Shark Fight: Rhinos Find Positives in Loss to Champs
Clayton McNair ran for a Harrisburg Sharks’ season-best 182 yards, finding the end zone twice, as Harrisburg extended its league-best winning streak to 18 games with a 36-0 win at Hanover, despite playing without its starting quarterback or running back.
The Hanover Rhinos’ losing streak has now grown to four games following their victory in week 1.
“I haven’t lost four in a row as a player or coach since middle school,” Rhinos head coach Ben Davis said.”
The Rhinos’ defense put up a strong fight, stopping the Sharks on four drives. They held the AFA’s most-potent offense to its fewest first-half points, 13, since week 3. Jeremy Renoll led the way with 15 tackles (11 solo), the most a Rhinos player has recorded in a single game this year. Richard Settle and Jack Isennock reached career-highs with 12 and 10 tackles respectively.
Isennock reeled in an interception for the second straight week when he cut in front of a Mike DeTemple pass late in the first quarter. He lifted up alongside the sideline and cradled the ball before gracefully toe-tapping both feet and going out of bounds.
“Renoll was telling me before the play to watch in back and make sure no one got behind me,” Isennock said. “I saw the receiver run an out route and I broke right away. I had (the ball) in my hands, and I made sure I got my two feet in.”
The offense totalled 130 yards, its most since amassing 167 yards in week 1 against Franklin County.
“We take one step forward, and then, we fall in the paint bucket and lose 10 yards,” Davis said. “The defense can’t do it all. I love my offense, but we can’t get it going.”
Getting the first crack on offense, the Rhinos picked up a first down on a 6-yard dash to the left by Bernard Jackson.
However, the drive bogged down after a false start penalty. Quarterback Jordan Gardner pooch-punted the ball down inside the Harrisburg 15, but the ball bounced just across the goal line for a touchback.
Harrisburg moved the ball to the Hanover 44, but Renoll stopped McNair on 2nd and 3rd down at the 38.
The Sharks went for it on fourth down, and DeTemple’s short pass to the left was broken up by DeAnte Weldon, who hit the intended receiver Kevin Porter in the mid-back, simultaneously as the ball arrived.
Willie Buie sacked Gardner for a 15-yard loss after he and Anthony Pollard chased the quarterback out of the pocket, rendering the second Hanover drive helpless.
Isennock’s interception gave Hanover the ball at its own 40, but two plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, Gardner’s deep-heave over the middle was intercepted by Jorge Caraballo, who back-pedaled and high-pointed the ball in front of the intended target, Michael Small.
Harrisburg slowly churned toward midfield, and then, McNair broke broke into the open on a 35 yard run. Isennock came up and brought McNair down at the Hanover 18 for his fifth tackle. However, two plays later, James Wilbern, Jr. ran a jet sweep to the right, and broke through Isennock’s arms at the 10 on a 23-yard touchdown run.
Hanover had held the Sharks scoreless for the first 19 minutes of the game.
The teams traded punts, and Hanover took over at its own 25 for its fifth possession of the game.
On first down, Buie crashed around the right and of the line and jolted Gardner to the ground with a clean, high, hard hit for his second sack of the game, giving him 4.5 sacks on the season. Buie moved past Shariff Blake and Derek Lickers for the team lead on the play.
On 3rd-and-17, Harrisburg cornerback Nate Speaks was called for a questionable pass interference call on Michael Small along the Hanover sideline. The penalty resulted in a first down, but the Rhinos failed to convert after two negative running plays dug a 3rd-and-14 hole.
Harrisburg went to the jet sweep again, with Wilbern, Jr. gaining 27 yards this time. Renoll chased the play down at the Hanover 10, racing over from the middle of the field to get a lick on the runner.
Three plays later, fullback Darren Myers bulled across the line for a 1-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good, keeping the score 13-0.
With a little over a minute left in the half, Gardner targeted Jordan Banks down the left side, and Banks leapt up for a 26-yard catch, in front of his defender, to the Hanover 36. Caraballo ended the drive with his second interception, on a Gardner pass that traveled 51 feet in the air.
Harrisburg took control of the game with a 13-play, 90-yard drive that encompassed the first 6:50 of the third quarter.
McNair bashed up the middle for 8 yards on 4th-and-4 at the Hanover 22, and three plays later, he made it 20-0 with his first touchdown, a 3-yarder.
Hanover converted a 3rd-and-9 from its own 36 on the next drive.
Tight end Richard Settle sat down in the middle of the defense, and made his first career reception, gaining 10 yards.
Settle back-tracked and saved a touchdown a few plays later, tackling Speaks at the Hanover 5, after the cornerback picked off Gardner’s pass and weaved through traffic for 51 yards.
It took DeTemple one play to find Buie for a touchdown. DeTemple took the snap and quickly looked left before rifling a pass to Buie, who was inside his defender on a slant. Buie dove and caught the ball comfortably to make it 27-0 with 2:22 left in the third.
Amir Pearson was inserted at quarterback on the next Hanover drive, and he found Banks over the middle for a 13 yard completion on 3rd-and-3.
Hanover was pushed to 4th-and-12, where they ran a fake punt with Banks. Banks raced to the left edge, and was bumped by a defender about 5 yards short of the first down marker. Sensing he was falling out of bounds, he majestically spread his arms and dove forward. He landed out of bounds, two feet short of the first down.
After the ensuing Harrisburg drive failed, Casey Hartzell blasted a high, deep punt, and Howard Holton shot down the field like a lightning bolt to down the punt at the Hanover 7.
Two plays later, Howard cashed in for two points when he tackled Weldon in the end zone, on a completed screen pass, for a safety.
McNair added the final score on a counter up the middle for 30 yards. He held off Isaac Tynes at the 5 with a stiff-arm.
Hanover gained 54 yards on the last drive, most of them coming on a 35-yard hook-up between Jordan Gardner and Alex Isennock. Running straight down the field, Alex Isennock fought back to the ball and caught it on the back shoulder at the Harrisburg 33.
The game ended with the Rhinos lining up at the Harrisburg 14. Hanover still had all three of its timeouts available.