Knights aiming to bounce back in home opener

Ethan Chambers and Eisenhower host Union City in their home opener on Friday.

Eisenhower entered the 2018 season hoping to get off to a fast start.

To do that, coach Jim Penley knew his team would have to contain West Middlesex’s Clayton Parrish. The Knights bottled Parrish up in the first half last week, as they held him to just 31 yards. But the Big Reds came out in the second half with an option play that allowed Parrish to get to the outside and he sprung loose for a pair of long touchdown runs to lead his team to a 27-2 win over the Knights.

Despite the setback, Penley liked what he saw in the season opener.

“I have no complaints about the effort,” he said. “That’s supposed to be one of the best 1A teams in the district and we played with that team until the end.”

This week, the Knights host Union City in their home opener at Riley Memorial Field.

The Bears dropped a 44-28 decision to Reynolds last week, a game where they trailed by just two points heading into the fourth quarter. Union City gave up nearly 450 yards on the ground and this game could come down to whichever team is best able to stop the run.

The Bears were fairly balanced offensively, rushing for 151 yards while gaining another 96 through the air. Eisenhower will have to key on Gavin Henry. He lead the Union City ground game with 16 carries for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Logan Kesserling added another seven rushes for 47 yards. Quarterback Blake Hornaman was 6-14 for 96 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The strength of Union City’s offense lies with the big guys on the offensive line. The line averages just a shade under 6 feet and 225 pounds across all players and is anchored by standout and first-team all-region player Matt Long. The matchup between Long and Eisenhower’s defensive line (Joey Bauer, Jeramy Card, William Schwanke and Brodie Porter) will be one to watch all night.

“They’re a physical team,” Penley said. “And they’re a run team.”

The Knights were able to generate a pair of turnovers last week and Union City had trouble holding on to the ball (six fumbles, two lost and an interception).

Henry and Kesserling also led the Bears defensively with 11 tackles, with Long coming up with eight more.

Eisenhower struggled to get its run game going against at West Middlesex (32 carries, 50 yards) and will need to find a way to create space for Ethan Chambers, Garrett Head, Nate Holt and Riley West to improve this week. Owen Trumbull was 4-13 for 36 yards and two interceptions passing. Getting the run game going will help open the play-action passing attack the Knights want to utilize.

“We had some mental mistakes (last week),” Penley said. “If we can clean them up, we’ll be in good shape.”

Kickoff at the Pasture of Pain is set for 7 p.m. today.