found Kory Brown with a 19-yard scoring strike. But Annville-Cleona responded a mere 25 seconds later, as Hoch raced 53 yards through a gaping hole for the game’s final score.
“We played with a lot of heart at times,” said Miller. “I think the area where we need to improve the most is discipline.”
Connor paced the Little Dutchmen’s running attack with 24 carries and 121 yards, while Hoch put up 90 rushing yards on five totes. Annville-Cleona out gained Elco 369 total yards to 232.
Martin went 13 for 24 for 146 yards, and D. Miller caught five of those balls for 38 yards. Horst carried ten times for 75 yards.
“We’re 2-0 in the section,” said Lehman. “There’s other teams 2-0. But that’s our goal (to win the section). We’ve got four more to go.”
“We’re getting better every week,” continued Lehman. “We had a different quarterback (Fox) this week. We’re still trying to polish some things. But what a great win that was.”
Lebanon Sports Buzz
Lebanon County Football Rankings
2. Lebanon High (2-3)
3. Annville-Cleona (4-1)
4. Northern Lebanon (4-1)
5. Palmyra (2-3)
6. Elco (2-3)