“Fifty-six points…who the heck was expecting that?” said Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay after the Lions’ game at Central York Friday night.
Red Lion’s offense shocked Central York Friday night, scoring a touchdown on all seven of its drives to defeat the Panthers 56-28.
“That’s as close to perfection as you can get,” Shay said.
Leading the Lions (3-1, 1-0) offense, which totaled 481 yards of offense, was first-year starting quarterback Zach Mentzer. The senior ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and completed 10 of 13 pass attempts for 124 yards and two scores.
Mentzer said beating Central (3-1, 0-1) to open York Adams League Division I play was a perfect bounce back after last week’s 28-19 loss to Chambersburg.
“It feels great right now. We absolutely dominated,” Mentzer said. “Last week, we didn’t show our best, but we came out angry today and played nasty.”
The impressive win puts the Lions in way-too-early consideration for the D-I title, which they won in 2016. Central came into Friday night’s home game with a future NCAA Division I FCS quarterback in senior Cade Pribula, who is committed to the University of Delaware, along with wins over District 3 stalwarts Cumberland Valley and Hempfield.
“That’s a fantastic football team over there. That’s not the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Shay said. “…We just put 56 on them. What a great job our kids did, and what a great job our offensive staff did.”
Red Lion’s run-pass option offense ran roughshod over Central’s defense, as Mentzer was making easy reads between keeping it himself, handing off to running back Tyler Ness or flipping a shovel pass to fullback Elijah Workinger.
“(Shay’s) game plan was exactly what they needed to do, and those kids wanted it more over there,” said Central head coach Josh Oswalt. “…We didn’t even give them a game. Red Lion deserved a better effort from us, and we didn’t give them that. That’s the bottom line.”
First quarter shootout: Red Lion started the game at Central York with a nine-play, 70-yard drive, capped off by a 1-yard Mentzer QB sneak, to take a 7-0 lead.
“I love when we get the ball first, because our offense is so good at scoring right away,” Shay said. “That sets the tone. They were playing from behind after that.”
Central scored on its next two drives, both on touchdown passes – 32 yards and 30 yards, respectively – from Pribula to Taylor Wright-Rawls. The two connected seven times for 135 yards.
Pribula completed 21 of 30 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns and two turnovers (one interception and one fumble). He also ran for 51 yards on nine carries, excluding the negative 12 yards he took on two sacks.
“Cade is so good,” Shay said. “My hat’s off to that young man and those kids over there. He’s so good at keeping plays alive.”
Sandwiched between Wright-Rawls’ two touchdown catches was a 32-yard rushing score by Mentzer, who split the Central defense on a keeper.
“The holes were there, so I had to run,” Mentzer said. “The middle of the field was wide open tonight.”
Oswalt said his team’s breakdowns on defense made Mentzer’s reads easier than they should have been.
“(Mentzer) played out of his mind tonight. I’m not taking anything away from him, but I guarantee if you talk to him, he’ll tell you how easy it was because (our) defense wasn’t playing assignment football,” Oswalt said.
Dominant offensive line: When an offense scores a touchdown on every drive, it’s obvious that the offensive line – the most important unit on a football field behind the signal caller – played well. Shay said the line’s performance was its “high-water mark.”
“They played beautifully,” Shay said. “(We had) 300-plus yards rushing. That’s the ballgame. In high school football, if you rush for 300 yards, you’re going to win the game.”
Junior offensive lineman Jared Miller said the Lions’ RPO system, when run correctly, is about as much fun a big man like him can have.
“It’s fun football. There’s nothing else about it,” Miller said. “We like beating kids’ butts and scoring touchdowns. What else do you need? It’s awesome.”
“The offensive line did a fantastic job,” Mentzer said. “They made great holes and made it easy to run the ball.”
In the NFL, some quarterbacks and running backs get their offensive lineman Rolexes or buy them steak dinners. Mentzer and Ness probably don't have the budget for that, but Miller knows they appreciate the often-undervalued offensive linemen nonetheless.
“Let’s see what they get me for lunch on Monday,” Miller joked. “They treat me pretty well. I just make sure I protect my skinny guys at all times.”
Lions extend the lead: Red Lion retook the lead early in the second quarter on a 4-yard shovel pass from Mentzer to Workinger – a frequent connection on the day, as the 6 foot 5 inch, 250-pound fullback caught six shovel passes for 60 yards.
