MANCHESTER -- Northeastern entered Friday night’s District 3-AAA quarterfinal showdown with Susquehanna Township feeling confident.
And who could blame the Bobcats?
Coming off a 48-12 pasting of Northern Lebanon in the first round last Friday, the Manchester boys made history as they became the first team to win a District 3 contest.
The way they did it -- by shutting down a prolific Northern Lebanon offensive attack -- was quite impressive.
Not that doing so was a major surprise. The Bobcats, after all, sported the York-Adams League’s best defense in terms of both scoring (11.9 points per game) and yardage (210.4 yards per game).
But the Mid-Penn Keystone co-champs are a notch or two above anyone else that Northeastern has seen so far this season. Their combination of size (an offensive line that sported five players that weighed at least 250 pounds) and speed was the recipe that helped turn a 1-3 start into a quarterfinals appearance.
And it didn’t take long for the Indians to demonstrate that. Township marched down the field with general ease against the Bobcats on the game’s opening possession, needing just 1 minute and 4 seconds to reach the end zone.
It didn’t get a whole lot better after that for Northeastern, who had trouble stopping the Indians all night. Township added two more touchdowns in the first quarter en route to an impressive 42-14 triumph.
York Catholic wins: The news wasn't all bad for York County football on Friday night, however. York Catholic stormed back from a 14-0 hole to down Steel-High, 21-14, in a District 3-A semifinal battle. York Catholic will now face top-seeded Camp Hill at 1 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium for the championship. It's the third straight year that York Catholic has made the district finals. The Irish have lost in their two previous finals appearances, including a wild 63-49 loss to Camp Hill a season ago. Camp Hill beat Millersburg in the other Class A semifinal on Friday, 46-20.
The Bobcats, who finished in a tie for second in the York-Adams Division I standings, completed their season with a 9-3 record, setting the record for most wins in school history along the way.
“They’re a good football team,” Northeastern coach Jon Scepanski said. “But our guys gave everything they had. There’s no doubt that they didn’t leave anything off the field. I’m very proud of them. Tonight just wasn’t our night.”
Township set the tone early by winning the toss and electing to receive. With a prolific passing attack led by quarterback Ben Moser, the Indians surprised the home team by running the ball from the start. Trael Seegars took the first carry 13 yards to start the game before rumbling another 40 on his second carry.
After getting dropped for a 4-yard loss on a first-and-goal at the 5, Seegars (11 carries, 107 yards; 2 catches, 50 yards, 2 TDs) responded with a 9-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
“Our whole plan was to try to come out and get the ball first,” said Township coach Joe Headen. “We were fortunate to win the toss and just try to get things going right away. Fast starts are important at this time of year and we were lucky enough to get one tonight.”
Northeastern failed to move the ball on its first possession as running back Anu Johnson was held to no gain on back-to-back plays. That forced a punt back to the Indians, who needed just eight plays to extend the advantage.
Sylas Pope (11 carries, 87 yards, 1 TD) did the bulk of the work on the drive with 15 yards rushing and another 29 receiving. Moser, who entered the night with 32 touchdown passes, capped off the drive with a 1-yard run with 7:13 left in the quarter.
Another three-and-out forced the Bobcats to punt once again. It didn’t take long – just five plays that spanned all of 2 minutes and 14 seconds – for the visitors to reach the end zone once more. A big 38 yard hookup between Moser (12-20-1, 236 yards 3 TDs) and receiver Alonzo Rivera (5 catches, 107 yards) on a third down set up another Seegars score, this one a 19-yard pass from Moser with 3:17 left in the first period.
The Bobcats finally figured out some ways to get some stops as the Indians were forced to punt on back-to-back possession. The second punt was caught by Michael Cooper at the 12 before he raced 81 yards down to the Township 7 to set the home team up for its first score.
After a false start penalty knocked the Bobcats back to the 7 on third down, quarterback Shannon Valenti (2-14-1, 40 yards; 12 carries, 19 yards) was able to race around the left side for a touchdown. That score drew Northeastern with 21-7 with 9:20 left in the second quarter.
That was, however, as close as they would get the rest of the way. Township responded back with a quick 4-play, 65 yard scoring drive that took just 72 seconds to halt any momentum that the Bobcats may have seized.
For the contest the Indians gained 448 yards for the night while holding Northeastern to just 153.
Northeastern was able to reach to add another score with 2:21 left in the contest on a 1-yard run by senior Kody Reeser, who led the team with nine carries for 37 yards.
While losing is never easy to accept, it was also painful for the 16 seniors to know that their high school careers were finally over. Scepanski, though, could see the whole picture for the club, which became the most successful in school history, and let his seniors know they had nothing to be ashamed about.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys this year,” Scepanski said. “The seniors – their leadership, their dedication – was tremendous. I just told them that you guys can always look back and say that you’re the team that took Northeastern to the next level. And that’s a huge accomplishment.”
Susquehanna Township 21 7 7 7 - 42
Northeastern 0 7 0 7 - 14
ST - Seegars 9 run (Jonah Williams kick), 10:56
ST - Moser 1 run (Williams kick), 6:43
ST - Seegars 19 pass from Moser (Williams kick), 3:16
Ne - Valenti 7 run (Artman kick), 9:20
ST - Rivera 17 pass from Moser (Williams kick), 8:08
ST - Ciotti 12 pass from Moser (Williams kick), 9:50
ST - Pope 1 run (Williams kick), 11:15
Ne - Reeser 1 run (Artman kick), 2:21
First Downs 16 9
Rushes-Yards 36-212 35-113
Passing 12-20-1 2-14-1
Passing Yards 236 40
Total Yards 448 153
Punts 4-29.0 6-35.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 6-50 10-100
Rushing: ST, Seegars 11-105, Pope 11-87, Wright 6-16, Moser 4-10, Evan 2-(-8), Seaforth 1-5, Gillis-Miles 1-(-2). Ne, Valenti 12-19, Johnson 9-36, Reeser 9-37, Whack 5-21.
Passing: ST, Moser 12-20-1, 236; Ne, Valenti 2-14-1, 40.
Receiving: ST, Rivera 5-107, Seegars 2-50, Ciotti 2-40, Pope 1-13, Garner 1-5, Pressley 1-21. Ne, Ankney 2-40.
Northeastern falls to Susquehanna Twp. 42-14 in district 3 playoff game in Manchester, Pa. On Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. Dawn J. Sagert-The York Dispatch