PALMYRA – No one’s reaching for the panic button. In fact, there’s barely a sense of alarm.
It’s still so very early. And given Palmyra’s track record for improving, all it really is is a matter of time.
Yet, there are some issues for the Cougars to address, some stuff that in need of repair.
On a pleasant Friday night at Buck Swank Stadium, the Palmyra football team dropped a 28-7 non-league decision to Ephrata. While the Cougars gave a much better account of themselves in the second half, they couldn’t overcome the opening-half hole they dug for themselves.
Palmyra has now lost two straight games to begin the season. Ephrata improved to 2-0, it’s best start in 20 years.
“Obviously, it’s not the way we wanted to start our season,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope. “But when that happens, you’ve got to figure out what’s going on. It’s really simple in my mind. You’ve got to play all the phases of the game. We need all phases operating correctly at the same time.
“We’ve had some seasons when we started slow,” continued Pope. “We’ve had some seasons when we started strong. I feel like the parts and pieces are there. We have a quarterback (Jordan Wamsher) who can throw and move the ball. We have some receivers who can get open. On defense we have guys who are aggressive. But it can’t be sporadic. You’ve got to have consistency.”
Each side scored a touchdown on their initial touches of the football to start the game. After the Mountaineers’ Andre Weidman returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, Cougar Tim Hall answered by taking the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for the tying score.
But Palmyra was unable to muster much in the way of offense the rest of the way.
“I’ve got to look at the film,” said Pope. “The first half, honestly, was terrible. We tried to make adjustments. My thought is we couldn’t get a rhythm offensively. But we came out in the second half and played lights out defensively.”
“Palmyra’s a heck of a football team,” said Ephrata head coach Kris Miller. “They fought the whole game. Coach Pope is doing a great job with those guys.”
Ephrata took a 14-7 lead with 8:14 left in the first quarter, on a four-yard touchdown blast by Weidman. The run capped an eight-play, 75-yard possession.
Then, with 3:46 left in the first half, Weidman scored again from four yards out, to push the Mounts’ advantage to 14 points.
“I think those are the people who are going to have to do it,” said Pope of his large senior class. “We’re going to have to make sure as coaches that we don’t collapse. We’re not even close to that. But we’re going to have to lean on our seniors.”
The score that broke the Cougars’ back came on the last play of the first half, as Weidman dove a yard into the end zone on a fourth-down snap to make it 28-7.
“We didn’t keep them out,” said Pope. “That would’ve been a little bit of a boost. But we really didn’t do anything offensively in the second half.
“At halftime, we went a little old-school on them (his players),” Pope added. “There was a lot of talk about manning up and playing with pride. We didn’t change one thing schematically on defense.”
Palmyra certainly played better during the second half of play. But the Cougars still experienced difficulties moving the ball, and Ephrata came up with a pair of stops after Palmyra had penetrated its red zone.
“You’ve got to keep the game in a position where you can stay multiple,” said Pope. “Once you get yourself in a hole, you’re pretty much relegated to throwing the ball.”
“We certainly made mistakes,” said Miller. “But we found a way to build a lead. Defensively, I thought we played a great game. We hung on for dear life in the second half. But sometimes you’ve got to do that to win a football game.”
The Mounts recorded a 310-92 advantage in total yards.
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