That’s the singular word Cedar Crest Coach Rob Wildasin used to describe the 2023 edition of the Falcon football team following a 54-28 District 3 6A quarterfinal playoff loss to Harrisburg on Saturday at Severance Field in Harrisburg.
“They just continue to grind and they don’t seem to get rattled too much,” said Wildasin. “Good things happen, bad things happen, but they just keep fighting.”
The “fight” in the Falcons was on display throughout the entire game and especially in the first half.
Aside from the Cougars’ opening six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive – capped by junior quarterback Shawn Lee Jr.’s 17-yard touchdown run – the Falcons certainly gave Harrisburg all they could handle over the first 24 minutes of the game.
The Falcons showed their “grind” and grit on their first possession of the game.
The Falcons answered the Cougars’ score with their own, marching 70 yards on 10 plays on a drive highlighted by senior running back Fernando Marquez’s 23-yard touchdown run.
It appeared that Marquez was going to be stopped at the two-yard-line, but three Harrisburg defenders couldn’t finish the tackle.
As Marquez continued to grind forward, several teammates shoved Marquez toward the end zone in what appeared to be the Falcon’s version of the “brotherly shove” play. The brotherly shove – which has become part of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive playbook on short-yardage downs this season – helped carry Marquez into the end zone.
That knotted the score at 7-7 with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter on a series dominated by the play of Marquez and senior tight end Aiden Schomp.
Marquez ran the ball four times for 34 yards and Schomp caught three passes for 41 yards, all for first downs. His 17-yard screen on fourth down near midfield helped keep that drive alive as did two consecutive offside penalties against the Cougars when the Falcons were on third down and forever to go.
The contrast of the two offenses was on display in the first half. Harrisburg ran plays without a huddle while Cedar Crest worked to control the clock and keep the Cougars’ explosive offense off the field.
After the Cougars turned the ball over on downs on their next possession on a drive stalled by a holding penalty, the Falcons kept the ball on the ground. They used the combo of senior running back Alejandro Abreu and Marquez to move the ball down the field.
The Falcons’ score that gave them the lead, however, came by way of the air.
Schomp got behind the secondary and caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jackson Custer. The catch and unimpeded run by Schomp into the end zone put the Falcons up 14-7 with 5:29 to go until halftime.
Even though the Falcons are a team that mostly runs the ball, they took to the air in the first half with Schomp as the primary beneficiary of their air attack. For the game, Schomp caught 10 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown.
After a shanked kickoff that was alertly caught and advanced to midfield by Cougar junior special teams player/running back Zymere Hall, the high-octane Cougar offense kicked in.
The Cougars needed only eight plays to make the score 14-13, which is where it remained after the extra point attempt banged off the right upright and was no good. Lee captured his second touchdown of the game with a 13-yard run on fourth down to cut the score to one point.
The game would take a huge turn on the Falcons’ next possession with just over two minutes until the intermission.
Following a penalty on the kickoff that pushed the Falcons back to their 17-yard-line, Custer fumbled on the second play from scrimmage and Harrisburg recovered the ball inside their red zone.
Four plays later, junior Cougar running back Nehemiah Ewell appeared to be short of the goal line when he leaped and reached for the end zone, but his two-yard run, followed by a successful two-point conversion, gave Harrisburg a 21-14 lead with 18 seconds remaining in the half. It was a lead that Harrisburg would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
Harrisburg dominated the second half, especially in the third quarter.
The Cougars scored on their first three possessions, including a two-play, 90-yard drive highlighted by an 89-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kymir Williams from Lee. Williams skied over a Falcon defender to catch the ball and avoided numerous tackles in the secondary to scramble down the Harrisburg sideline and in for the score.
With Harrisburg leading 48-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Falcons got two scores in that period with Marquez carrying the Falcons down the field on one drive that ended with his 10-yard TD run. Marquez ran the ball 26 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
Cedar Crest got a late score against Harrisburg’s second team after a botched punt on fourth down gave the ball to the Falcons at the Cougars’ 8-yard line. Abreu ran eight yards to cut the score to 48-28.
That score forced Harrisburg to return their starters to the game.
After a failed Cedar Crest onside kick, the Falcons needed only five plays to score. The drive was highlighted by QB Lee to WR Williams touchdown pass of 47 yards. Williams caught the ball on the right flat near the Falcons’ sideline, but several missed tackles and fine footwork by Williams led to the Cougar’s eighth – and final – touchdown of the day.
Wildasin had high praise for this team, telling them after the game in the team huddle that they are arguably one of the greatest in the school’s history.
“They’ve always been tough kids and I said to them at the beginning of the year that we’re going to have to grind for everything and we did,” said Wildasin. “They kept grinding and that wasn’t going to stop at any point or time in the game. … We kept playing.”
Cedar Crest’s season ended at 8-3. Harrisburg will play Central York in the District 3 semi-finals after the Panthers defeated Central Dauphin 42-34 on Friday night.
Cedar Crest Falcons
Head Coach: Rob Wildasin
Assistant Coaches: Nick Lambros, Brandon Kirsch, Brian Powers, Tom Gerhart, Shawn Rambler, Tom Waranavage, Logan Horn, Jona Padilla, Nevin Pagan, Bob Peebles, Bob Griffiths, Gary Wildasin
|1||Leo Tirado Jr.||12||WR/DB|
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