BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Given the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the past couple of weeks, one might have expected the Northern Lebanon football team to be distracted and flat. But in reality, just the opposite was true.
On Friday night at Fred Gahres Stadium, the focused Vikings turned a negative into a positive by handling rival Annville-Cleona 58-36. After the Little Dutchmen struck pay dirt on the first play of the game, Northern Lebanon tallied three unanswered touchdowns from a span late in the first quarter to the middle of the second to open a 24-7 lead, and Annville-Cleona would never get closer than two touchdowns the rest of the way.
In the days leading up to the contest, the PIAA’s District Three announced that previously unbeaten Northern Lebanon would forfeit its first two games of the season – a 52-0 victory over Pine Grove and a 51-27 triumph over Lebanon – because of its use of an illegal player. That possibility had been discussed interally by the Vikings over the last two weeks.
All things considered, Northern Lebanon is now 6-2 overall and 4-0 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. In the latest District Three power rankings, the Vikings sat 15th in a Class AAA field which takes the top 16 teams for its playoffs.
Annville-Cleona fell to 5-3 on the campaign and 1-3 in Section Three. In the latest District Three power rankings, the Little Dutchmen were seeded sixth in a Class AA field that takes the top eight squads for its postseason.
“I’m not going to answer any questions about forfeits,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Roy Wall. “This was their (his players’) last home game. Any time you do something for the last time, it’s important. This was not news to us. We explained the worst-case scenario to the kids. They knew it was going to come out.”
“It seems this year is Murphy’s Law for us,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Matt Gingrich. “We get everyone’s best game. We got Elco’s best game. We got Donegal’s best game. We got them all. But we’ve got great kids. They’re going to be great adults. Tonight they went from teenagers to men.
“I’m sure they (the Vikings) were a lot more motivated,” added Gingrich. “Maybe the bear was poked.”
Down that early touchdown, Northern Lebanon responded with a 14-yard scoring connection between quarterback Isaac Wengert and end Colton Herb and a two-point conversion, at the end of an 11-play, 75-yard march, to go up for good, 8-7. Then four minutes into the second stanza, the Vikings turned a short field into a 44-yard scoring strike from Wengert to Christian Trader.
Northern Lebanon went ahead 24-7 with 5:18 left in the second period, on Wengert’s third touchdown pass, a 20-yard heave to Luke Funck. After Annville-Cleona had answered in the from quarterback Adam Fox’s two-yard touchdown run, Northern Lebanon scored with 37 seconds left in the half – when Wengert hit Corey Teasdale from 31 yards out to make it 30-15.
A mere 17 seconds into the contest, Little Dutchman Will Langan had taken a simple ‘belly’ play 76 yards to ‘The House.
“We played pretty well offensively,” said Wall of the Vikings’ fourth 50-point explosion of the year. “We’re back to scoring 50 points. Annville-Cleona had a good game plan. We moved the ball pretty well. Our kids played hard. We had some big runs to salt it away.
“It’s the second of our three-week run,” Wall continued. “Elco, Annville-Cleona and Donegal is going to determine the section. Now all of our focus is on Donegal. We’re the only team undefeated in the section.”
“I thought we played very well,” said Gingrich. “I was happy with the effort. That was the first game this season we played 48 minutes. I thought we won every play, effort-wise. Players make plays. I can’t tell you how many times we were a step or two behind.
“Our kids made plays,” added Gingrich. “But not enough. Nonetheless, I’d rather lose the right way than win the wrong way.”
On the heels of a five-touchdown game a week ago, Wengert had his hands in no less than seven touchdowns last night – four passing and three rushing. The senior signal-caller ran 21 times for 235 yards and completed 12 of 21 pass attempts for 229 yards. Quite a performance.
Funck carried 18 times for another 129 yards, while Corey Teasdale hauled in six of Wengert’s passes for 97 yards.
