Spring-Ford tops Exeter in OT, 33-27
ROYERSFORD » Exeter coach Matt Bauer came into Friday night’s game at Spring-Ford with an aggressive mindset. His Eagles blitzed and played with no deep safeties for much of the game as they took the hosting Rams down to the wire.
But eventually, Bauer’s aggressiveness backfired.
“I should’ve went for the field goal,” the coach admitted minutes after Spring-Ford defeated Exeter, 33-27 in overtime, in a game that couldn’t be settled in just four quarters of football. “I told my kids, we can put this loss on me.”
After Spring-Ford won the overtime coin toss, the Rams elected to play defense, setting up Exeter with four plays to score from just 10 yards out. The Eagles pushed the ball to the 1-yard-line on a pair of runs by Jeremiah Nixon and a pass to Matt Feeney. But instead of taking the chip-shot field goal, Bauer trotted his offense out there on fourth down and Spring-Ford stuffed Nixon to end the possession.
“I certainly agree with his call,” Rams head coach Chad Brubaker said. “They were killing us with the run all night, so it wasn’t a longshot for them to punch it in there.”
Brubaker’s offense won the game three plays later when quarterback Ryan Engro sneaked the ball in from oneyard out for his fifth touchdown of the night.
However, things didn’t start well for the Ram offense, as Spring-Ford was flagged for a false start before their first play from scrimmage and Ryan Engro was sacked on the next snap. Buried in a second-and-19 hole, Engro lofted a ball deep down the sideline to Blaize Scarcelle, who snuck behind the Eagle defense and caught the pass for a 33-yard gain.
From there, the Rams were off to the races. Halfback Stephen Brill ripped off a 23yard run and Engro ended the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Noah Baker for the game’s first score.
“We knew they were going to play a real aggressive style of defense,” Brubaker said. “We couldn’t run the ball when they had all the extra men in the box, so we had to protect our quarterback and hope our receivers could beat their man coverage.”
Spring-Ford had a chance to extend their lead later in the first quarter after an Engro pooch punt pinned the Eagles inside their own 1-yardline. However, after three unsuccessful runs, Exeter’s punt was muffed by the Rams and the Eagles recovered at midfield.
A 14-yard run by Jeremiah Nixon then put the Eagles at the Spring-Ford 32, but three plays later, Exeter was facing a fourth-and-10. However, quarterback Kolby Haag hit Feeney over the middle and a vicious block by Joe Rohrbach sprung the tight end for the tying score.
If there was any doubt their first scoring drive was a result of good fortune, the Eagles took over at their own 1-yard-line again on their next possession and proceeded to march 89 yards on 15 plays to set up a 27-yard, Sean Henry field goal that gave Exeter their first lead of the game.
It took the Rams just two plays to respond as Engro hit Baker on a slant, and the tight end beat the Eagles cover-zero defense, racing to the end zone for a 62-yard score that put the Rams in front, 14-10. Baker finished the night with four catches for 81 yards and three touchdowns.
“Noah is a basketball player,” Brubaker said. “At least in his mind, he is. I think he is a good example of someone who can succeed at multiple sports and help different teams win.”
But once again, Exeter had an answer. The Eagles put together another methodical drive, with the 8-play, 80-yard possession highlighted by a 38-yard pass to Devon Scott and punctuated by a 5-yard fade to Rohrbach for the goahead score and a 17-14 halftime lead.
The Eagles seemed to be on their way to posting a twopossession lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but a botched snap derailed their momentum and led to a missed 43-yard field goal attempt.
Spring-Ford took advantage of the over-eager Eagles defense in the second quarter, racking up 144 passing yards on their two drives, but more importantly, the Rams scored 13 points on passing touchdowns to Baker and Dante Bonanni to take a 27-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles turned the ball over on downs on their next drive, but climbed within one possession when Javier Austin intercepted Engro and returned the ball 10 yards for a touchdown.
Gavin McCusker, who took over for the injured Haag in the third quarter, led the Eagles down the field in the closing minutes in an attempt to even the score. Exeter tied the game at 27 with just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter thanks to a 41-yard field goal by Sean Henry.
“It was hard for our guys in the fourth quarter,” Brubaker said. “We we’re struggling running the ball and controlling the clock against the stacked box. It led to us having to throw the ball in hopes of moving the chains and keeping possession.”
The Spring-Ford offense lived and died by the long ball on Friday night, with Engro finishing the night with 314 passing yards, despite completing only 16 of his 41 attempts. On the flip side, Exeter clawed their way back into the game thanks to a dominant second half by Nixon, who had 176 yards from scrimmage.