Knights battle down to the wire again, but come up just short vs. Mercer
It’s only a matter of time before Eisenhower’s luck starts to change.
For the second time in as many games, the Knights went down to the final whistle against an opponent. But for the second time, they once again came up just short, this time 19-13 against Mercer at the Pasture of Pain on Friday.
With the Knights driving deep in Mercer territory, trailing by 6, Mercer’s Brian Shevitz stepped in front of Owen Trumbull’s pass at the 15 yard line with 25 seconds left to seal the deal.
“I love the effort that they’re giving; I couldn’t be more proud of a group of kids right now,” said Eisenhower coach Jim Penley. “But we have to find a way to get that ‘W.’ There’s no doubt how proud I am of this group of guys. If anyone can’t come to a game and be proud of those young men and how they’re playing, then they don’t understand what high school sports is about.”
It was a game that saw a great defensive effort from the Knights, including a touchdown, as well as a goal linr stand.
But Mercer, which ran 53 plays to the Knights’ 36, was able to methodically chip away, ultimately scoring the game-winning touchdown with 2:02 to go, a five yard pitch and catch from quarterback Dylan Hetrick to Aidan Bright.
“I think everyone was tired at the end of the game,” Penley said. “They made some plays and we haven’t been able to find a way to string enough of those plays together yet. We’ve got to get to that point, and we’re just not there yet.”
On Mercer’s opening drive of the game, the Knights forced a punt, but they were called for running into the kicker, giving the Mustangs (2-1) a first down.
That play actually turned out to be beneficial to the Knights (0-3), however.
On 3rd-and-4, a Hetrick pitch wasn’t fielded cleanly, and Carter Knapp was Johnny-on-the-spot, scooping it up and racing in for a touchdown from 10 yards out at the 6:34 mark of the first quarter.
“Carter Knapp played another great game at middle linebacker,” Penley said. “I think we made a lot of plays on defense tonight and were really able to tighten some things up.”
The only drawback was that allowed Mercer’s offense to be on the field for 19 of the game’s first 23 offensive snaps.
They were able to take advantage early in the second quarter, as Andrew Weinel capped a 12-play, 62-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown plunge that tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
After a Mercer punt deep in its own territory, the Knights got the ball at the Mustangs 37, and were able to take advantage of the field position.
After a first-down run by Ethan Chambers, sophomore quarterback Owen Trumbull connected with Garrett Head over the middle, and the senior receiver bowled over a defender on his way to a 21-yard touchdown that gave Ike a 13-7 lead.
“You have a senior group and a sophomore group. I think they’re playing well together, but right now, you’re asking a lot of sophomores to make a lot of plays, and that’s tough on a sophomore,” noted Penley. “For us, it’s just learning and getting better and getting more of these opportunities.”
There were three turnovers in the final minute of the half, including back-to-back fumbles. An Eisenhower fumble on their own 33 was erased when William Schwanke pounced on a loose ball on the ensuing play.
After an 18-yard run by Head, Trumbull’s Hail Mary into the end zone was intercepted to end the first half.
Eisenhower’s defense continued to step up as the game pressed on, coming up with another big stop at the end of the third quarter.
After the two teams traded punts, Mercer drove 69 yards on 10 plays, chewing nearly seven minutes off the clock, setting themselves up with a 4th-and-goal from the Eisenhower 2 yard-line.
Mercer’s power back, PJ Boggs got the call, but the Knights stuffed him inside the 1 to maintain the lead.
“We made some adjustments and the d-line really stepped up this week,” noted Penley. “But again, there’s always room for improvement, and we want to continue to improve.”
Mercer’s defense countered, forcing a three-and-out and getting excellent field position at the EHS 32.
Bright rumbled to the 7 on the first play of the drive, and Shevitz scored on the next play to tie the game with 10:38 to go. There was a bad snap on the extra point that kept the game tied.
A 25-yard pass from Trumbull to Zane Alexander on the Knights’ next drive got the ball to the Mercer 20, but Trumbull’s ensuing pass was intercepted by Bright in the end zone and returned past midfield.
That set up Mercer’s game-winning drive, which took 11 plays.
After a good return, Eisenhower got the ball on their own 48 with just under two minutes to play, andTrumbull connecting with Head for a first down. Chambers converted on a 4th-and-1 to the 24 with just under 40 seconds left before Shevitz’s game-ending interception.
“The only way you’re going to learn how to win tight games and big games is by losing tight games,” Penley said. “They’re playing brawls every Friday night. We may not be getting the ‘W ‘right now, but there’s so much heart out on that field. The only reason it’s frustrating is because I want the win for them.”
Mercer finished with 263 yards of offense to Eisenhower’s 157.
The Knights will look for their first win again next Friday when they travel to Saegertown.
“In all the years I’ve been coaching, this is in the top handful of groups I’ve ever had,” Penley said. “They play with amazing hearts. If they can start getting a couple of things to string together, I think they’ll go on a run. We just have to make those plays.”
Eisenhower 7 6 0 0–13
E – Carter Knapp 10 fumble return (Jake Venman PAT)
M – Andrew Weinel 4 run (Brian Shevitz PAT) 11:24
E – Garrett Head 21 pass from Owen Trumbull (PAT failed) 4:00
M – Shevitz 7 run (Bad Snap) 10:38
M – Aidan Bright 5 pass from Dylan Hetrick (PAT failed) 2:02
First downs 15 10
Total Net Yards 263 157
Rushes-yards 44-203 23-65
Passing 60 92
Comp-Att-Int 7-9-0 7-13-3
Punts 2-30.0 4-32.5
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 3-1
Penalties-Yards 2-27 3-15
RUSHING–Mercer: Shevitz 18-95, Bright 10-70, Weinel 12-31, Boggs 3-7, Team 1-0; Eisenhower: Head 6-35, Chambers 8-19, West 4-14, Holt 2-0, Trumbull 2-(minus)3, Team 1-0
PASSING–Mercer: Hetrick 7-of-9, 60 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; Eisenhower: Trumbull 6-of-12, 92 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs
RECEIVING–Mercer: Bright 4-55, Shevitz 3-5; Eisenhower: Head 2-32, Alexander 3-47, Chambers 1-8, Holt 1-5
INTERCEPTIONS – Mercer: Foore, Bright, Shevitz