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2023 News

Landon Kennel's five touchdown receptions lift Manheim Township over Spring-Ford

Mark Evans held his hand about three feet off the ground. He has photos of Hayden Johnson and Landon Kennel together when they were that tall.

Manheim Township’s quarterback and wide receiver share a bond. The kind that can only be built through time.

They’ve never enjoyed a night like this one. At least not in high school.

 

Kennel caught five touchdown passes, tying a school record, and Township ran away from Spring-Ford 63-28 in a nonleague football game at Neffsville on Friday.

“Those guys have been together for 10-12 years,” Evans said. “Where one goes, the other follows. They have a special relationship. That, to me, is one of the cool things about coaching.”

Johnson has no shortage of receivers to target. It’s an incredibly deep corps that features Nick Palumbo, Antonio Vazquez, Lex Haberbosch and others.

Kennel seemed to be the one open near the goal line this time. Johnson had no trouble locating his buddy.

“Since kindergarten he has been throwing to me,” Kennel said. “We’ve always been boys. He always puts it in the right spot. We have an amazing connection.”

Kennel matched the record set by Jay Ridinger, who had five TDs against Penn Manor in 2006.

Four of Kennel’s touchdowns came in the first half as Township built a 42-14 lead. They went for 5, 3, 16 and 8 yards.

“I was just out here having fun,” Kennel said. “I definitely feel more comfortable in the red zone.”

Johnson, who completed 24-of-31 passes for 356 yards and six TDs, found Kennel again on the second possession of the second half. That capped their magical night.

Township (4-0) was nearly flawless on offense in the first two quarters. All six drives finished in the end zone. They had 229 yards passing and 142 yards rushing.

The Blue Streaks dominated Cumberland Valley, Dallastown and Harrisburg in the first three weeks. This victory might have been the most impressive of all.

Spring-Ford (3-1) was also undefeated with a lethal passing game. Quarterback Matt Zollers threw for 311 yards and flashed a big arm on deep throws.

A less-than-perfect second half gave Evans some buttons to push as Township headed into Lancaster-Lebanon League play at Hempfield.

Spring-Ford was able to pull within 21 points and had a chance to cut it to 14 before the Blue Streaks regained their footing and put it away.

“We can’t stop,” Evans said. “I thought we got a little complacent. We’ve got some mental things we have to work on about being good teammates. Picking each other up after we make mistakes. That’s gonna propel us to go farther.”

Township’s season is about finding every edge and never being satisfied. The Blue Streaks know how much they can achieve. They don’t want to venture off course.

Kennel finished with 8 receptions for 106 yards. Palumbo caught 5 balls for 80 yards and the last TD. Declan Clancy rushed for 136 yards and two scores.

Johnson and Kennel have grown a bit since those long-ago photos. They’re 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3 now. Their football ESP has never been stronger.

“He knows where I’m gonna be,” Kennel said. “I know where he’s gonna put the ball.”

Five touchdown connections. No Township duo ever had more.

Matt Zollers, Spring-Ford light up Cumberland Valley, 63-17

MECHANICSBURG — Matt Zollers proved again Friday that he is one of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in Pennsylvania.

Don’t believe it?

Check out what the Spring-Ford junior did to Cumberland Valley at Cumberland Valley before the storm clouds moved in and the lightning started flickering. Zollers — he deserves an awesome nickname after this one so we’ll just call him “The God of Lightning” — was absolutely lighting up the Eagles when the game was halted, Spring-Ford leading 63-17, with just more than nine minutes to go.

His line?

Well, the 6-foot-4, 205 pounder threw for 320 yards and six touchdowns. Oh yeah, he also ran for 129 yards and another score.

That brilliance helped Spring-Ford improve to 3-0 while the Eagles fell to 0-3.

“Our offense played very well,” Zollers told PennLive. “We hit on all cylinders and did everything tonight. I put too much air on passes in the first, but I adjusted for the second half and we rode out the lead.”

The Rams got going early on their first possession, going 45 yards on nine plays. Zollers capped the drive with an effortless 33-yard touchdown pass to Mason Scott to make it 7-0 at the 8:15 mark of the first.

