Conestoga Valley needed a spark, and Jaiyell Plowden provided it.
The sophomore special teams performer popped a third-quarter kickoff return 88 yards for an energizing touchdown, and Conestoga Valley went on for a 42-28 Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two victory over Solanco on Saturday night in Quarryville.
CV (1-1 L-L, 1-4 overall) won for the first time this season, and the Buckskins ended an eight-game losing streak dating back to last year. Solanco (1-1, 3-2) had its three-game winning streak snapped.
Bradley Stoltzfus passed for 190 yards with three touchdown strikes — two to Zach Fisher — and CV came up big on defense, holding Solanco on downs four different times in fourth-down situations. The Bucks scored off three of those possession changes, and had a 42-14 lead before the Golden Mules punched in a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“I was a little surprised they kept going for it, but I guess they thought they could get an edge there and get it rolling,” CV coach Gerad Novak said. “But our kids played phenomenal on defense. You're not going to just stop them from running up and down the field. It was a battle in the trenches, and I thought our kids did a great job with that.”
Solanco skipper Tony Cox stuck to his guns, going for it four times on fourth downs; the Mules rushed for 407 yards against CV, and they came into the weekend leading the league in rushing offense.
“I’ve always been aggressive when I’ve called plays,” Cox said. “That’s our offense and that's what we do. If we only need five yards … sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don't. It got us tonight.”
On the first two fourth-down calls, Solanco absorbed penalties — on offside and holding calls — and turned the ball over. The offside penalty led to Zion Gadsden’s 20-yard TD sprint, and the holding flag led to Stoltzfus’ 13-yard TD toss to Zach Fisher, who has at least one TD grab in all five of CV’s games this season.
Gadsden rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries.
The third time CV scored off a successful fourth-down hold came late in the third quarter, when Stoltzfus flipped a 6-yard TD pass to Derek Ulishney, who had five catches, and he also intercepted a pass for the Bucks.
Later, Stoltzfus found Fisher (3-88 receiving) for a 53-yard TD strike to help ice the game, when Fisher shook free down the far sideline and sailed in alone for the Bucks.
“Feels great,” Fisher said. “We stopped them several times there on fourth down and that was big — really big.”
CV's first TD on Saturday came on a fumble recovery in the end zone by O-tackle Zach Sornoza; he pounced on a loose ball after the Bucks' Booper Johnson tried slamming into the end zone at the goal line.
CV led 20-7 at the half, but Solanco answered the bell to open the third quarter, driving right down the field to make it 20-14 when Nick Yannutz darted in from 3 yards out. But that's when Plowden returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a score, and the Bucks were back in charge.
Solanco QB Grady Unger rushed for 181 yards and Yannutz, the league’s leading rusher, had 85 yards and three touchdowns, all covering exactly 3 yards.