Hornets top Trojans, reach district final
Somebody has to let the Emmaus football team know the games start at 7 p.m., not 8 p.m.
For the second straight playoff game, the Green Hornets played a lackluster first half, but authored a dramatic second half turnaround last Friday to win their District 11 Class 6A playoff game over rival Parkland 21-14 at Orefield Middle School Stadium.
“We had a slow start in the first half, but we didn’t waiver,” said Emmaus coach Harold Fairclough. “We got in at halftime and made a couple of minor adjustments and we just started taking advantage of what they were giving us offensively.”
Down 7-0, the game’s momentum turned on Emmaus’ second possession of the second half on a gadget play. Quarterback Joisah Williams received the snap and tossed the ball back to wide receiver Tyson Karrat, who launched a pass to wide-open receiver Jaiden Robinson on a fly pattern.
Robinson caught the ball and sprinted until he was tackled by his shirt at the Parkland 11. The gain was 52 yards. The play’s execution was outstanding. The offensive line gave Karrat time to have a cup of coffee and a sandwich. His throw was true and Robinson’s pattern and catch were solid.
“It got us going,” Fairclough said. “We said we couldn’t leave any bullets in the gun, we had to pull out all the stops. That one we just put in this week because when you see a team for the second time you have to show them something different.”
The next play Williams fired a missile to wide receiver Dylan Darville in a seam for a touchdown and a 7-7 tie. The sophomore was dialed-in for the final 24 minutes, throwing accurate passes with plenty of RPMs, but with enough touch and accuracy to give Emmaus receivers a chance to catch them. His stats - 10-of-25 for 104 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions - aren’t impressive, but most of his struggles came during the first half when his release was wild and mostly high, and his reads were shaky.
In totality, Williams was under a fierce Parkland rush early, which contributed to his problems. In half number two, Williams had more time and an effective running game and his performance improved.
Williams’ second touchdown pass went to the same receiver as the first - Darville - this time covering 22 yards and giving Emmaus a 14-7 advantage with 21 seconds left in the third quarter. The score came after an impressive Trojan drive ended in failure as kicker Gryffin Mitstier’s 28-yard field goal attempt was wide right.
After turnovers by each team, the Emmaus defense, which was awesome all game - harassed Parkland quarterback Luke Spang into a fumble recovered by linebacker Jared Groller. On the next play Groller hit pay dirt on a nifty 5-yard run around left end for a 21-7 Emmaus lead with 10:22 remaining.
Groller was the game’s MVP and played like a man possessed.
“All of our blitzes are by design, but I have some freedom especially against the run,” Groller said. “I just look to find the ball and then get it out by any means.”
Groller combined a fierce intensity with lightning-quick reads and solid technique to register seven tackles, two assists and two sacks. Offensively he gave Emmaus a badly-needed rushing attack in the second half, gaining 71 yards on 10 carries. The running game allowed Emmaus to control the ball and run the clock.
This was most evident at game’s end. The Trojans had closed to 21-14 after a 45-yard Spang to Jack Harrison touchdown pass with 8:23 left. But Emmaus got the ball and held onto it for the final 5:43 they held onto the ball, mostly with superior offensive line play and tough running from Groller and Sam Moratori to send Parkland packing.
The second half comeback came after Parkland took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 37-yard touchdown run from senior running back Dahlir Adams. Neither school could maintain any offensive drives during the first half, as rugged defense was the name of the game. Both teams also made a few miscues, with Parkland registering four turnovers and seven penalties, and Emmaus committing three turnovers and two penalities.
“It’s a great feeling because of how hard these kids worked,” Fairclough said.
Just two weeks before the semifinal, Emmaus walked off the Orefield Middle School Stadium field dejected after losing by double figures to Parkland, 25-14 back on October 29 in the regular season finale. It dropped the Hornets to the No. 5 seed in districts while it earned the Trojans the top seed.
In that game, the Green Hornets’ offense was shutout for the first 43 minutes of action, losing two fumbles and did not pick up a first down until there was 24 seconds left in the second quarter.
But this time around, when the game mattered more, fifth-seeded Emmaus stepped up and rose to the challenge with 21 unanswered points in the second half.
“It’s huge for our town,” said Jared Groller. “The past two years we went out in the first round. This is just awesome. Getting to the district championship, you couldn’t ask for more.”
Robinson caught three balls for 76 yards in the win, while Karrat had four receptions for 46 yards and Darville recorded four catches for 36 yards and two touchdowns.