Santa Bowl Canceled; Red & White Game Born
Less than an hour before the scheduled kickoff for Santa Bowl VI, the Hanover Rhinos received bad news.
The opponent, the Pennsylvania Pharaohs, only had 9 players available to play, and they hadn’t left Harrisburg yet.
A situation that could have caused calamity and turned into a disaster was instead calmly handled by the Hanover Rhinos’ management staff, and out of the ashes rose something good.
Head coach Noah Sneeringer split the team up into two groups and advised all the players in one group to change from red jerseys to white.
And so the Red & White game was born.
As much as the Hanover Rhinos wanted to play the Santa Bowl, putting a new spin on the annual holiday game for charity may have given them an additional tradition to take part in every year.
They still managed to achieve the main goal of the Santa Bowl, as 76 toys were donated by spectators at the gate, bringing the fall total of the Hanover Rhinos’ Toys for Tots drive to 660.
“I think it worked out pretty good,” Rhinos’ veteran linebacker Dorell Blue said. “The guys and the fellas seemed to like it, and I think we could do it again (next year), but I’d rather play someone else.”
As for the game itself, the Red Rhinos defeated the White Rhinos by a score of 24-0 behind 190 passing yards and two scores from quarterback Takeem Carter.
Carter, a new member of the Rhinos, started 3-for-7 passing, but nailed 4 of his last 5 throws, including two deep-ball touchdowns.
“I started off rusty in the beginning,” Carter said, “But as I kept going through it, I just picked it up.”
Carter is part of a three-headed monster at quarterback for the Rhinos heading into the 2018 season.
Jake Orner, the incumbent starter whose 165 passing yards on 6/3/17 against Franklin County were the most by a Rhino in two years, played for the White team, and took the most snaps of any quarterback, 29. Carter took 23 snaps, and Corbin Bailey took 13 snaps, 7 for White and 6 for Red.
Orner was 9-of-20 passing, but was hampered by three drops by his receivers, all potential touchdowns that were all perfectly on target.
After the first of these drops, White’s opening possession ended when defensive end Roland Johnson dropped into coverage and intercepted Orner’s pass to the flat. Johnson rumbled for 15 yards out to the Red 35.
The first 12 snaps of the game took place on Red’s side of the field- after Bryan Hammond and Matt Hilker combined for a third down sack of Carter to end the second Red possession, the ball crossed midfield for the first time on Phoenix Russell’s 30-yard punt.
Starting at its own 40, White immediately put the pressure back on Red following Orner’s completions of 5 and 22 to Zach Deneen and Jordan Gardner, respectively.
White reached the Red 18 when Orner hit Simmons on a short dump-off, and the big back rumbled for 15 yards.
However, Dorell Blue’s edge rush on the last play of the first quarter resulted in a sack and a 5-yard loss.
Orner and company almost recovered when he stood in against the rush on 4th-and-7 and found Simmons with room to run inside the 10, but Simmons tried to run before he had the ball, and it fell harmlessly to the turf.
Carter hit passes of 31 and 33 to the explosive Raydel Ragland, but Richard Settle empathically swatted away Carter’s 4th-and-goal pass for Johnson at the goal line to end the drive.
Blue put the first points of the game on the board with 2:22 to go until halftime when he sacked Orner in the end zone on a second down scramble.
Blue racked up 9 tackles (6 solo), two sacks, 1 stuff, and 1 hurry in his defensive tour de force on Saturday.
“Blue looked great,” Rhinos head coach Noah Sneeringer said. “Blue was, you know, old Blue, he kinda had an off season, we’ll say, last year compared to two years ago. My first year here, Blue was a tank, then last year, he fell off a little bit, now today, he comes back with 2 or 3 sacks. He said it’s 4 sacks, but we’ll let (the statistician) decide how true that was.”
“I feel like I’m ready this year,” Blue said. “It’s gonna be a good year for the whole team, plus myself.”
Two plays into the ensuing Red drive, Melvin Velines popped the top off the defense with a streak route down the left side, and Carter fired an accurate pass to him for a 60-yard touchdown.
Velines nearly had another one when matched up on Charles Smith on Red’s first possession of the second half. Carter tossed one up to Velines’ back shoulder down the visitors’ sideline. Smith and Velines both burst out of their breaks to come back to the ball, but Smith caught his cleats in the mud and fell like a cartoon character slipping on a banana peel, leaving Velines free to catch the ball. Unfortunately, the receiver let the ball slip through his hands and off his knee for a drop.
Two plays later, Carter dropped a dime right into Phoenix Russell’s lap at the 5, and Russell stiff-armed his way into the end zone for a 40-yard score.
Carter ran a designed quarterback sneak on the two point conversion, and it was successful with a “Bush Push” from Roland Johnson.
Corbin Bailey took over at quarterback for White, and immediately showed his best asset, his mobility, when he took off on a 9-yard run on the first play.
On 4th-and-1, Deneen fought for 2 yards and a first down, but the ball was turned over on the next play.
Simmons churned for 9 yards, but Kenrith Vieux stripped the ball, and Nick Delaughter recovered for Red after the ball squirted through Gardner’s hands.
Bailey then subbed under center for Red.
Three plays in, Angel Valentin shot the A-gap and nearly stole the handoff from Bailey. Instead, he settled for leveling Ragland and forcing a fumble, which Bailey recovered.
Bailey fired a picturesque 34-yard touchdown pass to Amir Pearson a few plays later. The ball soared just over the outstretched hand of a White defender and right into the arms of Pearson, who fell to his backside to make the catch right on the goal line.
Hilarity insued in the final minutes, when Sneeringer, serving as coach and referee, doled out a 15-yard personal foul to Roland Johnson for arguing a call.