NEW PARIS — This was National Trail’s second appearance in the playoffs, hoping to make history with their first playoff win, but it was not to be on Friday.
The Blazers played with the North Lewisburg Triad Cardinals for a half, but faltered after halftime – Trail was only down by a score of 7-14 at the break, but the Cardinals found another gear in the second half and would eventually win 42-7 in the Division VI, Region 24 bracket.
Triad’s passing attack caught fire and the Blazers gave up several long passes, and when the Blazers loosened up their defense to defend the pass, it opened up running lanes for the ground game. This allowed the Cardinals to control the ball in the second half and keep the Blazer offense off the field.
The Blazer offense had trouble finding consistency and maintaining drives. While Trail could generate the occasional first down, they would eventually stall out. The Blazers stuck with the rushing attack in the first half and were a bit gun shy about passing after an early interception. They did open up their playbook in the second half once they attempted to mount a come back, but the Cardinal secondary was ready and picked off several passes.
“We are not doing the things we need to do, we are missing assignments,” Trail coach Mark Hoffman said. “Tonight, we had a chance to do something that no other Trail football has done and win a first round playoff game.”
Trail’s lone score was set up by a botched Triad play deep in their own territory in the second quarter.
The Cardinals tried to run a reverse and the exchange was muffed, and after the fumble was picked up, it was fumbled again by the Cardinals, recovered this time by Trail sophomore Ben Browning, who covered the ball at Triad’s 6-yard line.
Trail then went to a wishbone offense, pounding the ball into the goal line and eventually finding the end zone with a 3-yard rushing TD by senior Dallas Smith.
The Blazers had a second chance at a score late in the fourth quarter, but the drive ended on downs at Triad’s 3-yard line.
National Trail came into Friday’s game after two weeks off due to positive COVID-19 tests at National Trail High School.
“The two-week layoff did not help us,” Hoffman said. “We came out tonight just flat. We did not play the way we normally do.”
Friday’s game had initially been scheduled for Saturday alongside other Division IV, V and VI teams, it was moved to Friday due to the previously scheduled wedding of Triad coach Joe Cardinal on Saturday, who had scheduled his wedding prior to becoming Triad’s coach.
While Trail’s playoff hopes have been dashed, their season will continue as they send out feelers to other Cross County Conference teams to fill out the remainder of their schedule.
“We are looking forward to the future,” Hoffman said. “There is one senior on the offensive line. We are just young. There is an old saying: ‘You suffer with sophomores and you win with seniors.’ I do like our freshman and sophomore classes – they do everything together. They hang out with each other, even in the off season. As these kids mature, they are going to get better and better. We have a good staff here, they are hardworkers [and] they want to win. Once we put it together, good things are going to happen.”