MECHANICSBURG – The 2022 varsity football season started out as a challenge for a Waynesboro team that graduated 22 seniors from an historic 2021 campaign.
The season that started out as a challenge has become downright difficult and frustrating for a senior group that was left with a tough act to follow. How do you follow up a 9-3 season that included the school’s first-ever District 3 playoff victory?
The short answer? You don’t.
The disappointing season that is continued Friday night with a 28-0 loss to Mechanicsburg, but it wasn’t as lopsided as the score appeared. Two touchdowns in the latter portion of the second half put the icing on the cake, and a long Waynesboro possession to start the second half ended with a costly penalty that pushed the Indians back to midfield after they moved the ball to the Wildcats 21-yard line.
Instead of a potential 14-7 score assuming the best-case scenario of the offensive series, the drive fizzled after a fourth-down pass from senior quarterback Jaylon Bean to sophomore running back Ethan Alldredge at the Mechanicsburg 19.
“We were called for a blind-side block, but it was in the tackle box,” said Waynesboro head coach. “So that set us back. We just haven’t caught a break all year.”
From there, the Wildcats marched 81 yards in nine plays to essentially salt the game away on a quarterback keeper and extra point kick.
When looking at the totality of a game, what is easily overlooked are the plays that could have made the difference had other things been different.
Trailing 7-0 and forced to punt, Waynesboro’s defense gave the ball back to their brethren on the other side of the ball thanks to an interception by Rakim Gibbs that was made possible by a heads-up bull rush by Scott Campbell on a flea flicker pass.
The Tribe took over at their 20 but were unable to navigate down the field to score.
On another Mechanicsburg possession, Waynesboro recorded back-to-back tackles for losses, with Nathan Nolan and Marcus Smith getting in on one for a loss of four yards and, on the next play, Campbell getting in on another for a loss of three yards. An incomplete pass set up a punt.
The glaring deficiency most evident for Waynesboro, which fell to 2-6, has been on offense. Not for lack of effort, mind you. The players that started the season are still playing.
“I can’t fault their effort,” said Sprenkle. “We had nine freshmen and sophomores who started. Those guys are getting some great experience, learning the speed of the game, going forward for the future. Those young guys play their guts out. You can’t coach effort enough. They are going harder than they possibly can.”
Waynesboro punted on its first four offensive possessions, and its fifth ended with an incomplete pass as time expired in the first half.
Senior running back Mikel Holden couldn’t get on track, as the Wildcats crept up to the line of scrimmage waiting for number three to get the handoff. Bean got off some decent passes, and a couple were on the mark, including a nice one down the middle to senior wide receiver Garrett Lowans for a 27-yard gain on that initial possession of the second half.
With the amount of experience that departed from last year’s squad, the depletion of that much varsity playing time, there simply hasn’t been enough snaps for the new varsity contributors to reach the level of the improving competition and to become even better players than they were in pre-season practices and scrimmages.
Take Waynesboro’s 35-21 loss to Greencastle-Antrim. It was the first time since 2013 that a Blue Devils team beat an Indians team.
The 21 points was the most scored in a game by Waynesboro. Conversely, the Indians have been held scoreless in three games, and finished with 13 points in both wins. Waynesboro hosts Shippensburg and East Pennsboro to conclude the season.