BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – A change at the top of the program was supposed to change the Falcons’ football fortunes. It may be that that change is going to take a little longer than first anticipated.
On Friday night on the artificial turf of Edward and Jeannie Arnold Field at Earl Boltz Stadium, Cedar Crest dropped its fifth straight game under idealistic rookie head coach Rob Wildasin, falling to CCHS graduate Mark Evans’ Manheim Township Blue Streaks 35-0. The Falcons performed well defensively at times, especially in a first half that ended with MT up 6-0, but they just couldn’t sustain anything offensively.
With the loss, the Falcons plummeted to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. With regular season contests remaining against Hempfield, McCaskey, Conestoga Valley and Penn Manor, Cedar Crest is assured of its tenth consecutive non-winning season and is in danger of falling short of last season’s 3-7 mark.
During the five seasons before Wildasin took over, Cedar Crest went a combined 11-39. In their five losses this season, the Falcons have managed a total of 30 points.
With the win, the Blue Streaks improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in Section One. Ironically, a few years ago, Evans was passed over for the job that Wildasin now has.
“Nope!,” said Wildasin, when asked if his stated preseason goal of qualifying for the District Three Class AAAA playoffs had changed. “Sure we can. Why not? We have four games left. That’s what I told the kids in the huddle.”
Then Wildason was asked what specifically has gone wrong for the Falcons this season, to which he responded: “We’re 1-5.”
Plagued by penalties all evening long, Cedar Crest drove deep into Manheim Township territory twice, both times in the second quarter.
On the first occasion, the Falcons reached the Blue Streak 14-yard-line, thanks in part to a 27-yard Marq Kintzer run. But a penalty and two negative plays from scrimmage forced a punt.
On the second, Cedar Crest marched to a first-and-goal at the Township five, mostly on the strength of the running of Damon Edwards and a 30-yard hook-up between quarterback Steve Roda and Raymie Ferreira. But the Blue Streak defense stiffened again, eventually throwing Roda for an 11-yard loss on fourth down.
“We played hard,” said Wildasin. “I thought we would, and we did. We’re pretty close. I know 35-0 doesn’t look like it. We were good for two-plus quarters. We weren’t four-quarters good. I’m still excited to coach this team.
“In the first half, we moved the ball, but we couldn’t score,” continued Wildasin. “If you don’t score, you’re not going to win in Section One.”
Manheim Township had grabbed a 6-0 lead with 31 seconds left in the first quarter, when a lengthy punt return set up quarterback Erik Benjamin’s seven-yard scoring strike to Davis Carr. Thanks to an active Cedar Crest defense, the score stayed that way until late in the third period.
“They’re very good,” said Wildasin of Manheim Township. “They’re very well-coached. Theyr’e a good football team.
“I don’t think it was as much a case of us not playing as well in the second half as it was the depth and experience of Manheim Township,” Wildasin continued. “It was a case of that starting to take a toll on us.”
Thanks in part to a decision by Cedar Crest to go for a first down on a fourth-and-two from its own 32-yard line, the Blue Streaks tallied a pair of touchdowns in a 4:08 span late in the third period, to all but put the outcome out of reach.
Manheim Township had just driven 74 yards in four plays to get running back Jacob Zug’s 16-yard sprint to pay dirt. Then after the Falcons were thrown for a three-yard loss on that fateful fourth down, Tucker Evans bulled into the end zone from three yards out to make it 21-0 Blue Streaks, with 48 ticks of the third quarter remaining.
“Defensively, we just ran out of gas,” said Wildasin. “I put them in some tough positions. That was sort of a turning point when we went for it in the third quarter. Maybe that was my fault. But penalties killed us.”
After the Falcons limited them to 61 yards of total offense in the first half, the Blue Streaks piled up 233 yards in the second 24 minutes of action. Conversely, Cedar Crest managed 29 yards of total offense in the second half, partly due to being tackled for losses eight times.
Edwards rushed 22 times for 34 yards, while junior Evan Horn caught five second-half balls for 41 yards. The Falcons’ total offensive output equaled 124 yards.
“Not at all,” said Wildasin to the notion that an injury to senior starting quarterback Josh Bucher has slowed the offense. “Josh is a great quarterback. But we’ve been preparing all of our quarterbacks to step in. We haven’t changed our play calling one bit.”
Manheim Township upped its advantage to 28-0 4:58 into the final stanza. The Blue Streaks notched their final touchdown with 2:08 remaining.
“We’ve played a very difficult schedule,.” said Wildasin. “We knew going in we were going to be in for a fight. We’ve battled. Except for Wilson, we’ve been competitive.
“Yeah, it’s been what I expected,” concluded Wildasin. “Absolutely. We’ll show up. Go Falcons. Let’s win next week.”
Section One Standings
|Wilson West Lawn||3-0||6-0|
Class AAAA Power Rankings
School W L T
1 Wilson West Lawn 5 0 0 .855233
2 Penn Manor 4 1 0 .782462
3 Governor Mifflin 4 1 0 .767308
4 Central Dauphin East 4 1 0 .766694
5 Cedar Cliff 4 1 0 .765492
6 Central Dauphin 4 1 0 .765492
7 Lower Dauphin 4 1 0 .728244
8 Exeter Township 4 1 0 .726679
9 Dallastown 4 1 0 .718635
10 Manheim Township 3 2 0 .716454
11 Hempfield 3 2 0 .699131
12 Cumberland Valley 3 2 0 .688162
13 Harrisburg 3 2 0 671556
14 Carlisle 3 2 0 .670656
15 Reading 3 2 0 .655646
16 Red Lion 3 2 0 .611105
17 J P McCaskey 2 3 0 .587951
18 Warwick 2 3 0 .586117
19 Central York 2 3 0 .540978
20 Lebanon 2 3 0 .534844
21 Waynesboro 2 3 0 .518287
22 Cedar Crest 1 4 0 .486016
23 Conestoga Valley 1 4 0 .446680
24 South Western 1 4 0 .424908
25 York County School Of Technology 1 4 0 .321879
26 Chambersburg 0 5 0 .316031
27 Elizabethtown 0 6 0 .298558
28 William Penn 0 5 0 .262500
29 Ephrata 0 5 0 .238554