Thorpe gets offensive
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Jim Thorpe's Corey Cinicola splits Lehighton defenders Jon Rabenold (52) and Levi Haldeman (32).
Corey Cinicola did everything in his power to make sure Friday's night's game against Lehighton wasn't the final one of his high school career.
Cinicola threw for two touchdowns, ran for one, and was flawless in directing an Olympian offense that at one point scored on six straight possessions.
Cinicola's performance carried Jim Thorpe to a 48-27 victory over Lehighton in their annual game for the Route 209 Trophy.
Unfortunately for the Olympians, as impressive as their performance was, it wasn't enough to get them into the District 11 playoffs. Thorpe needed to win and then get some help in other games, but victories by Salisbury and Pen Argyl ended its playoff hopes.
Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger didn't know if his team was in or out of the playoffs when he was conducting his postgame interview, but he did know how impressive his offense played.
"Our offense played extremely well," said Rosenberger. "Our line dominated play up front, Corey (Cinicola) had a great game running and passing, and Shane (Edwards) and PJ (Johnson) both ran hard as well. It was a very nice performance."
Cinicola said that when the line is playing like it did on Friday night, his job is a lot easier.
"Our line opened up great holes and also gave me great protection," he said. "Because of that, it seemed like everything was working.
"We were able to run inside, run outside, and throw the ball down field. It gives you a lot of confidence when just about every play that is called seems to work."
Cinicola wasn't exaggerating.
Not including their kneel downs at the end of both halves, the Olympians had nine possessions and scored touchdowns on seven of them.
"We just couldn't handle their line," said Lehighton coach George Ebbert. "They were too big and too physical for us.
"Our offense did a nice job of keeping us in the game for three quarters, but we just couldn't stop them."
Leading 7-0 on a 35-yard run Johnson, Jim Thorpe increased their lead on a four-yard by Edwards in the final seconds of the opening quarter.
Edwards' run began an amazing stretch of nine consecutive possessions not including a one-play kneel down by the Olympians to end the first half when a team scored a touchdown.
While the Olympians' touchdowns in that span featured three runs by Edwards, Lehighton's were produced by four touchdown passes from backup quarterback Josh Agosto.
But everytime the Indians pulled close, Thorpe had an answer.
"Our offense did a great job of answering everyone of their scores," said Rosenberger. "Lehighton burned us with some big pass plays in the second and third quarters, but our offense made sure we never lost the lead."
One key to Jim Thorpe maintaining the upper hand was a key call to open the second half.
Leading 27-20, the Olympians called an onside kick to start the third quarter. The play were perfectly as Thorpe recovered the kick at the Lehighton 48-yard line and six plays later scored on a one-yard run by Cinicola.
The onside kick and score, which extended the lead to 34-20, looked even more important when Lehighton drove the length of the field on its next possession for a touchdown.
"We thought we could have success with that kick," said Rosenberger. "It's something we've been practicing all year and were waiting for the right time to use it.
"We decided to roll the dice with it to start the second half and [James] Denny made an outstanding kick and our coverage people executed their jobs perfectly. The way both teams were going up and down the field scoring, it turned out to be an important play for us."
After the Indians pulled to within 34-27 midway through the third quarter, Jim Thorpe put the game away with a couple of ball-control drives that chewed five and six minutes off the clock respectively.
The first one was capped by an eight-yard run by Edwards and the second came on a 15-yard pass from Cinicola to Phil Schron that iced the game with a little over four minutes remaining.
"We did our part," said Cinicola. "As a senior, you want to do everything in your power to try and keep your career alive. Hopefully, we'll get to play another game. But if we don't, at least we know we closed out our career with a really strong performance in a big rivalry game."