Dallastown downs Spring Grove, moves to 4-0 on season
SPRING GROVE – As the Dallastown football sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to its teammate Edgar Centeno Friday, the Wildcat running back broke into a dance.
The moment was probably just what head coach Kevin Myers and his team needed after a getting tested by a Spring Grove club in both teams’ York-Adams League Division I opener.
It also gave them a chance to breathe a heavy sigh of relief.
The unbeaten Wildcats stormed out to an early 16-0 lead in the first quarter Friday night at Papermakers Stadium. But a couple of costly turnovers — one before the half and one in the fourth quarter — allowed the Rockets a chance to make things interesting.
It was only when Spring Grove quarterback Nick Shaqfeh’s desperation heave on fourth down with less than a minute to play in regulation fell incomplete that visitors could celebrate. The 23-14 triumph kept Dallastown unbeaten at 4-0 on the season while going to 1-0 in the division. The Rockets, who started the season 2-0, dropped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the division.
For a veteran coach like Myers, a game with some ups and downs like Friday’s is pretty much what he expects to see from this point on.
“I think every game is going to be tough,” Myers said. “They do a lot of nice things and they play tough, but coming out with a win is what we wanted. This is what we’re going to face week in and week out.”
It didn’t look like the Wildcats would get much of a test early on. After forcing the Rockets to punt on their first possession, the visitors marched down the field on its first drive of the contest. Dallastown quarterback Michael Sparks capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Lloyd that put the Wildcats ahead 7-0.
After the Dallastown defense forced Spring Grove to attempt another punt on the ensuing possession, a bad snap sent Rocket punter Drew Gordon into the endzone where he was tackled for a safety that put the Wildcats ahead 9-0.
Dallastown took the ensuing kickoff and once again marched down the field. This time it was tailback Zion DeVance (23 carries, 131 yards) who cashed in on a six-yard touchdown run that put the visitors ahead 16-0 with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Rockets, however, figured out ways to slow down the Dallastown offense after that. The running back trio of DeVance, Rodney Scott and Centeno, who combined for 180 yards on the ground, had trouble moving the chains consistently against the Spring Grove defense after the first quarter.
The Wildcats didn’t do themselves too many favors either. Costly penalties and turnovers proved to be enough to keep Spring Grove, which didn’t turn the ball over at all, within striking distance.
“We had some penalties and some things that we need to clean up a little bit,” Myers said. “We have to keep our hands in. We worked hard on it last week and we’re going to work hard on it this week. Keep our feet moving. But we’ll be alright.”
Appearing to be in good shape to take a 16-0 lead into the intermission, the Wildcats opened the door when Sparks threw his second interception of the game late in the first half. Spring Grove’s Blake King, who also had the first interception that killed a potential Dallastown scoring drive deep in Rocket territory, was able to return the ball all the way down to the Wildcats 35-yard line with 11.9 seconds left.
Shaqfeh found Connor Reed for a 30-yard connection that put the Rockets at the Dallastown 5 with 1.1 seconds left in the half. After taking a timeout, the Rockets found the end-zone when Shaqfeh found Brady Stein with no time left on the clock.
After neither team could do much offensively in the third period, the Wildcats appeared to put the game away with the first play of the fourth quarter. With a 4th-and-goal at the 1, Myers elected to go for the six points. He was rewarded for the risk as Sparks crossed the goalline on a keeper that made it 23-7.
The Rockets, who were held to just 119 yards of total offense, once again had trouble against the Dallastown defense on the ensuing possession. After punting it back to the Wildcats, the Spring Grove defense came up with another big play. Sparks was picked off for a third time when Ronnie Lawson stepped in front of the intended receiver and raced 55-yards for a touchdown with 8:01 left in the contest.
That once again gave the home team some hope as they drew within 23-14. But without its defense to come up with another big play, the Rocket offense couldn’t solve a stout Dallastown defense to string together a late-game scoring drive.
“Give credit to Spring Grove,” Myers said. “That guy (Lawson) jumped the route and timed it perfectly.”
Despite the three interceptions for the night, Myers wasn’t going to point fingers at his quarterback. Instead he praised his team’s resiliency as a point that he envies from his club.
“You turn the ball over but you can’t sit down,” Myers said. “And this team hasn’t. We have to get through the mistakes and we’ve done that.”
The Rockets will look to find a way to rebound after suffering back-to-back losses. Coach Kyle Sprenkle believes that no team will be able to complete the Division I schedule unbeaten. So while the loss to Dallastown was disappointing, there are some positives to build off of while they prepare to rebound against New Oxford next Friday.
“There are certain times where we have all 11 guys clicking and they’re doing what they have to do,” he said. “But then there’s times where one guy lets up and that’s where we have letdowns on offense. And that’s the things we have to correct.”
Dallastown - 16 0 0 7 - 23
Spring Grove - 0 7 0 7 - 14
Dallastown - Michael Sparks 6-yd pass to Elijah Lloyd (Drake Pew kick), 4:01
Dallastown - Safety, Gordon tackled in end-zone, 2:03
Dallastown - Zion DeVance 6-yd run (Pew kick), :20.4
Spring Grove - Nick Shaqfeh 5-yd pass to Brady Stein (Drew Gordon kick), 0:00
Dallastown - Sparks 1-yd run (Pew kick), 11:56
Spring Grove - Ronnie Lawson 55-yd interception return (Gordon kick), 8:01
Dallastown – Spring Grove
First downs - 16 - 5
Rushes-Yards - 47-242 - 16-21
Passing - 4-7-3 - 11-20-0
Passing Yards - 27 - 98
Total Yards - 266 - 119
Fumbles-Lost - 3-1 - 0-0
Penalties-Yards - 7-45 - 9-69
Rushing — Dallastown, Zion DeVance 23-131, Rodney Scott 11-54, Edgar Centeno 1-(-5), Elijah Lloyd 2-33, Mike Sparks, 10-29. Spring Grove, Branden Brandt 4-9, Ryan Daugherty 6-5, Nick Shaqfeh 3-11, Trent Baker 2-(-4), Anthony Beddia 1-0.
Passing — Dallastown, Mike Sparks 4-7-27-3. Spring Grove, Nick Shaqfeh 11-20-98-0.
Receiving — Dallastown, Elijah Lloyd 1-6, Donavan Catchings 1-4, Rodney Scott 1-7, Nathan Downey 1-10. Spring Grove, Ryan Dougherty 3-19, Branden Brandt 1-17, Connor Reed 3-42, Blake King 1-7, Brady Stein, 2-11, Anthony Beddia 1-2.