REIFFTON >> The 52nd edition of the Pig Iron Trophy Game was a one-sided affair Friday night Exeter High School, with the host Eagles blasting the Daniel Boone Blazers 42-0 to retain possession of the plaque for a sixth consecutive season.
Exeter now leads the all-time series with the Blazers, 32-19-1. Daniel Boone last triumphed in the series in 2011.
But there was far more at stake for the Eagles than territorial bragging rights on Friday night: The victory likely secures the eighth and final playoff spot for Exeter (7-3, 5-1 Berks 1) in the District 3 Class 5A playoffs. It has been a remarkable recovery, finishing with five straight wins, for a team that was 2-3 and foundering in early October.
“We’d like to take this momentum into the postseason,” Exeter head coach Matt Bauer said. “These kids have worked very hard to get to this opportunity. We faced some adversity earlier this season and the way the kids have responded is a true testament to their loyalty to the program.
“We’re excited to keep this going. The kids don’t want this thing to end. These kids love playing football and they have a lot more to play.”
If it indeed has qualified, Exeter will likely face top-seeded Harrisburg in the first round of the D-3 5A tournament. The unbeaten Cougars face Cumberland Valley Saturday, are one the strongest teams in the entire Commonwealth, and made the PIAA title game last season.
Exeter quarterback Brandon Unterkoefler became the first player in Berks League history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
Unterkoefler finished his night 8 of 14 for 184 yards passing with three touchdowns. He added 91 yards on eight totes the ground, displaying that record-breaking versatility in his high school career regular season finale. That distinction was earned with a first-half pass to running back Gage Moran.
“He’s a tremendous player and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to coach him,” Bauer said of his quarterback.
Moran, the starting running back after Nick Sarangoulis’s season-ending injury, ran for three touchdowns Friday night on the back of his 91 rushing yards. He scored on runs of 13, 37 and 14 yards – the first one opened the scoring, the second set the mercy clock in motion for the second half and third closed the scoring.
Exeter had a 7-0 lead five snaps into the game on Moran’s 13-yarder, capping a five-play, 65-yard opening drive in 1:29. Two offensive snaps later, the eagles made it 14-0 when Unterkolefler found tight end Jon Swenson for 28 and score. The quarterback capped a nine-play, 48-yard campaign with a 4-yard burst to pay dirt, correcting a march that was headed in reverse for a spell under a blizzard of flags. Moran threw a key block on the corner for the touchdown.
For the Blazers (2-8, 2-4), a difficult 2017 campaign on and off the field reached its conclusion in Reiffton. Boone was held to net minus-3 yards rushing on 25 attempts, never having replaced senior running back Spencer McIntosh in the lineup after he suffered a broken wrist early in the season. Blazers quarterback Josh Ehst was 9 of 15 passing for 72 yards, but the lack of any forward push with the run game made him a sitting target in the pocket. He was sacked five times.
Boone interim head coach Ryan Contento replaced former head coach Bill Parks in late September. It’s been a tough spell, but Contento is optimistic about the future, adding the permanent job has been posted and he’s applied for it.
“I’ve learned a lot on the fly,” Contento. “The kids … there’s probably never been a team that’s gone though the number of injuries on top of losing its head coach at that point in the season. They battled. There’s no quit at all. Zero.
“If there’s anything to be proud of for me this year, it’s that they did not give up. They battled in every game they played. And they could have packed it in.”
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