YORK WEEK

bostian

Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.

The Big One is only a few days away. Take a look back at the most memorable meeting between Hanover and York on Throwback Tuesdays.

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Tiger Bait

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Photo Credit- Imani Quick.

The Hanover Rhinos fell victim to some penalties and two big plays in their season-opening loss to Franklin County. Read the game recap here.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

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Hanover Rhinos players David Harden (13) and Phoenix Russell (18) kneel in remembrance of late Susquehanna Valley Knights’ player Carlos Anderson at Manheim Adventure Park on 4/29/17. Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.

Nothing.

That’s what Phoenix Russell remembers about the violent hit that gave him his first-ever concussion last June.

It was June 3rd, 2017, a typical late-spring warm day as the calendar was stretching toward summer.

It was the final game of the the season, and the Hanover Rhinos were embroiled in a bitter winner-take-all showdown for the final AFA playoff spot with the Franklin County Tigers.

Fans lined the the edges of the sidelines at Manheim Adventure Park with lawn chairs and tents. Among them was Russell’s girlfriend, Rachel Dutterer.

With the Rhinos facing 3rd-and-4 from their own 43-yard line in the first quarter, the Rhinos’ offense huddled before the play. Quarterback Jake Orner asked Russell if he wanted the ball, and Russell said yes.

Orner took the snap, turned and handed the ball to Russell, playing running back, a position he’s played since his youth football days as a 10-year old on the Bermudian Springs Grey team.

Russell drifted slightly to the right, then headed right up the middle for the a-gap. He stuck out his left arm and fought off contact from two Franklin County defenders, and bounced to the outside of the line on the right side.

Cornerback Brian Miller shot up and filled the hole. He lowered his head and hit Russell in the facemask with the crown of his helmet.

“I was looking back inside to see if anyone was coming towards me, then…nothing,” Russell flips through the images of the incident in his mind like Polaroids in an old album.

Pages are missing in Russell’s mental album, however.

“I briefly remember laying on the ground, frozen with my arms in the air, but only like one second. After that nothing,” he recalls.

The force of the blow knocked Russell’s helmet off.

From the spectator area nearby, Dutterer saw the helmet go flying.

Initially, she didn’t know it belonged to her boyfriend.

As the players on both teams cleared away, she got a clear look at who was injured.

“It was instant panic,” Dutterer said.

Rhinos owner Chris Bunty was taking pictures of the game and was one of the first to respond to Russell when he was laying on the field.

Bunty has first-aid certification and takes the USA Football Concussion Awareness Certification Course every year.

“The pro level has medical staff on the sidelines at all times,” Bunty says. “The semi-pro level doesn’t always have medical staff available. We will have an EMT or a person with first aid on our staff to quickly help our players if need be.”

Also on hand were registered nurse Phyllis Harden and Bunty’s wife Amy, a team-mom of sorts with first aid training.

