BY JEFF FALK
The Lebanon football team has been down this road before. What the Cedars are hoping is that this time it leads them to a different destination.
On Monday night at Lebanon Alumni Stadium, the Cedars improved to 2-0 with a dominant 54-28 triumph over Northern Lebanon. With quarterbacks Alex Trautman and Mark Pyles utilizing multiple weapons, the Cedars rolled up 627 yards of total offense, 415 of which came in the opening half.
Lebanon scored 27 unanswered points before halftime to break open an 8-7 game. The Cedars’ advantage reached 54-21 late in the final stanza.
Lebanon High’s start to 2011 is reminiscent of last season when it opened 3-0. But the Cedars dropped six straight Lancaster-Lebanon Section Two outcomes on their way to a 4-6 finish.
Because of the rains of Tropical Storm Lee the non-league contest was moved from its originally scheduled start on Friday to Monday. Northern Lebanon fell to 0-2.
“2-0’s great,” said Lebanon head coach Gerry Yonchiuk. “It certainly feels good. I really thought it was a team effort.
“There’s some things that have to play out,” Yonchiuk continued. “I think we have more weapons this year, and I think we run the ball better. I think our defense has definitely improved over last year.”
“They played very well,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Roy Wall of the Cedars. “They came out and played well and we made very fundamental mistakes. I’m not taking anything away from them (the Cedars), but we didn’t play well.
“They (the Cedars) threw the ball,” added Wall. “They ran screens. Their kids made plays, that’s all there is to it.”
Boy did the Cedars make plays, especially when the outcome was still in doubt in the second period. Actually, a 13-yard run to daylight and paydirt by Pyles, with 3:59 of the first quarter remaining, gave them a 16-7 margin and got them going.
When the dust finally settled, Lebanon High was sitting on a 35-7 cushion, thanks to a 16-yard touchdown collaboration between Isaiah Baker and Trautman. In between, the Cedars got a 55-yard scoring completion from Pyles to Drey Murray and a 27-yard TD hook-up between Trautman and Kiev Gardner.
In a dozen possessions, Lebanon High scored eight touchdowns, and six different players ‘broke the plane’.
“In the first half, we had 40 plays,” said Yonchiuk. “We want to play fast. Our guys want to play fast. They like it. They work very hard, but you do get tired.
“What we do offensively, our guys understand it so well,” Yonchiuk added. “The system, for our players, our linemen can play physical. I don’t think they’re passive. We understand if a team takes away this, we know how to counteract that.”
“We’re not where we were last year (handling the ball),” said Wall, whose team was hurt by fumbles at key moments. “In some ways, we’re ahead of where we were last year. Obviously, we’d like to be crisper. We’re just not executing the way we’re capable of. Plus people have seen it (NL’s option game) now. They’ve made adjustments, now we need to make adjustments.”
The Cedars needed just two snaps to strike, as Trautman found Baker behind the Viking secondary for a 71-yard touchdown. But in the middle of the opening period, Northern Lebanon responded when back Ryan Daub took a swing pass from Tanner Dresch down the right sideline for 54 yards and the score that made it 8-7.
“We thought we could do it,” said Yonchiuk of his squad’s early strike to Baker. “That’s not normally a formation we have Baker in, but he can fly. We try to utilize our guys.
“Tonight, it was just about getting the win,” Yonchiuk added. “They’re (his players) not cocky. But they’re confident they can win and should win.”
“I’m not happy,” said Wall. “We could’ve played better. Obviously, we need to start demonstrating maturity.
“We need attitude,” Wall continued. “That’s where we need to start. We need to play tougher. We need to play 48 minutes. We need to stop having kids go in the tank repeatedly.”
Northern Lebanon did drive the second-half kickoff for a 42-yard touchdown pass from Dresch to Pat Stevens that made it 35-14. But Lebanon answered with a nine-yard scoring strike from Pyles to Steven Padilas.
In effect, the teams traded scores in the second half.
“In the first half, I thought we did a good job of shutting down their option game,” said Yonchiuk. “We were tired at halftime, but I was pleased. Our kids run to the ball. They bring a tough attitude to the game.
“Defensively, we had answers,” Yonchiuk added. “When we put up points our offense gets the credit. But our defensive guys do a great job too.”
“They make plays, both of them,” said Wall of LHS’ dynamic QB duo. “Obviously when Trautman wasn’t in there, we kind of knew they were going to run the ball more effectively. But we made them look better at times.”
Trautman finished 12-of-19 for 229 yards and three touchdow passes. Pyles went 14 of 24 for 220 yards and two TDs and also rushed for a pair of scores.
Eight different Cedars caught passes, as Lebanon High rolled to 26 first downs.
For the Vikes, Dresch ran for 73 yards.
“”Mark Pyles’ play was great,” said Yonchiuk. “He played like a senior. Defensively, he had a huge sack which helped momentum-wise. He’s such a solid football player. And the best thing about him is that he’s a sophomore.”