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Two Chrises add up to a big win for Penncrest

MIDDLETOWN >> Penncrest seniors Chris Mills and Chris Chelo share more than a first name.

They both take snaps from center as quarterbacks for the Lions. They also spend time on the field with the Penncrest defensive unit.

“We don’t usually leave the field,” said Mills with a smile, forgetting that he missed a couple of snaps in Penncrest’s 13-2 Central League victory over Conestoga at Louis Scott Field Friday because his helmet came off during a play.

Mills and senior running back Caleb Mahalik teamed up for the Lions’ first score with a four-yard pass midway through the first quarter. Chelo ran four yards for six points early in the second quarter.

After that, the two helped limit Conestoga to 135 yards of total offense, with 130 coming through the air. The Pioneers’ rushing total took a big hit with five quarterback sacks as well as one snap over the quarterback’s head that resulted in a 14-yard loss.

The win halted a four-game losing streak for Penncrest (2-6, 2-5), while Conestoga (1-7, 1-6) suffered its fourth setback in a row.

“We haven’t been home in a long time,” first-year Lions coach Andrew Pidgeon said. “The Central League is pretty tough, but we looked at this as a game between two evenly matched teams. And we had a decent week getting ready.”

It looked like all that preparation might not have been enough when ’Stoga’s Amani Christopher broke off what appeared to be a 60-yard scoring run on the third play from scrimmage.

A penalty took the points off the board, and two plays later Penncrest went on offense for the first time and covered 66 yards in 11 plays, including a 12-yard scramble by Mills that set up his scoring throw to Mahalik.

Penncrest’s second possession began 2:32 before the first quarter ended and included a third-down run by Mahalik for a first down and a fourth-down run by Mahalik that gave the Lions a first down at the Conestoga 16. After Mahalik gained four more yards, Chelo covered the last 12 on two carries.

“We were happy about scoring on the first two drives,” Pidgeon said. “But that was it as far as getting points. We didn’t give up, and the defense made some nice plays.”

“We thought we had been playing better than we were getting credit for,” Mills said. “We wanted to make sure to keep the team together and make sure our offense and our defense would execute.

“We just try to get better each week, and we hope this will help us start a winning streak to end the season.”

As for the two quarterbacks, their connections go back further. Mills’ father, Dan, is a principal in the Interboro School District and was an assistant coach at Williamson Trade School when Chelo’s father, Chris, played there 25 years ago.

Mills broke up a couple of Conestoga passes, Chelo contributed his share of tackles, and Jake Quinn had a pair of quarterback sacks, dropped two ball carriers for losses, and knocked down two passes for the Penncrest defense.

“We were clicking on defense,” Chelo said. “We want to finish up our season strong.”

Cameron Marcus threw for 130 yards for Conestoga but was picked off by Mahalik and Nick Benecke. The Pioneers took advantage of a major penalty and a 21-yard completion from Marcus to Milton Robinson and a 20-yard Robinson run to get inside Penncrest’s 10-yard line with eight minutes to play.

The Lions kept Sean Bailey inches from the goal line after a reception and stuffed Marcus on fourth down with 7:50 to play. Mills tried to plunge forward on first down but was pushed back into the end zone for a safety.

“We have two more chances to play at home,” Chelo said. “Homecoming and Senior Night. We should be fired up for those games.”

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