SPRING GROVE – It was a game Waynesboro could have won. In the end, it was a game that got away.
The Indians put together a stout defensive effort against the Spring Grove Rockets on Friday night in a District 3-5A quarterfinal playoff game at Papermaker Stadium. But the offense sputtered and couldn’t overcome late special teams’ mistakes, and the Rockets advanced to the semifinals with a 21-6 victory.
“The season has to come to an end at some point,” said Waynesboro head coach, whose team’s wild ride that was the 2021 season came to an end. “This is the most fun group of kids I’ve coached. We had a great group of seniors that instilled pride and dedication to the younger kids.”
Spring Grove, which plays in the York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association, will be on the road next Friday to play undefeated and top-seeded Governor Mifflin, a 63-35 winner against Warwick.
Cedar Cliff is now the lone Mid-Penn Conference team left in the 5A playoffs. The Colts defeated No. 3 Shippensburg, 10-7.
The game was the last for Waynesboro seniors Callin Kauffman, Rhyan Day, Jesse Julius, Brody Rhodes, Khasyr Deputy, Jonathan Hough, Luke Martin, Louie Lindsay, Bodie Rouzer, Colby Bittorie, Izaiah Worthy, Aidan Mencia, Kaden Rouzer, Payton Reaver, Garrett Blount, Landon Beckner, Jayden Alvarez, Will Young, Logan Parris, Logan Sampson and Jared Peck.
Neither team broke any big plays in the game, and Waynesboro’s defense bent but didn’t break against an offense that utilized the entire field from sideline to sideline but still couldn’t avoid a quick-pursuing defense.
Each team traded punts to start the game on a brisk but not bitterly cold night. Spring Grove broke the early scoreless tie, thanks in part to a 15-yard facemask penalty that moved the ball close to midfield.
From there, workhorse senior running back Zyree Brooks helped the Rockets move the ball methodically down the field. His 28-yard gain was the highlight of a 12-play, 82-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard run by Brooks with 2:42 left to play in the opening stanza.
The rest of the first half saw a defensive stalemate. The second half brought a different kind of game but not a break from the defensive game that marked the first 24 minutes.
Trailing 7-0 late in the third quarter, Waynesboro found paydirt when senior quarterback Louie Lindsay threaded a pass to senior wide receiver Brody Rhodes for a 14-yard scoring pass in the right corner of the end zone with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
Then, the game got interesting.
The Tribe, whose running game never got going, went for the 2-point conversion, which failed, making the score 7-6 and Waynesboro still very much in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Spring Grove’s everyman, junior Andrew Osmun, alertly scooped up an onside kick and returned it to the Waynesboro 14-yard line. The momentum that the Indians patiently worked to gain suddenly was seized back by Spring Grove and, the Rockets cashed in three plays later when Brooks ran the ball into the end zone from four yards out.
Osmun, the team’s starting quarterback, defensive back and punter and kicker, made the second of three extra points, this one giving the home team a 14-6 lead with 1:40 remaining in a dramatic third period.
It was still a one-possession game in this closely contested postseason game. However, when Waynesboro’s next offensive stalled at its 43-yard line, the Indians lined up for a punt and the snap sailed over the head of punter Jaylon Bean. Spring Grove recovered, ironically, at the 14. Four plays later, it was Brooks who took it in from the 3 to give the Rockets a scoring cushion at 21-6 with 8:56 on the clock.
Waynesboro went three-and-out and turned the ball over on downs on its next two possessions, and Spring Grove ran out the clock.
“You gotta play mistake free. That’s the difference in close games,” Sprenkle said. “We made some mistakes and had penalties which cost us.”
Waynesboro finished the season with a 9-3 record and was second in the Mid-Penn Colonial Division behind Shippensburg.