TITUSVILLE, Pa. – Oh what could have been for the Warren Dragons.
The Dragons looked as if they were on their way to their first District 10 title game appearance since 2002 after Ethan Senz’s 1-yard touchdown run gave them an 18-6 lead over General McLane with 11:17 to play in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Class 4A semifinal game at Carter Field.
Ethan Senz on 4th and goal punches it in for the Dragons. Warren 18, General McLane 6, 11:17 4Q pic.twitter.com/yoacTnspIp
— YDL Sports Network (@ydlsportsnet) November 7, 2021
General McLane had other ideas, however. The Lancers scored 22 points over the next eight minutes and held on for a 28-20 win over the Dragons.
“It’s a season they can be proud of,” said Warren head coach Mark Morelli of his team. “They were competitive, they were in every game other than Cathedral Prep. We had some kids grow this year and got better and matured. Those underclassmen learned a lot this year and were a big contributing factor to this great senior class that we have.”
The rally all started with John Amon, who was banged up throughout the course of the game but battled his way through.
After Senz’s touchdown run, Amon took the ensuing kickoff back to the Warren 30. It was a theme for GM (6-3), which was very opportunistic all night. Two plays later, Amon found Magnus Lloyd on a screen pass, and Lloyd carried Dragon defenders into the end zone for a 20-yard score that got the Lancers back within five at 18-13.
After the two teams traded defensive stops, Warren (5-5) was forced to punt from its own 39, still leading with just over seven minutes to go. The snap on the punt went sailing high, giving GM prime scoring opportunity at the Warren 12.
That’s when Danowski crossed the goal line on his go-ahead score.
A sack of Warren quarterback Eric Dippold forced Warren into a third-and-19 situation on their next drive with just over four minutes to play. Dippold stepped up in the pocket and delivered a strike to Ben White for 18 yards, setting up a 4th-and-1.
The Lancer defense stood tall, denying the Dragons at their own 44-yard line. The very next play saw Danowski break free for 43 yards down to the 1 and he punched it on the next play to seemingly put the game out of reach.
Warren did have a chance in the waning moments, however.
Trailing 28-18 and the ball inside their 5-yard line with 25 seconds left, GM elected to run around in the end zone and take a safety with 16 seconds to go, making it 28-20.
Warren got the ball back at its own 48, and Dippold delivered a strike to White down to the 16 with seven seconds left.
The Dragons put the ball in the hands of White again on the game’s final play, but Amon and company forced him out of bounds at the 7 as time expired to end the game.
“When you get into the playoffs, the little mistakes and the little miscuses get magnified,” said Warren coach Mark Morelli. “Two special teams plays really hurt us. That’s the way it is in the playoffs. You can’t afford those kinds of pressure mistakes in the playoffs.”
General McLane took advantage of a Warren turnover right from the get-go, as Eric Salamonsen intercepted Dippold at the 1-yard line on the third play from scrimmage of the game. Amon called his own number and it was quickly 7-0 Lancers.
It didn’t take long for the momentum to shift, however, as Dippold found White for a 15-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
Eric Dippold 15-yard TD pass to Ben White. Warren 6, GM 6, :38 1Q pic.twitter.com/s2NIQ8ZQQ7
— YDL Sports Network (@ydlsportsnet) November 6, 2021
After Warren forced a GM punt, the Dragons went back to work, needing just two plays to score. Senz burst through for a 43-yard gain and Tommy Nyquist raced 30 yards for a score on the next play to make it 12-6 Dragons, a score that held until early in the fourth quarter.
It was part of a big game for Nyquist, who had 123 yards rushing and 40 more receiving. He was forced to exit the game in the second half due to injury, however.
The defense, led by the likes of Kody Vega, Justice Greene and others, limited the Lancers in the first half, as the Dragons held a 176-115 advantage in total yards at the break. That defensive effort also included a fumble recovery by White.
Morelli was effusive in his praise for White, Vega, Gage Shaffer and the rest of the senior class.
“This is just an exceptional senior class that we have,” he said. “It’s going to be very hard to replace the senior class. You just don’t make these types of senior classes every year.”
General McLane moves on to face Meadville for the D10 title next week.
“We’ve got Tommy (Nyquist) for two more years, Eric (Dippold) for two more, we’ve got Senz back, Caden Wright back and four of our five starting offensive linemen tonight were underclassmen,” Morelli noted. “That’s something to build around.”