Cedar Cliff sends Ex­eter to the exit

The Southern Berks News - - SPORTS - By Jeff De­wees

Ex­eter’s foot­ball sea­son washed away Fri­day night in a sea of a fum­bles and Cedar Cliff touch­downs.

The No. 4 seed Colts scored 29 points after the half­time break to pull away from the 13th-seeded Ea­gles, 50-6, in the first round of the District 3 5A play­offs at West Shore Sta­dium, a con­test played in per­sis­tent heavy rain.

Ex­eter’s sea­son ends at 6-5. Cedar Cliff (9-2) ad­vances to host War­wick — 64-0 win­ners over Palmyra — in the D-3 quar­ter­fi­nals next week.

The open­ing kick­off was some­what amus­ingly de­layed 20 min­utes at the start for “too much stand­ing wa­ter on the field” — un­til the of­fi­ci­at­ing crew re­al­ized that was not about to change and it was ei­ther play or go home. So they played. Kick­off fi­nally took place at 7:20 p.m.

Ex­eter was greatly af­fected by the con­di­tions. The Ea­gles fum­bled eight times dur­ing the con­test and lost six, with five of those com­ing in the se­cond half. Trail­ing 21-6 at the break, that stark re­al­ity snuffed any shot at get­ting back into the con­test.

In­deed, the host Colts cashed in on three of those se­cond-half hot pota­toes and used a fourth, in Ex­eter’s end zone, to tack on a late safety. Cedar Cliff fum­bled three times and lost two.

Ex­eter head coach Matt Bauer re­fused to use the mon­soonal con­di­tions as an ex­cuse. After all, both teams had to en­dure the mis­er­able play­ing con­di­tions.

“Def­i­nitely not op­ti­mal con­di­tions but not mak­ing any ex­cuses,” Bauer said. “It was the same for both teams. The dif­fer­ence is they ex­e­cuted and we didn’t. De­fen­sively, I think we played bet­ter. Those 50 points are a bit de­ceiv­ing given how many times we put the ball on the ground.

“I was proud of the way our kids fought. They played hard un­til the end. We didn’t pro­tect the foot­ball.”

Ex­eter quar­ter­back Kolby Haag’s play­mak­ing abil­i­ties were com­pro­mised not only by the weather, but by a rav­en­ous Cliff de­fen­sive line. The Colts sacked Haag four times be­fore a leg in­jury cut short his evening early in the se­cond half.

Be­fore depart­ing, Haag fin­ished 4 of 7 for 91 yards and one touch­down, a 43-yard scor­ing strike to Devon Scott that started as a pass in the flat near mid­field, with Scott turn­ing on the jets down the right side­line for Ex­eter’s only score. That made it a 7-6 game early in the se­cond quar­ter. The con­ver­sion was blocked. It would be, as it turned out, Ex­eter’s only jaunt to the paint.

“Their de­fense had us out of whack,” Bauer said. “We didn’t pro­tect the foot­ball, we fum­bled it away in key sit­u­a­tions and they took ad­van­tage of it. That’s the story of the night.”

Cedar Cliff’s Ja­heim Mor­ris scored three times, but had an odd night tot­ing the foot­ball. At one point dur­ing the first half, Mor­ris had mi­nus-6 net yards on eight car­ries. He fin­ished with 144 on 34 and those three scores, pick­ing steam as is his of­fen­sive line did.

At one junc­ture down the stretch, Mor­ris car­ried the foot­ball on 17 con­sec­u­tive of­fen­sive snaps, spread out over three drives.

Ex­eter’s first lost fum­ble came late in the open­ing quar­ter and set the host Colts up at the Ea­gles 9-yard line. From there, Mor­ris went in from a yard out three snaps later for a 7-0 lead.

After Haag’s hookup with Scott got Ex­eter to within a point, the Colts fired right back three plays later, when Cliff quar­ter­back Chris Dare found Jahiem Reynolds in sin­gle cov­er­age on the out­side. Reynolds made the catch and did the fi­nal 30 yards him­self for a 14-6 lead with 8:21 left in the half.

Cedar Cliff pushed that to 21-6 on its next pos­ses­sion, a nine-play, 82-yard foray that fea­tured Mor­ris on seven of the those snaps. Dare con­nected with back Nick Puig for 31 yards on se­cond down from the Ex­eter 35 for the set-up, which Mor­ris fin­ished off on the next play from four yards out.

Haag went down on Ex­eter’s fifth snap of the se­cond half, dur­ing a seven-yard sack. He clutched at his left leg and de­parted the field with­out putting any weight on it. Haag was re­placed by Colin Payne, who had suc­cess­fully led the Ea­gles to vic­tory at First En­ergy Sta­dium in late Septem­ber dur­ing the Grid­iron Clas­sic se­ries — a date Haag had missed due to a fin­ger in­jury. But Payne did not fig­ure in the out­come, be­ing sacked on his only two pass at­tempts.

Donovon Ball rum­bled in from 49 yards out a lit­tle swing pass from Dare near mid­field on the Colt’s ini­tial se­cond-half pos­ses­sion, a score that made it 27-6 and in ef­fect put the con­test on ice.

Mor­ris scored his third touch­down with four sec­onds to play in the third quar­ter. It capped a quick six-play, 24-yard drive, set up by an Alex Javier fum­ble, to give the hosts a 34-6 ad­van­tage. Mor­ris car­ried the foot­ball on all six plays, in the midst of his 17-snap work­horse streak that helped cinch the ver­dict.

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