GREENCASTLE – It had to end – sooner or later.
For the Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils, it was later, much later, than they wanted.
But on a Friday night made for football, Greencastle ended eight years of frustration against its Route 16 rivals, thanks in large part to a monster game by running back Tavon Cooper.
Cooper, a 5-foot-7, 175-pound senior, rushed for 231 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns as the Blue Devils defeated the Tribe, 35-21 in the Mid-Penn Colonial Division opener for both teams, at Kaley Field.
“We fought hard, we had some momentum changes,” said Waynesboro head coach Josh Sprenkle, whose team slips to 1-3 overall with a home game coming up next Saturday afternoon against Northern York. “We needed to capitalize on some of their mistakes. The Cooper kid is fast, and he hurt us a lot.
‘We still made some mistakes that we have to learn from, whether it was coverage or a gap or from an execution standpoint. I was hoping we had gotten that out of our system after the first three games.”
The magnitude of the win was evident as the Greencastle-Antrim student section raced on to the field to congratulate their team for their fourth win of the season without a loss.
Greencastle dominated the series from 2002 to 2013, winning 12 consecutive games and taking a 15-9-1 lead in the all-time series.
But Waynesboro put together an 8-0 run beginning in 2014, with some close games in between. Two years ago, the Indians trailed 7-6 in the fourth quarter but scored a touchdown and added a 2-point conversion to etch a 14-7 win.
In 2017, Waynesboro beat Greencastle in overtime, 27-24.
G-A left no doubt as to the outcome of this season’s version of a rivalry that began in 1981 when the teams played in the Blue Mountain League.
Cooper, who used his agility to frustrate Waynesboro’s improving defense, raced 29 yards for the game’s final score with 1:37 to play. Jackson Eby’s fifth extra point kick accounted for the final score.
“We definitely played hard,” Sprenkle reiterated. “Down 14-0 there was no quit. We stormed back.”
The Blue Devils, who jumped out to a 14-0 lead, didn’t wait long to score the game’s first touchdown.
They received the opening kickoff and needed only three plays to move 60 yards. The big play was a screen pass from quarterback Logan Alvey to Darren Kline, a play that covered the final 58 yards of the possession and a 7-0 lead 1:26 into the game.
Waynesboro nearly matched Greencastle’s opening possession scoring drive, using a 39-yard run by Jaylon Bean on a fake punt to keep the drive alive. The Indians continued at the G-A 24-yard line but couldn’t punch it in.
The Blue Devils took over on downs and proceeded to march 80 yards on 11 plays and culminating in a 7-yard run by Cooper at the 2:05 mark of the first quarter.
Any ideas of a rout were quickly refuted after Waynesboro scored two quick touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to tie the game at 14 with 4:18 left in the second stanza.
Waynesboro’s defense held Greencastle and forced the Blue Devils to punt from midfield.
The Indians were pinned deep in their territory at the 2-yard line and were facing a 98-yard drive if they were to make the game closer with a lot of game left to play.
They did just that. Mikel Holden, who finished the game with 158 yards rushing on 25 carries and a touchdown, had runs of 28 and 22 yards on an impressive possession that ended when Bean tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass into the back of the end zone to Wesley Bonebrake.
Waynesboro’s Owen Shockey recovered an onside kick and the Indians had prime field position at the Blue Devils 40.
Waynesboro needed six plays to cover the field with Holden running the final 16 yards for the tying touchdown.
But Greencastle would answer right away, covering 60 yards in six plays. Alvey surged into the end zone from a yard out for the go-ahead score. Cooper accounted for 40 yards, including a first-down run of 25 yards.
The Tribe tied the game at 21 on the first possession of the second half.
Waynesboro drove 80 yards on six plays, capped by a 31-yard scramble and score by Bean. Holden picked up 14 yards on the opening play. Bean connected with Cody Tharp for 17 yards on the next play, and Holden rambled for 18 yards that moved the ball to the Greencastle 31.
The Indians had a chance to change the complexion of the game and take a lead for the first time when they recovered a fumble on G-A’s next possession.
Waynesboro took over at the Blue Devils 20 but Bean threw an interception on the first play.
Greencastle made the Indians pay, driving 82 yards on 11 plays – with two third-down conversions along the way and a pass interference that kept the drive going – punctuated by a 19-yard touchdown run by Cooper with 4:04 to play.