When in doubt, Cocalico football coach Dave Gingrich said, give the ball to Brandon Brubaker.
The fullback/linebacker equaled his career high with 35 carries Friday night for 157 yards and one touchdown, and scored another TD on a 65-yard interception return that sealed the deal on a 22-13 Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two win over Cedar Crest in Denver.
"In my 26 years here not many fullbacks have played both ways like Brandon and had an impact on both sides," Gingrich said. "You have to go back to the days of Tab Musser (1997 graduate) and Ryan Brubaker (Class of ’96)."
The Eagles also got scores from Colton Goodman on a 14-yard run and Ben Puodziunas on a 29-yard field goal. They also got big plays from two-way Ben Fromm, who had a pair of sacks; Noah Palm, who had an acrobatic interception; and Conlan Kerschner, who contributed a fumble recovery.
"It's definitely a team effort," Fromm said.
"It's another big game; we can't come out flat," Brubaker said of a stretch that has seen Cocalico beat, in succession, undefeated Elizabethtown, unbeaten Manheim Central and a Cedar Crest squad that had just one loss.
It all added up to a fourth straight win for the high-flying Eagles (4-2), who take over sole control of Section Two with a 3-0 mark in league play.
"Every week in our section we play a good team and we have to play pretty good (to win)," said Gingrich. "We did some good things. I don't think we played our best (five fumbles) but the effort was there."
QB Logan Horn, who threw for 144 yards before leaving the game late with an injury, running back AJ Apple (16-43, 1 TD) and wideouts Brody Dunlop (5 catches 48 yards) and Tate Seyfert (TD) fueled the Falcons (2-1, 4-2).
"They've got great athletes," said Gingrich.
Crest and Cocalico battled to a 7-7 tie at the break. The Eagles, who would finish with a whopping 60 carries and 285 yards rushing, opened with a 20-play marathon march that melted 8:37 off the stadium clock but ended with a missed field goal from 43 yards out.
Crest countered with a time-consuming drive of its own, a 15-play, 80-yard haul that ended with Apple scoring from the 3.
Back came Cocalico with a 9-play, 80-yard series keyed by Brubaker's 33-yard run up the gut on the first play and a 22-yard carry by Sawyer off the right side. Brubaker, who finished the first half with 100 yards on 21 carries en route to equaling the career mark he set two weeks against Elizabethtown, capped the drive by following left guard Brady Maxwell and left tackle Collin Hall in for the score from the 3.
"Brandon really knows how to hit the holes," said Fromm, a starter at right guard. "He makes nice cuts."
"The line makes good blocks and I follow them and hope for the best," Brubaker said.
Cocalico's defense held on a fourth-and-2 from midfield, when punter Chad Ryland's trick-play pass to Greyson Williams was ruled short of the first down by a yard. The Eagles drove to the 9 before fumbling and Greg Munnion recovered for Crest.
Kerschner's recovery of a fumble on the ensuing punt allowed the Eagles to maintain possession. Cocalico marched to the 20 where the drive stalled when Sawyer was stopped short on fourth-and-5.
Palm's leaping, one-handed interception set up the Eagles to take a 10-7 lead late in the third on Puodziunas' field goal. Cocalico then capped a 12-play drive and increased their margin to 16-7 when Goodman veered left and scored from 14 yards out on the next series.
Mixing screens and slants and finding five different receivers on the night, Horn (13-28-144, 2 Ints.) strong-armed Crest to Seyfert's 5-yard TD with 5:29 left to cut the deficit to 16-13.
"He's definitely athletic," Fromm said of Horn, "and he has quite an arm too."
The Falcons were driving again when Brubaker read a reverse screen pass that Crest had shown once in film and once earlier in the game and returned it 65 yards for a game-clinching pick-six with 2:56 left. The same screen had worked for a decent gain earlier in the game but Brubaker and the Eagles were waiting for it.
"We kind of adjusted to it," said Brubaker. "I tried to jump (the route)."
"Great play," Gingrich said of the pick-six.
"Sealed it," Fromm said, smiling. "My heart was pounding."