The Big One is only a few days away. Take a look back at the most memorable meeting between Hanover and York on Throwback Tuesdays.
The Hanover Rhinos fell victim to some penalties and two big plays in their season-opening loss to Franklin County. Read the game recap here.
The Rhinos get ready to open the season with revenge on their minds vs. the Franklin County Tigers. Read the game preview here.
That’s what Phoenix Russell remembers about the violent hit that gave him his first-ever concussion last June.
It was June 3rd, 2017, a typical late-spring warm day as the calendar was stretching toward summer.
It was the final game of the the season, and the Hanover Rhinos were embroiled in a bitter winner-take-all showdown for the final AFA playoff spot with the Franklin County Tigers.
Fans lined the the edges of the sidelines at Manheim Adventure Park with lawn chairs and tents. Among them was Russell’s girlfriend, Rachel Dutterer.
With the Rhinos facing 3rd-and-4 from their own 43-yard line in the first quarter, the Rhinos’ offense huddled before the play. Quarterback Jake Orner asked Russell if he wanted the ball, and Russell said yes.
Orner took the snap, turned and handed the ball to Russell, playing running back, a position he’s played since his youth football days as a 10-year old on the Bermudian Springs Grey team.
Russell drifted slightly to the right, then headed right up the middle for the a-gap. He stuck out his left arm and fought off contact from two Franklin County defenders, and bounced to the outside of the line on the right side.
Cornerback Brian Miller shot up and filled the hole. He lowered his head and hit Russell in the facemask with the crown of his helmet.
“I was looking back inside to see if anyone was coming towards me, then…nothing,” Russell flips through the images of the incident in his mind like Polaroids in an old album.
Pages are missing in Russell’s mental album, however.
“I briefly remember laying on the ground, frozen with my arms in the air, but only like one second. After that nothing,” he recalls.
The force of the blow knocked Russell’s helmet off.
From the spectator area nearby, Dutterer saw the helmet go flying.
Initially, she didn’t know it belonged to her boyfriend.
As the players on both teams cleared away, she got a clear look at who was injured.
“It was instant panic,” Dutterer said.
Rhinos owner Chris Bunty was taking pictures of the game and was one of the first to respond to Russell when he was laying on the field.
Bunty has first-aid certification and takes the USA Football Concussion Awareness Certification Course every year.
“The pro level has medical staff on the sidelines at all times,” Bunty says. “The semi-pro level doesn’t always have medical staff available. We will have an EMT or a person with first aid on our staff to quickly help our players if need be.”
Also on hand were registered nurse Phyllis Harden and Bunty’s wife Amy, a team-mom of sorts with first aid training.
There were plenty of times this off-season where he didn’t feel like himself.
Revenge Tour ’18 Gets Real
Revenge is a dish best served on the field.
Well, it’s almost time for the Hanover Rhinos to take the field for the first gig of Revenge Tour ’18.
The Rhinos have 53 players in the band as they head into the first game this Saturday. Twenty-two of them return after playing for the Rhinos last season.
Gone is the “Darkside Defense”, the swagger-filled Rhinos’ defense that named itself in training camp before last season, and gone is its leader, Brandon Nicastro, who was dubbed ‘Vader’.
In an effort to replace Nicastro’s team-leading 7 sacks from 2017, the Rhinos have signed the Sack Master, Bryan Hammond, from the Maryland Cannons.
A handful of Hammond’s teammates from the now-defunct Cannons also followed him to the Rhinos for the 2018 season.
Safety/corner hybrid T.J. McCauley, a 10-year veteran from the Cannons will form the brain of the defense along with David Harden, who is transitioning from outside linebacker to safety.
Harden, the Rhinos’ 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, is the team’s best perimeter tackler and rarely finds himself in the wrong spot defensively.
Linebackers Kenrith Vieux, Marcus Sparger, and Jeremy “Bear” Bernardi are among the former Cannons who have carved out significant roles with the defense. Bernardi has stood out in particular, and not just because of his team-high 12 tackles in the Rhinos’ only preseason game this year.
“(Bernardi is) a fierce linebacker that fits our defense like a glove,” Rhinos head coach Noah Sneeringer said.
Leading the charge in the linebacking corps for a third straight year is super-quick former McDaniel ‘backer Richard Settle.
Also returning on defense are cornerback Charles Smith and Linebacker Dorell Blue, who have a decade of experience with the team between them.
Complete with a robust beard that strikes fear into the heart of opponents, defensive end Matt Reid is back with the Rhinos after a cup of coffee with the team in the winter of 2014. He figures to be a reliable source of pass rush pressure and run-stopping grit all year long.
Former Cannon Andrew Geddie provides excellent depth in the secondary, and can be the backup quarterback if needed.
Speaking of the offense, Corbin Bailey will be the starting quarterback after winning the preseason battle with the now departed Takeem Carter and Jake Orner.
Bailey, who joined the Cannons in 2016 by way of the Arbutus Big Red, is a multi-dimensional threat who has great foot-speed. His teammates on the Cannons called him ‘Geno’ because his playstyle resembles that of NFL quarterback Geno Smith.
2017 AFA All-Star Brian Eckard will reprise his familiar role of snapping the ball to Bailey, but Silas Hall and Bryant Warren are also in the mix to snap if Eckard has to be moved to tackle.
