Going Out With a Bang
STEELTON, Pa.- It wasn’t the storybook ending to a storybook season, but it was the perfect ending to the season the 2016 Hanover Rhinos had.
Despite suffering a 42-8 loss to the defending AFA champions, the Rhinos finished with one moment of glory, and it came from a combination of the retiring defensive captain, and the youngest player on the team.
Harrisburg took possession of the ball with 24 seconds left in the game. Third-string quarterback Dan Ford completed a medium pass to James Wilbern, Jr., along the Hanover sideline.
As members of the Rhinos’ bench shouted for a little respect to be shown by the Sharks, who were up 42-0, Jeremy Renoll raced from the middle of the field, wrapped his arms around Wilbern, Jr. from behind, and slung him toward the ground.
As Wilbern, Jr. was falling, the ball popped loose, and took one bounce into the arms of Hanover’s Jack Isennock at the Rhinos’ 45.
Heeding the screams of the bench, Isennock immediately burst down the sideline. After a slight look for a cutback lane, Isennock lowered his shoulder and ran through a feeble tackle attempt by Ford.
Steady rain drops were the only thing giving the Rhinos’ safety resistance as he burst into the end zone with 9.8 seconds left.
“It was great,” Isennock said. “When Jeremy ripped the ball out, it bounced right into my arms, and I took off. The quarterback tried to get in my way, and I just lowered my shoulder and ran through him. The only thing in my mind was not getting shutout.”
Isennock is the first player in Rhinos history with two defensive touchdowns in the same season.
With Renoll never having scored a defensive touchdown in his semi-pro career, head coach Noah Sneeringer gave the linebacker some points to celebrate on the extra-point try.
The snap was low, but holder Jordan Gardner scooped it up, yelled ‘fire’, and executed the play fake that Sneeringer had used a timeout to design.
Renoll was wide-open in the back right corner of the end zone, and Gardner tossed the ball to him for the final points of the season.
Renoll jogged to the sideline with the ball, and co-owner Chris Bunty awarded him the pigskin after the game.
“It felt pretty good, just to see some of these younger kids grow, mature, and see how much they learned over this year,” Renoll said of the season. “Some of these older guys helped pass some knowledge down. Even though the record doesn’t show it, (this season), is a win to pass knowledge to these younger kids, and have them looking forward to something next year.”
The late score also punctuated what was a great day for Isennock. After entering training camp as one of more than 10 receivers on the roster, Isennock switched to defensive back, and only played receiver sparingly in the first 9 games of the season.
Entering the day with 1 catch for 16 yards, the product of Hereford High School put up 106 yards on 4 catches, setting the Hanover season-high for receiving yards.
His 62-yard catch on a pass from his brother Alex Isennock in the first quarter was the longest play of the Hanover Rhinos’ season.
“It means a lot, especially with Alex at quarterback,” Jack Isennock said. “I want to do my best to make sure he and the team can win. I give 110%. I just ended up being open, and the ball fell into my arms.”
Hanover came out on the first drive of the game in an unconventional formation, with 3 interior lineman between the hashes, and the other two split out wide, but still on the line. However, the Rhinos were called for an illegal formation on the first two plays, and scrapped the idea while going three-and-out.
Howard Holton grabbed Jordan Gardner’s punt, and angled toward the left, before picking up some blocks, and slow-stepped into the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown, 2 minutes and 2 seconds into the game.
Two plays later, Alex Isennock was hit by Shariff Blake, and threw the ball up for grabs, aiming for Jordan Gardner along the left hash. Holton jumped, snagged the ball, and ran a straight line to the end zone for a 29-yard score to make it 14-0.
Harrisburg’s first offensive series was a smashing success.
Kevin Porter and Xavier Garfield slashed right for 11 and 17 yards on successive plays.
Scott Moore put Harrisburg up 21-0 when he took Mike DeTemple’s pass behind the line in the left flat, ran 7 yards, and was tackled across the line by Dorell Blue.
Harrisburg scored for the fourth time in the first quarter on its next drive. Quenton Johnson launched off his right foot, whirled into the air, caught DeTemple’s pass, and toe-tapped in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown, making the score 28-0 on the final play of the first quarter.
The Rhinos’ defense did not allow another touchdown in the game, and Hanover held Harrisburg scoreless for the next 36:50 of game time.
Jack Isennock’s long reception came on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter.
On 2nd-and-10, a 7-yard screen pass to Richard Settle moved the ball to the Harrisburg 11.
However, two snaps later, on 4th down, Alex Isennock’s back-foot pass under pressure was trapped by a diving Settle at the 8, giving the ball back to the Sharks.
Jack Isennock nearly came up with a diving interception on an extraordinary effort on the next drive. DeTemple’s pass for Porter was high, and tipped into the air by the Sharks’ receiver, and Isennock lurched from way behind the play to get his hands on the ball, but it fell incomplete when Jack Isennock hit the ground.
Charles Walls’ quarterback hurry on 3rd-and-20 forced an incompletion, and the Sharks punted.
Alex Isennock hooked up with Jack Isennock on a 24-yard completion as the Rhinos moved the ball with less than two minutes in the half.
Two incompletions and a 4-yard loss, on a pass to Lloyd Welford, pushed the Rhinos to 4th-and-14 near midfield, and they let the clock run out on the first half.
On the first series of the third quarter, Jordan Gardner earned his first sack of the season, when he burst through the middle of the line, chased down DeTemple, grabbed the quarterback’s shoulder, and yanked him down for a 10-yard loss.
Harrisburg lined up on 4th-and-25 from midfield, with DeTemple deep in the backfield, presumably to punt. However, when he took the snap, he dropped back and fired the ball deep to the left, toward Porter. Porter wrapped both hands around the ball as it floated over his shoulder, but Hanover’s Isaac Tynes knocked the ball loose for an incompletion as they fell to the ground.
Harrisburg’s next completion was nearly ended by a Dallas Carter interception at the Hanover 10. However, Carter juggled the ball up into the air, and Johnson caught it for a first down at the Rhinos’ 3.
The Rhinos stiffened and threw Alexander Langhans for a pair of 3-yard losses. Tynes and Alex Isennock deflected away the next two passing attempts to complete the goal line stand.
Jorge Caraballo and Kevin Fritschy added the final two touchdowns for Harrisburg, the former on an interception, and the latter off of a blocked punt by Derek Lickers.
Hanover moved onto the Harrisburg side of midfield in the closing minutes when Jack Isennock caught a 19-yard pass from Alex Isennock on 3rd-and-9.
The drive ended when Alex Isennock fumbled the snap at the Harrisburg 32, and Shakur Hamn-Brown recoverd for the Sharks, setting up the late-game heroics.