SILVER SPRING TWP. — Earth movers move earth. And Cumberland Valley possesses some of the best big boys in the Mid-Penn Conference.
Behind an offensive line that paved the way to more than 500 yards rushing, CV avenged an upset loss from last season and properly entertained a Senior Night/Homecoming/Hall of Fame crowd at Harry Chapman Field Friday night with a 24-14 victory over Lower Dauphin.
Jake Palmer rushed for 200 yards, Cole McCoy for 187, fullback Galen Witmer for 95, and quarterback Jared Plessinger for another 55 as the Eagles (7-1) amassed 536 yards on 64 carries.
That ground control enabled CV to overcome three red zone turnovers, another goal-line stand by the Falcons (4-4) and eight penalties for 84 yards.
The offensive line — from left to right, Quincy Thomas, Matt Manchon, Andrew Miller, Justin Hartzel and Jacob Fetterolf — simply dominated, creating 8.4 yards per carry.
“They were great. Perfect for me,” said Palmer, whose 200 yards came on 25 carries and included a 34-yard touchdown. “They gave me holes every time.”
Palmer also recorded a game-clinching interception with 1:32 left, as Greg Kratzer’s Falcons, who beat CV 15-10 last year, did enough to hang tough on this mild evening.
Both teams were without key players, as split end/safety/kicker/returner/Penn State commit Charlie Katshir (shoulder) was in uniform but did not play for the Eagles. Meanwhile, leading rusher and top linebacker Brendan Shaffer (lower body) was a game-time decision and did not play for the Falcons.
CV coach Mike Whitehead did not comment on Katshir’s status moving forward.
“We referred to their offense early in the week as a meat grinder,” Kratzer said. “They do what they do. They run three plays, and they pound it right at you.
“Our basic philosophy defensively was bend but don’t break. You’re going to give up the yards, they’re going to get first downs, but eventually, if you force them to drive the field, they’re going to make a turnover, make a mistake, and we got those tonight, especially in the second half: a goal-line stand, a couple of turnovers. We just gotta score points on offense.”
CV ran the ball 15 straight times on its opening drive, ending with a 30-yard field goal from Tim Kissinger.
Cole McCoy then raced 50 yards on his first carry early in the second quarter after Christian Arrington’s punt block gave the Eagles great field position.
It remained 10-0 into halftime, as LD’s Clay Spencer had a late interception against Plessinger, who was 0-for-3 in his return to the lineup after missing last week for undisclosed reasons.
“That’s our game plan every week,” Whitehead said. “At Cumberland Valley we need to establish the run, then after that we can do things if we want. But they were really never stopping us, so we didn’t feel we needed to throw the ball. We go in running. If teams can’t stop it, we’re just going to keep running the whole way.”
Three plays into the third quarter, after first-down runs by Palmer and Plessinger, Palmer scored his 34-yard TD.
Lower Dauphin finally answered, at this point almost completely abandoning its running game (63 yards on 19 carries). QB Aidan Klassen hit dynamite RB Cole Etchberger on a swing pass that went 53 yards for a score.
Klassen finished 20-for-45 for 262 yards, while Etchberger gained 115 yards on five catches and led the Falcons with 34 rushing yards.
Cumberland Valley went right back to it, the next drive ending when Witmer scored from 3 yards out on fourth-and-2.
LD had its final crack on the ensuing drive, with Klassen finding Brent Spencer (8-87 receiving) for a 9-yard score.
From there, the LD defense kept CV off the scoreboard, with McCoy fumbling twice after long runs, and Skyler Swartz recovering both loose balls in the red zone for LD.
But CV’s defense, without Katshir and then Zack Snow, who got hurt in the second half, hung tough and wouldn’t let the Falcons close the gap. Snow said afterward he was OK.
Whitehead credited Conner Strous and Jake Hart, who both stepped in at safety, along with two-way regulars Palmer and McCoy for holding serve in the secondary.
“We did what we had to do,” Palmer said. “We had a few stupid turnovers, but there’s nothing we can do about that. So we just had to come back and play strong on defense, and we did, and we did what we had to do. It was kind of a close-to-the-end game, which it shouldn’t have been, but it happens.”
CV returns to Mid-Penn Commonwealth action next week with a visit to CD East, while LD, which is unbeaten in the Keystone, hosts Bishop McDevitt with that division on the line.