TITUSVILLE, Pa. – A good defense and running game typically show up in the playoffs, and that was certainly the case for Eisenhower on Friday against Saegertown.
The No. 2 seed Knights ran for over 300 yards and secured their third shutout of the season, 39-0 over No. 7 seed Saegertown in the District 10 Class 1A quarterfinals on Friday at Carter Field.
The Knights lost a large chunk of their production on both offense and defense to graduation, but have come of age and now, at 7-2, will have a D10 title game rematch with Reynolds next week.
“This is one of the most enjoyable groups I’ve had to coach,” said Eisenhower coach Jim Penley. “When you consider what we lost and losing Cael (Black) before the season. Bringing back an insanely young group who clearly got the taste for being competitive last year. No one was expecting us to be here right now, nobody, except for the people in this room. It’s an amazing feeling to have people doubt what you can do and then you just keep finding ways to do it.”
The Knights rushed for 367 yards as a team – 219 of which and three scores came from Benji Bauer, who earned Jim Kelly Allegheny Grille of Foxburg Player of the Game honors. Keegan Eckstrom had 112 on just seven carries, a tribute to not only the talented backfield but the offensive line that paved the way for them as well.
Defensively, the Knights were swarming, limiting Saegertown to 73 yards rushing and 96 total yards for the game.
“It’s really exciting,” said Eisenhower senior Gannon Jaquay, who helped lead that defensive charge as well as being an anchor on the offensive line. “A lot of people didn’t think we would be at this point so this is very exciting for us. Our defense has been really good. We’ve been able to stop the run and defend the pass well.”
See Jaquay’s full interview here:
The Knights scored three touchdowns over a three-minute span in the first quarter to assume control right from the get-go.
Tucker Lindell punched in a score from two yards out, and, following a defensive stop, Bauer broke loose on a 31-yard score.
After Bauer’s score, the Knights recovered Jake Venman’s kickoff at the Saegertown 10-yard line. Eckstrom scored on the very next play and it was 19-0.
Defensively, the Knights held Saegertown to just 28 yards in the first half.
After a couple of drive’s stalled, Bauer added to the Knights’ lead late in the second quarter on a 19-yard run to make it 26-0 at the half.
Saegertown (2-6) looked to the air in the second half facing the big deficit, and the Eisenhower front was relentless against Panthers’ quarterback Sully Zirkle.
Rewatch the Game:
Led by Mike Jones, Drake Vanderhoof, Caleb Penley and others, the Knights had 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Knights did put the ball on the ground a couple of times, but Bauer broke free on a 51-yard score late in the third quarter and quarterback Shawn Pascuzzi broke free on an 11-yard score in the fourth to account for the second-half scoring.
Pascuzzi finished with 66 yards passing, 62 of which went to Wyatt Lookenhouse, including a big 37-yarder on 3rd-and-long that set up Eisenhower’s first touchdown.
Keenen Schaff had 44 yards rushing and Aaron Shartle 39 for Saegertown.
“You know, I think actually we could have been sharper,” Penley said. “But the thing was, I think the line and the coaching staff made some really good adjustments to things they were doing on the defensive front. Clearly, Benji ran hard and Keegan does what Keegan does. He’s explosive and if you give him a seam, dude’s going to pick up big yardage. And obviously, the line did really well and the defense was outstanding.”
And they are anxious for another shot at Reynolds.
“We definitely want to get out there and compete with that team,” Penley said. “They’re the D10 champions for a reason until someone stops them.”
(5) MAPLEWOOD 19, (4) MERCER 7
OIL CITY, Pa. – Maplewood turned in a dominant defensive performance in beating Mercer 19-7.
Mercer actually scored first, but it was a defensive score, as Jake Badger picked up a fumble and raced 80 yards for a touchdown.
The Maplewood defense, which has been strong all season, didn’t yield a point.
Offensively, Ben Gilberto ran for 100 yards and scored Maplewood’s lone touchdown of the first half, a 7-yard scamper that coupled with Sadie Thomas’ extra point made it 7-7 at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Tigers went ahead for good on Logan Kennedy’s 20-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
After forcing a quick three-and-out on Mercer’s ensuing possession, Conner Palmiero took the Mercer punt 65 yards for a score to put the finishing touches on the Maplewood masterpiece.
Kennedy finished with 73 yards on the ground for the Tigers.
Mercer was limited to 33 yards on the ground for the game.
With the win, Maplewood advances to play top-seed Cochranton, which received a first-round bye.
(3) REYNOLDS 34, (6) CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS 20
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – Brayden McCloskey threw four touchdown passes as Reynolds held off a feisty Cambridge Springs squad, 34-20 in the quarterfinals.
The Raiders never trailed in the game, building a 14-0 lead in the first half thanks to a McLaughlin 22-yard scoring strike to Hayden McLaughlin and a Jalen Wagner 45-yard run in the second quarter.
Cambridge Springs cut the deficit to 14-6 on Garrett Hodak’s 15-yard scoring run, but the Raiders struck again just before the half, as McCloskey found Wagner for a 4-yard score.
Twice Cambridge Springs cut the deficit to a single score in the second half, the first time when freshman quarterback Morgan Applebee connected with Tristen Mazzadra on a 20-yard scoring connection and the second on a short scoring plunge from Hodak.
Each time Reynolds had an answer, however.
McCloskey threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes, one each to McLaughlin and Ashton Small.
Wagner finished with 180 yards on the ground and McCloskey 234 yards passing for Reynolds.
Hodak had 69 yards rushing for the Blue Devils and Applebee 185 yards passing.