LEBANON — Lebanon football coach Gerry Yonchiuk couldn’t put a tight time frame on it, but he’s sure his Cedars' 30-22 upset of Lancaster Catholic here Friday was Lebanon's biggest win in, “a long, long time.’’
The Cedars got huge plays on offense, defense and (especially) special teams, took advantage of Crusaders' mistakes and, as Yonchiuk told his players afterward, “put yourselves right back in the section race.’’
That would be Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three, which Donegal now leads alone at 4-0, 4-1 overall after beating Ephrata Friday.
The Indians beat Lebanon 35-24 last week, and go to Catholic in Week 9 (Oct. 18).
Catholic scored early Friday, and it looked like the Crusaders would be able to ride their ground game, directed by quarterback Gavin Sullivan and powered by running back Jeff Harley.
Harley (29 carries, 154 yards) was indeed terrific. But the Cedars started turning things their way when Hari Allen blocked a Crusaders' punt and pounced on it in the end zone early in the second quarter.
Harley answered with a 25-yard TD sprint, but the Cedars were starting to find themselves, and getting explosive plays from, in particular, tiny (5-4, 150) RB Joseph Mejias-Rios and WR Alex Rufe.
Lebanon’s next drive included a 39-yard catch-and-run by Rufe and Mejias-Rios’ 20-yard TD sprint.
The Cedars put together a 22-point second quarter. Catholic rallied hard after that, but it started looking like Lebanon's night early in the third, when Rufe turned a simple wide-receiver screen into a spectacular 51-yard TD that made it 30-14.
Catholic's style is not ideal for playing from behind.
The Crusaders finished with more yards, more first downs, more time of possession, but also more critical mistakes. Catholic fumbled five times, losing three of them, including once on Lebanon's 1-yard line. The Cedars' Andrew Bowers blocked a 24-yard field goal try, and Lebanon sacked Sullivan six times.
And despite Catholic’s considerable size edge, Lebanon got the ball last, and was able to move the chains and drain the clock with Mejias-Rios hauling the mail.
“I liked (this matchup) because of our speed and athleticism,’’ Yonchiuk said. “Last week, against (Donegal’s) Wing-T, all that misdirection, our kids freeze. Typically with our screen game, for example, sometimes it may go for a zero gain, but you do it again and again and then it goes for 45 yards. We try to play fast, and sometimes, when you play fast ...’’
Speed kills. And it finished off a 14-game, regular-season winning streak by the Crusaders.
Catholic (4-1, 3-1) hosts Annville-Cleona next week. Lebanon (3-1, 3-2) travels to Columbia.