ENOLA — Onasis Neely talks like he runs: fast and with enthusiasm.
There is no middle ground; he’s either stationary or in fifth gear, pedal to the floor.
And Friday night in front of the East Pennsboro home crowd at George Saxton Memorial Stadium, Neely was again in hyperspeed. On 13 carries he ran for 223 yards and two touchdowns, leading an insanely efficient Panthers offense to a 49-0 thumping of visiting Camp Hill.
Neely entered the night needing 210 yards to crack 2,000 for the season. He did so on a fourth-quarter dash, his final touch of the night, down the left sideline 45 yards for his third TD overall, further putting his stamp on Panthers history.
“On that last drive we got radioed down, ‘He needs 32 to get it,’” East Penn coach Todd Stuter said. “We were like 40 yards out. I was very happy for him to get it.”
Neely now needs 247 yards to reach 5,500 for his career.
For a time it seemed like the public address announcer, who reminded the crowd pregame of the 210 Neely needed, had jinxed the talented running back. East Pennsboro (7-2, 4-2 Capital) had immediate success with little input from its best player against a Camp Hill (3-6, 1-5) defense that played flat the entire game.
No meaningful Panther drive lasted longer than six plays (and all six scoring drives took four plays or less).
Neely carried the ball on EP’s first three offensive plays, but it was Noah Alejandro who sprinted 68 yards for the game’s first score with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
The next drive it was Nik Karoly who scored, this time on a 58-yard run. Then Payton Morris hit Nic Nugent on a curl route, which the receiver turned into an 83-yard TD on a beautiful spin to shake a defender to make it 21-0 mid second.
It wasn’t until Neely fielded a punt at the 26-yard line when he made an impact. But the 74-yard return didn’t count for his rushing yards. His sixth carry, inside three minutes to play in the half, went for a 55-yard score. But with a 35-0 lead that jumped to 42-0 a minute later on Morris’ bootleg from 9 yards out, it didn’t seem like Neely would have many more opportunities with the mercy rule clock set to kick in after halftime.
Stuter let his first team offense play into the fourth quarter, and that gave Neely just enough time.
“I was [thinking about it] a little bit, I’m not gonna lie and say I wasn’t,” Neely said. “But, man, all I really wanted was the win.
“We got Nic Nugent with a long run, Alejandro with a long run, it was everybody,” he said before that. “We all contributed, man.”
“That’s a lot of motivation because he’s just a great teammate and we love him so much,” senior tight end/linebacker Trent Fries said. “We want him to go places, so we know we need to help him out on the line.”
Stuter said he didn’t want to rest his team too early, and once he got the call from his assistant coaches up in the press box, he tried to give Neely another chance. It was all the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder needed.
It was hardly Neely that found success. His offensive line was superb, opening massive holes much of the night. East Penn ended up running just 30 offensive plays (for nearly 500 yards, averaging more than 15 yards a play), and 13 of them ended up in Neely’s hands.
“They’re not like the biggest kids in the world — we average probably 210 pounds across — but they’re just aggressive, athletic kids that come to play every week,” Stuter said.
And the defense was aggressive. It’s not often quick offensive drives benefit the defense, but for the Panthers it did. They could pin their ears back and chase Lions QB Quinn Buffington all night. After allowing Nick Perry to run for 41 yards on 10 plays in the opening drive, East Penn buckled down.
The Panthers stalled that first Camp Hill drive at the 2-yard line. Then in the second quarter, up 14-0, they did it again. The Lions had first-and-goal at the 9 but barely moved the chains after that. Both drives ended on incomplete passes. In all, Camp Hill managed less than 200 offensive yards.
“It just gives us strictly motivation,” Fries said of the efficient EP offense. “A lot of us love hitting people and that’s [what the defense does].”
The Panthers face 0-8 Boiling Springs next week with a potential chance to claim a District 3 Class 4A home playoff game in the first round, which begins Nov. 10. They were No. 6 (of eight) in the power rankings entering Friday. The Lions host Trinity (3-6, 1-5) in the season finale for both teams.