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Muncy falls to Steelton-Highspire in high-scoring PIAA Class A playoff game in football

STEELTON – Incredibly, “little” Muncy gave itself a chance at the end of Saturday afternoon’s contest against the mighty Steelton-Highspire Steamrollers.

This was small-school state playoff football at its best, and when the Rollers walked off their turf at War Veterans Memorial Field with a 50-43 victory in the PIAA Class 1A first round, coach Sean Tetreault’s Indians were heartbroken but proud.

The District 4 champs, ranked seventh in the state to Steel-High’s fourth entering this contest in Dauphin County, trailed the sickeningly talented Rollers, 43-14, barely more than a minute into the second half.

Yet, in the final moments – after cousins Ross and Branson Eyer connected on a 37-yard TD on fourth-and-17 with 35 seconds remaining – Muncy was an onside-kick recovery away from having possession and a chance to tie.

Alas, Steel-High’s Tyshaun Holland-Alli smothered the bouncing boot from Gage Wertz, allowing the Rollers to advance to next weekend’s quarterfinals against Old Forge.

“Everybody calls us ‘little’ Muncy, but I’ll tell you right now I’ll match anybody with their heart,” Muncy coach Sean Tetreault said after this senior class wrapped up the best four-year stretch in program history, including three straight D4 championships and a 7-2 final record this season. “And we’re excited for the future. These seniors set these kids up for great success.”

Andrew Erby’s Rollers (7-0) piled up insane offensive numbers, including 409 yards through the air and another 230 on the ground. QB Alex Erby, the head coach’s son (and just a freshman), connected on 26 of 35 passes for all 409 yards and six touchdowns, including four to senior Damien Hammonds (11-255 receiving). Junior Mehki Flowers, a clear Division I talent, added 127 yards and a score on seven catches before exiting in the fourth with a right leg injury. And senior RB Odell Greene piled up 240 yards and a score on 24 carries.

Muncy managed three interceptions of young Erby, including two by sophomore Ross Eyer, who added a fumble recovery as well. Eyer also teamed with his cousin/classmate for four touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. Ross finished with 143 yards and three TDs on five catches, while Branson actually caught that last TD from Ross after he accumulated 244 yards through the air on 10-of-17 passing. Ty Nixon caught an 86-yard TD from Branson on the second play of the game, though the Indians’ lead was quickly erased by the first of Hammonds’ four TD catches.

Meanwhile, senior running back and Muncy captain Ethan Gush gave every last bit of energy he could to his program, totaling 155 yards and a score on 21 carries and doing his best at linebacker to keep pace with the versatile Rollers.

Gush was understandably emotional after the game, disappointed his team couldn’t complete the comeback but hopeful for the future, even suggesting the Eyer-led Indians might be in the state championship hunt in 2021.

“We knew from freshman year [Ethan] was going to be a very special player for us,” Tetreault said. “There’s a reason he was all-state running back and linebacker last year. If you find a kid who can play two ways and special teams like him in the state, I’ll be impressed.”

Gush’s ability to churn out yardage on the ground and run through tacklers enabled the Muncy offense to nearly keep pace with the explosive Rollers, whose first six scoring drives were all six plays or fewer.

But, starting on the final play of the third, Steel-High embarked on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Tyrone Moore’s 8-yard TD catch and a 50-27 lead with just 7:32 remaining.

Muncy responded immediately with a long kickoff return from Eli Weikle to set up Gush’s 1-yard TD, and a two-point conversion pass from Loudon Boring to Wertz pulled the Indians within 50-35.

Gush then intercepted Erby in the end zone of the ensuing drive, and Muncy turned those into points on the Eyer-to-Eyer, role-reversal TD in the final minute. The two-point run by Branson Eyer made it a seven-point contest.

Muncy might not have completed the improbable comeback, but Tetreault noted he was proud of the effort, pointing out the Indians’ 38-3 loss to Steel-High in the 2016 state playoffs.

“(That game) didn’t go very well for us,” he said. “But these kids came here, got a little shocked in the beginning but never quit. These kids took a big step up for our district in single-A football.”

STEELTON-HIGHSPIRE 50, MUNCY 43

MUNCY 7 7 13 15 – 43

STEEL-HIGH 14 22 7 7 – 50

First Quarter

M – Ty Nixon 86 pass from Branson Eyer (Loudon Boring kick), 10:58

SH – Damein Hammonds 33 pass from Alex Erby (Bryan Hernandez kick), 9:06

SH – Hammonds 60 pass from Erby (Hernandez kick), 5:06

Second Quarter

M – Ross Eyer 14 pass from B.Eyer (Boring kick), 11:09

SH – Hammonds 22 pass from Erby (Hernandez kick), 10:19

SH – Mehki Flowers 55 pass from Erby (Daivin Pryor run), 4:48

SH – Odell Greene 25 run (Hernandez kick), 4:31

Third Quarter

SH – Hammonds 23 pass from Erby (Hernandez kick), 10:51

M – R.Eyer 62 pass from B.Eyer (Boring kick), 10:32

M – R.Eyer 35 pass from B.Eyer (kick failed), :21

Fourth Quarter

SH – Tyrone Moore 8 pass from Erby (Hernandez kick), 7:32

M – Ethan Gush 1 run (Gage Wertz pass from Boring), 6:33

M – B.Eyer 37 pass from R.Eyer (B.Eyer run), :35

TEAM STATS

First Downs: M 15; SH 25

Rushes-Yards: M 37-174; SH 31-230

Comp-Att-Int: M 11-19-1; SH 26-35-3

Passing Yards: M 281; SH 409

Fumbles-Lost: M 1-1; SH 2-1

Punts-Avg.: M 5-35.6; SH 0-0

Penalties-Yards: M 3-32; SH 8-75

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: M – Ethan Gush 21-155; Branson Eyer 9-13; Ty Nixon 6-5; Eli Weikle 1-1. SH – Odell Greene 24-240; Mehki Flowers 1-5; Taeyon Bratton 3-2; Alex Erby 2-(-16); Team 1-(-1).

Passing: M – Branson Eyer 10-17-1, 244 yards; Ross Eyer 1-2-0, 37 yards. SH – Alex Erby 26-35-3, 409 yards.

Receiving: M – Ross Eyer 5-143; Ty Nixon 1-86; Branson Eyer 1-37; Chase Crawley 3-11; Gage Wertz 1-4. SH – Damein Hammonds 11-255; Mehki Flowers 7-127; Tyrone Moore 4-37; Daivin Pryor 1-(-2); Odell Greene 3-(-8).

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