Tredyffrin >> Following Strath Haven’s 44-7 win against host Conestoga at Teamer Field Friday evening, Panther senior left guard Ryan Morris reflected on his team’s punishing running attack.
“Coach [Kevin] Clancy tells us [offensive linemen] to make 11-step blocks, to give the running backs four yards, then it’s up to them,” said Morris.
Strath Haven’s running backs found those four yards, and a few more, in the first half. The Panthers ran for 257 yards on 34 carries before halftime, and the longest gain was 26 yards. Time after time, the visitors churned out seven, eight, nine yards per carry.
The Panthers controlled the ball so well in the first half that they enjoyed a 37-11 advantage in plays from scrimmage by halftime (and a 24-0 lead).
Morris said, “I think the first half might have been our best [rushing] performance of the season so far.”
The Panthers spread the ground attack wealth, as running backs Sean Daley, Zach Hussein, Ibrahim Pio and Nick O’Connor and quarterback Jake Fisher all ran for solid gains in the first half. Daley and Hussein combined for 153 first-half yards.
“Everybody blocked for our runners – not only the offensive line, but our other backs and tight end,” said Clancy. “We do it as a team, [but] Ryan Morris and Lee Holbert [at left tackle] are two seniors we particularly count on.”
The Panthers picked up 13 first downs by halftime, while holding Conestoga to only one. Two minutes into the third quarter, Strath Haven linebacker Ethan Belville recovered a Conestoga fumble and ran 46 yards for a touchdown to give the visitors a 30-0 lead.
Belville also produced several sacks, and Morris made numerous tackles along with an interception.
“I think Ryan might have led us in tackles tonight,” said Clancy.
On the opening possession of the game, the Panthers drove 48 yards on six running plays for a touchdown, then early in the second quarter moved 61 yards on eight rushes for another touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
A subsequent Conestoga fumble gave the Panthers possession on the Pioneers’ 15 yard line, then three running plays later, Daley crashed over from the 3 for a 21-0 lead.
Just 29 seconds before the first half ended, Strath Haven kicker Emmet Young booted a 21-yard field goal to give the visitors a 24-0 lead at halftime.
Conestoga fans had something to cheer midway through the third quarter when quarterback Cameron Marcus hit James Reilly in double coverage on the right sideline, which the wide receiver turned into a 57-yard touchdown.
Late in the fourth quarter, Fisher found senior wide receiver Thomas Foster open long, and he led him perfectly for a 76-yard touchdown bomb to make it 37-7.
With two minutes to play, Strath Haven freshman running back John Francis broke open down the left side for a 16-yard touchdown run to close out the scoring.
While Conestoga’s offense struggled in the first half, the Pioneers’ attack began to move the ball in the second half, as Marcus hit Reilly and wide receiver Sean Bailey for several solid gains.
Conestoga head coach Marquis Weeks said, “Reilly and Sean made some great catches tonight, and Cameron did a pretty good job at quarterback – he’s only been back there for two games. He was moving the ball at times. [Linebackers] Jackson Niness and Tate Kienzle were all over the place [making tackles] – they’re the heart of our team. [Cornerback] Cory Nowlan had some nice coverage for us.
“The last few weeks have been tough for us. We’ve been working really hard but the execution just hasn’t happened. You’re not going to win giving up 250 [rushing] yards in the first half.
“Our guys didn’t quit – we tried to claw back into the game in the second half, but mistakes killed us.”
Strath Haven 44, Conestoga 7
Strath Haven 7 17 6 14 — 44
Conestoga 0 0 7 0 — 7
SH: Hussein 4 run (Young kick)
SH: Hussein 3 run (Young kick)
SH: Daley 3 run (Young kick)
SH: Young 21 FG
SH: Belville 46 run with fumble (kick blocked)
CO: Reilly 57 pass from Marcus (Williams kick)
SH: Foster 76 pass from Fisher (Young kick)
SH: Francis 16 run (Young kick)
First downs 19 6
Rushes-Yards 53-344 19-32
Passing yards 76 130
Total yards 420 162
Passing 1-7-2 9-19-2
Punts-Average 1-13.0 4-36.5
Fumbles-Lost 4-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 1-5 5-55
Rushing: Strath Haven — Daley 16-88, 1 TD; Hussein 15-102, 2 TDs; Pio 5-53; Fisher 7-46; O’Connor 5-32; Harper 2-5; Francis 3-18, TD. Conestoga — Christopher 3-5; Marcus 4-4; Robinson 8-12; Ditton 2-12; Kirk 1-1, Bailey 1-minus 2.
Passing: Strath Haven — Fisher 1-7-2, 76 yards, 1 TD. Conestoga — Marcus 9-19-2, 130 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving: Strath Haven — Foster 1-76, 1 TD. Conestoga — Reilly 3-83, 1 TD; Niness 1-9; Bailey 4-33; Kirk 1-5.
Interceptions: Strath Haven — Prochniak, Morris. Conestoga — Nowlan, Hewitt.