BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Momentum is an elusive creature.
Getting it to come over to your side is difficult enough. But regaining it after you’ve lost it, well that’s a whole different animal.
In a back-and-forth game of big plays at Fred Gahres Stadium on Friday night, the Northern Lebanon football team made one or two more down the stretch to pull out a crucial 44-41 victory over the Raiders of Elco. After the Vikings had opened a 38-14 lead early in the second half on the feet of quarterback Isaac Wengert, the Raiders scored 27 unanswered points to take a 41-38 lead with 3:27 remaining, on the arm of quarterback Jeff Martin.
But it was Wengert who had the last laugh, as his twisting, turning 33-yard run through the heart of the Elco defense, with 1:49 to go, proved decisive. Wengert’s fifth touchdown of the evening was set up by Noah Smith’s 44-yard jaunt with an option pitch, off right end.
Northern Lebanon didn’t secure the win until Blaise Bressler picked off a Martin aerial at the Viking 31-yard-line, with 57 seconds left.
The result placed the defending Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three champion Vikings firmly in the repeat driver’s seat. Northern Lebanon is now 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the section, while Elco, which had its three-game winning streak snapped, fell to 3-4 on the year and 3-1 in the circuit.
“It was two teams battling for the section title,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Roy Wall. “They made plays, and we made plays. We made them at the end.”
“We gave them a few plays,” said Elco head coach Bob Miller. “It’s not that they made one or two more plays than us. I’m not giving it to them.”
It was a 34-yard chuck from Martin to favorite target Andrew Olson that gave the Raiders their only lead of the game, at 41-38. Three minutes earlier, Martin had capped an 11-play, 92-yard march with a one-yard plunge that pulled the Raiders to within 38-33.
With 57 ticks left in the third quarter, Tyler Horst bowled over from five yards away to cut the Elco deficit to 38-26. But what had started the Raider comeback was a 23-yard scoring collaboration between Martin and Dylan Stoops.
“Elco’s a good team,” said Wall. “They made some plays. But we fumbled the ball away and gave them some chances. And they capitalized on them. To their credit, they came back.”
“I will never quit on these guys, because they never quit,” said Miller. “They played four quarters with heart, class and guts. The Elco culture, from the community to the school to the football program, needs to be committed full-time. You never miss practice. It’s a commitment to the program, and to play with heart and class and guts, like they did.”
Wengert’s 16-yard touchdown run with 12 seconds left in the second quarter capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive and gave the Vikings a 30-14 lead in the locker room. And when Northern Lebanon turned the second-half kickoff into a 41-yard Wengert scoring scamper, it found itself on the right side of a 38-14 score.
“They’ve been playing well for the last three weeks,” said Wall of the Raiders. “We’re the defending section champions. We’ve been playing well for the last 15 weeks.”
“I haven’t talked section title all year long,” said Miller. “And I’m not going to start now.
“I’m not talking about them (the Vikings) at all,” Miller added.
Northern Lebanon broke out on top first, taking an 8-0 lead on Dustin Motter’s 62-yard interception return of a tipped Martin pass. The Raiders responded on their next possession, getting Ryan Rolon’s 31-yard scoring sprint to the left pylon to make it 8-7.
Wengert got his first touchdown of the evening 1:31 into the second period – a one-yard burst that culminated a ten-play, 55-yard possession. His second was a 59-yard explosion that came 2:26 later, and upped Northern Lebanon’s advantage to 22-7.
“We average 45 points a game,” said Wall. “But it doesn’t matter if you win by 50 points or one. We were ahead at the end. Just win, baby.”
“Our kids fought the whole second half,” said Miller. “There’s good things to look forward to.”
Martin surpassed the 6,000-yard-career plateau and became Lebanon County’s all-time leader in passing yardage when he hooked up with Olson for a 45-yard scoring completion, with 4:23 to go before the break. The senior gunslinger completed 15 of his 25 pass attempts for 256 yards and three touchdowns.
Wengert rushed 20 times for 211 yards, while teammate Luke ‘Uptown’ Funck rambled 19 times for 91 yards. For the Raiders, Horst carried 22 times for 144 yards.
Northern Lebanon out gained Elco 449 total yards to 432.
“He’s a good quarterback,” said Wall of Wengert. “He runs the option real well. It was there all day.”
“We have three winnable games left,” said Miller. “But they’ve (his players) got to stick with it.”
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NL — Motter 62-yard interception return (Wengert run)
E — Rolon 31-yard rush (Miller kick)
NL — Wengert 1-yard run (Pass fail)
NL — Wengert 59-yard run (Funck run)
E — Martin 45-yard pass to Olson (Miller kick)
NL — Wengert 16-yard run (Funck run)
NL — Wengert 41-yard run (Funck run)
E — Martin 23-yard pass to Stoops (Run fails)
E — Horst 5-yard rush (Kick fail)
E — Martin 1-yard run (Miller kick)
E — Martin 34-yard pass to Olson. (Martin pass)
NL — Wengert 33-yard run (Run fails)
Rushing — E: Tyler Horst 22-144, Ryan Rolon 1-32, Andrew Olson 4-12, Travis Zimmerman 1-0, Jeff Martin 3-(-8). NL: Isaac Wengert 20-211, Luke Funck 19-91, Noah Smith 3-57 Corey Teasdale 1-9.
Passing — E: Martin 15-25-263-2. Horst 0-1-0-0; NL: Wengert 4-14-71-1.
Receiving — E: Olson 4-96, Luis Rolon 4-91, Horst 2-22, Dylan Stoops 1-16, Kory Brown 1-10. NL: Teasdale 1-13, Colton Herb 1-12, Michigan Daub 1-8, Funck 1-4.
Section Three Standings
2015 Northern Lebanon Results
|7:00 PM||W 52-0|
|7:00 PM||W 51-27|
|7:00 PM||W 36-25|
|7:00 PM||W 57-26|
|6:00 PM||W 42-17|
|7:00 PM||W 16-13|
|7:00 PM||W 44-41|
|7:00 PM||Northern Lebanon High School|
|7:00 PM||Donegal High School|
|7:00 PM||Columbia High School|
2015 Elco Results
|7:00 PM||L 8-30|
|7:00 PM||L 22-30|
|7:00 PM||L 19-20|
|7:00 PM||W 28-14|
|6:30 PM||W 40-39|
|7:00 PM||W 34-32|
|7:00 PM||L 41-44|
|7:00 PM||Columbia High School|
|7:00 PM||Elco High School|
|7:00 PM||Elco High School|