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. Conestoga Valley did all it possibly could to win last Friday’s nonleague tilt over at Spring Grove. The Buckskins out-gained the Rockets by a whopping 531-338, and CV had 30 — 30! — chain-moving first downs, the most by any L-L League team in a game so far this season. Alas, Spring Grove got a 2-yard TD run from Zyree Brooks late in the fourth quarter, and the Rockets edged the Bucks 42-39 as CV dipped to 0-3. Bucks’ senior QB Bradley Stoltzfus continued to sizzle in the saddle; he had his second 200-yard passing night in a row, going 25-for-31 for 276 yards with a pair of TD darts: 21 yards to Zach Fisher, who hauled in a TD catch for the third game in a row, and 11 yards to Derek Ulishney; Fisher and Ulishney each had eight receptions against Spring Grove, and those guys are now tied for the Section 2 lead with 17 grabs apiece. Booper Johnson also came up big on the ground for CV with 134 stripes and a couple of TD runs, and Stoltzfus added 118 yards and a pair of TD keepers for a 200/100 night, as the Bucks moved the ball at will against Spring Grove. But the Rockets won it late. The good news is that coach Gerad Novak’s squad has definitely found its offensive groove. The bad news: Well, CV is 0-3. And it gets no easier this week in the Section 2 lid-lifter, when the Bucks go to Lampeter-Strasburg to face the piping-hot 3-0 Pioneers in the annual Lampeter Bowl showdown. More about that backyard rivalry matchup later in the week.
BONUS NUGGET: Saw an awesome stat over the weekend from the WPIAL out in Pittsburgh, about how Aliquippa's defense has allowed just 2 rushing yards in the first three games this season. That deserves a wow. The L-L League leader in rush defense through the first three games is ... Lampeter-Strasburg, which has allowed just 109 rushing yards in 12 quarters.
2. Cedar Crest is 3-0, and closing in fast on matching the Falcons’ 5-0 getaway in 2017. That was Cedar Crest’s last year in Section 2 before bumping back up to Section 1 last fall. That 2017 squad went 8-3, falling to section rival Cocalico in the first round of the D3-5A playoffs. So what has been the secret to the Falcons’ success through this season’s first three weeks? In a word, balance. On offense, Cedar Crest has rushed for 466 yards and passed for 483 yards, as the Falcons are averaging 316 yards and 29 points a game in wins over Lebanon, Hershey and York. On defense, Cedar Crest has yielded just 286 passing yards, and the Falcons are giving up only 264 yards and 11 points a game. Reliable, rugged RB Tyler Cruz has been an absolute workhorse out of the backfield; he leads all L-L League backs with 79 carries, and his 405 rushing yards are second-most in the league behind Solanco FB Nick Yannutz, who has 444 yards on 59 totes. And Cruz’s six TD runs are tied for second-most in the L-L League; Cocalico QB Noah Palm has eight, and Warwick slugger Colton Miller also has six scores on the ground. And this: Newbie QB Chris Danz has been efficient, to the tune of 29-of-53 completions (55 percent) for 483 yards with five TD throws against just one pick as coach Rob Wildasin and his Falcons are a plus-4 in turnover margin. It’ll be Section 1 opener time this week for Cedar Crest, which will pay a visit to Lancaster to take on McCaskey (0-3) in Tornado Alley on Friday.
BONUS NUGGET: Bummer news for Elizabethtown sophomore QB Patrick Gilhool, who was off to a fast start for the Bears this season. Kyle Morgan at the Elizabethtown Advocate is reporting that Gilhool will be out on Friday when E-town visits Cocalico for the Section 2 opener between the Bears and Eagles. Gilhool absorbed a big hit last Friday in E-town's 30-9 setback against Conrad Weiser, and it will keep him out this week. Freshman QB Josh Rudy will get the start against Cocalico. Gilhool is 33-for-63 for 552 yards with five TD throws.
3. Back to the drawing board defensively for Annville-Cleona this week, after the Little Dutchmen surrendered — gulp — 648 yards and 26 first downs last Friday in a 58-26 setback at Ephrata. The Mountaineers carved out 268 rushing yards, and QB Caden Keefer was nearly perfect, going 21-for-23 for 380 yards with four TD strikes, as Ephrata’s offense completely ambushed A-C’s defense. This week, the Dutchmen (1-2) head crosstown to Fredericksburg to face Northern Lebanon, and the Vikings (0-3) are averaging just 158 yards and 8 points a game. Still, you have to block and tackle and wrap up and make sticks. And NL has QB Ethan Borcky, who can make plays. So we’ll have our eyes on a trio of A-C defenders to rally the troops this week: LB Chase Maguire (20 tackles, 5 for losses, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble), NG Logan Wagner (21 tackles, 3 for losses) and D-end Dante Bonilla (17 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery) must get the Dutchmen’s D back on track. Pronto.