If John Livelsberger’s Bermudian Springs team was going to go down, it was going to do so swinging.
After all, the Eagles fought to three straight victories to close the regular season just to qualify for Friday’s District 3 Class 3A quarterfinal against third-seeded Hamburg.
So it should come as no surprise that Bermudian threw its best punch at the Hawks. Unfortunately for the Eagles’ faithful, it wasn’t quite enough as sixth-seeded Berm fell to host Hamburg, 31-27.
“These kids have been resilient all year,” Livelsberger said of his team. “All but four or five minutes of all heck breaking loose and us not being fundamentally sound was enough for Hamburg to get it done tonight.”
After losing the opening coin toss, the Eagles (5-6) received the opening kickoff and took over at their own 28-yard line. They then proceeded to put together a statement drive, marching 72 yards in 6:15 and opening the scoring when quarterback Ethan Beachy hit Ricky Pacana in the corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The Hawks (8-3) had an answer, however. Led by star running back Diohnny Ruiz, who broke the school record for rushing yards in a season in the fourth quarter, Hamburg methodically moved down the field and answered with a touchdown of their own just 56 seconds into second quarter when quarterback Xander Menapace found Ruiz open in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard connection on fourth-and-5.
On the Eagles’ next drive, it looked like they were set to have a response. The backfield combination of Chanse Boyer and Pacana, which combined for 141 yards on 24 carries, led Bermudian quickly back into the Hawks’ red zone. But that’s where the drive fizzled out and the ball would go back to Hamburg on downs after Beachy was sacked on fourth down at the Hamburg 24.
The Eagles’ defense responded strongly, putting the Hawks’ behind the chains after a pair of runs that lost yards. But on second-and-11 following a penalty, Menapace found Pierce Mason all alone on a wheel route for a 76-yard connection that made it 14-7 late in the half. After a quick stop on defense, Hamburg got the ball right back and added three more points to make it 17-7 at half on a Lucas Blatt 24-yard field goal.
Out of the break, Bermudian looked to get tricky. The Eagles tried an onside kick to start the third quarter, but the Hawks were alive to it and recovered the ball at midfield. After a long Mason run, it looked like the hosts would break the game open. But one play later, Bermudian forced a fumble and Beachy raced back 72 yards the other way to make it 17-14 less than a minute into the third quarter.
“When Beachy picked that ball up and took it in I felt really good about the momentum shift,” Livelsberger said of the play.
Lightning would strike twice for the Eagles as on the first play of the ensuing possession, Hamburg put the ball on the ground again and Bermudian recovered, taking over at the Hawks’ 31-yard line with a chance to retake the lead.
That’s exactly what they did just minutes later, as Beachy hit Michael Carlson on a slip screen that was nearly picked off, but instead Carlson juked a defender and took the ball 8 yards to the end zone to put the visitors up 21-17. It was a startlingly quick turn of events from how things appeared just moments earlier.
Not to be denied, Hamburg steadied itself. The Hawks went back to the run game, which churned out 207 yard on the night at a 6.5 yards per carry clip. They capped a five-minute drive with a touchdown when fullback Mitchell Watt ran up the middle untouched from 4 yards out with 56 seconds left in the third quarter, bringing the score to 24-21 headed into the fourth.
Momentum was back in the hands, or is it talons, of the Hawks entering the final quarter and they quickly asserted that authority. Hamburg forced a quick three-and-out from the Eagles and then took over at the Bermudian 47-yard line after the visitors were forced to punt from the end zone.
One play later, Ruiz took a sweep off left tackle and bolted 47 yards to the end zone to make the score 31-21,
While the Eagles would add a touchdown with under a minute to play when Beachy found Boyer from eight yards to cut it to 31-27, that’s as close as they would get as the following onside kick was fielded by the Hawks, who then kneeled out the game to advance to next week’s semifinal against Boiling Springs.
Despite coming up on the wrong end of the score line, Livelsberger was encouraged by the way his team fought and the way it played for most of the team’s final four games.
“We’ve got a nice, young group of kids,” he said. “Hopefully they see the effort and time that the seniors have put in and then they put the same in and then we could be special in a couple years.”
Clay Sauertieg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bermudian Springs 7 0 14 6 — 27
Hamburg 0 17 7 7 — 31
BS-Ricky Pacana, 11 pass from Ethan Beachy (Jacob Keller), 6:15.
H-Diohnny Ruiz, 16 pass from Xander Menapace (Lucas Blatt kick), 11:04.
H-Pierce Mason, 76 pass from Menapace (Blatt kick), 3:30.
H-Lucas Blatt, 24 field goal, :04.
BS-Beachy 72 fumble return (Keller kick), 11:18.
BS-Michael Carlson, 8 pass from Beachy (Keller kick), 7:07.
H-Mitchell Watt 4 run (Blatt kick), :56.
H-Ruiz, 47 run (Blatt kick), 10:43.
BS-Pacana 8 pass from Beachy, :44
First Downs 15 9
Rushing 38-108 32-207
Passing 11-16-0 5-5-0
Passing yards 112 110
Totals Yards 220 317
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 4-20 11-90
Punting 2-34.0 1-26.0
Rushing: BS-Chanse Boyer 14-67, Brennan Schisler 2-2, Ethan Beachy 12-(-35), Ricky Pacana 10-74; H-Diohnny Ruiz 10-72, Mitchell Watt 12-60, Pierce Mason 9-74, Xander Menapace 1-1.
Passing: BS-Beachy 11-16-0-112; H-Menapace 5-5-0-110.
Receiving: BS-Michael Carlson 2-9, Pacana 6-64, Boyer 1-17, Zachary Vandermark 1-11, Jack Gautsch 1-11; H-Ruiz 2-26, Mason 2-80, Watt 1-4.