EF wins third in a row behind strong second half
Elizabeth Forward coach Mike LeDonne gathered his team in the end zone and let out one barbaric yell.
And why not?
For a team that's had two winless seasons over the past five years, there's cause for celebration at Elizabeth Forward these days.
The Warriors exploded for 26 points in the first eight minutes of the second half and went on to beat visiting Uniontown, 33-0, in a Big Nine Conference game at Warriors Stadium.
It is EF's first three-game winning streak since opening the 2008 season 3-0, and the latest the Warriors (3-2, 3-2) have been over .500 in the conference since Oct. 8, 1999, the same year they advance to the Class AAA semifinals. LeDonne was an assistant coach on that team.
“Wow,” LeDonne said. “It's been that long?”
The next thing to check off on EF's list is qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
“This game was a very important game for both of us,” LeDonne said. “We knew with a win that we could put a stranglehold on making the playoffs.”
Rex Pearce and JaQuan Davidson, along with a stifling defense, made a postseason appearance more of a reality.
Davidson ran for three touchdowns, threw another and rushed for 100 yards, Pearce rushed for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown.
But it was the Warriors' defense that impressed LeDonne the most.
EF held Uniontown (1-4, 1-4) to 52 totals yards, including 18 in the decisive second half.
“They have been executing the defense very well,” LeDonne said. “That side of the ball really was getting after it.”
However, it was Uniontown's defense that was getting after it in the first half.
Even though EF racked up 128 yards of offense in the first half, it could only manage a 6-0 halftime lead.
“A credit to them, they hit us in the teeth in the first half,” LeDonne said. “They were very comfortable in their defense. We didn't do enough offensively to get them to move out of that on-stack. We tried to muck it up, and we thought we could.”
Elizabeth Forward got on the board following an interception by Matt Bernadowski that set the Warriors up on the Uniontown 34-yard line.
After Pearce converted a fourth-and-4, Davidson faked a handoff to Pearce out of the spread and galloped 21 yards into the end zone for a 6-0 advantage.
EF threatened again right before the half with a 12-play drive, but turned the ball over on downs with less than a minute left in the half when Davidson was pushed out of bounds just short of the first down at the 15-yard line.
“This is a game that we thought we could come out on top,” Uniontown coach John Fortugna said.
“We thought we could play with this team. Hey, we just played a bad second half. We couldn't get anything rolling on offense and on defense, we weren't tackling.”
It didn't take long for the Warriors to get on the board in the second half.
Pearce rambled 57 yards on the second play of the third quarter to give EF a 12-0 lead.
“He is a power runner, but he is faster than we thought he was,” Fortugna said.
The flood gates opened after that.
Davidson hit Matt Diehl for a 42-yard touchdown pass two minutes later; Davidson sneaked in from the 1-yard line two minutes after that; then scored from 18 yards out four minutes after that to give EF a 33-0 lead.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org