The ELCO football team doesn’t require verification or justification. But it does need to be rewarded.
To a man, the Raiders couldn’t imagine a more desirable reward than spending more time together.
On a rainy Senior Night at ELCO Stadium, the Raiders took another important step towards the postseason with a 12-0 whitewashing of visiting Donegal. The ELCO defense put forth one of its most complete efforts of the year and was supported by a methodical, grind-it-out offense.
With the victory, ELCO moved to 6-3 on the year and 3-3 in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. In the latest District Three power rankings, the Raiders were positioned ninth in an AAAA classification which takes 10 teams for its postseason tournament.
The Raiders can presumably qualify for the District Three playoffs with a victory at Berks Catholic during next Friday night’s regular season finale.
The result means Donegal is now 2-7 overall and 0-6 in Section Four.
ELCO won last night despite being without the services of star running back Jake Williams. Williams dressed and was on the sidelines, and appeared to be healthy, but he did not play a single snap.
“We only have 48 more minutes of football guaranteed with this team,” said ELCO head coach Bob Miller. “With tonight, we have a chance to have some bonus time, more weeks together. Our goals are to have fun every day, raise the standard and have a great football experience. If we can go to districts it’ll help with that experience.”
“We’re right on the edge of the playoffs,” said ELCO junior quarterback Steven Rosado. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. But we also knew if we won and if we win next week, we get a playoff spot.”
The Raiders laid a foundation for the triumph on the opening possession of the game.
ELCO took the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards in 12 plays to get the 14-yard Ellis Gensamer touchdown run that gave it a 6-0 lead. All 12 of the plays on the march were runs, which came in small chunks.
It took 5:26 off the first-quarter clock.
“Any time you get the ball first, you want to finish it with points,” said Miller. “For us to be able to do that, it was a great job by the backs and the offensive line. (Not having Williams) didn’t change anything. We still ran the ball really hard. We had some other kids step up.”
“It (Williams’ absence) doesn’t really change up much,” said Rosado. “Mitchell (Frederick) and Ellis (Gensamer) took on bigger roles. Our offense always comes down to the offensive line. When they play good, we play good.”
The Raider defense limited Donegal to just 50 total yards and a negative 16 rushing yards and recorded two takeaways. ELCO shut down the Indians’ running game and harassed quarterback Brock Hammaker all evening.
It all added up to ELCO’s initial shutout of the campaign.
“Oh my gosh, they played phenomenally across the board,” said Miller of his defenders. “We got several sacks, the linebackers played great and the secondary played well. Luke Bailey, (Brady) Stoops, Tupac (Vasquez-Disla) and Paul Williams have definitely improved each week.
“We’ve had a great season defensively,” continued Miller. “Our coaches have put kids in the right positions. We’ve played well from the beginning of the season to the end. We had a couple of hiccups along the way, but the defense has played strong.”
“Their quarterback is pretty shifty,” said Rosado. “But we had great containment. Our defensive ends made plays.”
Early in the second quarter, the Raiders padded their lead. ELCO capitalized on a short field for Rosado’s one-yard touchdown sneak and a 12-0 advantage.
Although there was no scoring in the second half, ELCO’s ball-control offense took huge chunks of time off the clock.
“We won tonight,” said Miller. “We went 1-0. I’m super excited for the seniors. It’s Friday night. Every game is the same.”
“We had mental mistakes out there,” said Rosado. “We weren’t on our game 100 percent. But we got the job done. We have great guys up front on offense, and we played well enough to win.”
In Williams’ absence, Frederick rushed 15 times for 80 yards and Gensamer carried 17 times for 67 yards. This season, Williams has piled up 1,665 yards on the ground and scored 22 touchdowns.
“There’s been a lot of improvement in terms of all three phases of the game,” said Miller.
“During the offseason, we had a lot more guys in the weight room,” said Rosado. “It’s helping us now. Everyone on the team knows we’re a championship team. Everyone knows we have what it takes. We should make the playoffs. If we play with a championship mentality, we should make it.”
Head Coach: Robert Miller
Assistant Coaches: John Carley, Robert Williams, Wyatt Hall, Earl Thomas, John Wetzel
|53||Alex Muniz Cruz||Sr.||OL/DL|
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