Thanksgiving must have been a little different this year at the Bailey household, considering that father and son were a day away from squaring off for the District 6 Class AA championship.
Brandon Bailey's undefeated and top-seeded Richland team topped his father's Forest Hills club, 27-0, Friday at Mansion Park for the Rams' first-ever district title.
"It feels great. I think the kids were feeling some of the pressure of the high expectations. You could see the sense of relief on their faces in the fourth quarter when they knew we were going to win it," Brandon Bailey said.
Though when asked about winning the championship at the expense of his father's team, his excitement tempered a bit.
"It's bittersweet. I feel bad for him and his kids. I know how hard they worked to get here," Brandon Bailey said. "I'm sure he's proud of me and what our kids have done here. We just had lunch [Friday], and there was a little awkward silence at times."
Richland entered the game averaging 40 points per game, but it was the Rams' defense that took center stage in the championship game.
With no score midway through the second quarter, the Rams defense stuffed Forest Hills on a 4th-and-1 play from their own 3 to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard.
The offense proceeded to drive the length of the field for a 6-0 with 3:21 left in the first half.
Tanner Solarczyk got Richland out of the shadow of its own goal post with a 33-yard run, and Matt Shaffer connected with Elijah Metzgar for 20 more yards on the next play.
Shaffer capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
"That was a big turning point, not getting the first down or the touchdown, and then they drove 97 yards for a touchdown," Don Bailey said. "They were simply better than us. If we had to lose to anybody, I'm glad it was to Brandon."
The defense made another big play on the Rangers' ensuing possession, forcing and recovering a fumble at the Forest Hills 26. Jacob Urban stripped Jared Shope, and Nico Pecora jumped on the loose ball.
Four plays later, Shaffer had Richland in end zone, hitting Linnie Joy over the middle for a 13-yard score with 16 seconds left in the half.
After a 2-for-7 start, Shaffer finished 11-of-18 passing for 171 yards and three touchdown passes.
He combined with Kyle Flick for a 32-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, then sealed the win with a 12-yard scoring pass to Pecora.
The Rams defense stuffed Forest Hills running game and hounded quarterback Joe Donoughe the entire game. The Rangers managed just 11 yards rushing and 111 yards overall.
"They were using a 4-3 and a 5-2, and bringing the monster off the edge. Joe had to throw the ball before he wanted a lot," Don Bailey said. "They were too big and strong up front. When you shutout a team, 27-0, in the championship game, you have a pretty good team."
Richland advances to the PIAA quarterfinals for a meeting with the winner of today's Hickory-Wilmington contest. Forest Hills season ended at 9-4.
"I'm extremely proud of this group of kids," Don Bailey said. "We were 2-3 at one point and ended up in the district finals. With the kids we have coming back and the kids Brandon has coming back, we might make it back again. You never know what'll happen."
Score by quarters
Forest Hills0 0 0 0 - 0
Richland0 12 0 15 - 27
R-Shaffer 1 run (pass failed), 3:21.
R-Joy 13 pass from Shaffer (pass failed), :16.
R-Flick 32 pass from Shaffer (Metzgar from Shaffer), 11:19
R-Pecora 12 pass from Shaffer (Colvin kick), 2:15
Rushing: Forest Hills-Dell 4-0, Donoughe 14-(-12), Krug 2-5, Wieczorek 1-(-1), Shope 2-19, Shima 1-4, Team 1-(-4). Richland-Solarczyk 13-96, Shaffer 13-37, Hoover 4-19, Shertzer 1-(-1), Pecora 1-6, Farina 2-6, Fesko 1-5, Snopko 1-3.
Passing: Forest Hills-Donoughe 12-18-1-100, Shope 0-1-0-0. Richland-Shaffer 11-18-0-171, Pecora 4-6-0-23.
Receiving: Forest Hills-Shope 9-65, Snedden 3-35. Richland-Flick 5-71, Shertzer 3-50, Metzgar 1-20, Rizzo 2-9, Joy 2-24, Farina 1-8, Pecora 1-12.