Russell walked over to the sideline under his own power to the cheers and applause of the fans and his teammates.
However, the faces of those teammates turned to concern after they spent a few minutes with Russell on the sidelines.
“When I saw him get up, I was so relieved,” Dutterer said, “But that relief turned into panic again when I spoke with him a couple minutes later and he couldn’t remember what had just happened.”
“The first few minutes after coming to the sidelines, I wanted to get him to the hospital for evaluation,” Bunty said.
Russell kept asking people questions, like what had happened, why he wasn’t in the game, and when he could go back in the game. He also volunteered to hold one of the first-down marker sticks on the sideline.
When it became apparent to teammates and staff that something wasn’t quite right with Russell, Dutterer was summoned, and the decision was made to take Russell to the hospital.
“I was freaking out,” Dutterer said. “Everyone was trying to talk him into going to the hospital, and he just didn’t want to listen. I was just worried that it could cause permanent damage.”
In the car on the way over, Russell kept asking Dutterer where they were going and why he wasn’t playing in the game anymore.
At the hospital, Russell regained the ability to remember things.
But still nothing when it came to the hit and up to 10 minutes afterward.
After four hours, and a visit by his mother, Brenna, and his sister Breela, Russell was released and Dutterer drove him home.
But Russell wasn’t out of the woods yet.
A myriad of symptoms kept him home from work for two days. When he did return on Wednesday, he only worked half-days for the rest of the week.
A sore chest kept him bed-ridden, and and headaches and dizziness caused by lights kept him in the dark for a few days.
“It definitely took a toll on his body, mentally and physically,” Dutterer said.
The thought of even playing football again didn’t seem like a reality to Russell.
“After not remembering anything, I honestly felt (playing again) wasn’t in my best interest,” he said.
Still, as the summer wore on, Russell and his best friend from high school, Rhinos tackle Dustyn Lauver began to kick around the idea of testing things out again.
“Dustyn and I wanted to see if I was better after my concussion, if I could still play” Russell said.
Lauver had already received an invite from the Central Penn Piranha, a Harrisburg-based team that is considered the winningest team in minor league football history.
“I heard the Piranha was kind of (the next level of minor league football) and I heard a bunch of D-1 players were going, so I wanted to see if I could hang with them,” Russell said.
Lauver brought Russell along to practice, and on July 15th, just 42 days after suffering his first-ever concussion, Russell suited up and took the field for the Piranha.
“We were both really excited to see more competition outside of Pennsylvania,” Lauver said. “It was a really great experience for both of us and definitely made us better players.”
Still, the season was kind-of a disaster.
The Piranha lost for the first time in 4 years, and eventually folded before the season ended. Russell played in just 4 games before leaving the team.
His stint did very little to assure Russell that he could or should still play.
“Yes and no,” he said. “I never really had helmet-to-helmet contact with anyone. So I was still nervous.”
So nervous, that he seriously considered giving up the game for good.

There were plenty of times this off-season where he didn’t feel like himself.

“Football used to be everything to me,” Russell said. “I used to still think I can be in the (NFL) someday, I used to strive to be on the field, whether it was practice or a game or just throwing around. But then I didn’t really wanna do it anymore.”
Fear defined his daydreams of football. The field that was once his sanctuary had become one of the most uncomfortable things that occupied his mind.
“It was very difficult for me. I didn’t wanna work out, was debating not playing anymore. Thought about coaching. I was scared,” Russell said.
“I feared getting hit again. Never being able to play again.”
Some time early in the fall, Russell sat down and had a serious discussion with Dutterer about what he wanted to do and what the consequences could be.
“We talked about whether or not to play again. How if I have kids if I’ll be ok if I have another injury like that. If the long term affects are worth it,” Russell stated.
Russell, who turns 21 this May, came to one conclusion.
“If I don’t play now, it’s just gonna get harder and harder to come back the further away from playing gets. ‘Cause what if I get married and have kids? Or have some kind of freak injury? I need to play as long as I can while I still can or I will regret it,” Russell remembers.
One thing he still doesn’t remember is the hit that turned his life upside-down.
Through talking to his friends and watching video of the game, Russell has been able to piece together what happened.
He still has side-effects. He gets headaches out of the blue, and lights often make his head dizzy.
But having some idea of what happened that day has really helped.
It’s offered motivation,” Russell says, “And at the same time, it’s a reminder of how quick things can end or change.”
Russell has decided that he will continue to play for the Rhinos this spring. His service in the Army National Guard will keep him out of the first game, but on March 24, 2017, his story will come full circle.
He plans to take the field that day against the York Silver Bullets at Manheim Adventure Park, the same field where he suffered the injury last spring.
“Honestly not sure if (the itch to play) is back,” Russell says. “I haven’t gotten any real playing time in…I’m gonna have to wait and see if it’s there.”
Even if he’s not sure that this story will have a happy outcome, he’s doing the only thing he can do- fighting like hell for what he believes in.

 

Hanover Rhinos 2018 Season Preview

Revenge Tour ’18 Gets Real

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Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.

Revenge is a dish best served on the field.

Well, it’s almost time for the Hanover Rhinos to take the field for the first gig of Revenge Tour ’18.

