Waynesboro adds another game to 2021 season
WAYNESBORO – As the first quarter of Friday’s District 3-5A playoff game wound down at Buchanan Automotive Stadium, Waynesboro found itself down 14-0 to visiting Daniel Boone.
Were the ghosts of post-seasons past rising from the field turf? Was the Indians’ season destined to end in another first-round playoff disappointment? Was Daniel Boone’s hefty offensive line that weighed in at 295, 283 and 278 pounds at the interior positions ready to pounce and shake off the nearly two-hour plus drive from Birdsboro? Were the early-game jitters soon to spread out for four quarters?
Waynesboro head coach Josh Sprenkle said after the game, “We never worried about it.”
Sprenkle added, “We knew (Daniel Boone) would come out on fire.”
Both statements were true. So was the fact that the Blazers hadn’t played a game since Oct. 15.
The second scenario preceded the first, but a turning point (one of many in the game that went in Waynesboro’s direction) came in the early moments of the second quarter when No. 28, Aidan Mencia – a force of nature in cleats – brought the crowd to its feet when he raced 45 yards for the Tribe’s first points of the game.
In a game that saw Waynesboro committing bad penalties but not turning over the ball and grinding away on a crisp and clear night of football, the order of the night was staying true to the identity of relying on the running game to set up the pass and keeping up relentless pressure from the defense.
Both played out almost to perfection. And 11 games into the season, Waynesboro has been used to relying on technique and instinct to compensate for any lack of size compared to bigger opponents. Indeed, watching the Indians compete harkens back to a bygone era when linemen weighed well under 200 pounds and games were played with sheer will and desire.
The possession following the Blazers’ second TD couldn’t have been overestimated. The Indians went three-and-out on their first offensive series and picked up one first down but couldn’t get another the second time around. Two possessions, two punts.
Waynesboro quarterback Louie Lindsay gave a boost to the offense with a 10-yard run on first down at the Tribe 20-yard line. Mencia picked up a respectable seven yards. Lindsay gained another 15 yards on the final play of the first quarter.
On second and seven, Mencia turned the tide of the game.
The frustration of seasons’ past burst like a bubble.
It was up to the defense to contain 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior AJ Hofer, who so far had 11 touches for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
Enter 5-foot-7, 140-pound defensive back Bodie Rouzer, a senior who perhaps symbolizes Waynesboro’s image as an undersized and underdog team that must work that much harder and maintain a high level of confidence despite setbacks during games.
Sure, the Indians overcame obstacles in that well-documented triple overtime victory at Gettysburg on Sept. 10. And the miracle Hail Mary pass against Mechanicsburg on Oct. 22. And, in some measure, a mud-filled 6-0 win at Northern York on a night when many arguably thought there wouldn’t even be a game
Sprenkle and his coaching staff must have discovered a secret that keeps other teams from imposing their will. Incidentally, the Indians are not only impressive to watch in terms of their play calling on offense, but also their attack style defense that forbids opposing offenses from breaking big plays.
Rouzer sliced his way through the line of scrimmage without being blocked and tracked down Hofer before he could get any impetus and chew up yardage. Rouzer took out Hofer’s legs and the Blazers were forced to punt at the 8:57 mark of the quarter.
Enter Izaiah Worthy, whose No. 26 wasn’t called that much – but when it was he delivered. Worthy, a 5-foot-6, 160-pound senior, ran for 15 yards on first down, initiating a drive that would consume 73 yards and end with a Jesse Julius 3-yard touchdown burst and a 2-point conversion reception by senior running back that tied the game at 14.
Another senior, tight end Garrett Blount, hauled in a pass from Lindsay that totaled 43 yards and set up the Indians at the Daniel Boone 4-yard line.
“This is the most mentally tough team I’ve ever seen,” said Sprenkle, who was spared a water shower because the water containers were already emptied. “They’ve played some hard games.
“We started moving the ball and turned up the heat with a defensive stand at the end of the first half.”
The defensive stand Sprenkle mentioned was another defining moment. The Blazers pinned the Indians at their 1-yard line after a Daniel Boone drive the reached Waynesboro’s 25 was repelled, thanks in part to an intentional grounding call resulting from heavy pressure on quarterback Dean Rotter that killed any scoring chance.
The Indians had to punt from their 2-yard line and had to stop the Blazers from gaining any momentum heading into halftime.
Lightning struck twice, this time when a 45-yard field goal attempt failed with two seconds remaining in the first half.
After deferring on the coin toss to start the game, Waynesboro received the opening kickoff to start the third quarter. The Tribe started the second half like the Blazers started the game. Mencia raced 42 yards on the first play. Julius ran for 18 on the next play. Two plays later, Lindsay tossed a 21-yard scoring pass to the dependable Blount for a 20-14 lead.
The defense made sure there would be no repeat of the first 24 minutes, forcing a three-and-out highlighted by a 10-yard loss on a bad snap in the shotgun formation.
Waynesboro took possession at its 15 and marched all the way to the Daniel Boone 11 after chewing up nearly seven minutes of clock. The drive stalled but not without Lindsay’s right leg contributing to the scoring on a field goal that made it 23-14.
On second-and-13 from the Blazers’ 16, Waynesboro’s Rhyan Day stepped in the flight path of a Rotter pass and had a clear path to the end zone. The 30 yards Day covered to a chorus of cheers was as much a journey as an interception return. It gave the Indians a 30-14 lead.
Waynesboro’s journey continues this upcoming Friday with a rematch against Spring Grove (9-1) at Spring Grove.
The Rockets defeated the Indians, 25-20, on Aug. 28 in Waynesboro.
Waynesboro will once again be the underdog, but don’t expect the Tribe to play like it.
“These kids made history,” Sprenkle summed up after the game.
Win or lose this week against a team whose only loss was to returning state finalist Central York, history still will have been made.