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Hersheypark’s A-Turf Field Hosts District Three AAA Semifinal Game

Hershey, Pa – Their quickness and team speed elevated by a fast track, Lampeter-Strasburg’s football team played its “A” game Friday night on the A-Turf floor of Hersheypark Stadium. Abe Mellinger raced 84 yards to a touchdown on a punt return and the Pioneers’ quickness allowed them to survive early mistakes by dominating both lines of scrimmage en route to a 17-7 win over Hershey in a District Three Class AAA semifinal. “We knew we were quick on a muddy field,” L-S guard/linebacker Blair Stevens said in reference to a 21-0 shutout win at Elizabethtown in last week’s quarterfinals. “Our coaches said, ‘Let everybody see how quick you are on the turf.’ We knew our quickness was going to be a factor.” A big factor, according to Hershey coach Bob “Gump” May. “We faced a team that just ate us alive,” May said after watching his squad get outgained on the ground 272-minus 10. “They run very well; they get little seams and they’re just rippin’. Defensively, they were quicker than they looked on film. We didn’t get a good handle on them all night.” L-S, 11-2 and seeded seventh, will play in the program’s first district title game, scheduled for next Friday night at 7 in Hersheypark Stadium, opposite No. 4 Gettysburg (12-1). The Warriors advanced with a 35-14 win over ninth seed Daniel Boone (9-4) Friday night. “I’ve never had a feeling like this before, to be part of such a great team,” said Mellinger, whose punt return for a score was the first of his career and the first this season for L-S. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without great blocking. I knew someone was right behind me. If they had touched me, I was going to dive. I just wanted to get in there.” “Play of the game,” L-S coach John Manion said of Mellinger’s return, which put the Pioneers up 14-0 with 2:50 left in the third quarter. “We talked all week about how well they covered and that we were going to have to throw those extra blocks. I think our punt returns did a great job all night.” L-S dominated sixth seed Hershey (10-3) from a statistical standpoint. The Pioneers finished with 16 first downs to the Trojans’ five, and 303 yards of total offense to Hershey’s 98. Following a scoreless first half, fullback Joe Good gave L-S a 7-0 lead with a 4-yard run with 5:01 left in the third. Good (12 carries for 51 yards) and backfield mates Justin Taylor (14-110) and Rob Zimmerman (16-92) were the key beneficiaries of a dominant offensive line anchored by center Peter Baker. “Putting that ‘seven’ on the board fired everyone up,” Good said. “We were moving the ball and stopping them, but penalties and fumbles were stopping us. We just had to limit those (mistakes).” Headed by Stevens and linemen Anthony Cintron, Chris Eldredge and Matt Maser, the Pioneers sacked quarterback Mike Wagner four times and limited Trojan back Tyler Neal, who had rushed for 955 yards this season, to minus-8 yards on 10 carries. By game’s end, L-S’s defense had produced eight tackles for loss. “Our offense had been our consistent focal point,” Manion said. “But we weren’t going to win anything without our defense playing like this.” L-S dominated the first two quarters, but the half ended in a scoreless tie after three turnovers stalled the Pioneers’ offense. Their best scoring opportunity came three minutes into the second quarter when quarterback Brett Graeff carried to the Trojans’ 7-yard line for a first down but fumbled into the end zone. Linebacker Matt Hoerner covered the loose ball for Hershey. The Trojans had good field position early due to Pioneer turnovers, but Hershey lost its best scoring chance on a missed 25-yard field goal with 1:21 left in the first quarter. Touchdowns by Good and Mellinger gave L-S a 14-0 lead in the third. Held to one first down in the quarter, the Trojans got on the board two plays into the fourth when Wagner (11-of-24, 108 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int.) looked left and found wideout Chris Boyer on a sideline route for a 34-yard score. The TD ended a string of eight straight scoreless quarters by the Pioneers defense. Taylor’s 22-yard field goal with 1:49 left capped the scoring, and the Pioneer defense took it from there. Eldredge, who also started for Nick Yingst at right tackle on the offensive line, provided the exclamation point with L-S’s fourth sack of Wagner. “They took away our run game, and even passing, they were getting pressure on us,” May said. “We got beat by a better team.”

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