BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – In high school football, perfection doesn’t exist. But the pursuit of it is very real.
On Friday night at Buck Swank Stadium, the Palmyra Cougars continued down their treacherous path of improvement during a 47-14 victory over Camp Hill. Palmyra dominated both lines of scrimmage, scored on its first four possessions and got another big outing out of senior tailback Preston Bare.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Capital Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Camp Hill fell to 1-2 on the year and 0-2 in the circuit.
Most of the second half was played under a continuously running clock brought about by the mercy rule.
“We knew we had a lot of returners, a lot of experience,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope. “We knew we had the ability to make steady progress. We want to be critical of ourselves. The last thing we ever want to be is complacent. That’s the crack in the foundation.
“Oh yeah, there’s some areas where we can improve,” Pope continued. “Ball security for instance. I have it written down right here. We’ve got to be more secure with the ball. And our kick-off, it seems a little soft.”
Palmyra needed just three snaps and 58 seconds of clock to get on the scoreboard. Bare got the flow of the play going left, then reversed his field and beat a pair of Lion defenders to the right pylon.
That touchdown run was good for 35 yards, while his second, which came about three minutes later and gave Palmyyra 13-0 advantage, covered 28 yards. Jordan Harro completed the Cougars’ first-quarter flurry by catching a 25-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Malcolm Laudermilch.
“I thought we played well,” said Pope. “I talked to them (his players) about getting off to a good start, and we did it. But you can always play better.
“I think we worked hard this week,” said Pope. “You’ve got to put the time in at practice during the week. That was the key. But we still have got some things to clean up.”
Camp Hill pulled to within 20-7 with a minute to go in the opening period, but the Cougars got that touchdown right back by driving 65 yards for Dom Faiola’s touchdown plunge on a fourth-and-goal from the two. Then, the Cougars used a botched kick-off return to put the outcome out of reach.
First, Bare ripped off a 43-yard gain to set up a Laundermilch burst with 1:04 left in the second period. Then Bare tallied his third touchdown of the half with 14 seconds remaining to give the Cougars a 40-7 locker room cushion.
“I think our players are very business-like,” said Pope. “I feel tense before every game, because you never know in high school football. It’s always good when you get things going.”
Utilizing both power and speed, Bare toted ‘the rock’ 15 times for 230 yards and four touchdowns. He now has 10 touchdowns this season.
But while the 6-0, 200-pound Bare is a splendid runner, at least part of his success has to go to his offensive line.
“He’s a great athlete,” said Pope of Bare. “He does what great athletes do, compete, make big plays and make things happen. Basically he was 100 percent. We rested him (because of an ankle injury) during the week. I’d say at the very least he was 90-95 percent. He could’ve gone defensively if we needed him to.
“They (linemen) continue to get better, which is what what you want to see with an offensive line,” Pope added. “You’ve got five guys working together to execute a play, and that takes time. To this point, they’re making the progress needed.”
Bare’s final touchdown of the night came with 5:27 left in the third stanza. It made it 47-7 and invoked the mercy rule.
“Honestly, for me, I feel relief when the continuous clock is going,” said Pope. “With these high-powered offenses, you can score a lot of points quickly.”
Lurking on the Cougars’ horizon are some pretty big games. But their goals of continued improvement and their first-ever District Three Class AAA playoff appearance remains constant.
“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” said Pope. “We haven’t necessarily played good football. In high school football, you don’t know what’s going to happen. We have some big games with Trinity and East Pennsboro down the road, but the most important game to our program is next week at Susquenita.”
Palmyra out gained Camp Hill 469 yards to 226. The Cougars piled up 338 of its total yards in the first half.