Chaos 8, Rhinos 2
CHESAPEAKE CITY, Md.- Just when it looked like the Hanover Rhinos were about to crawl out of the winless column on Sunday, they got dragged back in by a series of unfortunate events.
Some of the mistakes were self inflicted, but none hurt worse than the controversial pass interference call against Andrew Geddie in the final minute of the game.
The penalty- wether you agree with the call or not- set up Joshua Snyder-Coy’s game-winning 2-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds left left, which elevated the Cecil County Chaos to a thrilling 8-2 comeback win over the Rhinos at Bohemia Manor High School.
“Heartbreak, that’s really the only word,” Hanover Rhinos’ head coach Noah Sneeringer said. Our defense played stout the entire game, and I’m not one to blame the refs by any means, it’s never the way I’ve been, but the second half, I feel like (the officials) just walked (Cecil County) down the field and our defense had to make goal line stand after goal line stand. Then, a questionable P.I. to end the game. Our defense was on the field the entire second half. They were just gassed by the time we needed them most.”
The Rhinos remain winless (0-4) on the season, and this newest invention of a way to lose left Sneeringer and the rest of the bench befuddled and shell-shocked.
Though he was stoic and composed in the post-game interview, Sneeringer was anything but on the sideline in the immediate aftermath of the call. He fired his cap into the ground, causing his sunglasses to break upon impact with the artificial turf.
He made sure to get the officials’ information cards after the game as well, and to their credit, two members of the officiating crew returned from the parking lot with their information.
Both teams ran afoul of the officiating crew frequently on the afternoon- Cecil County (4-0) was flagged 23 times for 146 yards, and the Rhinos added 15 penalties for 152 yards.
However, it was the penultimate drive of the afternoon that produced the most impactful infractions of the night.
With the Rhinos nursing a 2-0 lead that they had held since late in the second quarter, the Chaos’ offense took the field to start at their own 29 just south of the two-minute warning.
Quarterback Larry Jones hit reciever Curtis Biah with two quick outs for 12 and 11 yards, with Biah getting out of bounds on the last play.
After an incompletion by Jones, the quarterback rolled left, but was contained by Dorell Blue, so he scrambled inside for 8 yards, then angled out of bounds right in front of Rhinos’ defensive coordinator/linebacker Chris Conley.
Another incompletion by Jones brought up 4th-and-2 at the Hanover 40.
With the game on the line, Larry Jones rolled left and fired a pass to Myric Jones on another out route for 13 yards and a first down to the Hanover 27.
After a Cecil County timeout that stopped the clock with 34 seconds remaining, the Chaos broke the huddle.
Jones took the snap, dropped back, lifted his front shoulder, and fired a deep ball to the left front corner of the end zone. Waiting there was receiver Dion Cruz, who had run around Geddie to the outside. Geddie recovered and was trailing close behind his man. As the ball sailed toward the corner pylon, Geddie and Cruz were engaging in some ferocious jockeying for position, hungrily grasping for prime position. Both players had their hands on eachother as the ball descended. Cruz got the better position and jumped for the ball, putting both hands around the pigskin. Geddie raked at the ball with his hand, dislodging it and forcing it to drop harmlessly to the turf. Not so harmless, however, was the penalty flag that had fluttered down beside the play.
“I honestly thought the ref was calling the push off on the receiver and was gonna back (the Chaos) up,” Conley said. “You can’t make those calls that determine the outcome of a game when it’s a 50-50 thing.”
“Oh, I thought it was a great play,” Sneeringer said. “(Geddie) turned around and he put his body between the receiver and the ball, and that’s what you’re taught as a D.B. How that was P.I., I didn’t get a reasoning behind it. (The referee) just said it was P.I.”
The loss left Conley visably shaken as he stood in full uniform, sweaty and battered, hunched over and staring at the ground, in a truck bay, in solitary reflection in the parking lot after the game.
“I was thinking I didn’t know what else to do to win that game,” Conley said. “Our defense played our hearts out. We were in a goal line stand for the entire second half and didn’t break. That P.I. call killed us. Worst call I’ve seen at any level I’ve played at. We stopped them 100 times and then, with the game on the line, they’re gifted penalties to keep them alive. Kills me to lose like that.”
Conley’s unit fought tooth and nail all afternoon as they spilled their sweat and filled their shoes with turf pellets while fighting in vain to protect the lead they gave the Rhinos.
“I’m proud as hell of my defense today,” Conley added. “We stonewalled them with our backs against the wall time and time again, for 59 minutes of game time.”
It was with Cecil County’s backs against the wall that a new member of the Hanover Rhinos made his first lasting impression- both on the hearts of his teamates as well as the scoreboard.
Signed earlier in the week, Brendon Twilley played ball with Josh Reyes and some of the other former Carroll County Cannons’ players on the roster. By days’ end, not only did all his teammates know his name, but they had a profound respect for the multitide of things Twilley can do on a football field.
