Miscues plague Exeter in first-round loss to Manheim Township

NEFFSVILLE >> Nobody could have predicted what happened on Friday night when Manheim Township met the Exeter Eagles in the first round of the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs.

Exeter entered the game with only six turnovers on the season and featured dual-threat quarterback Chase Yocum.

But the Blue Streaks managed to force the Eagles to turn the ball over eight times during the game en route to a 45-15 rout in the opening round.

Exeter (8-3) got off to a rough start on the first offensive play of the game as running back Chris Scott fumbled the handoff exchange from Yocum. While the Eagles were able to recover the ball, it appeared to be nothing more than a foreshadowing of things to come.

The Blue Streaks got on the board first. Cartier Morton took a handoff 50 yards for a score to put Manheim Township (8-3) up 7-0. Morton finished the day with 23 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns and also added a nice 62-yard run late in the second quarter.

With the Eagles trailing 10-0 after the first quarter of play, Exeter looked to running back Braelin Grill to get the offense moving. After amassing 96 yards on nine carries in the first half, Grill would not return to the field in the second half after suffering an injury late in the second quarter.

The Blue Streaks pulled out to a 17-0 lead at the half, as they continuously forced turnovers. With the second quarter winding down, Exeter had a chance to put points on the board and salvage the half, until defensive back Olufisayo Olueye intercepted Yocum’s pass in the end zone to close out the half.

On the night, Yocum was held to a 5-for-16 night passing for 28 yards and four interceptions. On the other side of the field, Manheim Township quarterback Erik Benjamin went 12-for-22 with 145 yards and three touchdowns.

“Chase Yocum is a heck of a quarterback, and it’s no secret what we can do,” Manheim Township coach Mark Evans said.” We really had to focus on containing him.”

In the third quarter, Exeter looked to have gained back some momentum. Yocum was able to orchestrate a productive drive late in the third and cut Manheim’s lead to 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter after a Chris Scott touchdown run from 5 yards out as time expired.

Unfortunately for Exeter, that would be as close as they would get. The fourth quarter belonged to Manheim Township wide receiver John Stutz, who ultimately shut the door on any hope the Eagles had.

Stutz caught a 25-yard pass from Benjamin to put the ball deep in Exeter territory, and three plays later, it was Benjamin who found tight end Noah Schairer for an 8-yard touchdown reception.

Stutz would add a 42-yard punt return touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter and hauled in an 8-yard receiving touchdown on a screen pass on the following drive. Stutz’s fourth-quarter effort was enough to lead the Streaks to 28 fourth-quarter points.

“I had no idea we forced eight turnovers,” Evans said. “I don’t keep track of that stuff, but I’m a big fan of the plus/minus stat, and we’ve been in the minus lately. It’s good to see us turn that around.”

The Blue Streaks will travel to Wilson (11-0) next week. The undefeated Bulldogs beat Carlisle, 21-7.

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