After forcing a turnover on downs on Central’s next offensive drive, Red Lion took a 28-14 lead on a 16-yard pass from Mentzer to sophomore quarterback-turned-wideout Randy Fizer. Despite facing a third-and-goal from the 16-yard line and having a reliable kicker in Workinger, the Lions decided to take a shot to the end zone. Mentzer rolled to his right, drawing the safety towards him and allowing Fizer to be open in the middle of the end zone.
“We knew it was going to be a shootout,” Mentzer said. “Field goals weren’t going to do it. We wanted to put the ball in the end zone. (Offensive coordinator Taylor) Green called a great play, and we set it up perfectly.”
Central’s missed chance: If Central had come back and won, its touchdown drive at the end of the first half would have been the turning point. The Panthers drove 76 yards in the last minute of the half to trail by one score at halftime.
With three seconds left on the clock and the Panthers on the 6-yard line, Oswalt decided to go for the score. Pribula remained poised after he didn’t have a receiver open initially. When he started to roll out to his right, he found Saahir Cornelius, who adjusted his route once Pribula left the pocket.
Central started the second half with possession but gave it up four plays into the drive when Pribula was intercepted by Kobe Martin. Pribula forced the pass under pressure, but Oswalt said one of his receivers ran the wrong route.
At halftime, Shay decided to slow down Pribula by sitting back in coverage rather than forcing him outside of the pocket.
“Since he was keeping plays alive, we decided to keep him in the pocket,” Shay said. “We wanted to keep him there and play coverage. Let’s not let him dance around, because that’s when high school kids on defense lose their heads.”
Putting the game away: The Lions then drove 68 yards down field on a 15-play drive, capped off by a 1-yard run by Ness, to take a 35-21 lead.
“The biggest drive was after the interception when we took eight minutes off the clock,” Shay said.
At the end of the third quarter, Central missed a 32-yard field goal that would have put the Panthers down 11.
Red Lion put the game out of reach when backup quarterback Nic Shultz, who was in after Mentzer’s helmet was knocked off and he was forced to the sideline, used his speed to outrun the Panthers for a 46-yard touchdown.
Garbage-time scores: Red Lion scored two touchdowns in garbage time, while Central scored one.
Justin Dillon sacked Pribula and forced a fumble that was picked up by Devante Dennis for a 48-yard return touchdown.
Brendan Harris then ran for a 12-yard touchdown on Central’s next drive, and Ness, who ran for 130 yards on 23 totes, capped off the night’s scoring with a 12-yard touchdown for Red Lion with one minute left.
Red Lion 14 14 7 21 — 56
Central York 14 7 0 7 — 28
Red Lion: Nic Shultz 46-yard run (Workinger kick), 9:17 (RL 42, CY 21)
Red Lion: Devante Dennis 48-yard fumble return (Workinger kick), 7:49 (RL 49, CY 21)
Central: Brendan Harris 12-yard run (Basile kick), 5:04 (RL 49, CY 28)
Total offense: 481 yards
Sacks: 2 for 12 yards
Total offense: 450 yards
Zach Mentzer: 18 carries, 143 yards, 2 TDs; 10-13 passing, 124 yards, 2 TDs
Tyler Ness: 23 carries, 130 yards, 2 TDs
Elijah Workinger: 6 receptions, 60 yards, TD
Randy Fizer: 3 receptions, 34 yards, TD
Devante Dennis: 1 reception, 30 yards; 48-yard fumble return TD
Nic Shultz: 4 carries, 84 yards, TD
Cade Pribula: 21-30 passing, 311 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 11 carries, 39 yards (sacked 2 times for 12 yards), 1 fumble
Hunter Werner: 16 carries, 45 yards; 4 receptions, 42 yards
Taylor Wright-Rawls: 7 receptions, 135 yards, 2 TDs
Saahir Cornelius: 1 reception, 6 yards, TD
Beau Pribula: 3 receptions, 38 yards
Reid Hershner: 3 receptions, 57 yards
Brendan Harris: 3 carries, 44 yards, TD; 1 reception, 14 yards
Isaiah Sturgis: 2 carries, 11 yards
Mason Myers: 2 receptions, 19 yards
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