4/8/15: Darkside vs. The Phantom Menace

Home Opener: Rhinos vs. Maryland Phantoms Preview

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Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.

It’s a white-out!
The I-83 Rivalry renews for the biggest Hanover Rhinos’ game in three years.
The last time the Rhinos had a game this big, they were left staring up at the wrong end of a 20-14 score in the first round of the 2014 AFA Playoffs after blowing a second half lead to the Phantoms in Baltimore.
The Rhinos will be debuting their new white jerseys, with gray pants, for the game, and all fans are encouraged to wear white in support of the home-town team.
This Saturday is all about redemption as the Rhinos look to grab the division lead this late in the season for the first time since 2013.
Darkside’s brave warriors will stare down a defense that comes in billed as equally fierce, and the Rhinos as a whole will stare down the public perception that this game and division will be a cakewalk for the Phantoms.

WHEN & WHERE: Saturday, 1:00 PM, at Manheim Adventure Park, 4565 Camp Woods Rd, Glenville, PA 17329.

WEATHER FORECAST AT KICKOFF: 49 degrees and mostly sunny. Precipitation: 0%. Humidity: 40%. Wind: 17 MPH Southeast.

POPULATION: Baltimore: 622,104. Hanover: 15,365.

RHINOS IN HOME OPENERS: 1-4, including a 6-2 loss to the Maryland Phantoms in 2014.

SERIES HISTORY: The Phantoms lead 5-1. Maryland has outscored the Rhinos 92-79. Four of the five Phantoms victories in the series have come by 6 points or less. In the last meeting, on 3/21/15, the scoreboard lit up early, and that didn’t stop until the game’s final seconds. The Rhinos led 32-27 in the game’s final minute, but a blown assignment by Bob Moore led to a huge passing play for the Phantoms. With seconds to go, Cuan Edwards threw the game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass to Greg Cross.

RHINOS’ OUTLOOK: After accepting a forfeit victory last weekend because its’ opponents backed out over fear of playing against Darkside, Hanover (2-1) will have to correct the 11 turnovers it has committed in the first two games of the season to pull in this big divisional win. The turnovers have led to an up-and-down field position battle for the Rhinos early this season. The opposition has been backed up inside their own 20 to start 8 of 27 drives so far in 2017, but Darkside has also faced 8 drives that started in Hanover territory. After Virginia Beach was held to an average starting field position of their own 34 in week one, Darkside was forced to play with their backs to the wall for much of the first half at Susquehanna Valley in game two. The first 5 Knights’ drives had an average start point at the Hanover 41.
The Rhinos’ offense followed up with two drives that ended inside the Knights’ 10, and the defense converted both situations into safeties.
Through two games, the opponent’s average starting field position is its own 36.
Darkside has already surpassed the full-season sack output of the 2016 Rhinos, and it took less than two games. Jon Veitch’s sack of Christian Diggs for a 3-yard loss midway through the third quarter was the Rhinos’ 11th sack of the season. The 2016 Rhinos had just 10 sacks, with Richard Settle and DeAnte Weldon leading the team with 2 sacks each. Three Rhinos have already equalled that mark in 2016. Brandon Nicastro continues his blazing pace, as his 4.5 sacks through two games have him on pace to break Kody Taylor’s team record of 14 sacks, which was set in 2015.
DeAnte Weldon needs just 21 rushing yards to break Zac Carrick’s career team record of 448 yards.
Another record pursuit that hasn’t gained much attention is receiver Hannibal Flores’ chase of the team single-season and career receptions record. Jay Collins holds the season record with 24 catches in 2015, while Allen Neiderer holds the career record with 27 grabs for the Rhinos. Flores is on pace for 31 catches this season after hauling in 7 passes for 71 yards and a score in the first two games.

SCOUTING THE PHANTOMS: At 3-0, the Phantoms provide the biggest obstacle to the Rhinos’ pursuit of their first-ever division title. Maryland comes in as one of just 3 AFA teams that have allowed less points per game than Darkside. The Phantoms have given up the same point total as the Rhinos (18), but have stretched that total out over 3 games for a PPGA average of 6.
For the second time this year, the Rhinos will come off a bye week to face a team that did not rest last Saturday. The Phantoms bludgeoned the Susquehanna Valley Knights 30-0 in Baltimore last weekend.
The Phantoms have scored the most points of any Northern Conference team this season, with 78 through 3 games. Pacing their potent attack is the deadly veteran duo of quarterback Cuan Edwards and running back Shanorm Young. Both were starters on the Phantoms’ 2014 AFA Championship team. A bowling ball-like 5’9″-200, Young has twice rushed for 900 yards in a season with the Phantoms. Meanwhile, Edwards’ 64% completion mark ranks behind only Harrisburg’s Brandon Derr (80%) among qualified AFA quarterbacks in 2017.
On defense, the Phantoms have three players with an interception on the year. They are safeties Dante Hines and Damon Lee, and middle linebacker Anthony Rice.

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