From the first day of heat acclimatization practice on Aug. 5, until the very last Lancaster-Lebanon League football team is standing later this fall, we’ll bring you three fun L-L League pigskin facts on a daily basis to keep you updated about what’s happening around the league …
1. When Lampeter-Strasburg takes on Berks Catholic for D3-4A gold on Friday night in Reading, the Pioneers will be tasked with solving the Saints’ opportunistic, ball-hawking defense. Berks Catholic is yielding 248 yards a game, and the Saints have pilfered 31 takeaways and own a nifty plus-17 turnover margin — that’s tops among Berks League squads. BC’s D ringleaders are a pair of swarming linebackers: C.J. Carwll (99 tackles, 8 for losses, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 INT) and Aiden Gallen (84 tackles, 5 for losses, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT). Those guys must help tame an L-S squad riding some serious momentum after earning — quite frankly — one of the best wins in the history of the D3 playoffs, rallying from a 20-0 deficit, on the road, to beat 14-time district champ Bishop McDevitt, 30-27. The Pioneers are also poised to get back hobbled leading rusher Bryan McKim (1,111 yards, 15 TDs), who missed last week’s game. BC’s opportunistic D vs. L-S’s multi-purpose O; that’s the crux in the Saints/Pioneers matchup.
BONUS NUGGET: Warwick's final stats hit my inbox, and the Warriors had some jaw-dropping numbers this season, when they won 10 games for the first time in program history, and went to the D3-5A semifinals — their deepest postseason trip ever. QB Joey McCracken just missed out on a 3,000-yard passing season; he went 183-for-294 for 2,912 yards with 27 TD strikes. RB Colton Miller, who became the Warriors' workhorse back, tallied 1,314 yards on 257 carries. And Warwick just missed out on having a pair of 1,000-yard receivers; Conor Adams (68 catches for 1,042 yards) and Caleb Schmitz (58 catches for 951 yards) both had big seasons catching the ball for the Warriors.
2. Speaking of defense … Cocalico’s top priority on Friday is curtailing Cedar Cliff RB Jaheim Morris, when the Colts come to Denver for the D3-5A championship clash. Morris has rushed for 2,363 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, including a pair of 300-yard nights. He galloped for 213 yards vs. Cocalico in their nonleague meeting back in August. That means plenty of wrapping and tackling for Cocalico, which is allowing 341 yards a game. The Eagles’ defense has been bent, but it hasn’t broken, as Cocalico is back in the D3-5A finals for the second year in a row. One week after defending Warwick’s high-flying spread attack, now Cocalico must focus squarely on stopping the run, which means a busy night for these ball-hawkers: DT Brock Gingrich (48 tackles, 5 for losses, 6 sacks) and D-end Shawn Fester (52 tackles, 6 for losses, 8 sacks) up front, LB Tyler Angstadt (80 tackles, 4 for losses) in the middle, and safeties Noah Palm (83 tackles, 8 for losses, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 4 INT, 5 pass breakups) and Ronald Zahm (73 tackles, 6 for losses, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 INT, 5 pass breakups) in the secondary. … Palm made the key defensive play in Cocalico’s win at Cedar Cliff back in August; with the Colts poised to cash in on a drive and seemingly in good shape in the red zone, Palm pounced on a fumble and returned it 90 yards the other way for a TD. Freshman DL Charles Drain — who has made an immediate impact in the trenches in his ninth-grade season with 24 tackles — helped force the game-changing fumble, and the Eagles were on their way to a 43-14 victory, as Palm accounted for five touchdowns in all.
3. Because we can never share enough fun Noah Palm stats … Cocalico’s senior QB has 3,891 career rushing yards, so he’ll need just 109 stripes vs. Cedar Cliff for 4,000. Palm rushed for 130 yards last week vs. Warwick, and in the first meeting vs. the Colts this season, Palm bolted for 194 yards with three TD keepers, and he went 3-for-3 for 74 yards through the air, including a TD flip to Ronald Zahm. … If Palm does indeed join the 4,000-yard rushing club, he’d become just the ninth player in L-L League history — dating back to 1972 — to eclipse that hallowed number (he’d also become the third Cocalico player to do it). None of the guys who hit 4,000 career rushing yards were quarterbacks, so Palm is already the league’s career leader in QB rushing yards. … And this: Palm has accounted for 110 touchdowns in his prep career — 78 rushing, 28 passing and four defensive scores, including the fumble return vs. Cedar Cliff earlier this season.
L-L LEAGUE CAREER RUSHING LEADERS
Roman Clay, Lancaster Catholic — 5,940 yards
Tommy Long, Lebanon Catholic — 5,662 yards
Austin Hartman, Cocalico — 5,107 yards
Kevin Kelley, Conestoga Valley — 4,991 yards
Jaren Hayes, Cedar Crest — 4,882 yards
Mike Kitchen, Lebanon — 4,366 yards
Mike Madara, Donegal — 4,197 yards
Tab Musser, Cocalico — 4,092 yards