Cumberland Valley looked to have something going early on, too, with quarterback Deagan Rardain and playmakers Bryce Staretz and Caiden Pines making plays, but Mike Bendowski intercepted Rardain and the Rams took over.

Zollers then found Jordan Marsillo for a 26-yard touchdown that made it 14-0 with 37 seconds left.

CV came out swinging in the second quarter as Rardain connected with Ke’aune Green on a 75-yard swing pass to cut the lead to 14-7.

The Rams weren’t phased.

Spring-Ford brought it back to the ground, answering with a 4-yard run by Bendowski that made it 21-7.

Zollers then started to take control, pulling the ball on a read and racing 64 yards for a score, and then connecting with Scott on another 64-yard score that helped make it 35-10 at the half.

The Eagles kept battling, though, and opened the half with a 55-yard pass from Rardain to Nolan Buzalka for a score that cut it to 35-17.

Zollers just kept dealing, tossing three more touchdowns — two to Belal Abdelrahman and another to Scott — before the lightning rolled in and closed the night out.

THE STARS

Zollers was unreal, accounting for 449 ards - 320 passing yards, 129 rushing yards - and seven touchdowns.

Scott caught five passes for 148 yards and three scores. Abdelrahmen caught five passes for 127 yards and two scores, and Jamal Lewis rushed for 90 yards on 12 carries.

Green finished with 75 receiving yards and a score for the Eagles while Buzalka added 55 receiving yards for a score.

GAME DECIDING MOMENT

It was all Spring-Ford in this one.

THEY SAID IT

“All around we played as a team. We played well and did our jobs. Offensively, we aired the ball out, and Matt (Zollers) did a great job in finding all of our receivers.” - Belal Abdelrahmen on his team’s offensive performance.

“We did well. Everybody stuck to their assignment, and did their thing out there. Can’t complain at all tonight.” - Mason Scott on his team’s effort in the win.

“On defense, we still have a lot of things to work on, but we played a great game holding a team to only 17 points. Especially a team like CV. We had a fantastic game overall as Matt is nothing like I haven’t seen before.” - Mike Bendowksi on his crediting his team’s defensive performance and the quarterback play.

“There’s always good and bad in high school. There’s enough we need to work on as the scoreboard looked the way it did. There’s plenty to focus on after this game. We will watch film. Huge game against Manheim Township next week, so we’ll see where we go from there.” - Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker on preparing for Manheim Township next week.

Zollers, Scott lead Spring-Ford in aerial assault of Governor Mifflin

By EVAN WHEATON | ewheaton@pottsmerc.com |

PUBLISHED: August 26, 2023 at 1:05 a.m. | UPDATED: August 26, 2023 at 9:10 a.m.

ROYERSFORD >> It didn’t take long for Matt Zollers to remind the area why he was co-offensive player of the year in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division last fall.

The first team Mercury All-Area quarterback was as unforgiving as he was calculated on Friday night. Both masterful and cruel to defenders, the 6-foot-4 signal caller was as comfortable under center as Gordon Ramsay is in the kitchen.

Zollers threw for 294 yards, ran for another 71 and put up six total touchdowns in a 49-19 win for Spring-Ford over Governor Mifflin at Coach McNelly Stadium.

“We really worked hard over the summer, getting our connections right,” Zollers said of his receiver corps. “Mason (Scott), Belal (Abdelrahman), (Ryan) Kerchner, Jordan (Marsilio), I trained with them all summer, just getting our connection and timing right. That’s what’s put us over the edge.”

In the first half alone, Zollers – who holds a Division I offer from Old Dominion University – amassed 200 yards passing with five total touchdowns. His first was a 6-yard keeper to go up 7-0 at the 6:48 mark in the first quarter.

Despite the lopsided outcome, the Mustangs (0-1) clapped back immediately. Reese Hohl (three carries, 20 yards) returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the house, cutting the game 7-6.

That explosive play on special teams proved to be the biggest highlight of the night for Governor Mifflin, albeit a botched PAT after.

