They are the route-runners. The sure-handed, pass-pattern guys. The home-run threats and the hands-guys that can make an explosive, game-changing play, or snag a gotta-have-it reception in crunch time.

They are the top returning receivers — wideouts and tight ends — due back for another round of Lancaster-Lebanon League football this fall. The season gets going with heat acclimatization practice Aug. 10. Fingers and toes crossed.

The league lost a good chunk of top-notch receivers from last year, as graduation was not kind to the pass-catching positions across the L-L. The good news: Last year’s leading receiver is set to return — hello, Lebanon rising senior all-star Alex Rufe — along with a solid crop of vet playmakers on the flanks.

So who graduated? It’s an impressive list, that’s for sure:

Manheim Central’s Colby Wagner (72-1,409, 12 TD), Warwick’s Conor Adams (66-1,042, 8 TD), Columbia’s Ryan Redding (66-1,027, 13 TD), Conestoga Valley’s Derek Ulishney (48-524, 5 TD), Elizabethtown’s Cole Rice (46-825, 6 TD), Northern Lebanon’s Nate Leedy-Reidel (43-765, 6 TD), Manheim Central’s Ben Wagner (42-676, 7 TD), Cedar Crest’s Cole Miller (40-704, 7 TD), Manheim Township’s Brett Benjamin (37-469, 3 TD), E-town’s Cole Hitz (34-343, 3 TD), Northern Lebanon’s Alex Folmer (33-367, 2 TD), Donegal’s Jake Shoemaker (33-592, 10 TD), Garden Spot’s Ethan Good (30-602, 3 TD) and Penn Manor’s Josh Gibson (30-331, 6 TD) have all exited stage left.

That’s 14 guys who had 30 or more receptions and three guys who piled up 1,000-plus receiving yards, and they all made one all-star team or another in 2019. Adams and Colby Wagner were AP all-state selections.

But the cupboard isn’t bare when it comes to L-L League flank playmakers. Here are the top returning receivers due back this fall, listed by number of receptions last season …

Alex Rufe, rising senior, Lebanon — 74 catches, 1,095 yards, 9 TD

Caleb Schmitz, rising senior, Warwick — 58 catches, 951 yards, 13 TD

Zach Fisher, rising senior, Conestoga Valley — 48 catches, 739 yards, 10 TD

Darnell Tucker, rising senior, Columbia — 44 catches, 630 yards, 7 TD

Troy Corson, rising senior, Wilson — 28 catches, 298 yards, 4 TD

Austin Stoltzfus, rising senior, L-S — 27 catches, 629 yards, 6 TD

Jadin Jimenez, rising senior, Hempfield — 26 catches, 390 yards, 3 TD

Kyle Murr, rising senior, Penn Manor — 26 catches, 446 yards, 8 TD

Michael Poole, rising senior, Columbia — 25 catches, 448 yards, 3 TD

Beau Heyser, rising junior, L-S — 23 catches, 358 yards, 6 TD

Anthony Ivey, rising junior, Manheim Township — 22 catches, 528 yards, 4 TD

Brock Boyer, rising senior, Ephrata — 21 catches, 339 yards, 3 TD

Mason McClair, rising junior, Lancaster Catholic — 20 catches, 345 yards, 3 TD

Rufe was sensational in his breakout junior campaign last fall, scoring every which was possible and catching everything in sight while helping Lebanon reach the 5A Eastern Conference playoffs. … Schmitz, an all-state safety, made a verbal pledge to the University of Cincinnati earlier this summer, and he’s a key cog in Warwick’s explosive vet attack. … Fisher became an ultra reliable deep-threat option for CV QB Bradley Stoltzfus last fall; his 10 TD grabs were among the league leaders. … Tucker, Poole and Demetrius Diaz (18-294, 4 TD) are all due back for Columbia this fall. Yes, the Crimson Tide will miss 2,000-yard passer Matt McCleary. But having those three sure-handed wideouts back will be a heck of a start for skipper Bud Kyle and his crew. … L-S has a zillion playmakers due back, including Stoltzfus, who is a burner on the flanks, and Heyser, a brute at TE for the Pioneers. … Corson will be a key piece for Wilson, with QB Kaleb Brown and speedy RB Mason Lenart also due back in West Lawn. Corson has been starting since his freshman year — he’s one of the best secondary guys in the circuit — so he knows the drill. … A couple of Section 1 speed guys to watch in Jimenez at Hempfield and Murr at Penn Manor. They can both scoot and beat you multiple ways, including special teams. … Boyer has been a key piece in Ephrata’s resurgence the last two years, and he’s poised for a big senior season. … McClair had 20 grabs for Catholic last fall, but he’s in the mix for the Crusaders’ QB job. Keep an eye on that, won’t you. … Oh yeah, Anthony Ivey. He might be the best one in the bunch, with 11 scholarship offers already in his back pocket before he runs a single route in his junior season. Arizona State, Cincinnati, Kent State, Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Pitt have all ponied up scholarship offers to Mr. Ivey, who is a special talent. Do you remember his season debut last year

Ivey announced on his social media this week that his recruiting process is still open, but he revealed his top three as August approaches: Penn State, Arizona State and West Virginia.

More receivers on the radar

No Stoltzfus to QB at CV this fall, but Fisher returns, as well as a pair of flank mates in Keaghan Sweigart (18-296, 3 TD) and Avery Tran (17-207, 1 TD). Tack on RB Booper Johnson, and the Bucks have some major skill firepower. … Stoltzfus and Heyser will have plenty of help in the receiving department with Ian Herr (13-254, 2 TD) also returning for L-S. … Two tight ends who know their way around a line of scrimmage: Warwick’s Thatcher Miller (12-201, 1 TD) and Ephrata’s Owen Morrongiello (3-68) were both all-star selections last fall. … Another trio of kids to watch: Octorara’s Caleb Rising (15-192), McCaskey’s Davion Scarborough (14-177, 1 TD) and Garden Spot’s Joel Martin (14-194, 2 TD) can all go up in traffic and get it.

TWITTER: @JeffReinhart77

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