The Vikings piled up an eye-popping 572 yards of total offense, compared to 357 for Annville-Cleona. Langan toted ‘The Rock’ 25 times for 219 yards.
“We feel we can get three yards anytime we want,” said Wall, whose team was successful on five of its eight, two-point conversion attempts. “We said we’re not going to punt the ball, and we’re going to go for two.
“We moved the ball pretty well,” Wall added. “At no time did I think the game was in jeopardy. When we took it down (in the fourth quarter) and we were using our timeouts, I thought the game was over.”
“I thought our game plan was very sound,” said Gingrich. “They (the Vikings) made a lot of individual plays. We made sure they were going to beat us outside or over the top, and they did.
“I think they’re pretty good,” continued Gingrich. “Clearly they’re better than us right now. I’ll take (Northern Lebanon lineman) Matt Vines any day of the week. He’s one o the kids I enjoy watching.”
When Wengert took the first snap of the second half 36 yards to the promised land, Northern Lebanon was sitting on a 36-15 cushion. In fact, touchdowns resulted from the first seven possessions of the second half.
With 2:18 to play, Wengert’s six-yard touchdown ramble made it 58-36.
“It was always important,” said Wall of defending the Section Three championship. “When we break our huddle we always say, ‘Back to back’. The goal is to win the section and get to the playoffs, and see what we can do from there.
“They (the Little Dutchmen) played hard,” continued Wall. “They ran an offense I know a little bit about. Defensively, they gave us a couple of different wrinkles. But our kids played hard.”
“To be perfectly honest, it was the last touchdown (that put the outcome to rest),” said Gingrich. “There was never a point where we felt like we were out of it. But we knew in the third quarter if we didn’t get a break, it was going to be tough. The big thing for me was we had a couple of plays where we broke down. It was one step. When that dam breaks, it breaks. It broke.
“We definitely have a very good chance at districts,” Gingrich continued. “That’s the goal. Donegal was the low point of our season. No effort. No discipline. But from that day forward, the goal was not the section championship but to see what we can do in districts. We have a lot of things to shore up.”
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AC — Langan 76 run (Light kick)
NL — Herb 14 pass from Wengert (Funck run)
NL— Trader 44 pass from Wengert (Wengert run)
NL — Funck 20 pass from Wengert (Func
AC — Fox 2 run (Langan pass from Fox)
NL — Teasdale 31 pass from Wengert (run failed)
NL — Wengert 36 run (pass fails)
AC — Fox 3 run (Light kick)
NL — Wengert 4 run (pass fails)
AC — Langan 42 run (Light kick)
NL — Funck 33 run (Teasdale pass from Wengert)
AC — Fox 10 run (Light kick)
NL — Wengert 6 run (Daub pass from Wengert)
Rushing — AC: Langan 25-219, Fox 12-54, Barr 4-70, Bomgardner 5-9. NL: Wengert 21-235, Funck 18-129, Motter 1-0, Smith 2- (-19).
Passing — AC:Fox 2-4-0-28, Barr 0-1-0-0, Myers 0-1-0-0 NL: Wengert 12-21-0-229
Receiving — AC: Mintz 1-16, Hertz 1-12 NL: Teasdale 6-97, Daub 3-53, Trader 1-43, Funck 1-20, Herb 1-15.
2015 Northern Lebanon Results
|7:00 PM||L 0-2|
|7:00 PM||L 0-2|
|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||W 58-36|
|7:00 PM||Donegal High School|
|7:00 PM||Columbia High School|
2015 Annville-Cleona Results
|7:00 PM||W 39-36|
|7:00 PM||W 30-14|
|7:00 PM||W 28-16|
|7:00 PM||L 13-39|
|6:30 PM||L 39-40|
|1:00 PM||W 35-21|
|7:00 PM||W 33-8|
|7:00 PM||L 36-58|
|7:00 PM||Annville-Cleona High School|
|7:00 PM||Annville-Cleona High School|