Eagles blank Indians, clinch playoff spot
Special to the Whig
— Bo Manor traveled to North East Friday night looking for their sixth win and a spot in the 1A playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
The Eagles, led by a strong effort from their defense, will have the chance to lock up a home playoff game and the No. 2 seed in the 1A East Region with a win next week, following a 43-0 shutout of the Indians in Susquehanna Division football action.
“This [win] basically clinches one of the four playoff spots for us, which is great going five years in a row,” Bo Manor coach Joe Graf said of the victory. “As I’ve said all year, getting to the playoffs wasn’t our goal, we want to host a playoff game for the first time since 2010 and that was the mindset going in.”
Junior playmaker Johnny Knight echoed his statement.
“[The win was] huge, locked us in,” added knight, who finished the game with five carries for 69 yards, an 81-yard touchdown catch, a 57yard pass and an interception. “Big relief off of our chests. That was our
goal tonight and we executed it.”
Bo Manor (6-3 overall, 4-2 division) struck quickly in the first half as junior running back Bobby McLennan followed up a North East fumble with a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Eagles up 7-0. He found the end zone again two possessions later on another 5-yard carry that put the Eagles ahead 14-0.
Bo Manor capped the first half with a 28-yard field goal off the leg of sophomore kicker Nick Burns after the Eagles defense forced two takeaways, two punts and a botched field goal attempt.
“The defense played out of their minds,” Graf said. “In the second half we bent a little bit. They got down into the red zone a couple times, but we never broke. They [the defense] came together a couple of times and got stops, which is huge because it can change momentum in a high school football game.”
The Indians (0-9, 0-6), in front of a great senior night crowd, hung around in the first half, but Bo Manor leaned on Knight to pull away in the second half.
“He’s slash, if you remember the old Steelers days [Kordell “Slash” Stewart],” Graf said of his do-it-all junior. “He’s that wideout, he’s the quarterback, he’s the running back. I mean he does it all.”
Already making his mark on the defensive side of the ball with an interception in the first quarter, Knight hauled in a pass from quarterback Ryan Connolley to start the third quarter and ran untouched for an 81-yard touchdown giving Bo Manor a 24-0 lead.
“Defense is everything, defense wins games,” Knight said of his versatility. “[ I ] try to fly around every play and make plays. Wherever I need to be to help the team, that’s what I’m down for.”
The Eagles would take advantage of another defensive stand after holding North East on the 5-yard line following a 75-yard drive. Two rushing plays and two Indians personal foul penalties later, Connolley found wide receiver Cameron Garcia on a 25-yard passing touchdown to raise the lead to 31-0.
The Eagles would keep spreading the offensive wealth around late in the second half as they would pull ahead 43-0 behind a 5-yard touchdown run by Devin Gatewood and a 20-yard touchdown run by Frank Baglio as time expired.
“It’s excellent,” Graf said of his offensive output. “It’s hard for a team to key on someone for us. If you want to spy Bobby, we have other weapons around [him]. We aren’t scared to throw the ball around if we have to, but we want to establish the run. We have athletes and they work hard each and every day, but it all starts with the offensive line they are the leaders of our team.”
The Indians program, led by junior quarterback Chase Hollister, along with running backs Jalen Giles and Taylor Danglade, have a lot of promise and will look to build on games against playoff caliber opponents.
“I have good kids,” first year North East coach Chris Schleich said. “They have good hearts and I’m proud of them. We’re a young football program and only start two or three seniors. We do things well at times, and then we do things real bad at times. If we can help these kids mature and become consistently good, we can become a force for people to reckon with and that could happen next year. We weren’t putting the focus on winning or losing this year. We understood that if we lose, we lose. [At] the end of the game, you can see we gave up a couple of touchdowns.”
North East made an effort to have all the players who will graduate in the spring enter the game.
“I played all eight of my seniors and six of them rarely play, but it was their time and their opportunity [on senior night],” Schleich said. “We’re staying to our principles at this place and we’re learning to grow as coaches. We have new systems, coaches and community events top-to-bottom and we just need some time. We need a good offseason”