Red Zone Dead-Zone: Rhinos can’t capitalize vs Colts
GLENVILLE, Pa.- All the pieces were lining up for the Hanover Rhinos, and it looked like the pre-game Klinefelter wedding may have brought good fortune for Snacktown’s warriors.
The defense was as dominant as ever. The special teams was dominating the field-position battle. Jordan Gardner threw for 162 yards, a career high.
However, once the Rhinos hit the opponent’s 30-yard line, a magic barrier sprung up, and the Anne Arundel Colts left Pennsylvania with a 16-0 win, despite not scoring an offensive touchdown.
The Rhinos went 0-for-3 in the red zone, but were 0-for-5 on drives reaching the 30. On 16 plays after reaching the magic mark, Hanover lost 26 yards, threw 2 interceptions, and fumbled 3 times.
Even when the play didn’t start inside the 30, misfortune struck as soon as a live ball crossed the threshold.
Amir Pearson was racing in for an uncontested touchdown in the fourth, but lost a fumble at the 1-yard line. The Rhinos were also left standing at the altar for the second straight week, as the game ended while they attempted to get a snap off, while in the red zone.
For the first time since week one, the Rhinos kicked off first. Alex Elliott boomed his longest kickoff of the season, pushing the return-man back to the 8.
Playing his first game as a married man, Cody Klinefelter saved a touchdown when he dragged the returner down at the Hanover 25, after a 67-yard return.
It was the only time Anne Arundel County possessed the ball inside the Hanover 42.
Charles Smith raised up and deflected Keith Smothers’ first pass 20 yards down the field.
A fourth-down toss to the end zone sailed out of bounds to the left, and Hanover took over at the 27.
Called on to punt for the first time all year, Adrian Acevedo (Gettysburg ’10) got about 15 yards of roll to net a 40-yard punt, but a penalty on the Colts brought it back to 4th-and-1, and the Rhinos went for it.
Bernard Jackson raged around the left end of the line and clattered through several tacklers for a 16-yard run, and a first down. However, Colts star Ronald Smith recovered Gardner’s fumble on the next snap, ending the drive.
On the ensuing drive, Jeremy Renoll (South Western ’05) shadowed tight end Darin Jones over the middle, then tipped the incoming pass to himself for an interception, before twirling around and rumbling down the visitor’s sideline, his eyes on the end zone.
Smothers fought off Renoll’s stiff-arm, and chopped him down at the Colts’ 17 after a 40-yard return.
Gardner put the next snap on the ground, though, and Ronald Smith earned his second fumble recovery of the game.
Renoll angled around Jones on the next play, swatting the ball down with both hands, and generating oohs and ahhs from the Rhinos bench, which thought the 29-year old linebacker had his second interception of the game.
Hanover advanced to the Colts’ 30 with Amir Pearson at quarterback on the next drive.
A fumbled snap on one play was followed by a diving interception by Michael Evans at the Anne Arundel 25.
The Colts marched to the Rhinos’ 43, but, on a short 4th-and-8 pass, Jeremy Knaub plastered Chris Smith in the backfield.
On first down, Gardner aired it out and hit tight end Acevedo for a 24-yard gain along the left hash. It was Acevedo’s first catch of the season.
A Colts’ player was called for a strange penalty- a five-yarder for not wearing knee pads. However, that was the last advancement for the Rhinos on that particular drive.
Gardner pooch-punted down to the 8, the ball going over the head of returner Andre Clake. The ball bounced and took a wicked spin back over Clake’s head, and he grasped at it in vain. DeAnte Weldon leapt on the ball for Hanover, and, after some discussion, the officials decided that Clake had indeed touched the ball, and awarded it to Hanover at the Colts’ 11.
Trevon Williams wrestled Gardner to the ground for a 10-yard sack on a play where both men had ahold of eachother’s facemasks. The officials politely declined to throw a flag.
Already in range for an Elliott field goal attempt, Gardner tossed the ball up for grabs on 3rd-and-19, and Michael Evans snagged the interception before being dragged out of bounds.
Anne Arundel County ran out the remaining 1:27 of the first half.
Cris Bull’s first pass deflection of the game forced the Rhinos to punt away the opening possession of the third quarter.
It took the Colts 8 plays to struggle toward midfield, but on the 9th play, Pearson nabbed a leaping interception of Smothers’ pass at the Hanover 43.
With the score still 0-0, Hanover began its most dramatic drive on the golden, sun-drenched field.
Gardner fueled the drive when he rolled right on 3rd-and-6, and hit Michael Small (Gettysburg ’11) for 41 yards and Small’s longest catch of the season to the Colts’ 10.
And so began a tug-of-war between the offense and defense.
Hanover moved backwards, then, earned a first down on a third down holding penalty on Bull.
A negative play and a penalty moved Hanover back, and then, Gardner moved them forward with a desperation heave to Small, who toe-tapped for 9 yards along the home sideline.
Rhinos fans began to gather along the side of the field, urging their team to go in for the ice-breaking score.
Alas, the quarter ended as the drama swelled, and all those fans had to walk down to the other end of the field to get close-up to the action.
When play resumed, Gardner lofted a pass just out of the reach of Dominic Cotterino in the end zone.
It was now fourth down.
Head coach Ben Davis called for the field goal unit to try and break the scoreless deadlock.
Dallas Carter snapped the ball, Gardner reached a little out in front to grab it, and Elliott began his approach to the ball.
As he looked up, a hoard of Colts were bearing in on him after breaching the line standing.
Elliott kicked the ball, and it thudded solidly off one of the rusher’s ankles. Elliott was leveled by the unruly mob as the ball shot 30-yards back, toward midfield.
Mavricus Gross picked the ball up and raced 55 yards for the opening touchdown.
Smothers tossed a short pass to Jones for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
Three plays later, Gardner’s deep heave over the middle was intercepted by Clake, and he made a beeline for the end zone, scooting down the sideline as numerous Rhinos dove at his ankles. He made it safely into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown.
The Colts ran for the two-point conversion, and it was 16-0 with 13:16 left in regulation.
The ball took the circuitous route from Gardner to Pearson for the longest play of the Rhinos’ season.
Gardner tossed it deep down the home sideline, and Bull deflected it back to his left, before it shot off Clake, and into the hands of Pearson.
Pearson ran for the end zone, and stuck the ball out to celebrate inside the 5. The ball squirted loose, and Bull fell on it at the 1 for Anne Arundel.
The Rhinos got one more shot when Travis Garretson and Renoll stuffed Smothers on 4th-and-1 late in the fourth.
However, the game ended with the ball on the Colts’ 15.