“Reese Hohlt, he’s a junior and he’s up and coming,” Mustangs coach Jeff Lang said. “He’s got speed, he’s a really good athlete. The kickoff team got their blocks and he got in through the hole and took off. He’s definitely an athlete for us.”

Governor Mifflin running back Grady Garner, center, moves the chains against Spring-Ford at Coach McNelly Stadium on Aug. 25. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Zollers hit Scott with a 64-yard go-ahead touchdown in the open field to extend Spring-Ford’s lead, 14-6 with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter. On the Rams’ next possession, Zollers commanded a three-play, 70-yard dash capped with another 21-yard loft to Scott in the end zone to balloon ahead, 21-6.

Scott was the main weapon of Spring-Ford’s aerial assault, hauling in a third touchdown reception with 8:31 left in the third quarter on a 28-yard bomb from Zollers – the Rams leading 42-6 by that point.

Spring-Ford wide receiver Mason Scott (3) makes a reception along the sideline against Governor Mifflin at Coach McNelly Stadium on Aug. 25. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

This past track season, Scott was the PAC champion in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter events. That raw speed was apparent in his route running, creating separation often. Scott finished with five receptions for 162 yards to go with his hat trick.

“It just makes it really easy for me,” Zollers said on Scott’s athleticism. “Once he starts to get going, they’re going to have to tag onto him and start double-teaming him and it opens up everyone else.”

Spring-Ford (1-0) piled on two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half to create a 35-6 cushion heading into the break. After another 17-yard keeper into the end zone, Zollers displayed his gutsiest series of the night.

A pre-snap penalty on a 32-yard field goal attempt pushed things back five more yards. The Rams’ offense came back out, and on 4th-and-21, Zollers found Kerchner (five catches, 83 yards) for another walk-in score.

“Actually, I was upset with myself for not calling a screen the play before because we knew they were coming and we should’ve called a screen the play before,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “We kind of felt we were on the edge of field goal range.”

Mike Bendowski (five rushes, 23 yards) tacked on a 6-yard rushing touchdown with 7:28 left. The Rams ran for 150 yards altogether, opting to carve out bigger yardage in the air.

“They played man-concept most of the time and they kept guys in the box. They’re two defensive tackles were hard to move and we’ll take what we can get,” Brubaker said of Governor Mifflin. “If we can run the ball, we’ll run the ball. If we can throw, we’ll throw. We’re not going to be picky about that.”

Brandon Jones (seven rushes, 37 yards) closed the scoring with an 18-yard rushing touchdown for the Mustangs with 1:19 left.

Governor Mifflin went 3-7 last year, just the first losing season for the program since 2003. Built on a winning tradition – and a traditionally dominant rushing offense that produced current Penn State running back and national Gatorade player of the year Nick Singleton – the Mustangs kept things on the ground for 162 rushing yards.

Senior Bryce Wunderlich, junior Javien Pletz and sophomore Lebron Leaf all competed for the starting QB job for Governor Mifflin following the graduation of Delsin McNeil. Against Spring-Ford, it was Wunderlich who had the start, but Pletz who saw most of the reps.

According to Lang, the two are expected to be a tandem as the season progresses.

“Bryce Wunderlich started it out and then we went with Javien and kind of just went back and forth,” Lang said. “Javien just gives it a little bit more with the athleticism getting it on the outside if we can get there, which we didn’t get there quite enough tonight. Bryce is a great team player, he went out there and played a little receiver for us too.”

Spring-Ford tight end Declan Finney (83) makes a reception against Governor Mifflin at Coach McNelly Stadium on Aug. 25. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Spring-Ford is coming off a season that saw a 7-6 loss to PAC champion Perkiomen Valley, followed by a large comeback over Ridley and double-overtime loss to Garnet Valley in the District 1 Class 6A tournament.
If the non-league opener against 5A Governor Mifflin is any evident, the Rams using those close shortcomings as bulletin board material.

“We’re really hungry. I think about that every day, especially the PV game,” Zollers said. “But I’m just worried about next week.”

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