Football falls to Carlisle in Season Opener

Article by Perry Mattern, The Sentinel/Photograph by Matthew O’Haren, The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

For photos from the game, click here.

John H. Frederick Field in Mechanicsburg had a huge show of offense Friday night. More than 650 yards were gained in Carlisle’s 49-37 victory over Mechanicsburg on opening night.

Chris Wuestner led the way for the Thundering Herd with three touchdowns catches, while Hunter Robb rushed for 129 yards and two scores in the shootout win.

Mechanicsburg looked very good at the start. Tyler Rock intercepted the first pass thrown by Carlisle quarterback Cody Failor. And the first time Frank Rubinic dropped back to pass was a good one. On third and long, the senior quarterback found Bryton Barr streaking down the sideline. Barr adjusted to the underthrown ball to make a 32-yard reception, putting the Wildcats in the red zone.

From there, the Wildcats’ drive stalled, and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Zach Shirilla for a 3-0 advantage.

In the game’s next drive, Carlisle managed a few third down conversions, but a first-down pass from Failor went off Wuestner’s hands and was picked off by Mechanicsburg’s Joe Becker.

“You bet I’ll be riding (Wuestner) about that all week,” Carlisle head coach Josh Oswalt said.

Mechanicsburg went three and out, and Carlisle responded with a long drive. The Thundering Herd recorded five first downs before Failor spotted Wuestner, who was wide open because of a blown coverage, for an easy 14-yard touchdown pass.

Then the Wildcats began to make mistakes in bunches. Two plays into the next Mechanicsburg possession, Deonte Ramsey jumped in the way of an out route thrown by Rubinic and raced 35 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was converted, giving Carlisle the 14-3 lead.

Mechanicsburg’s next drive went nowhere, and the Wildcats were forced to punt. Thundering Herd sophomore Bamasa Bailor took the punt and rounded the corner, where he met multiple Mechanicsburg defenders, but none could make the tackle and Bailor’s speed did the rest. The 63-yard punt return for a touchdown extended the lead to 21-3.

Mechanicsburg responded less than a minute later. An Andrew Spanos 53-yard reception set up a Ryan Greene one-yard touchdown to make it 28-10 with 2:38 left in the first half.

That gave Carlisle just enough time to strike once more before halftime. Another good Thundering Herd return gave Carlisle great field position, and Failor took advantage, steering the offense down the field. He hit Wuestner for a six-yard touchdown pass to take a 28-10 lead into the half.

Mechanicsburg stormed out of the gates in the second half. Ryan Greene romped for his longest run of the night, 39 yards, to get the Wildcats in scoring position. A few plays later, Rubinic found Spanos with a 15-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to make it 28-17 early in the third quarter.

The Thundering Herd offense just could not be slowed down, though, marching down the field on the back of Robb. But after Carlisle reached the red zone, the interception came back to hurt Failor. This time it was Joe Hennessey who recorded the pick in the end zone, and it appeared the Wildcats were back in it.

Instead, three plays later, Rubinic overthrew Barr right into Wuestner’s hands for an interception. Carlisle drove right back down the field, finishing the possession with a one-yard Robb touchdown run, putting the game well in hand at 35-17.

“As much success as we had on offense tonight,” Wildcats head coach Chris Hakel said, “there were a lot of opportunities to get back in it that we just let slip through our hands.”

Mechanicsburg refused to quit, turning another drive into points when Spanos hauled in another touchdown from 27 yards out to cut the lead to 11 with 8:39 remaining.

Then, facing a fourth-and-two situation on the Mechanicsburg six yard line, Carlisle elected to go for it. The move paid off when Wuestner hauled in a one-handed catch from Failor for a touchdown to extend the lead back to 18.

“I want to be the guy that they get the ball to,” Wuestner said, “Any type of situation, I want my teammates to count on me in big situations.”

“(Wuestner) is the kind of kid that can carry a team,” Oswalt said.

The teams traded two more scores before Mechanicsburg scored as time expired.

“I can’t be more proud of a group of kids,” Hakel said, “They fought and fought and kept fighting down to the very last play.”

Carlisle claims wild shootout with Mechanicsburg

Article by Andy Shay, The Patriot-News

For the full article, click here.

For photos of the game, click here.

Carlisle coach Josh Oswalt is going to stay in the grills of the players who provide the heartbeat of this Thundering Herd team.

Friday night the trio of Cody Failor, Hunter Robb and Chris Wuestner were pretty good in a wild, up-and-down affair with Mechanicsburg at John H. Frederick Field.

They made a couple of miscues early, but they played through it to stake Carlisle to a 49-37 victory over the feisty Wildcats.

But for a team that had 32 players in uniform, even a couple of mistakes from the big guns won’t get it done. The Herd’s margin for error on offense is microscopic.

“Rough start for our offense,” said Oswalt, who watched Failor throw picks on the Herd’s opening two possessions — including one that went through Wuestner’s hands. “I’m going to be on them all season. They are seniors and need to be the leaders of this team.”

Sparked by a nifty 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Deonte Ramsey and Damasa Bailor’s 63-yard punt return for points, Carlisle went from trailing 3-0 to leading 21-3 in a 190-second span of the second quarter.

Failor, Robb and Wuestner nursed the cushion to victory, but it certainly wasn’t easy.

“I want to be that guy they can look to in a tight spot,” said Wuestner, who caught eight balls for 99 yards and hauled in all three touchdowns from Failor. “I let that one get through my hands, and it was picked. I knew I had to do something to make up for it.”

Robb rushed for 132 yards between the tackle as the fullback in the Herd’s new I-formation offense. He also scored once.

“Hunter Robb had a big game,” Oswalt said. “The second half, we were satisfied with going up and down the field playing run and gun defensively.”

Carlisle wasn’t alone in its defensive struggles.

The Wildcats’ defense could not get off the field. The Herd were 9-for-11 converting on third down. In a game when you’re playing catch-up for the final three quarters, closing the gap is impossible if you let the opposition have its way on third down.

“There’s no doubt we have to get better at that,” Mechanicsburg coach Chris Hakel said. “We have to be more aware of where the sticks are and make a play to get that stop.”

The Wildcats’ offense, led by senior QB Frank Rubinic, tried to keep pace.

Rubinic threw for 286 yards and four touchdowns in his first varsity start.

For Mechanicsburg, the key was falling behind 21-3 in rapid fashion and choosing to fight instead of going quietly into the night.

“You may look back on this season and remember that as a pivotal moment,” Hakel said. “I was proud of Frank. To throw a pick-six like he does and play like that in basically his first start.

“There were a lot of week 1 mistakes by both teams. But these kids kept fighting until the very last play.”

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