RED HILL >> Cocalico came out Friday on a mission: To resuscitate a moribund rushing game.
“Last week, we ran for only 28 yards,” head coach Dave Gingrich said, a reference to the his team’s previous outing against Gov. Mifflin. “So the kids came out with a purpose.”
Upper Perkiomen was unable to untrack Cocalico from its purpose. That spoke volumes about the Eagles’ 48-14 victory over the Indians, their first of the young season.
The visitors racked up 351 of their 419 yards total offense on the ground. Five of their seven touchdowns were off runs; two of them, by sophomore back Austin Landers, went for 41 and 55 yards … a big chunk of his 105-yard output.
Cocalico (1-2) had Brandon Brubaker emerge as the game’s rushing leader with 131 yards on 10 carries. The junior had his team’s first TD run, a 25-yard burst up the middle that touched off a run of 42 unanswered points for the Eagles with 5:36 remaining in the first quarter.
“We haven’t had success this year,” Gingrich noted, “so it was nice to get a good win. This season, we’ve been a Jekkyl and Hyde team, so it was nice to play a decent game.”
Upper Perk (1-3) had its own Jekkyl and Hyde outing.
It started out looking like the good doctor, driving 80 yards on 10 plays following the opening kickoff. The capper was Tyler Whary’s 12-yard run up the middle at the 8:52 mark.
Its other score came midway through the fourth quarter, a 12-yard scoring pass from Tyler Keyser to David Kilroy set up by Damion Noble’s recovery of an Eagle fumble.
In between those bright spots, though, the Indians’ play was not as stellar. While the defense was torched by the flurry of Cocalico scoring drives, the offense turned one first-half possession over on downs at the visitors’ 16, fumbled the ball away to the Eagles at their 30 in the second half and saw Cocalico convert another fumble into a touchdown one play after its first score of the second half.
“They’re a good team,” UP head coach Tom Hontz said of Cocalico. “Their two losses were against quality opponents. We made too many mental and physical errors, and we can’t stop the run.”
The Indians’ offensive output was split fairly evenly between the run and pass. It went 114 yards on the ground, headed by Whary covering 79 on 18 carries, and got another 125 on the combined 12-for-27 passing of Zeke Hallman and Keyser.
Hallman’s 11-for-25, 113-yard showing was hampered by a number of drops and the tight coverage of Cocalico defenders. But he had a pair of first-down passes to Trevor Stephen on UP’s first drive, and five that went for more than 10 yards — the longest a 27-yard connection to Ryan Kendra late in the game.
“Zeke Hallman’s done a yeoman job,” Hontz noted. “He’s an elite quarterback … a great leader who deserves better than being on a 1-and-3 team.”
An overall troublesome injury situation, though, has left the Indians playing second- and third-stringers more frequently. It’s left them having to develop their skills on the fly, with the team looking to open its schedule against the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division entries next week.
“We’re thin right now,” Hontz agreed. “We’re relying on second and third teamers. That’s our Achilles heel, but we can’t make excuses.”
For his part, Gingrich is hoping his squad is on a better track.
The Eagles’ other rushing scores came from Colton Goodman (19 yards) Nathan Musser (four). Cocalico also got a 58-yard TD pass from freshman Noah Palm to Conlan Kerschner, the highlight of a spare passing game that saw the visitors a combined 3-for-5 between Palm and Brady Sawyer (2-for-5, 10 yards).
“We did a lot of good on offense,” he said. “There are still some finer points we need to fix, but scoring 48 points is good.”
NOTES >> Hallman’s punting efforts (three for 98 yards) were headed by a booming 51-yarder that pinned Cocalico back at its four early in the fourth quarter. … Stephen covered 50 yards off four catches while Kendra had 40 on three completions.
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