Gettysburg head coach Matt Heiser didn’t need a crystal ball to see the future during Friday night’s 48-6 drubbing of West York at Warrior Stadium — it unveiled itself before his very eyes.
With leading rusher Ruger Pennington sidelined, Heiser worked his way down the depth chart and came up aces. Sophomore running back Jayden Johnson exploded onto the scene, amassing 144 yards and two long TD totes in the first half alone. Junior Landon McGee finished with 140 yards on a dozen attempts. For good measure, backup Justino Neikirk bolted to nirvana from 55 yards out midway through the final frame to cap the scoring. Each back had a run of more than 50 yards.
“I’m very excited for them,” said Heiser of his former reserves. “They had a really great night. They’re all underclassmen so we are looking forward to having them back (next year).”
Heiser called the numbers of Johnson and McGee early and often with excellent results. The duo alternated at tailback in the I-formation behind fullback Jeremiah Scott. With Scott leading the way, the tandem combined for 282 yards on 23 carries. Senior tight end Shane Brockett had the only two receptions for the home team – both good for scores – to add to the carnage.
The Bulldogs (2-4) looked like they would score first when Victor Gonzalez sprinted 44 yards to the Warrior nine, but Gettysburg’s defense stiffened and the Warriors (4-2) took over on downs. Johnson skirted right end and never looked back on a dash that covered 51 yards.
Minutes later, Cody Furman blocked a Bulldog punt that Trevor Gallagher scooped up at the seven and took to the house.
“The defensive line got a huge push that set up Cody for the block,” said Gallagher. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Zach Parr tacked on the extra point to the home team’s early advantage. On their next possession the Warriors’ starting quarterback Chris Boone completed his only pass of the evening – a 37-yard parabola that Brockett cradled and danced home. The senior tight end, who added a pick on defense, got behind the Bulldog secondary on a corner route.
When Gettysburg’s next drive stalled, Parr pinned West York at its own 1-yard line with a 40-yard punt, prompting the visitors to take an intentional safety that made it 23-0. Johnson went to work again, finding a seam off right tackle that left defenders inhaling a vapor trail as the super sub reached the promised land.
The Bulldogs parlayed a Jahmarri Generett kickoff return and a 19-yard completion from Theo Halloran to Gonzalez to set up Halloran’s 1-yard sneak and get West York on the board with 1:12 before halftime.
That proved enough for the Warriors to traverse the field yet again.
Chain-moving runs by Johnson and McGee got Gettysburg close before Asher Baddick tossed a strike to Brockett, whose carbon-copy catch from 33 yards out made it 35-6 with just eight seconds on the clock.
McGee ripped off a 62-yard gallop soon after intermission but the Warriors fumbled a handoff to end the threat. The Dogs returned the favor when Halloran dropped back to pass, was hit and coughed up the pigskin. Hunter Williams, who notched three sacks, snatched the pigskin out of midair and frolicked for six.
“I haven’t touched the ball since midget football – and that was a long time ago,” said Williams, a senior. “Their guy held me but I got up and saw the ball. I knew I had to make a play – I just grabbed it and took it in.”
Williams was impressed with the work of the halfback understudies.
“We made some changes throughout the week,” said Williams. “It was really nice to see them step up.”
Added Gallagher, “We see what they can do every day in practice. They work hard and it paid off.”
For Heiser, just getting the games played during the pandemic was a victory in itself.
“It’s been a crazy season with a lot of adversity,” he said. “It’s very meaningful to end it on a positive note for the seniors. We’ve been holding our breath all season – it meant a lot that they had the opportunity to play these games at Warrior Stadium. Even the big boys found the end zone.”
West York 0 6 0 0 — 6
Gettysburg 14 21 6 7 — 48
G – Jayden Johnson 51 run (Zach Parr kick) 6:07
G – Trevor Gallagher 7 run after blocked punt (Parr kick) 4:33
G – Shane Brockett 37 pass from Chris Boone (Parr kick) 10:39
G – Safety (punter ran out of end zone) 5:21
G – Johnson 47 run (kick failed) 3:34
WY – Theo Halloran 1 run (pass failed) 1:12
G – Brockett 33 pass from Asher Baddick (kick failed)
G – Hunter Williams 7 run following strip sack (kick failed) 9:00
G – Justino Neikirk 55 run (Parr kick) 6:08
First downs 12 13
Rushing 21-64 30-349
Passing 14-25-1 2-4-0
Passing yards 140 70
Total yards 204 419
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 9-48 5-40
Punting 2-29.5 2-33.5
Rushing: WY – Victor Gonzalez 7-57, Chaz Etheridge 1-5, Daniel Rice 1-3, Theo Halloran 7-1, Jahmarri Generett 1-1, Amari Davis 4-(-3); G – Jayden Johnson 11-142, Landon McGee 12-140, Justino Neikirk 3-56, Jeremiah Scott 3-22, Taysean Foster 1-9.
Passing: WY – Halloran 14-25-140-1; G – Chris Boone 1-1-37-0, Asher Baddick 1-3-33-0.
Receiving: WY – Gonzalez 6-44, Generett 3-32, Etheridge 3-27, Gavin Young 1-19, Kerrek Nokes 1-14; G – Shane Brockett 2-70.