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Football team seeks EC title

Five weeks into the season it looked as though the Emmaus football team was just looking to finish the season and move on from a disappointing year. But the senior class didn’t want to go out that way.

With four wins out in their next five games, the Hornets reached the Eastern Conference playoffs. They might have come up just short of their goal to qualify for districts, but the consolation prize is getting to play for a title this Friday night on their home field.

“We have a great group of seniors,” said Emmaus head coach Randy Cuthbert. “They are very resilient. And even with those four losses in five games, we were getting better each week. Then the wins started coming and they gained more confidence. They just played better in all three facets of the game the second half of the season.”

After missing out on the District 11 Class AAAA tournament, Emmaus accepted an invitation to play in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Last Friday night at home they dispatched of Williamsport 61-22 to advance to the finals on Friday night against Reading.

The Red Knights will have to focus on stopping Emmaus senior running back Kyle Boney, who set the school record for rushing yards and touchdowns in a season with his 300-yard, seven touchdown performance last week in a win over Williamsport. 2015 graduate Andy Davidson previously held the rushing yards in a season record from a year ago.

“He is a special player and has had an unbelievable year,” noted Cuthbert. “But it’s not just a one-man show. Our offensive line has been huge for us paving holes. [Fullback] Sal Pagano has done a great job as well. But when [Boney] finds those holes, he can run through you, around you and by you. He’s been instrumental for us.”

The Red Knights finished the regular season 5-5 overall and 2-4 in the Berks League. They are on a two-game win streak, including a 48-20 victory over Muhlenberg in the final game of the regular season. Last weekend they defeated Pleasant Valley on the road 25-7 to advanced to this week’s final.

Reading gives up just over 180 yards per game rushing, which plays into Emmaus’ strength. The Hornets will likely try to slow the game down, especially if they get a lead. Like last week’s opponent, the Knights possess a bevy of talented skill players.

“They are another tough team with a ton of talented skill position players just like Williamsport,” said Cuthbert. “They’re quarterback and running back are really skilled. They run the triple-option, which is something we haven’t seen this year. It’s a different attack for us to see, and our guys will have to be disciplined and know what each of their responsibilities are.”

The Knights have outscored opponents 297-207 this year.

Tailback Jai Whitlock leads the team with 16 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,268 yards. Quarterback Elisiah Bayne is second on the team with 507 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

The aerial attack doesn’t look to be a concern for Emmaus as Reading’s leading receiver has only 162 yards on the year.

After competing in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference this season, Emmaus should be ready for Reading, which finished in fourth place in the seven-team Berks League Division I.

“Our league has really helped us be ready for this postseason,” Cuthbert said. “There are so many talented teams and players throughout the league. Each week the level of competition was tough. Everyone was battling it out each week in tight games.”