Central fought the “Lauv,” and the “Lauv” won; Selinsgrove wins first PIAA title
Written by: Josh Funk on Friday, December 18th, 2009
HERSHEY, Pa. – In reality, Selinsgrove’s Seth Lauver could play on the offensive line for the Seals. Lauver is a 6’2, 250-pound junior, and he could probably flatten many an opposing defensive player.
Lauver, though, did some flattening from his fullback position in Friday night’s PIAA “AAA” championship game – flattening Manheim Central’s hopes of a second state championship.
“It’s unbelievable,” Lauver said. “It’s almost surreal. I can’t believe it happened.”
Lauver scored the winning six-yard touchdown for Selinsgrove (16-0) with 1:47 left in the game, and Selinsgrove’s defense broke up a Justin Gorman fourth down pass to preserve a narrow 10-7 victory over Manheim Central (15-1) from Hersheypark Stadium.
The win gave Selinsgrove its first-ever PIAA football title. Manheim finished as AAA’s bridesmaid for the second time in five years.
Barons’ coach Mike Williams was visibly disappointed after the game, and said the game ranked “pretty high” on the disappointment meter. Then, the 302-game winner caught himself.
“Our team was great all season,” Williams said. “We had great kids, and I don’t want to say one negative thing about them. We just didn’t play good enough tonight to beat a good football team.”
It was almost too perfect to be scripted. Since the PIAA began playing state championship games in 1988, 65 percent of the games had ended with a final score margin of 9 points or greater, including eight mercy-rule games since 2003.
In the battle of two unbeatens, the game truly lived up to the hype. A crowd into the five-figures for attendance witnessed one of the best “AAA” title games since the famous “Snow Bowl.”
Both teams battled to a scoreless tie through one quarter, and Manheim Central broke the goose eggs with a 36-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Justin Gorman to Derek Hart. At that juncture, 8:27 left in the second quarter, Central led, 7-0. But it was to be their only score of the night.
Defensively, Central had rendered Selinsgrove’s offense rather ineffective. Cory Briggs, who will attend Harvard, was only 4-of-13 in the first half for 32 yards. He also threw an interception. Central had doubled-up Selinsgrove in terms of total offensive yards (150-73) and held statistical advantages in most categories.
“We knew they were going to be a good defense,” said Selinsgrove head coach Dave Hess, “but we didn’t know they were going to be that good.
“Manheim’s a heck of a football team,” Hess continued. “I can’t say enough about them.”
But Selinsgrove didn’t panic, even as Casey Ebersole intercepted a second Briggs pass in the third quarter, thwarting a potential Seals’ scoring threat after a long 35-yard completion to Matt Ruby (2 rec., 38 yards).
The Seals broke their goose egg with :52 left in the third quarter when Spencer Hotaling drilled a 21-yard field goal, slicing Manheim’s lead to 7-3.
That was where things began unraveling for Manheim. Gorman was intercepted by star safety Ryan Keiser, and Selinsgrove, 72 yards away from the end zone, was in business to do business.
The red and blue took 12 plays to score. But if it wasn’t for a key 15-yard pass interference penalty called against Manheim Central on a 3rd and 6 gave the Seals’ drive new life. That penalty was killer because Briggs had well overthrown his intended receiver, and Selinsgrove would have been forced to punt.
Lauver only registered 6 carries for 35 yards, but the sixth one was by all means the biggest of the game and his career.
The Seals head back to Snyder County with the golden football, its long, long, long quest achieved. The Seals first arrived on the PIAA playoff scene in 2000, against, ironically, Manheim Central. Since 2000, the Seals are 114-21 overall.
“It feels great,” Hess said. “We have the greatest kids on earth.”
NOTES: Selinsgrove finished with 680 points on the season, the 7th-best total in state history. Manheim Central, meanwhile, finished with 616, a tie for 21st in state lore with last year’s Thomas Jefferson juggernaut from the WPIAL.
Cameron Benner led the way with 67 rushing yards for Selinsgrove, who ran for 167 yards as a team and racked up 16 first downs to Manheim Central’s eight. Manheim had only a single first down after halftime.
Selinsgrove’s defense (both first string and reserves included) finished the season allowing a whopping total of 96 points in 16 games, a flat average of six points per game.
In terms of combined points scored, Friday’s “AAA” final was the third-lowest scoring game in the history of “AAA” state finals (17 combined points). Only the 1988 and 1998 title tilts (13 and 10 points, respectively).
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