RED LION — Red Lion's offense got into a rhythm early in its game against Waynesboro Friday night.
The Lions scored on their first four drives to take a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.
While Red Lion's offense played well, the poise of quarterback Zach Mentzer wasn't the main reason the Lions were rolling on offense. Nor was it the slick pass catching of Randy Fizer or the bruising play of Eli Workinger, though all three Lions played excellently on offense.
In fact, it was Red Lion's defense that propelled its offense to run and pass all over the Indians in the Lions’ 48-14 win.
“We preached all week long about assignment football,” said Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay. “Really, that’s all it was today. We held our gaps, and there wasn’t anywhere for them to go.”
Front seven heaven: More specifically, it was the Lions' front seven that dominated Waynesboro, preventing the Indians from gaining a first down on their first five drives of the game and allowing the Red Lion offense to keep its rhythm.
“(The defense) gave us more chances so we could keep rolling,” said Workinger, a fullback and linebacker. “(The offense) didn’t have to wait and let the momentum die. We could keep moving.”
Red Lion's fierce front seven sacked Indians quarterback Jay Alvarez three times in the half and prevented Waynesboro rushers from breaking through to the secondary — or even the line of scrimmage.
It took the Indians (1-1) 14 plays to gain their first positive yard, as the Mid-Penn squad had more negative yardage plays in the first half (eight) than positive yardage plays (six). Waynesboro's first time moving the chains came with about three minutes left in the first half, and the Indians went into the locker room with negative 16 yards of total offense.
Shay said his three starting linebackers – Workinger, Justin Dillon and Kadan Smith – all played “lights out.” On the defensive line, Shay was particularly happy with the play of sophomore Devante Dennis, who was filling in for senior defensive end Cole Renfro.
“He couldn’t have played any better,” Shay said. “He exceeded all of our expectations.”
Unlikely receiving threat: Red Lion (2-0) started the game with the ball, driving 66 yards in less than four minutes to take a 7-0 lead.
On third and nine in Waynesboro's territory, Mentzer threw a strike to Fizer on a seam route for a 38-yard touchdown. Mentzer, a senior, and Fizer, a sophomore, would connect for two more touchdowns on the night.
For Fizer to catch three touchdowns in a varsity game as a sophomore is impressive. But it’s even more extraordinary that this is Fizer’s first season playing wide receiver.
Fizer, who caught five of his eight targets for 83 yards, was the team’s third quarterback in camp and recently made the transition to wideout.
“He’s only been a receiver for about two and a half weeks now,” Shay said. “We thought Fizer was too good of an athlete to not put him on the field.”
“I’ve been working extra to be the best wide receiver I can be,” Fizer said. “I just wanted to get on the field Friday nights.”
Mentzer and Fizer linked up again later in the first quarter on a 15-yard crossing route, with Fizer maneuvering into the end zone to give the Lions a 17-0 lead.
“(Fizer) understands the playbook, which is really key,” Mentzer said. “He’s done a fantastic job, and I’m proud of him for making those catches.”
A poised signal caller: Mentzer ran the Lions’ run-pass option offense to near perfection. He completed 8 of 14 pass attempts for 112 yards and four touchdowns, while gaining 29 yards on his nine rushing attempts, not counting the two times he was sacked.
“He’s been great,” Shay said. “He’s making all the reads. In our offense, we give him three or four things to read before the ball is snapped and then he has to make another read. I think he’s handling the offense incredibly well.”
The Lions scored again at the end of the first half to take a 27-0 lead at halftime. Mentzer lobbed a pass to Workinger, who snagged it with one hand and ran for the 25-yard score.
“I know he was a little nervous, but he’s got it down,” Workinger said. “He’s just going to keep getting better.”
Workinger, who plays linebacker on defense, fullback on offense and kicker on special teams, ran for 30 yards, caught two passes for 29 yards and a score, made all five extra points and two of three field goal attempts, including a long of 49 yards.