In the final minute of the first half, Cecil County possessed the ball at its own 1-yard line on 3rd-and-14. The Chaos attempted to force the Rhinos to burn a timeout with a running play, but Twilley shot through the gap, extended his arms, and brought down Donte Williams along the back line of the end zone on a designed sweep. Twilley’s safety is the first one for the Rhinos since Brandon Nicastro accomplished the feat on 4/29/17 vs. the Susquehanna Valley Knights.
Jacori Foley took the short free-kick and returned it 22 yards to the Chaos’ 39. Two first down passes from Cooper Hastings, to Juwan Braddy and Tyler Goralski, respectively, coupled with a roughing the passer penalty, moved the ball to Cecil County’s 5-yard line for one final play before halftime.
After a Hanover timeout, Hastings took the snap and rolled left, before looping back to the right and finding some room to run. Three defenders reacted to him, leaving Delray Ragland, Jr. open, but Hastings threw the ball well behind his receiver while on the run, bringing an end to the half.
Sunday marked Hastings’ first semi-pro football start. He performed solidly, going 7-18 for 81 yards, and most importantly, had no turnovers.
For the first time all year, Hanover received the second half kickoff, but a personal foul on the kickoff and later, a holding penalty on the offense, sunk the Rhinos into the abyss of a losing field-position battle.
Juny Gonzalez was called on to punt on 4th down, but his punt appeared to strike his personal protecter in the back, and it rolled to a stop behind the line of scrimmage at the 17.
Hanover’s defense not only survived, they thrived, forcing a turnover on downs in four plays when Conley swatted away Larry Jones’ desperation pass in the end zone on 4th down.
Another three-and-out by the Hanover offense lost 11 yards, but this time, the Rhinos sent out Twilley to punt. The Rhinos’ 4th-string punter punched out a 28-yarder under immense pressure to push the Chaos back to the Rhinos’ 43.
John Curtis, Jr. was called for a facemask for the Rhinos while making the tackle on play number one, after which, the Rhinos were hit with a dead-ball foul. A horse-collar tackle by Twilley two plays later pushed the ball to the Hanover 7.
Dorell Blue stuffed Williams on a middle run on first down, emerging from the pile afterward with a fist in the air in celebration. Conley and Reyes slammed the door on 2nd down, and Reyes and Zach McAleer stopped fullback Tom Clark for no gain, bringing up 4th down.
After two false start penalties, Charles Smith ended the drive at the goal line on the first play of the 4th quarter with his first career AFA interception. Smith has been eagerly anticipating his first pick since he joined the Rhinos in 2013, and he has been one of the top shutdown corners in Rhinos’ history for awhile.
Once again, the Rhinos’ offense went 3-and-out and called on Twilley to punt. He bombed a Rhinos’ team-record 59 yarder, but it was wiped away by a Hanover penalty. Twilley had to settle for a still-impressive 39-yarder on the official kick, but Cecil County started in great field position at the Hanover 41.
Accounting for nearly one-fourth of the Chaos’ total offense on the day in one play, Williams burst loose for 36 yards. Tre Lawrence made the touchdown saving tackle, which proved to be huge.
On the very next play, Larry Jones had trouble handling the ball, and it popped up in the air, where Reyes plucked it and started a modest return to the Hanover 13.
Shawn Simmons rumbled for 9 yards on the first play of yhe following drive, setting up his two-yard run for a first down, but it would be the Rhinos’ last of the game. On 4th down, Twilley jabbed a 29-yard punt, but Myric Jones returned it for 18 yards, and behind the play, Blue was called for a personal foul that moved the ball to Hanover’s 11.
Medium-sized runs by Williams and Biah were both stopped by Kenrith Vieux, and two Cecil County false starts pushed the Chaos to 3rd-and-19. Myric Jones nearly broke loose on a sweep play, but John Curtis, Jr. made the tackle at the 5. Zach McAleer was ready on 4th down and kept contain on Williams before aggressively wrestling him to the ground to force a turnover on downs.
Hanover came tantalizingly close to wrapping the game up just before the two-minute warning. On third-and-1 from its own 15, Hastings was pressured and forced to give ground. He fired a ball in the direction of Eric Swiger that bounced in front of the nearest defender.
Twilley nailed a 56-yard punt that forced the Chaos to work for their winning touchdown.
The Rhinos had one more chance to win the game after a short kickoff by the Chaos, but Hastings’ desperation heave from the Cecil County 32 tipped off multiple defenders hands before touching the ground in the back right corner of the end zone.
The Rhinos were twice in the red zone in the first half. The first opportunity nearly resulted in a touchdown as Hastings fired a bullet to Devin Hall to convert 4th-and-18 late in the second quarter. Hall was tackled inches from the goal line, but picked up a first down. Three straight running plays were rebuked before Hastings fired a 4th-down pass that Juwan Braddy was only able to acrobatically get one hand on.