At the most crucial time in Friday night’s District 3 Class 2A championship game, Camp Hill quarterback Drew Branstetter owned the moment and guided his Lions to their 11th district title in school history.
The junior was perfect on the game winning drive, marching the Lions 56 yards in six plays — all completed passes — and capped the impressive 81-second march with a 5-yard touchdown toss to Kobe Moore with 1:15 to play.
Branstetter to Moore vaulted the No. 4-seed Lions to a stunning 20-13 victory over No. 2 Trinity and avenged an earlier one-point loss to the Shamrocks during the regular season.
In a game that was dominated by defense, the Lions’ offense had a bit more pop and Branstetter was the difference-maker with three total touchdowns — two passing to go along with a 12-yard run.
Trinity tied the game 13-13 with 2:44 to play after a long and productive ground-focused drive that covered nearly 80 yards ended in Kieran Finegan’s second field goal of the game, this one from 29 yards out.
The Shamrocks scored only one touchdown, and that came on their opening drive when Messiah Mickens waltzed in from the 5-yard line to stake Trinity to an early 7-0 cushion.
That touchdown came with five minutes to play in the first quarter. The next 41 minutes belonged to Camp Hill’s defense. The Lions not only limited Trinity to two field goals the rest of the way, they also came up with two turnovers.
Time to hand out some postseason grades.
CAMP HILL LIONS
Quarterback: It was a grind for Branstetter all game until the final drive. Trinity wasn’t giving him much on the outside, so he was taking the underneath stuff and doing what he could. Without much of a running game, the game was clearly in his hands. On the final drive, every single throw was perfect — it was like he found fifth gear all of a sudden and carved up the T-Rocks’ secondary with ease. We all know it wasn’t that easy. But that shows how ready the junior was for that big moment. And he owned it big time. Grade: A
Running back: So we know the Lions don’t rely much on the running game, and Kobe Moore can usually give them what they need when called upon. He hit a couple edges early for decent runs, but anything and everything inside was out of bounds. He did catch the game-winning touchdown pass and is an option as a receiver. It was tough sledding, though. The other team had something to do with that. Grade: B
Wide receivers: The variety of targets the Lions possess for a roster of 20-ish players is simply staggering. Noah Doi, Alex Long and Marcus Colson are all quality wideouts. They did struggle to get open against sticky coverage most of the game. In that final drive, though, they ran precision routes, and the timing looked like a day at practice. Only one or two drops and a couple of really tough catches. Grade: A-
Offensive line: Hey, the Lions don’t run the ball for a reason. Part of that is they are not built up front to play any kind of power game. And that showed in this one. Nothing new on that front. Pass protection, what they are asked to do and execute well, was above average. Helps to have an elusive QB bail you out every now and then. Straight up they held their own. Run blocking was as expected. Grade: B-
Defensive line: Wore down inside the tackles as the game went on, but that’s not unexpected. Gave up some yards, but it wasn’t easy for Trinity to move the ball on the ground with any consistency. Junior Alex Long was sensational off the edge and even snagged an incredible interception on a quick out — just pure athleticism on display. They were gritty. Grade: A-
Linebackers: Nothing short of spectacular from the Lions’ backers. Not a single big gainer allowed, something they know the T-Rocks thrive on. Tackled physically and well in space all game. Did not allow anything to the outside, either, which was huge in my book. Take a bow, Doi and Moore in particular. That was very well done, lads. Grade: A+
Secondary: They were beat a couple times, but the throw from Trinity wasn’t quite good enough to punish them. I will say, the run-support part of their job was outstanding. Tommy Corbin was up in the box most of the night and was a force all game. His run blitzes were outstanding. And those two blitzes on the final Trinity drive in must-pass situations were not only great calls, but were also well executed. Grade: A-
Special teams: The Lions did give up some serious yards in the return game but also had a spectacular double reverse return on a kickoff that went for 54 yards and set up the opening touchdown. The long missed extra point after a 15-yard penalty was a critical point that hung around for a long time. Grade: B-
Quarterback: Senior Caleb Wray had good stretches and some rough patches. In the end, because of injuries and the deficit, he was asked to do more than the Shamrocks probably wanted. Hit some good step-and-throws after a shaky start. Hit a couple excellent deep throws, too. One deep throw looked perfect and would have gone for a touchdown in the third quarter, but the receiver just missed it. I don’t blame him for the interception, either. That was just a sick play by a DE/OLB. Grade: C+
Running back: From the first quarter of the Wyomissing game in Week 2, Penn State recruit Messiah Mickens has battled a high-ankle sprain and for the most part played through the injury. He’s looked better the last couple games, but he clearly re-injured the ankle early in this one and was hobbled the rest of the game after looking strong on the opening drive. He didn’t carry the ball much the second half and was lined up as a receiver almost exclusively. Junior Christian Joy ran well as the No. 2. He’d be a No. 1 on most teams. I enjoy his vision and cuts in tight spaces. Grade: B
Wide receivers: They lost Tanie Young to an ankle injury early. He tried to come back but eventually lost the battle and was on crutches most of the second half. Cole Cappawana made a couple tough catches. Overall, though, too many drops. Grade: C
Offensive line: They were very good on the opening drive and exceptional on the drive late that led to a field goal. In between they were pretty average and struggled all game with blitzes that put extra pressure on their QB. Overall, they were less than consistent is the best way to describe it. Grade: C
Defensive line: They were put in some bad spots and really made only one big gaffe, on the 12-yard TD run where they lost their way on a QB scramble. More than made up for it by coming through with a big stop on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter at their own 5-yard line that would have sealed the game for the Lions pretty much. Pass rush didn’t get home that often but was consistent and kept the Lions’ QB on the move. Grade: A-
Linebackers: Those crossing routes by the Lions are tricky for linebackers, and they only got beat once — for a touchdown. Otherwise, they were on it. Remember the name Marcus Yeager. He’s only a sophomore and is going to be a good one. Grade: A
Secondary: Until that last drive, the T-Rocks’ secondary was magnificent. But the game is 48 minutes long. Amil Way took away a lot of the outside stuff on his side that the Lions like to run. He was fantastic all game. They were organized and on point until those final six plays. Grade: B+
Special teams: Two field goals that were desperately needed covering 29 and 32 yards was a big plus. Kickoff game was shaky, though, along with the coverage that allowed a big return to set up the first Lions TD. Cappawana was also very, very good in the return game. Set his team up well three times at least. Grade: B+