CHAMBERSBURG — The maligned Chambersburg defense, which had been pounded on for three weeks, finally stood up Friday night and said, “Hey, wait a minute!”
The Trojans (1-3, 1-3 MPC) gave up some yards, but held Central Dauphin East without a touchdown and the Chambersburg offense did just enough to nail down a 17-8 Mid Penn Commonwealth football victory at Trojan Stadium.
“It finally happened — the defense really clicked tonight,” Trojan linebacker Grant Hopple said. “We did better than we have been up front and our secondary stepped up.”
Safety Kevin Lee, who had a pair of interceptions, said, “The defense fought hard. Our energy was up and we played more aggressive.”
“I thought we just played more physical,” linebacker Sam Vessah said. “We needed to come out and punch them in the mouth. We’d been playing a little soft and we needed to hit some people.”
The Panthers (0-4, 0-2 MPC), who have not yet played a home game, did ring up 295 yards, including 122 yards on 31 carries by Thaddeus Krebs. But the Trojans forced four CD East turnovers and played well in the red zone and on crucial plays.
An adjustment in alignment helped make a difference.
Trojan coach Mark Luther said, “We’d been playing a three-man front, but we used a 4-4 in the first half and it helped. But that meant only three defensive backs, so at halftime we made it a 4-3, even though we haven’t practiced it that much. We even used a 3-3-5 at times. It was kind of a chess match.”
Hopple said, “Being in the 4-3 freed up the linebackers to make some plays.”
The teams combined for seven turnovers, so the momentum swung back and forth. Two sequences likely determined the outcome.
Late in the first half, with Chambersburg ahead 7-0, Lee picked off a deep pass by Panther QB Romeo Fleck at his own 3. Two running plays to Jayden Jones were smothered, and on the second one, East picked up a safety.
On the resulting 12-play drive, CDE reached the Trojan 19 before a field goal by Nickolas Bloss was off the mark with 25 seconds left in the half.
Chambersburg, instead of letting the clock run out, tried to catch East napping with a long pass. But Blair’s medium-range toss was picked off by Isaiah Bowers-Perrin and returned to the Trojan 5 with 0:15 left. Hopple blasted Krebs for a loss on first down, but on second down, Chambersburg was called for pass interference. But they forced an incompletion and East had to settle for a Bloss field goal and a 7-5 halftime deficit.
In the third quarter, after CD East had taken a 10-8 lead, Chambersburg came up with a good drive that resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Tanner Luther for a 10-8 lead. A third-and-12 pass of 20 yards from Blair to Nate Abbott was the key play.
On the next possession, East was moving, gaining 31 yards on carries by Krebs. But they gave him a breather and his replacement, Jayden Sims, lost the football at the end of a 16-yard gain, and it was recovered by Chambersburg’s Malachi Scott.
The Trojans then put together a nice drive, helped by a Blair-to-Vessah completion for 12 yards on third-and-10, to reach the Panther 4. On third-and-goal, Blair faked a handoff to Jayden Jones coming right, rolled to his left and flipped a pass to wide-open tight end Carter Sollenberger. Luther’s kick made it 17-8 and a two-score lead with 10:43 left.
Mark Luther said, “We really needed a touchdown at that point, with a two-point lead. Our offense was struggling, so it was important to finish that one off.”
The defense then made its presence known again. On East’s next drive, facing fourth-and-7 at the Chambersburg 34, Fleck’s deep pass was knocked away by Tanner Luther. The next Panther drive was stopped by Lee’s second interception.
Mark Luther said, “I’m proud of the kids. We made some plays on defense, and I hope we lost some doubt about whether or not we can win. I think the spirit at practice will be much different this week.”
NOTES: Lee scored the first touchdown when he got past the East secondary, caught a pass from Blair, stopped on a dime to let two defenders rush past, then beat the rest of the secondary to the far pylon for a 47-yard score … Chase Shaffer had two tackles for loss, Vessah made some good tackles on the outside and Joey Fuller made tackles on two key plays late in the game … Chambersburg was missing three offensive linemen, and two starters on offense … The Trojans travel to play Cumberland Valley (1-3, 1-2 MPC) on Friday.
Chambersburg 17, Central Dauphin East 8
CD East 0 5 3 0 — 8
Chambersburg 0 7 3 7 — 17
Ch — Kevin Lee 47 pass from Malaki Blair (Tanner Luther kick), 8:35
CDE — Safety, tackled runner in end zone, 4:36
CDE — Nikolas Bloss 20 field goal, 0:00
CDE — Bloss 20 field goal, 8:00
Ch — Luther 27 field goal, 3:53
Ch — Carter Sollenberger 4 pass from Blair (Luther kick), 10:43
First downs 17 10
Rushes-yards 43-216 25-67
Passing 11-24-3 10-24-3
Passing yards 78 146
Total offense 294 213
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Punts-average 3-37.3 4-35.8
Penalties-yards 8-91 5-40
Rushing — CDE, Thaddeus Krebs 31-122, Jayden Sims 5-73, Romeo Fleck 7-21. Chbg, Jayden Jones 18-46, Blair 7-21.
Passing — CDE, Fleck 11-24-3-78. Chbg, Blair 10-24-3-146.
Receiving — CDE, T.Krebs 5-42, Terrence Jackson-Copney 2-21, Troy Cooper-Watts 3-15. Chbg, Lee 2-65, Sam Vessah 4-54, Nate Abbott 2-29, Sollenberger 1-4.
Interceptions — CDE, Isaiah Bowers-Perrin 2, Levi Krebs. Chbg, Lee 2, Vessah.