The 2021 Elizabethtown Bears Varsity Football season was one of significant ups and downs. The season started with a win over the rival Donegal Indians and a winning record in the first half of the season. There were great performances from many players including junior quarterback Josh Rudy, senior Patrick Gilhool, and junior Braden Cummings. Unfortunately, the Bears struggled when conference play started and they were winless in the second half of the year. Still, there are reasons to believe that the future is bright for this group with several key players returning and valuable lessons learned in 2021.
In their first game, the Bears had to deal with bad weather as well as a muddy field. They overcame these troubles and other costly errors to outlast their school’s rivals. In the two weeks that followed, the Bears dealt with offensive struggles and consecutive losses that put the success of the team in serious doubt.
Over the next two weeks, the Bears faced challenges on and off the field. The offense struggled to put points on the board leading to losses against Mechanicsburg and Lower Dauphin. Despite all of this, the Bears maintained focus and strove for improvement. This hard work paid off in their week four home win over McCaskey. Gilhool’s quick return from injury personified E-town’s perseverance and resilience. Rudy’s three touchdown passes to Cummings helped to provide a blueprint for continued success through the air in the coming weeks.
A week five defensive struggle at Cedar Crest allowed the Etown defense to show that they could seal a game for the team when necessary. They held Cedar Crest to just two scores, giving the offense the ball with less than four minutes left and a chance to win. The offense capitalized when Gilhool hit Cummings on a 55 yard completion to set up Hayden Haver’s second rushing touchdown of the night. The defense came through again on Cedar Crest’s last drive, forcing and recovering a fumble. The Bears ran down the clock and special teams sealed the win when punter Chaz Mower fielded a faulty snap and got the punt off under duress.
There was to be no comeback in week six versus Conestoga Valley. However, it wasn’t for lack of effort. The Bears found themselves down by three touchdowns early and were never quite able to catch up. Still, because of their unwillingness to surrender and their continued fight, they pulled within a score late in the fourth quarter. They were able to carry this momentum into Warwick for a week eight matchup with the Warriors. Rudy threw three touchdowns and ran for another as the Bears put up the most points they scored all year. Unfortunately, a series of mishaps on special teams allowed Warwick to maintain their lead for most of the game. Despite this, Etown scored a dramatic last-minute touchdown to put them within two points. The call on the conversion was controversial, as the officials determined that while the Bears made a successful reception, they did not cross the goal line, leading to a heartbreaking loss.
The losses continued over the next two weeks as the defense struggled to get other teams off the field. The offense kept it close against Cocalico, but could not do the same against Manheim Central, leading to the Bears’ worst loss of the season.
Prior to the final game of the season against Solanco, the loss of a classmate under tragic circumstances puts into perspective the importance of a game. The Bears, however, knew that this game presented them with the opportunity to not only pay tribute to Colby Hall, but to honor his family and friends by putting their best effort forward in front of them in the last game of the season. With the rain coming down increasingly hard as the game progressed, the Bears came out fast and never slowed down, beating Solanco 32-14.
This final win was a shining example of what the 2021 Bears football team was. They were a family who never stopped fighting for each other, no matter how challenging it could be at times.
By: Meadow Winters