Returning to tackle this year is the indomitable Dustyn Lauver. He is quiet by nature, but is easily the most influential voice on the team. Lauver won the Rhinos’ 2017 team MVP award after moving from tackle to center for the second half of last season. The Rhinos hope his return to center will give the line more teeth with its best player returning to his best position.
Melvin Velines is the Rhinos’ speed-burning receiver on offense, but Raydel Ragland, a diminutive slotback, has the most moves, and keeps track of ‘how many ankles he collects’ by juking defenders at practice.
3/24/18 vs. York Silver Bullets
The home opener comes in week two this season and it’s a real dandy, as the York County Blood Feud reignites for the first of two meetings. The Rhinos have lost four straight in the series, so they will be hungrier than usual to stop the bleeding in this early season measuring stick game. If you can get a ticket to this one, do it, and check a box on your sports bucket list.
4/28/18 @ Maryland Phantoms
The heavily-loaded back-stretch of the season gets started with this week 7 trip to Baltimore city. It’s a night game vs. the defending Northern Conference Champions, what more could you want?
5/12/18 vs. Franklin County Tigers
With the folding of the Maryland Cannons, the Rhinos are left with a spot to fill in the secondary rivalry column. The Tigers were never really viewed as a rival by the Rhinos until Franklin County earned their first ever win in the series last year. Now, the Rhinos feel as intensely about this game as the Tigers do.
5/19/18 @ York Silver Bullets
THE BIG ONE sees its first night contest since 2013, a 16-13 home win by the York Silver Bullets. The lights are sure to bring out an extra-special element in the York County Blood Feud, and with this game occurring in the second-to-last week of the season, it could mean everything to one or both of the teams.
Games Coached (16, Jimmy Moffitt)- Everyone wants to move on and forget the Jimmy Moffitt era completely. The first step to that will be erasing his team coaching records. Noah Sneeringer is 5 games away from breaking the record for games at the helm. He’s on pace to surpass Moffitt’s milestone on 4/21/18 at home vs. the Central Maryland Bills.
Coaching Wins (10, Jimmy Moffitt)- Moffitt complied this mark while guiding the Rhinos to the only two winning seasons in team history (’13-’14). This will have to be the third one as Sneeringer sits 7 wins shy of breaking this mark.
Career Receptions (27, Allen Neiderer)- This one ends up on the record watch list every year and no one has broken it yet. This year, however, the chaser is the closest to Neiderer’s record as ever. DeAnte Weldon has 19 career catches coming into 2018. With the all-purpose playmaker shifting almost primarily to his self-proclaimed natural position, wide receiver, it seems likely this record will fall.
Career All-Purpose Yards (992, Jay Collins)- Weldon is chasing this record as well. He currently sits third in team history with 864 all-purpose yards, which means he needs 129 yards to pass Collins’ mark. Weldon often returns kicks and punts as well, so if he plays all 10 games, this record will be a piece of cake.
Career Deflections (13, Lakeith Parker)- Parker, who also holds the single-season deflection record with all 13 of them occurring in 2015, is still active and moving back to the defensive side of the ball after two years on offense. However, He’s got Smith, the Rhinos’ ultimate shutdown corner, lurking with 11 career deflections. Welford comes into the season with 9 career deflections.
When the Carroll County Cannons folded this fall, the Rhinos inherited some excellent players and vibrant personalities from their former rivals. One of them is a 2017 AFA All-Star center. He is featured on this edition of Rhino Bites.
#1. What did the experience of making the AFA All-Star game last year mean to you?
BE: It was a big accomplishment for me. It was only my second year starting, and I played every offensive snap at center across the last two seasons. I’m just glad I was able to make to the All-Star Game during the last year of the Cannons, although it was a disappointing season for us.
#2. What did it mean to you to represent the Carroll County Cannons for as many years as you did?
BE: I played for them for four years. They’re the only team I wanted to play for. I was in the group of people who tried to keep the Cannons going, if that says anything.
#3. You’ll be facing some of your former Cannons’ teammates in your first game as a Rhino, which is against Franklin County in one week (Saturday 3/17, 12:25 PM on Rhino Charge TV and the George Marinos Facebook Channel). What are your thoughts on this?
BE: It’s going to be a battle. I’m sure if there’s any Cannons’ lineman on the Tigers’ team, they will try to line up over me, just like the last scrimmage.
#4. You’re switching to tackle this year on offense. What has that transition been like this training camp?
BE: It’s a lot different out there. Feels like you’re on an island and the defensive ends have a lot more moves than defensive/nose tackles. A lot more speed, too, so it’s been a little rough at times, but it helps that I’m a lot faster this year, so I’m getting there.
#5. What’s it been like being adopted into the Rhino family this off-season?
BE: It’s been a smooth transition into the Rhino family. Had to go well, I guess. Brought a decent-sized group of Cannons to the Rhinos.
It’s a little over a week until the Hanover Rhinos open their season at Waynesboro High School against the Franklin County Tigers. In the meantime, keep looking for new editions of Rhino Bites, only on Rhino Charge, the Official Blog of the Hanover Rhinos.
With the Hanover Rhinos’ regular season set to begin this month, we will be previewing the Rhinos’ season outlook, giving you key players to watch in 2018, and looking at team records that are within reach. We’re also bringing you a very special feature story on Rhinos’ linebacker Phoenix Russell, who dealt with his own personal struggles this off-season after suffering an injury last year.
Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.