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Billy Burger said his Carlisle teammates began thinking about this first week of the 2014 high school football season nearly 10 months ago.
Back then the Herd only manufactured one lasting memory when they slid past Harrisburg for their only win of the season. A handful more evaporated under a continuous pressure that Josh Oswalt’s crew was not equipped to handle.
That suffering seems to be over now.
Burger connected on 21 of 32 pass attempts for 295 yards and running back Tyler Greeneetched three scores Friday night at Frederick Field as Carlisle packed away a 43-28 victory over host Mechanicsburg. Burger pitched in two touchdown passes and a designed QB draw that stretched 40 yards, all of it stretching Carlisle’s winning streak to an important two games.
The win also avenged last year’s heart-tugging 24-14 setback to the Wildcats, who kickstarted Carlisle spiraling campaign via 17 fourth-quarter points. With the way Oswalt’s swift assembly played on Friday, no such comeback was possible this time.
“The emphasis all offseason was to get some more offensive production and finish. We have to make sure we finish games,” said Oswalt. “That’s a very good [Mechanicsburg] offense and they’re going to win games. But we put this offense in knowing we have a guy who is very talented at QB and can do it.”
Burger’s counterpart, Wildcats QB Tyler Schubert, did manage 280 yards and three scores, the last a 26-yard dart to Breon Coke in the waning seconds. But Carlisle also picked Mechanicsburg’s senior leader twice. Running back Shyheim Brown had 131 rushing yards on 29 totes for the Cats.
THE BIG PICK
Carlisle snared a 20-14 edge at the break, and it didn’t take long to extend the lead in the second half. Aided by Burger’s deep slant to Deonte Ramsey (6 catches, 112 yards), the Herd went up 27-14 when Greene blasted in the Wildcats 5.
One series later, Burger found Mike Wuestner in the endzone and Carlisle was in cruise control.
“Honestly, it was just a full-team effort. It started all summer after that last victory over Harrisburg,” Burger said. “We’re hoping it continues and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get the rest of the team ready to keep it going.”
To Mechanicsburg’s credit, the Wildcats kept plugging away, ending a 12-play drive early in the fourth with Brown’s 2-yard dive. Schubert dialed up four big completions in the 55-yard scoring drive.
Roughly one minute later, Mechanicsburg regained possession and was driving again when Carlisle DB Zion Patterson stepped in an picked off Schubert’s overthrow near the six-minute mark of the fourth.
“I just overthrew it. [Jeray Anderson] ran a great route and got separation so it was my mistake,” Schubert said. “Mistakes are going to happen.”
The Wildcats only needed 97 seconds to take the lead as Schubert targeted Tommy Marlin from 15 yards out. That followed a crisp heave to Brown on Mechanicsburg’s opening play, good for 42 yards.
By the time the first quarter ended, Greene (12 carries, 47 yards) already had banked two TD runs, his first set up by Grant Shughart’s interception. Carlisle receiverGlenn Jackson played a pivotal role for Carlisle, too, catching seven passes for 119 yards and a fourth-quarter TD reception.
Deshawn Millington chipped in 90 rushing yards, on just seven carries, for Carlisle.
THE LOCKER ROOM
“We’ve got guys that have bought in and they are very talented. And they know if they work hard in the offseason, we were going to get them the rock and get them some yum-yum, as we like to call it.” – Carlisle head coach Josh Oswalt.
“I think we just didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities we had. I know I missed a couple of wide open guys.” – Mechanicsburg QB Tyler Schubert
“It was great. I know we started slow and that sometimes happens. But, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. We kept scoring, we kept moving the ball and it was just a great feeling.” – Carlisle QB Billy Burger
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MECHANICSBURG — Mechanicsburg’s Tyler Schubert was the quarterback everyone knew about.
But after Friday night’s season opener, it was Carlisle’s Billy Burger who stole the show. The senior signal caller kept drive after drive alive, tossing for 290 yards on 18-for-29 passing and two touchdowns in the Thundering Herd’s 43-28 victory over the Wildcats at John H. Frederick Field in Memorial Park.
Schubert put up impressive numbers, too, completing 25-of-45 passes for 280 yards and three scores of his own, but two interceptions wound up costing the Wildcats.
“They have good quarterback, but I like mine,” Herd coach Josh Oswalt said.
No one could fault him after Carlisle’s impressive spread offense debut at Memorial Park. The Herd worked on it all offseason, hoping to capitalize on the shiftiness and quickness of wideouts Zion Patterson and Deonte Ramsey, as well as tailback Tyler Greene and wildcat quarterback Deshawn Millington.
And it worked. Carlisle torched the Wildcat defense for 448 total yards.
“The emphasis all offseason was to get some more offensive production, help the defense out a little bit,” Oswalt said.
Glenn Jackson and Ramsey were the biggest beneficiaries. Ramsey snagged six balls for 111 yards, including a 47-yard burner down the right sideline that set up one of Greene’s three TDs, a five yard scamper to make it 27-7.
“Billy’s just going to be Billy this year,” Ramsey said. “He got a lot better this year and I’m proud of him.”
Jackson hauled in six passes for 129 yards and a score, routinely carving through the defense on seem routes. His final catch was a thing of beauty, as Burger led him perfectly down the left hashmarks just as a defender collided with him. Jackson simply bounced off and took it to the house for the 37-yard dagger to all but seal the contest.
“We put this offense in knowing that we got a guy who’s very talented. I love Billy on both sides of the ball,” Oswalt said. “He had a heckuva player… He’ll be fun this year.”
Another facet of the spread came in the form of change-of-pace QB Millington. The sophomore stepped in a handful of times in the first half, and again in the third when Burger hurt his ankle diving for a possible interception in the third.
Millington used his feet to cause havoc, handling the rock seven times for 90 yards. He also completed his lone pass for 11 yards. Mechanicsburg had no answers for him, especially on a 75-yard run to the five in which he ran right, broke a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, then cut all the way back to the left. But an illegal block was called at the Mechanicsburg 25. Greene eventually made up for it with a 4-yard score.
“If he needs to come in and get us a couple yards, by all means put him in,” Burger said of Millington.
Mechanicsburg nearly made it a game despite trailing 33-14 entering the fourth quarter. But down 33-21 with less than seven minutes to go, Schubert fired a pass into traffic in the middle of the field, only for Patterson to pick it off. Burger found Michael Wuestner from eight yards out for Carlisle’s final touchdown.
“I just overthrew it, it was a bad ball,” Schubert said.
“The big F-word, finish,” Oswalt said. “We gotta make sure that we’re finishing games… Luckily Zion comes up with a big interception late.”
The win is now the Herd’s second straight going back to last season, when they stunned Harrisburg in the regular-season finale to end a 20-game losing streak.
“It feels great,” Ramsey said. “Coming out, knowing that we got this first dub, carried the momentum, we just gotta move forward now.
Email Jake Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520