Mentzer put the game out of reach early in the third quarter with his fourth touchdown pass of the night, this time a 7-yard dime to Fizer on a corner route. The score gave the Lions a 34-0 lead.
Defensive dominance: The Indians didn’t eclipse zero yards of total offense until about eight minutes left in the game. If not for the 119 yards of offense Waynesboro gained in the garbage time fourth quarter, it’s possible the Lions could have held the Indians to negative yards of offense in the game.
The Indians ran 44 plays on offense, with only 19 of them going for positive yards. As Red Lion’s front seven was impressive, the Lions’ secondary more than held its own, too. The Lions held Alvarez to 1 of 13 passing for zero yards.
“They played really well,” Shay said. “Coming into this game, we knew how well Waynesboro played in that first game in the second half. They put up 18 points in the second half against Red Land.”
Garbage time scores: Both teams scored two touchdowns apiece in the fourth quarter.
Red Lion took a 41-0 lead and initiated the running clock when backup quarterback Nic Shultz ran for a 2-yard score.
Waynesboro got on the scoreboard on the first play of its next drive when Brayden Bibbs broke through the Lions’ second-team defense for an 80-yard run.
Shultz ran for another touchdown on Red Lion’s next drive, this time from 3 yards out, to go ahead 48-7. The Indians then scored with less than a minute left in the game when Darrian Click plodded for a 17-yard score.
Waynesboro 0 0 0 14 — 14
Red Lion 17 10 7 14 — 48
Red Lion: Randy Fizer 38-yard pass from Zach Mentzer (Eli Workinger kick), 8:20 (RL 7, W 0)
Red Lion: Workinger 39-yard field goal, 5:44 (RL 10, W 0)
Red Lion: Fizer 28-yard pass from Mentzer (Workinger kick), 2:44 (RL 17, W 0)
Red Lion: Workinger 49-yard field goal, 10:17 (RL 20, W 0)
Red Lion: Workinger 25-yard pass from Mentzer (Workinger kick), 3:25 (RL 27, W 0)
Red Lion: Fizer 7-yard pass from Mentzer (Workinger kick), 5:46 (RL 34, W 0)
Red Lion: Nic Shultz 2-yard run (Workinger kick), 8:34 (RL 41, W 0)
Waynesboro: Brayden Bibbs 80-yard run (Trenton Shetler kick), 7:58 (RL 41, W 7)
Red Lion: Shultz 3-yard run (Hunter Throne kick), 4:13 (RL 48, W 7)
Waynesboro: Darrian Clark 17-yard run (Shetler kick), 0:46 (RL 48, W 14)
Total yards: 240
Sacks: 3 for 26 yards
Total yards: 112
Sacks: 2 for 15 yards
Zach Mentzer: 8-14 passing, 112 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT; 11 carries, 14 yards (Sacked 2 times for -15 yards)
Randy Fizer: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 83 yards, 3 TD; 1 rush, -5 yards
Eli Workinger: 4 rushes, 30 yards; 4 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, TD; 5-5 XP, 2-3 FGs, 40 missed, 49 long
Tyler Ness: 13 rushes, 50 yards
Nic Shultz: 10 rushes, 23 yards, 2 TD, fumble
Alex Cook: 2 rushes, 17 yards
Devyn Gurreri: 2 rushes, -1 yard, fumble recovery
Brock Holloway: 1 rush, 0 yards
Jay Alvarez: 1-13 passing, 0 yards; 7 rushes, -25 yards (Sacked 3 times for -26 yards)
Adam Wertz: 6 rushes, 1 yard; 1 reception, 0 yards
Aidan Mencia: 4 rushes, 19 yards
Brayden Bibbs: 3 rushes, 73 yards, TD
Darrian Click: 3 rushes, 21 yards, TD
Logan Wishard: 2 rushes, 4 yards, fumble
Quentin Gaskill: 1 rush, -6 yards
Chance Eyler: 1-1 passing, 4 yards
Quenton Frampton: 1 rush, 8 yards; 1 reception, 4 yards
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org