Warwick winning kick

Warwick's Tanner Haines (15) kicks the winning field goal as Justin Gerhart (6) holds against Manheim Central in a PIAA District Three Class 5A quarterfinal football game at Elden Rettew Field in Manheim on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. Warwick won 31-28.

In a game filled with all-stars and record-breaking standouts, it was a pair of special teams performers who stole the show.

Adam Martin’s blocked punt with 1:55 to play in regulation set up Tanner Haines’ game-winning 17-yard field goal as time expired, giving Warwick a thrilling 31-28 victory over host Manheim Central in a District Three Class 5A football quarterfinal Friday night at Elden Rettew Stadium.

Warwick ended up sweeping the season series against Central; the Warriors won the nonleague clash 37-7 in Lititz in Week Three, and Friday's riveting victory put Warwick in the district semifinals next weekend opposite another Lancaster-Lebanon League foe, top-seeded Cocalico, which topped Governor Mifflin in another quarterfinal contest.

Central, the back-to-back reigning district champion, rallied for a 28-28 tie with 6:19 to play when Evan Simon — who eclipsed the 8,000-passing-yard plateau and finished his career as the second leading passer in league history — hit J.D. Grube for a 33-yard TD pass.

After forcing a punt, Central had the ball back, but Warwick forced a punt with just under two minuets to play. Martin, a special teams contributor for the Warriors, broke through the line and blocked the Barons' punt attempt.

“I saw an open hole and I just got through there,” Martin said. “And I was able to block it.”

“What a tremendous play in a clutch situation,” Warwick coach Bob Locker said. “We were starting to think about a long field and a short amount of time, and even overtime. At that point, it was anyone's game.”

Martin's blocked punt gave the Warriors all the momentum they needed to close it out.

After a flurry of penalty flags, Warwick ended up at Central's 2 yard-line with four seconds to play. The Barons iced Haines with a timeout, before he calmly drilled the game-winning 17-yarder.

“Definitely a lot of pressure,” Haines said. “That was only my second field goal this season, so yeah, there was a lot of pressure. But it was great to come through in the clutch and help out the team.”

Haines helped Warwick (10-2) win just the third postseason game in program history.

“He did the job and that was that,” Locker said of Haines' game-winning boot. “That was a fantastic football game. (Central) played lights-out football.”

So did Warwick, which overcame Simon’s 78-yard TD strike to Ben Wagner late in the first quarter to keep it closer. Colton Miller, who rushed for 166 yards, had three TD runs for the Warriors; his 2-yard plunge with 38 seconds to go in the half sliced Central's lead to 14-13 at the break.

Colby Wagner's 2-yard TD run gave the Barons (9-3) a 14-7 lead, after Joey McCracken fired a 33-yard TD pass to Caleb Schmitz early in the second quarter.

Simon gave Central a 21-13 with an incredible 64-yard TD keeper on third and long with 3:54 to go in the third quarter. Warwick answered immediately, with Miller going 3 yards for a score, and McCracken's 2-point pass to Conor Adams gave the Warriors a 28-21 lead.

Simon's TD strike to Grube tied it, but that set the stage for Martin's blocked punt and Haines' field goal.

“Look where we came from, to where we are now,” Central coach Dave Hahn said. “From Week Three to Week 12, I can't be more proud of our kids. We knew what we had and we knew what we'd grown into. We never gave up.”

Simon passed for 214 yards and rushed for 104 yards in his prep swan song, and McCracken passed for 178 yards for Warwick, which rushed for 231 yards.