LANCASTER – Flying Arrow football coach John Hoch insists he didn’t say much at halftime of last Friday night’s division 5 playoff win over visiting Laconia.
That being said, the team that went into the locker room trailing 7-0 at the half was a totally different one than that which came out to score 28 unanswered points in the third quarter on its way to picking up a 34-21 level-2 playoff victory.
As has been the case all season long, the Flying Arrow defense played another exceptional game last Friday night.
Lancaster’s starting defense allowed the Spartans just one trip to the end zone, which came on a short field following a Lancaster fumble.
Taking possession on their own 18-yard line with 5:32 to play in the second quarter, Laconia lost 11 yards on three plays, then wound up scoring on a fourth-and-15 pass completion from their own 29-yard line.
With 3:48 to play in the opening half, the Spartans held a 7-0 lead after the successful extra-point kick.
From that point on though, the Lancaster defense was rock solid, giving up just 30 yards rushing on 34 attempts, six yards coming in the fourth quarter against Lancaster’s reserves.
Through the air, Laconia completed 13-of-23 passing attempts for 263 yards and three touchdowns, two TDs and 122 yards coming in the fourth quarter when coach Hoch had most of his starters on the sideline.
“I thought the defense played great again,” Hoch said. “They were really flying to the ball as a unit. That’s what we talk about and preach. We’re not built around one great star like some defenses, they’re just a bunch of kids who love to hit.”
Leading the Lancaster defense Friday night with 6.5 tackles and one sack was junior nose guard Gabe Hudson, while senior defensive back Mack Mundy was in on six stops. Senior linebacker Matt Withey and juniors Ethan Klar and Dalton Gardner each had five tackles, Klar also having two sacks.
Hudson leads Lancaster this season with 7.5 sacks, while Klar is second on the team with five.
Junior linebacker Jacob McCabe also had a sack Friday night, while junior Garrett Birkett and senior Tanner Reuter each had momentum-turning interceptions. For Birkett, it was his fourth interception of the year, while Reuter now has two.
Offensively for the Arrows, they’ve shown that they can be a force to reckon with if they don’t put the ball on the ground and become their own worst enemy.
In the first half of Friday night’s contest, Lancaster’s offense fumbled the ball six times in five possessions and lost three.
Their only scoring threat came late in the first half when they went 83 yards in 15 plays only to come up short of the goal line as time expired.
Faced with a third-and-three from Laconia’s three-yard line, junior fullback Evan Gates got the call, but was tripped up inches short of the goal line as time expired.
The Flying Arrows went into the locker room trailing 7-0 at the half, but came out in the third quarter like a team determined to keep their season alive.
“I just told the defense to keep playing great, and hopefully the offense will get it straightened out,” Hoch said of his halftime speech.
On the second offensive play of the second half, Gates took a hand off from quarterback Evan Straka, followed his blockers through the left side of the line, stiff-armed a Laconia defender and raced 63 yards to the end zone with only 46 seconds taken off the clock. Sophomore kicker Tanner Oyen made good on the extra-point kick, tying the game at 7-7.
“We just reiterated what we were doing on the sideline to start the second half, and when we hit that explosive play on the second play of the half, everyone just kind of said, ‘O.K., Let’s go,’” said Hoch.
From that point on, the floodgates opened for Lancaster, who scored four straight touchdowns in the third quarter, taking a 28-7 lead into the fourth.
In the third quarter, Gates scored on TD runs of 63 and one yards, while Straka scored on a four-yard run and hooked up with senior Drew Reuter on a 27-yard touchdown pass.
Straka found the end zone again early in the fourth quarter on a 24-yard keeper, giving Lancaster a 34-7 lead with 9:10 to play in the game.
After fumbling the ball six times in the first half and losing three, Lancaster didn’t have a fumble in the second half until Hoch played the reserves in the fourth quarter.
“If we get the fumbles straightened out it will be fun,” said coach Hoch of his offense. “Maybe we need to go play a quarter of football just to get warmed up before the game, I don’t know.”
“It’s not one thing, that’s the problem,” Hoch added. “It’s more of a mental thing than it is physical though.”
The Flying Arrow offense finished the night with 304 yards rushing and four touchdowns, while gaining 53 yards and one TD through the air.
Gates, who did not see action in the fourth quarter, finished the night with 148 yards rushing and two TDs on 19 carries. Straka added 122 yards rushing and two TDs on 15 carries.
Through the air, Straka completed 2-of-4 passing attempts for 53 yards and one touchdown.
Drew Reuter hauled in one pass and slipped between two defenders before racing 27 yards for a score, while Tanner Reuter hauled in the other pass for a 26-yard gain during Lancaster’s final drive of the first half.
With last Friday night’s playoff win, the second-seeded Flying Arrows improved to 10-1 on the year, and advance to play at top-seeded Clinton (10-1) this Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m.
Lancaster 34, Laconia 21
(D5 Level 2 playoff game from Friday, Oct. 28)
Laconia 0 7 0 14 - 21
Lancaster 0 0 28 6 - 34
Lac - Jake Beattie, 30-yard pass from Cormac Madigan (Alex Turner kick)
Lan - Evan Gates, 63-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
Lan - Evan Straka, 4-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
Lan - Evan Gates, 1-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
Lan - Drew Reuter, 27-yard pass from Evan Straka (Tanner Oyen kick)
Lan - Evan Straka, 24-yard run (kick failed)
Lac - Brady Hein, 75-yard pass from Jacob Davis (Alex Turner kick)
Lac - Jake Beattie, 6-yard pass from Jacob Davis (Alex Turner kick)
First downs - Lac 10, Lan 21. Rushing - Lac 34-30, Lan 50-304. Passing yards - Lan 263, Lan 53. Passes - Lac 13-23-2, Lan 2-6-0. Fumbles-lost - Lac 0-0, Lan 7-4. Penalties-yards - Lac 8-65, Lan 6-60.
Lac: Jake Beattie 21-44, Hunter Engelhardt 8-1, Cormac Madigan 5-(-15).
Lan: Evan Gates 19-148, Evan Straka 15-122, Garrett Birkett 5-7, Tanner Reuter 2-5, Ty Mayne 1-5.
Lac: Cormac Madigan 7-13-2, 141, Jacob Davis 6-10-0, 122.
Lan: Evan Straka 2-4-0, 53.
Lac: Brady Hein 4-120, Jake Beattie 4-82, Keegan Grade 4-46, Hunter Engelhardt 1-15.
Lan: Drew Reuter 1-27, Tanner Reuter 1-26.