Rhinos Lose 2018 Season Finale
Hanover Rhinos’ quarterback Corbin Bailey (6) takes a snap during Saturday’s game at Manheim Adventure Park. Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.
GLENVILLE, Pa.- For the second time in the last three years, the Hanover Rhinos finished the season with a touchdown on the final play.
The York Silver Bullets walked away with a 36-8 victory on Saturday behind the strength of 3 touchdown passes from Greg Murray, but the unique nature of the final touchdown gave the Rhinos something to savor heading into another long, disappointing offseason.
On the final play of the third quarter, Murray fumbled the snap, and Bear Bernardi was first to the ground to secure the takeaway for the Rhinos.
After the play, Bernardi jumped out of the pile and ran off with York’s football, ála Danny Bateman in the Replacements, but instead of giving the ball to his head coach, he fired it over his shoulder back onto the field.
Hanover (1-7) marched down the field on what would become the final possession of the game early in the fourth quarter.
Facing 3rd-&-10 from the York 41, Corbin Bailey fired a bullet pass toward the left sideline.
Wearing his customary #18 jersey, Phoenix Russell extended for the ball and caught it for a 19-yard gain as he fell to the ground.
After a false start penalty and an incompletion by Bailey, the Rhinos switched to the wildcat formation, with wide receiver Melvin Velines and Bailey switching positions.
With the York defense calling out for a run, Velines took the snap and raced to the right. Suddenly, he rose up and tossed the ball to Raydel Ragland for a 7-yard gain and his first AFA completion.
Velines ran a more traditional wildcat keeper sweep on 3rd down, and was contained after a 2-yard gain by Devin Parrales.
On 4th-&-6 from the 18, Velines dropped the snap momentarily, picked it up and rolled to the right. He stopped, set his feet, squared his shoulders, and rocked back, releasing a loose spiral deep over the middle.
Russell raced under the ball and secured it with both hands, and sustained possession through a hit as he fell to the ground in the front of the end zone.
“I saw (Adrian Acevedo) in the back of the end zone with his hands up like he was trying to land an airplane,” Velines said, “So, I put it up, and the tight end ran underneath and grabbed it, so it was just basically up for grabs. I’m glad one of them came down with it, tough.”
Rhinos head coach Noah Sneeringer said he didn’t know Velines had that kind of arm.
“Not a chance,” he said. “We didn’t even call that. Melvin went in and drew up some sandlot plays, and it worked out for us.”
Raydel Ragland took the pitch on the two-point try and immediately met a wall of defenders to the right. He turned back to the left and raced for the pylon, pressing through a would-be tackler and stretching for the goal line for the final two points of the season.
The officials called the game off after the play. There were close to 10 minutes still left on the game clock.
It was fitting that such a touchdown came against the Silver Bullets, who became well-known in the AFA for the sandlot nature of their offense with quarterback Bob Moore at the helm from 2016-17.
It was a completely different offensive scheme for York on Saturday. Murray didn’t throw the ball much, but was efficient when he did, completing 4 passes for 90 yards and scores to three different receivers.
Instead, York featured a ground-and-pound ball control approach that was spurred in part by having only 19 players in uniform, and also in part by a season-long commitment to pound the rock.
York made its intentions clear early on, as it did everything it could to get the ball in the hands of the former Rhinos on the roster.
Hard-charging running back Bernard Jackson hit the Rhinos in the mouth with a 10-yard run on the first play of the game.
On second down, the Rhinos hit back. As Jackson powered to the left, Phoenix Russell wrapped him up, and Bernardi finished the big back with a hard hit.
One of the shortest quarterbacks in the AFA, Murray had trouble seeing over the line and was pressured into three straight incompletions by the Hanover defensive front, led by Brian Eckard and Roland Johnson.
Given new life by a roughing the passer penalty by Anthony Taylor on the ensuing possession, the Rhinos turned the ball over when Bailey was picked off by Elijah Porcher.
Murray hit Juwan Brady with a short pass in the right flat on the sixth play of the following drive, and Brady turned and burned the defensive back for a 40-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
Murray executed a play-action fake and lobbed the ball to former Rhino Jeremy Knaub for the two-point conversion in the front right corner of the end zone along the home sideline.
Knaub, still the Rhinos’ single-season rushing leader, Gronk spiked the ball and had words for Sneeringer on his way by the Rhinos’ sideline.
Raymond Henry executed a nasty, spinning onside kick, and Logan May recovered, giving York back-to-back possessions.
However, two stops by Bryan Hammond and a pressured incompletion by Murray forced the Silver Bullets to punt.
Murray booted a 51-yarder for a touchback on the final play of the first quarter.
As the second quarter began, Bailey scrambled on 3rd-&-17, but Jackson stripped him in the backfield, and Ryan Poff recovered. Jackson then flopped to draw a personal foul on the Rhinos.
Knaub probed the left side of the line for a 2-yard touchdown run on the first play of the next drive. The two point try failed, keeping the score at 14-0.
After a Rhinos’ punt, York drove deep into Hanover territory again.
This time, Jordan Snyder stuck to his man like glue in the front left corner of the end zone, jumped up and intercepted Murray’s pass, completing his fourth pick of the season with a toe-tap along the boundary.
Another Bailey fumble led to York’s second one-play scoring drive.
Velines fumbled away the ensuing kickoff as he tried to spin along the home sideline.
The Rhinos’ defense fought and clawed, with Marcus Sparger forcing Murray back to the inside on a rollout to the right. Dorell Blue closed from behind and cut the quarterback in half for his first sack of the season.
The Rhinos held York to 4th-&-16, but Bernardi gifted York a first down by arguing a non-pass interference call.
On the next play, two former Rhinos hooked up as Murray hit Josh Dolheimer for a 34-yard touchdown, and the two-point pass to Darren Stephens made it 30-0.
Bailey took two sacks for a loss of 37 yards right before the half, skewing the Rhinos’ offensive production for the day. Hanover totalled 7 offensive yards in the contest.
Murray tacked on a quarterback sneak for the final York touchdown midway through the 3rd quarter. Charles Smith swatted away a jump ball in the corner of the end zone to deny the two-point conversion.