The Rhinos have 53 players in the band as they head into the first game this Saturday. Twenty-two of them return after playing for the Rhinos last season.

Gone is the “Darkside Defense”, the swagger-filled Rhinos’ defense that named itself in training camp before last season, and gone is its leader, Brandon Nicastro, who was dubbed ‘Vader’.

In an effort to replace Nicastro’s team-leading 7 sacks from 2017, the Rhinos have signed the Sack Master, Bryan Hammond, from the Maryland Cannons.

A handful of Hammond’s teammates from the now-defunct Cannons also followed him to the Rhinos for the 2018 season.

Safety/corner hybrid T.J. McCauley, a 10-year veteran from the Cannons will form the brain of the defense along with David Harden, who is transitioning from outside linebacker to safety.

Harden, the Rhinos’ 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, is the team’s best perimeter tackler and rarely finds himself in the wrong spot defensively.

Linebackers Kenrith Vieux, Marcus Sparger, and Jeremy “Bear” Bernardi are among the former Cannons who have carved out significant roles with the defense. Bernardi has stood out in particular, and not just because of his team-high 12 tackles in the Rhinos’ only preseason game this year.

“(Bernardi is) a fierce linebacker that fits our defense like a glove,” Rhinos head coach Noah Sneeringer said.

Leading the charge in the linebacking corps for a third straight year is super-quick former McDaniel ‘backer Richard Settle.

Also returning on defense are cornerback Charles Smith and Linebacker Dorell Blue, who have a decade of experience with the team between them.

Complete with a robust beard that strikes fear into the heart of opponents, defensive end Matt Reid is back with the Rhinos after a cup of coffee with the team in the winter of 2014. He figures to be a reliable source of pass rush pressure and run-stopping grit all year long.

Former Cannon Andrew Geddie provides excellent depth in the secondary, and can be the backup quarterback if needed.

Speaking of the offense, Corbin Bailey will be the starting quarterback after winning the preseason battle with the now departed Takeem Carter and Jake Orner.

Bailey, who joined the Cannons in 2016 by way of the Arbutus Big Red, is a multi-dimensional threat who has great foot-speed. His teammates on the Cannons called him ‘Geno’ because his playstyle resembles that of NFL quarterback Geno Smith.

2017 AFA All-Star Brian Eckard will reprise his familiar role of snapping the ball to Bailey, but Silas Hall and Bryant Warren are also in the mix to snap if Eckard has to be moved to tackle.

Returning to tackle this year is the indomitable Dustyn Lauver. He is quiet by nature, but is easily the most influential voice on the team. Lauver won the Rhinos’ 2017 team MVP award after moving from tackle to center for the second half of last season. The Rhinos hope his return to center will give the line more teeth with its best player returning to his best position.

Melvin Velines is the Rhinos’ speed-burning receiver on offense, but Raydel Ragland, a diminutive slotback, has the most moves, and keeps track of ‘how many ankles he collects’ by juking defenders at practice.

KEY DATES
3/24/18 vs. York Silver Bullets
The home opener comes in week two this season and it’s a real dandy, as the York County Blood Feud reignites for the first of two meetings. The Rhinos have lost four straight in the series, so they will be hungrier than usual to stop the bleeding in this early season measuring stick game. If you can get a ticket to this one, do it, and check a box on your sports bucket list.

4/28/18 @ Maryland Phantoms
The heavily-loaded back-stretch of the season gets started with this week 7 trip to Baltimore city. It’s a night game vs. the defending Northern Conference Champions, what more could you want?

5/12/18 vs. Franklin County Tigers
With the folding of the Maryland Cannons, the Rhinos are left with a spot to fill in the secondary rivalry column. The Tigers were never really viewed as a rival by the Rhinos until Franklin County earned their first ever win in the series last year. Now, the Rhinos feel as intensely about this game as the Tigers do.

5/19/18 @ York Silver Bullets
THE BIG ONE sees its first night contest since 2013, a 16-13 home win by the York Silver Bullets. The lights are sure to bring out an extra-special element in the York County Blood Feud, and with this game occurring in the second-to-last week of the season, it could mean everything to one or both of the teams.

