McCaskey's season opener marched toward a one-sided loss to Red Lion Friday night in Lancaster. The Lions had run through the Red Tornado defense to the tune of 263 first-half rushing yards, building a 39-0 lead before the last bursts of light had abandoned the night sky.
But with 10:19 left on the mercy-rule running clock, McCaskey's Wanya Smith charged into the Red Lion backfield, jarred the ball loose, and Ben Desmarais recovered for a 47-yard score. Basir Epps added 23-yard rushing touchdown, and the Red Tornado defense pitched a second-half shutout in a 39-14 defeat, giving first-year head coach Sam London enough fodder to steer the conversation toward culture and competition after a season-opening loss.
"We competed until the end," London said. "That's the biggest difference from last year. If this was last year, it would have been 60-0. They competed, and we can build off of that."
Before McCaskey found its constructive rhythm, Red Lion (1-0) buried the Red Tornado (0-1) with a furious first-half surge. Senior running back Devyn Gurreri bulled his way to four touchdowns and 119 yards on 11 carries behind a senior-laden line of Dylan Zeller, Scott Wilt Jr., David Craley and Jared Miller, and junior Kairen Gordon-Bey that dictated play on both sides of the ball.
While the line authored the rumble, junior wideout/defensive back Randy Fizer added the flashes that sparked the Lions. His first-quarter trick-play pass attempt was intercepted by McCaskey's Isaiah Thomas, but three plays later, Fizer hauled in an interception of his own, picking off Red Tornado starting quarterback Matthew Remash to set up the first touchdown of the game, a 2-yard punch-in from Gurreri.
Fizer finished the night with a pair of picks. He also caught a pass for a 13-yard touchdown from quarterback Nic Shultz (6 for 12, 70 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) and returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown that was wiped out by a Red Lion blocking penalty.
"He's our most dynamic player," said Jesse Shay, Red Lion's coach. "He's our home-run hitter. We've got a lot of really good players, but he's the one that can break it at any moment."
While the Lions piled on, McCaskey's offense stalled, running two first-half plays in Red Lion territory and gaining 31 total yards in the first two quarters.
At halftime, London and his assistants challenged the players.
"We told them it was not going to be easy," London said. "We have numbers. We had a great offseason, but at the end of the day, you still have to go out and compete. We talked about that. We wanted to come out, compete and fight until it's over."