BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Is it true that blondes have more fun? For a group of or a fair-haired Cougars, football is a lot of fun right now.
On a seasonal Friday night at Buck Swank Stadium, the hair-color-coordinated Palmyra football team enjoyed itself thoroughly during an impressive 31-10 victory over Mechanicsburg. Behind the stellar quarterbacking of senior Grant Haus and four – count em’ four – field goals, the Cougars raced out to a fast start and just never stopped executing.
The non-league, home triumph was the second in as many weeks for the now 2-0 Cougars. The result left Mechanicsburg 0-2 in the early going.
For Palmyra, the wins have come after the majority of its players dyed their hair blonde, in a show of team unity. The new hairstyle has proved to be a good look for the Cougars, both on and off the field.
“They didn’t ask me to do it, so I didn’t have to consider it,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope, of his players through a wide grin. “We have a really close team. We have very close relationships with one another.
“I think maybe blondes do have more fun,” continued Pope. “Winning is fun. All good teams are close. These guys have a trust in one another and there’s an accountability there. It builds closeness.”
“Actually, it had been a senior thing over the last couple of years,” said Haus. “This is the first time the whole team did it. But it shows how close we are. We’re Palmyra football players and we’re here together. It was a good team bonding experience. It was good for a few laughs.
“This year we’re having a whole lot of fun,” Haus continued. “Practices have been great, and we just want to continue it from there.”
Palmyra scored on its first four possessions, to open a 16-0 lead.
Mixing the run with the pass, the Cougars drove the ball with ease during most of the first half. And when Palmyra did run into difficulties, Weidler was there to complete the drive with his big right foot.
The senior place-kicker connected on field goals of 39, 38, 35 and 35 yards – a fairly rare feat in scholastic football.
On the strength of two big plays, the Cougars assumed a 7-0 lead on their oppening possession, as shifty Caleb Hawkins did the honors from a yard out. Six minutes later, Weidler booted his first field goal, after Haus had driven the Cougars 52 yards in six plays.
“There’s some things we did well, and some other things we didn’t do well,” said Pope. “We were having drives, but they were being established with mistakes. There’s a lot of things we can do better.
“Our offense got it together and made plays when they needed to,” Pope added. “We’ve shown that we can do both (sustain drives and manufacture big plays). I am happy with our line. We’ve been able to replace some guys. The guys who have come in have really done a good job.”
“Offensivley, we started clicking,” said Haus. “We came out strong and kept going. If we continue working hard, we’ll get better and better.”
Weidler drilled a field goal with 41 seconds left the opening quarter to make it 13-0, and then hit another three-pointer 2:30 into the second period. The Cougars went up 22-3 when Hawkins ran in a 12-yarder around left end.
“Griffin is very good,” said Pope. “He’s very consistent. He takes it (place kicking) very serious. It is nice having it. We know once we get inside the 25-yard-line we can go to him.
“At halftime we talked about making adjustments defensively,” added Pope. “We talked about playing down hill. (Offensive coordinator, Zug) Graham talked about trying to play mistake free. That was slowing us down.”
“I like to see myself as a leader,” said Haus. “I think the guys on the team see me as one too. My job is just to keep encouraging them.”
The Wildcats hit Palmyra with Keegan Neill’s 67-yard touchdown run on the first snap of the second half to close to within 12 points of the lead. But it would prove to be only a momentary lapse for the Cougars.
On the heels of a nine-play, 45-yard possession, Weidler boomed his final field goal of the evening to push Palmyra’s advantage to 25-10. Then with 1:42 of the third stanza remaining, Haus sprinted 24 yards from the pocket to the end zone.
“He’s come along,” said Pope of his senior signal-caller. “He had a little more pressure tonight. He’s demonstrated his growth and we’ve shown you have to defend us deep.”
“It was a similar effort,” said Haus of a season-opening triumph over rival Hershey. “We came out and worked as hard as we can. Tonight we were ready and we brought it to them (the Wildcats).
“The way we go, it’s game by game,” added Haus. “Every game is the most important one of the week.”
While the Cougar defense was limiting Mechanicsburg to 134 total yards, Haus and Hawkins and company were churning out 358 yards of offense.
Haus completed 16 of his 28 pass attempts for 249 passing yards and an interception. He also ran 11 times for 106 yards on the ground.
Hawkins carried 20 times for 126 yards.
“The last couple of years we’ve had great starts,” said Pope. “Some years we’ve been able to push through, and other years we’ve stumbled. We’re constantly pushing to get better.”
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