Exeter’s stellar season ended by Cumberland Valley, 35-17, in District 3-AAAA quarters

READING>> Exeter’s finest football campaign in 18 seasons came to a thudding close Friday night at Don Thomas Stadium, the product of four turnovers coughed up to an opportunistic Cumberland Valley defense, in a District 3 Class AAAA quarterfinal clash.

Cumberland County’s Eagles cashed in three of those turnovers, worth 21 first-half points, and rode it out to 35-17 victory to advance to the Quad-A semifinals. The loss closes Berks County’s Eagles’ stellar campaign with an 11-1 mark.

On the way to winning its first 11 games, Exeter captured the Berks League Section 1 title for the first time since 1997, beating rival Governor Mifflin for the first time in a decade, at home, in Week 9 to secure it.

Exeter tight end-turned-quarterback Gabe Schappell threw three interceptions Friday night, all in the first half, and the host Eagles special teams gifted a fourth on a botched punt return. CV took two of the picks and the muffed punt in for touchdowns before the break, building a 21-3 lead in a game that could have — and perhaps should have — been closer.

“They’ve been doing it all year,” CV head coach Mike Whitehead said of his club. “They’re a very resilient group with good senior leaders. We’re not a one-man show, so it makes it nice that you don’t have to rely on one guy.

“Our defense has played well all year. They get turnovers, and we’ve been lucky to capitalize on those on offense all year.”

The contest might best be encapsulated by what CV’s Nick Rhodes did as the half wound down, with his Eagles leading 14-3. Rhodes, at defensive back, stepped in front of a floating pass by Schappell in the flat intended for Nick Sarangoulis, near midfield, and raced 48 yards untouched the other way for a backbreaking touchdown with just 36 seconds to play in the first half. There wasn’t a blue jersey within 30 yards of him.

“I was just dropping back and I saw (Sarangoulis) release out and I saw the quarterback check him. I knew it was coming to him and I just jumped the ball,” Rhodes said. “My eyes got real big.

‘We knew they (Exeter) were undefeated, but we knew as long as we came up here and did our job, we could do anything.”

Whitehead wasn’t surprised Rhodes stepped up into the glaring spotlight. “Biggest play of the game right there,” CV’s head man said. “Huge play. He’s been playing three years for us. Those plays, we like ’em but you never know when they’re going to happen. When they’re seniors, that’s what you expect them to do this time of year.”

At running back, Rhodes capped an opening seven-play, 61-yard drive — set up by Schappell’s first pick — to go in from eight yards out with 5:39 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 CV lead.

The visiting Eagles doubled it off the botched punt, which happened when Connor Long’s punt bounced off an Exeter player at its own 23. Seven plays later, quarterback Josh Ferguson found tight end Mac Wallace for a 12-yard paint strike to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.

A 23-yard Nick Bentz field goal got Exeter on the board at, 14-3.

Despite the penchant for the killer turnover, the host Eagles regrouped at the half and were able to keep proceedings interesting for a while. Michal Menet repeated his Mifflin games heroics by blocking a punt deep in CV territory 2:16 into the second half, then carrying the loose football three yards into the end zone for his team’s first touchdown, and a 21-10 deficit.

But the Mid-Penn Commonwealth and annual playoff participants showed why they are such a tough out in the postseason. On the very first snap following Menet’s punt block and score, CV’s Cole Kline ripped off a 67-yard jaunt for a score, off left tackle, to re-establish control of the contest. If Rhodes’ pick set the tone, Kline’s run drove home the stake.

“It was big to get a lead on them, because too many times I know they haven’t been down too many times this season,” Whitehead said.

Kline lead all rushers with 105 yards on 10 carries. Despite a rough 4 of 19 night under center for 58 yards, the sizable Schappell excelled at running the option, picking up 104 yards on 17 totes and finishing off a late drive with a three-yard plunge.

CV’s Ferguson was a tidy 4 of 7 for 68 yards through the air with that TD pass, just enough to offset the usual heavy ground attack coming from his team. CV ran it 48 times for 208 yards. Exeter went for 172 on 32.


Cumberland Valley –  7  14  7  7 — 35

Exeter –  0  3  14  0 — 17

First quarter

CV – Nick Rhodes 8 run (Connor Long kick), 5:33

Second quarter

CV – Mac Wallace 12 pass from Josh Ferguson (Long kick), 10:46

E – Nick Bentz 23 FG, 4:48

CV – Rhodes 48 int return (Long kick), :36

Third quarter

E – Michal Menet 3 blocked punt return (Bentz kick), 9:44

CV – Cole Kline 67 run (Ridge Bachman kick), 9:30

E – Gabe Schappell 3 run (Bentz kick), 4:33

Fourth quarter

CV – Joe Heikel 3 run (Bachman kick), 3:01




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