HERSHEY, Pa. – To fully appreciate the feeling of winning a championship, you have to go through some seasons in the doldrums.
That was Cumberland Valley head coach Tim Rimpfel’s feeling after his Eagles claimed their 10th District 3 AAAA football championship and 12th District crown overall.
The 35-7 mercy-rule victory Saturday night in HersheyPark Stadium gave Cumberland Valley (12-2) its third consecutive 12-win season and moved the Eagles into the PIAA AAAA Western Finals for the second consecutive year. CV will face North Allegheny (13-1), who defeated State College 21-6 Friday night in a AAAA western quarterfinal game at Pine-Richland High School.
For Red Lion (10-4), it was the second loss to the Eagles this season. Those two defeats came by a margin of 80-13.
“We didn’t come in here just to be here,” said Red Lion head coach Patrick Conrad. “We came here to win a football game. But we didn’t block and tackle well in the first half.”
Those lapses, coupled with CV’s focus and determination, quickly turned the game into a rout.
Within its first 12 offensive plays, the Eagles had amassed 118 yards of offense, seven first downs and a 14-0 lead. Jeremy DiPietro broke the goose eggs just 1:13 into the game with a 35-yard run, set up by two first down runs by Jeremy Salmon and Dan Flynn, respectively. CV’s initial drive ate up 63 yards on just four plays.
CV’s second possession was met with slightly more resistance, but the end result was still the same, as Rutgers’ commit Kevin Snyder scored from 15 yards out.
One of the few Red Lion highlights came on CV’s next possession. After the Eagles drove from their own 25 to inside the Red Lion 10, the Lions’ Jeremy Knaub recovered a Snyder fumble at the black and gold’s three yard line. But five plays later, after Red Lion had chalked up its first first down of the game, CV got the ball back via a fumble recovery.
And the Eagles wasted no time. Senior field general Eric Sawyer hooked up with Flynn on a 20-yard touchdown pass on the very next play, and CV was up three scores on its York-Adams League counterparts.
“It’s what we call slobberknocker football,” Rimpfel said. Of its 30 offensive plays in the first half, Cumberland Valley ran the ball 28 times. Five different Eagles registered carries in the 220-yard, 13-first down onslaught.
Red Lion began mounting its best drive of the first half with 3:45 left in the second from its own 13. Junior quarterback Tanner Klinefelter hit four passes on the drive of 22, 9, 10 and 9 yards, and the Lions strung together four first downs to get to the Cumberland Valley 16 with less than 30 seconds left. But Red Lion coughed up its chance.
DiPietro scooped up a Klinefelter fumble, which was forced by Flynn, and raced 84 yards down the home sideline for a 28-0 CV lead.
Flynn invoked the mercy rule with a 3-yard scoring run with 1:40 left in the third quarter and Red Lion broke its shutout when Knaub scored from a yard out with 4:42 left in the game. Knaub’s score capped an 80-yard march for the Lions over seven plays.
DiPietro finished with 96 yards rushing on 11 carries, with Flynn adding 53 yards on 11 totees and Snyder chipping in with 46 yards on nine carries. Sawyer completed 4-of-6 passes for 51 yards. CV finished with 240 yards of offense and 17 first downs.
Red Lion was paced by Klinefelter’s passing effort (16-of-21, 181 yards) and the rushing efforts of Mike Gray (11 rush, 32 yards) and Knaub (8 rush, 19 yards). Red Lion finished with 204 yards of offense and had only 23 rushing yards on 28 carries (sacks included). The Lions had 11 first downs.
Conrad said the 10-win season is something positive to build off of.
“It’s a good foundation for our program,” he said.