Relentless Second-Half Downpour
GLENVILLE, Pa.- It didn’t matter the opponent. It didn’t matter what the weather was going to be like. One day, the Hanover Rhinos were going to break out of their slump.
The Franklin County Tigers happened to be caught in the crossfire.
As the second half began Saturday at Manheim Adventure Park, the Tigers led 12-0. Then, the skies opened up and unleashed a furious, driving, frigid, wind-blown rain on top of the football field.
Snacktown’s warriors, unbowed, followed by unleashing 8-weeks of fury in a 28-point barrage on the way to a 28-12 victory, their first since week 1.
Down, and staring at rows of dark clouds that were dispatching an army of raindrops which would make catching conditions impossible, even for Odell Beckham, Jr., the Rhinos’ offense became the little engine that could.
Head coach Noah Sneeringer turned to an unlikely source of offense- linebacker Richard Settle, and he delivered the hammer-like blow that shook the Rhinos (2-7) free of their chains.
On the first play of the third quarter, Settle took the ball for his 4th carry of the season. Showing all the poise of an experienced runner, he patiently waited for a hole to open up as he followed his blockers to the left side. He sliced back across the field to the right, and slipped through the arms of a defender, before leaping over a low tackle attempt at the Tigers’ 35. Settle found an extra gear, and burst down the right hash and into the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown, snapping the Rhinos’ scoreless streak at 301:59.
On the conversion attempt, Alex Isennock executed a devious fake to Settle, then bootlegged to the right before hitting wide-open Adrian Acevedo for two points.
As the rain intensified, Franklin County (2-7) showed the intention of playing it safe- lining up tight, and running up the middle to kill the clock.
For one play, it worked, as Joshua Honorat burst for 21 yards and a first down. On the very next play, fullback Robert Atkinson ran left, but Dustyn Lauver brushed the ball with his forearm while fighting off a block, and the pigskin popped loose. Dorell Blue jumped on top of the ball, earning his second fumble recovery of the season for Hanover.
Lauver recorded 7 solo tackles and 3 quarterback hurries, and he now leads the team in forced fumbles on the season, with 2.
Hanover nearly gifted the ball right back, as Isennock fumbled a pitch to DeAnte Weldon. Weldon was knocked to his back in the scramble for the ball, but fought off two Tigers defenders to retain possession.
The play was wiped out by an offside penalty on Franklin County, anyway.
Eventually forced to fourth-and-6, Isennock rolled right and tossed the ball to Weldon along the sideline. Weldon urgently turned downfield and stepped past the first down marker before going out of bounds.
On the very next play, Isennock chugged to the right sideline and heaved an arcing ball deep, toward the goal line. A sea of hands extended for the ball, with Acevedo pinning the ball to his chest and cradling it through a big hit by Jeykell Moore.
The Rhinos’ tight end fell to the ground right inside the end zone entrance, and Hanover led 14-12.
The two-point try failed when Daryl Branche separated Jordan Gardner from Isennock’s pass with a big hit.
Now forced to try and score again, the Franklin County offense took to the air. It picked up one first down, on the final play of the third quarter, but gave the ball back to Hanover after Settle and Blue stuffed Branche on a fake punt on 4th-and-10.
Hanover took to the ground, gouging larger and larger chunks with each play, as the Rhinos looked for their first two-possession lead since the closing moments of week 1.
Weldon ran for 5 and Settle for 4, before Settle twisted across the first down marker on 3rd down. The ball came loose as Settle hit the ground, causing the Tigers’ bench to call for a fumble, however, Settle was ruled down before the potential fumble.
Weldon slashed for 10 more yards and a 1st down, and then, he put his dancing shoes on.
Weldon took the stretch play to the left and was met by Moore. Weldon shimmied and faked out Moore so completely, that Moore stopped trying and tossed his hands in the air. This allowed Weldon to easily get the corner, and he raced the narrow path between the remaining defenders and the sideline, looking for paydirt.
The defenders went low, so Weldon extended the ball and executed a scorpion dive for the 20-yard touchdown.
Hanover led 20-12, and needed the two-point conversion to make it a two-possession game with only 7:28 left.
Gardner cooked his defender and stopped at the back line of the end zone, just waiting for Isennock’s fade pass to come down. When it did, he neatly tucked it away for the 22-12 lead.
On the ensuing Tigers possession, Franklin County faced 3rd-and-14. Lauver broke through the line and hurried backup quarterback Matt Wade into an ill-advised pass into the flat.
Jack Isennock was there waiting, and he caught the ill-fated pass in front of his breadbasket before out-racing Wade 34 yards to the end zone, for the first touchdown of his life.
The latest score gave the Rhinos their highest-scoring half since May 10, 2014, against Carroll County, a span of 20 regular season games, and 1 playoff game.
With 3:58 to go in the contest, the Tigers were reduced to chucking the ball into the face of the 20 MPH wind, while praying for a big play.
With about a minute to go, Rhinos players began grabbing any beverage coolers they could find, and dumped them on Sneeringer, who earned his first win as head coach.
Josh Leininger’s 4th-down heave from the Hanover 44 landed harmlessly over KC Redman’s head, and Alex Isennock and the offense took the field to run a play they have not practiced all year: victory formation.
Alex Isennock took the snap and dropped to a knee, and the 7-game losing streak was over.
The big headline entering the day was the meeting of the two players tied for the AFA’s tackle lead.
Franklin County linebacker Doug Kilpatrick barely broke a sweat, as he unofficially recorded just one tackle, before being ejected early in the second quarter, due to earning two unsportsmanlike conduct personal fouls for arguing with the officials.
Jeremy Renoll took full advantage, as he officially racked up 11 stops, giving him 95 tackles on the season, which leads the league.
Franklin County scored on its opening possession, a 10-play, 60 yard drive. The Rhinos’ defense nearly made a goal line stand after Franklin County earned 1st down at the Rhinos’ 1.
A pair of stops by Lauver pushed the Tigers to third down, but Darren Gardner scored a 1-yard touchdown on a sweep to the right.
Isaac Tynes snagged his first interception of the season when he and KC Redman both went to the ground in the second quarter. Tynes fell on top and pinned the ball against Redman’s shoulder.
Gardner made it 12-0 as he weaved through tacklers for a 25-yard scoring run to the left. Leininger’s two-point pass was juggled by Tyler Shuff, and bounced off Matt Wade’s arms while he was on the ground, before falling incomplete.