RECORD WATCH

Games Coached (16, Jimmy Moffitt)- Everyone wants to move on and forget the Jimmy Moffitt era completely. The first step to that will be erasing his team coaching records. Noah Sneeringer is 5 games away from breaking the record for games at the helm. He’s on pace to surpass Moffitt’s milestone on 4/21/18 at home vs. the Central Maryland Bills.

Coaching Wins (10, Jimmy Moffitt)- Moffitt complied this mark while guiding the Rhinos to the only two winning seasons in team history (’13-’14). This will have to be the third one as Sneeringer sits 7 wins shy of breaking this mark.

Career Receptions (27, Allen Neiderer)- This one ends up on the record watch list every year and no one has broken it yet. This year, however, the chaser is the closest to Neiderer’s record as ever. DeAnte Weldon has 19 career catches coming into 2018. With the all-purpose playmaker shifting almost primarily to his self-proclaimed natural position, wide receiver, it seems likely this record will fall.

Career All-Purpose Yards (992, Jay Collins)- Weldon is chasing this record as well. He currently sits third in team history with 864 all-purpose yards, which means he needs 129 yards to pass Collins’ mark. Weldon often returns kicks and punts as well, so if he plays all 10 games, this record will be a piece of cake.

Career Deflections (13, Lakeith Parker)- Parker, who also holds the single-season deflection record with all 13 of them occurring in 2015, is still active and moving back to the defensive side of the ball after two years on offense. However, He’s got Smith, the Rhinos’ ultimate shutdown corner, lurking with 11 career deflections. Welford comes into the season with 9 career deflections.

Rhino Bites

When the Carroll County Cannons folded this fall, the Rhinos inherited some excellent players and vibrant personalities from their former rivals. One of them is a 2017 AFA All-Star center. He is featured on this edition of Rhino Bites.

BRIAN ECKARD

eckard

Age: 27                                            Hometown: New Windsor, Md.  Class: Francis Scott Key ’08 Positions: OT/C

#1. What did the experience of making the AFA All-Star game last year mean to you?

BE: It was a big accomplishment for me. It was only my second year starting, and I played every offensive snap at center across the last two seasons. I’m just glad I was able to make to the All-Star Game during the last year of the Cannons, although it was a disappointing season for us.

#2. What did it mean to you to represent the Carroll County Cannons for as many years as you did?

BE: I played for them for four years. They’re the only team I wanted to play for. I was in the group of people who tried to keep the Cannons going, if that says anything.

#3. You’ll be facing some of your former Cannons’ teammates in your first game as a Rhino, which is against Franklin County in one week (Saturday 3/17, 12:25 PM on Rhino Charge TV and the George Marinos Facebook Channel). What are your thoughts on this?

BE: It’s going to be a battle. I’m sure if there’s any Cannons’ lineman on the Tigers’ team, they will try to line up over me, just like the last scrimmage.

#4. You’re switching to tackle this year on offense. What has that transition been like this training camp?

BE: It’s a lot different out there. Feels like you’re on an island and the defensive ends have a lot more moves than defensive/nose tackles. A lot more speed, too, so it’s been a little rough at times, but it helps that I’m a lot faster this year, so I’m getting there.

#5. What’s it been like being adopted into the Rhino family this off-season?

BE: It’s been a smooth transition into the Rhino family. Had to go well, I guess. Brought a decent-sized group of Cannons to the Rhinos.

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It’s a little over a week until the Hanover Rhinos open their season at Waynesboro High School against the Franklin County Tigers. In the meantime, keep looking for new editions of Rhino Bites, only on Rhino Charge, the Official Blog of the Hanover Rhinos.

March 2018- Rhino Charge Season Preview Edition

With the Hanover Rhinos’ regular season set to begin this month, we will be previewing the Rhinos’ season outlook, giving you key players to watch in 2018, and looking at team records that are within reach. We’re also bringing you a very special feature story on Rhinos’ linebacker Phoenix Russell, who dealt with his own personal struggles this off-season after suffering an injury last year.

MARCH

Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.