When the Hanover Rhinos hit the road for Germantown, Maryland, on April 19, 2014, they were unprepared for what awaited them.
As the Rhino caravan pulled up to Ridge Road Recreational Park Field #4, one-by-one the players came to the realize there was no opponent in sight.
“(The Gladiators) apparently didn’t have rights to the field that day, I believe. Therefore, we had to reschedule,” said current Rhinos’ receiver Allen Neiderer.
The game was tacked on at the end of the season, and on 5/17, the 5-2 Rhinos traveled back down to the rec park with a playoff spot already clinched. At stake was the #5 seed in the AFA playoffs, and a first-round date with the Maryland Phantoms, as opposed to the #6 seed and a match-up with the Harrisburg Sharks.
The Rhinos were missing 6 starters as they did battle with the last-place team in the West Division.
“They were a tough out,” former Rhinos safety Caleb Burns said. “They were one of two teams to score on us that year besides the Maryland Phantoms. (Germantown) didn’t have a great record but they played us tough.”
Germantown’s defense held tight through the first quarter, but early in the second quarter, the dam broke.
Quarterback David Sager (South Western ’09) hit Bob Moore with a slant pass in the second quarter that went for a 20-yard touchdown.
“It was a slant across the middle,” then-Rhinos’ head coach Jimmy Moffitt said, “Just behind the LB’s, and in front of the safeties, but they could not catch him, I only remember the speed of the slant-it was perfect timing between him and Sager.”
Then, the special teams had an adventure. First time holder Zac Carrick (Hanover’05) made sure the adventure was anti-climactic, as he placed the ball down perfectly for the successful extra-point kick by Zak Kruger (South Western ’09).
“Yeah, I did it the rest of season, I never did it before, and I don’t know who, but a coach asked ‘who can hold?’, and someone said ‘Wheelz can’, and I just went with it for the team,” Carrick said.
The Rhinos’ defense continued its assault on the quarterback, and the game went into halftime 7-0.
Hanover asserted its will in the passing game in the third quarter.
Neiderer nearly leaped out of his skin to make a three-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter, and Kruger completed his second successful extra point to make it 14-0.
Punter Chris Bowlin later backed the Gladiators up to their own two with a booming punt. Adriel Garibay ran a blitz from the backside outside linebacker position, and toppled the quarterback in the end zone for a safety.
Before the third quarter was over, Carrick hauled in a deep pass from Sager, raced into the dwindling sunlight, and was brought down at the 6. From there, Jeremy Knaub whisked the ball across the goal line on a sweep to the left, and Kruger’s third successful kick made it 23-0.
The fourth quarter started as a show for the Rhinos’ defense, as Chase Scharf picked off a pass and nearly took it the distance before being brought down inside the 5.
The Rhinos were held out of the end zone on a great effort by the Germantown defense.
In the closing minutes, the Rhinos put the reserves in, and Germantown finally broke the shutout on an eventful touchdown pass.
Cody Klinefelter tipped the ball, but it was still caught in the back corner of the end zone for a score.
“He must have had a grip like Spock, because I deflected it while in the endzone, toward the pylon, but he had his feet in, and caught the tipped ball with three fingers,” Klinefelter said of the play.
The Rhinos’ sixth win of the season still stands as the club record.