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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Cocalico stymies Cedar Cliff en route to a 31-13 victory in the District 3 Class 5A semifinal

Cocalico never really gave Cedar Cliff a whiff at being competitive in this District 3 Class 5A semifinal Friday night at West Shore Stadium.

The Eagles were simply dominant on both sides of the ball and kept the Colts’ offense on ice much of the night to post a commanding 31-13 victory.

Staying true to form, Cocalico used its run-heavy offense to dictate the tempo of the game and, despite leading only 10-0 at halftime, the blueprint for victory was printed in triplicate and already dry.

Cocalico amassed 229 total yards by intermission while limiting the Colts to 10 offensive snaps and two possessions the opening 24 minutes.

Led by halfback Aaryn Longenecker, who dashed 83 yards for a touchdown on the fourth play of the game, the Eagles piled up nearly 400 yards on the ground and had a trio of 100 yard rushers — Longenecker, fullback P. Dane Horning and quarterback Joshua Myer.

Horning added a short touchdown run midway through the third quarter to up the cushion to 17 points.

When Horning found the end zone from the 3-yard line with 11:07 to play to up the margin to 24 points and close the book on the game, the Eagles had more points (24) than the Colts had offensive snaps (16).

Cocalico will play Ephrata, which clobbered tournament surprise Hershey, in the Class 5A championship game.

Time to hand out some postseason grades.


Quarterback: The 6-foot-2 junior runs the Eagles’ Wing-T offense like a veteran, and he killed the Colts on those outside down-the-line QB option runs all game. He’s quicker than you think in tight spaces and physical once he gets a head of steam. He eclipsed 100 yards on the ground and completed both of his passes for first downs on critical third-down plays. He was a big time difference-maker in this game. Grade: A

Running back: Senior halfback Aaryn Longenecker was the best player on the field in this one from start to finish. He didn’t have a ton of touches, but in addition to his 83-yard gallop he added another 40-plus yard run. It was a pleasure to watch him patiently wait in space for an opening to emerge before putting his foot in the ground and stepping on the gas. Smooth runner. Fullback Horning is only a junior, gets a ton of carries, is more physical than you think and is not easy to get to the ground. He cleared 100 yards by halftime and is the perfect set-up man for anything outside the tackles. Grade: A+

Wide receivers: They have a wide receiver, but they don’t throw to him much at all. Both completions, big plays, went to the running backs and covered nearly 50 yards total. Grade: B

Offensive line: When you run for nearly 400 yards against a defense that didn’t really have a bad night, that’s a dead giveaway the battle up front was one-sided. The Eagles don’t run the buck sweep very often, but the few times they did Friday night the blocking was executed nearly flawlessly. Physical group as well. Early on they were blowing Colts off the ball. Grade: A

Defensive line: Light load with so few possessions and plays run by the opposing offense. They did create noticeable pressure on obvious pass plays, were very gap responsible in the run game and played a huge role in forcing the Colts’ offense off the field in quick order. Grade: A

Linebackers: They made two big splash plays on blitzes that were good calls by the defensive coordinator and produced a pair of early sacks that ended drives in the first half. In terms of the run game, they were average at best. Second-level runs were what worked more often than not. Grade: B

Secondary: Later in the game they did get beat clean a couple times, and there was a coverage confusion on the one Cliff touchdown. However, when the game was in the balance they did snare an interception to give their greedy offense the ball back. Grade: B

Special teams: Cocalico did not punt. That needs to be noted. I wasn’t very warm and fuzzy about their kickoff coverage. Kicker Todd Becker has a big leg; you could see that on extra points. And though his 22-yard field goal was a duck, the snap and hold looked off but he still managed to get the ball just over the goal post. Grade: B


Quarterback: Tough night for Bennett Secrest. Couple of early, easy sacks where he could do nothing killed drives and stalled the offense. He never really had a chance to impact the game. Plus, he threw an INT that was massively underthrown and lost a key fumble on the opening drive of the second half on fourth-and-2. Killer turnover. Grade: C

Running back: What you expect from Erik Schriver is exactly what you got. He actually ran well in between the tackles but had so few carries it almost was irrelevant how many yards he amassed. I still think he ran well against a defense that was in full attack mode. Grade: B

Wide receivers: You knew Cedar Cliff would have to throw the ball to stay up with the Eagles, and that never happened because this group was, for the most part, left in the garage with their hands tied. Several good grabs late. Had they been afforded the opportunity, this group could have really changed the perspective of this game. Grade: B

Offensive line: I thought overall they blocked OK in a small sample size, but two big plays really did a number on this offense. They were the two missed blitzes where the Cocalico linebacker came through untouched to sack Secrest. That could not happen with so few opportunities. Grade: C

Defensive line: They pushed back after getting knocked off the ball with relative ease early. From the midway point of the second quarter until the halfway point of the third quarter they were very good. Was too late, though. The damage was done. Grade: C+

Linebackers: Inside the tackles they were pretty good on those belly and dive plays led by Blake Secrest and Nathan Lusk. On the edge they were torched on buck sweeps and QB options. Those big chunk plays killed this defense. It was too easy for Cocalico. Grade: B-

Secondary: Easy to say because the other team is almost exclusively running the ball, but when their number was called they were beaten soundly twice for big plays and first downs. And they were not helpful on the edge, either. Rough night overall. Grade: C

Special teams: Kick return game was good. Punting was what they needed it to be, and kickoffs were deep and the coverage was solid. They did their job on this night. Grade: B

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