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Thursday, July 18, 2024

High School Football: Making the Grade- Cedar Cliff 27, Mechanicsburg 9

Slowly but surely Thursday night Cedar Cliff sucked the life out of a mistake-prone Mechanicsburg squad that fell short on the execution level the Colts demanded.

Led by a ground game that churned out 240 yards on 56 totes, Cedar Cliff improved to 2-0 and kept the Wildcats winless with a 27-9 victory at West Shore Stadium.

Two long and methodical touchdown drives by the Colts, that combined chewed up nearly 17 minutes of game clock, were the difference in a game where Mechanicsburg had similar opportunities but failed to cash in.

Twice, once in each half, the Wildcats had first-and-goal from inside the Cedar Cliff 10-yard line and came away with only three points.

Workhorse Erik Schriver accounted for 124 of those 240 yards on the ground for the Colts on 28 carries. He also kicked in with a touchdown to go along with a pair of short TD blasts by QB Bennett Secrest.

Cedar Cliff’s defense stole the show in this one, producing two turnovers, standing tall in the red zone twice and limiting the Wildcats to fewer than 200 total yards.

Time to hand out some grades.


Quarterback: Junior Eli Reider came down to earth a bit in his second start after throwing for 300-plus yards in the opener. He threw two first-half interceptions and had two other picks that were clear drops by the Colts. He’s fine if the first option is open, but at the same time he also stares that primary target down and lets it fly. It was clear the passing playbook is still a work in progress. Only 47 passing yards. Grade: C-

Running back: Isaac Dollman is a capable back who runs tougher than his size. And he’s really fast. Needs to learn to loop a little less on those outside runs despite having all that speed. Cost his squad 8 yards running to the edge on a first-and-goal play from the 1-yard line. His cuts in the hole inside the tackles are something the Wildcats need to lean on a little more. His 5.7 yards per carry was well earned. Grade: B-

Wide receivers: The best weapon for the Wildcats is junior wideout Josh Smith. He does a little bit of everything, plays defensive back, punts and returns kicks. He needs more of the ball. Only two catches in the first half when Mechanicsburg went down 14-0. Overall, he finished with five catches and 49 yards. More targets are needed because he’s a playmaker. Mechanicsburg had only one other completion to a wideout, too. Grade: C

Offensive line: When given more chances in the second half to straight up run block on the inside, this group produced its best work of the evening. Clearly struggled to hold the edges down against a defense that was swarming to make sure the outside wasn’t open. Size isn’t their ally, and there were at least a half dozen clearly missed assignments that blew plays up. Grade: C-

Defensive line: Battling uphill all night because of the distinct and clear size disadvantage they faced, they simply wore down as the game grinded along. Sophomore Collin Stare was consistent all game and made two splash plays that stood out. They didn’t get pushed around and made the Colts earn their stripes. Grade: C+

Linebackers: Drew Freeland is only a sophomore and had no problem doing his job consistently. He reads the game quicker than his age and got off blockers to stuff a couple runs in tight space. OLB Dominick Baker didn’t let anything get around his edge and made several standout plays in space. This group has real potential. Grade: B-

Secondary: I’m going to call this group slightly underrated. Surrendered only one explosive play through the air and didn’t miss any coverage assignment in limited duty against an offense that slowly went from balanced to focusing on the ground game. Grade: B

Special teams: That missed 24-yard field goal was a body blow in the first half, especially after having first-and-goal at the 1. Loved the fake punt call, and Smith made something out of nothing. He also had an electric punt return. Coverage teams did their job, but that squib kick didn’t make any sense. Grade: C+


Quarterback: Bennett Secrest has a gunslinger arm as a dual-threat, with his greatest asset being his running ability. Completed 9 of 14 passes and added 35 rushing yards. Made one nice deep out throw from the pocket. I saw a QB who can flat out cut loose with the ball on the move. I’d get him outside the pocket more and let him cut it loose. A few of the easy throws did not look so easy. Grade: B

Running back: Sneaky good and efficient is the best way to describe Erik Schriver. He took the majority of the carries but didn’t have those big runs that make you think he’s easily over 100 yards until you look down at the stat sheet and realize he has. Tyrail Hills didn’t show up until the fourth quarter when the Colts had the game in hand, but he chipped in 74 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown, ran with a purpose and didn’t go down on first contact. He needs more meaningful carries early. Grade: A-

Wide receivers: The combo of Nathan Lusk and Taeon Abraham is up to the task if called for heavy duty. That was pretty clear. Lusk only had four catches and Abraham was shut out on a night when the ground game stole the show. But you can tell there’s horsepower on the outside for a QB who is still getting his feet wet. Grade: B

Offensive line: At times in the first half it was a struggle for this group as the speed and athleticism of the undersized Wildcats kept showing up. But as the game wore on this group slowly and methodically took over in the trenches and leaned heavily on those pesky smaller dudes across from them. Grade: B

Defensive line: So here’s the mixed bag. They made several glaring mistakes and were burned but also made four or five splash plays at the right time behind the line of scrimmage. Acceptable because the result matters, but something tells me these lads have more in the tank. Grade: B-

Linebackers: So Blake Secrest is only a freshman and he already plays linebacker at this level like that? Yeah, the interception was nice, but he was around the ball all night. Remember his name. Senior Michael Jones was also a force, but that dropped INT will not be something he enjoys when going back over the film. Key is they played well straight up and maybe even better sideline to sideline closing down space. Grade: A-

Secondary: Nice read and interception by Lusk early to set a tone that the Colts knew where the ball was going. Provided run support on the edges, where Mechanicsburg wanted to play. And the tackling in space by this group was simply outstanding. Held a QB who threw for 300-plus yards last week to 47 passing yards. Yep, that works. Grade: A

Special teams: All I know is I’m not sure I remember extra points landing near the concession stand at the scoreboard end at West Shore Stadium. But Carter Enders has a really strong leg. The Colts’ coverage teams did not have a good night, and that fake punt big run was the result of poor tackling in space for sure. Kicking was solid, everything else needs more work. Grade: C+

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