Tuesday, January 23, 2018
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Cocalico pounds Ephrata


Despite terrible circumstances, Jhett Janis had no doubt.
 
No doubt, that is, that he would play football Friday night.
 
Terrible because Janis' older brother, Brett, passed away on Thursday.
 
"There was no question that I would play,'' Jhett Janis said.
 
With a heavy heart and the fire provided by his brother's memory, Jhett Janis rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown, added 88 return yards and returned an interception for 25 yards in the Eagles' 54-0 [box score] Section Two victory over host Ephrata Friday night.
 
The victory gave Cocalico (7-0 Section Two, 9-1 overall) its first Section Two crown and first nine-win regular season since 2008. The Eagles open the District Three Class AAA playoffs with a home game next Friday against an opponent to be determined.
 
Lancaster-Lebanon League football fans might remember Brett Janis. The 2003 Cocalico grad was a three-year starter at quarterback and defensive back. In Cocalico tradition, Janis was a strong runner but had plenty of skill when throwing the ball, too.
 
"Brett was one of the most talented kids we ever had,'' said Phil Kauffman, who was Janis' head coach and is now an assistant coach for Ephrata. "He was one of the most coachable kids that I ever had. Whatever I told him to do, he did.''
 
Janis, 27, was named the Section Three Back of the Year after his senior season. That season, he rushed for 1,443 yards and completed 38 passes for 662 yards and five touchdowns.
 
"Brett and I had a close relationship,'' Kauffman said. "He would look me in the eye and when kids do that and try to do what you tell them to do, that's the kind of kid you want to coach.
 
"He never made an excuse. He never said, 'this guy did this or that guy did that.' Brett never made an excuse if he made a mistake. I'm devastated and my prayers go out to his family.''
 
Jhett Janis' said his faith helped him through the game and he felt as if his brother helped him.
 
"Growing up, I always wanted to be like him and better than him,'' Jhett said of Brett. "I always wanted to play like him.''
 
Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich said the decision to play or not play Friday was up to Janis.
 
"Jhett said immediately that he wanted to play,'' Gingrich said. "Knowing Brett, he would have wanted his brother to play.''
 
Janis, who alternated between running back and quarterback, was just part of the Eagles' onslaught. They scored on their first five possessions and led 35-0 at halftime, meaning the second half was played under the mercy rule. For the first half, Cocalico limited Ephrata (2-5, 2-8) to 40 yards of offense.
 
The Eagles' Brock Gosling (nine carries, 64 yards), who played QB when Janis didn't, scored three rushing touchdowns. Spencer Moser (9-71) scored two TDs. Nicholas Reitenbach rushed for a TD and led the Eagles with 97 yards on nine carries.
 
Cocalico now turns its attention to districts and Friday night's effort indicates that the Eagles are ready.
 
"I don't think we have any superstars on the team, we just have good blue-collar kids,'' Gingrich said. "These guys don't care who gets the credit.''
 
One of those players is Janis, who was there to contribute Friday night, heavy heart and all.
 
"It was tough because I wish he could have been here,'' Janis said, talking about his brother, Brett. "I know he's definitely watching and he helped me out tonight.''