As the Lancaster-Lebanon League football regular season hits the halfway mark, there are seven teams with a perfect 4-0 record. Two of them will square off in a mega showdown game on Friday.
In the league’s second mandated crossover game this season, reigning District 3 Class 5A runner-up Cocalico will welcome back-to-back Section 1 champ Manheim Township for a much-anticipated clash in Denver.
In the latest District 3 power rankings, Cocalico is No. 1 in 5A and Township is No. 1 in 6A, so there is plenty riding in this matchup.
The Blue Streaks held off the hard-charging Eagles 36-24 last year in Neffsville. This time around, Township will make the trip to Denver, where Cocalico will be ready and waiting.
There are 11 games on Friday and one game on Saturday, and they all start at 7 p.m. Previewing all of the Week 5 action:
SECTION 1-2 CROSSOVER
Manheim Township (1-0, 4-0) at Cocalico (1-0, 4-0): The Streaks have some seriously scary defensive stats; Township is giving up just 135 yards a game, tops in the L-L League, and in 16 quarters so far this season, the Streaks have allowed a grand total of 89 rushing yards, and they are yielding — wait for it — negative-2.8 yards per carry. Tack on 13 QB sacks, 35 tackles for losses and nine takeaways, and Township’s defense has been air tight. The Streaks must now curtail Cocalico’s powerful Veer attack, which has amassed 1,065 rushing yards, and averages 350 yards and 40 points a game. Eagles’ QB Noah Palm, who steers the ship, joined the 3,000-yard rushing club last week. … Key stat: Township is also second in the league in total offense, cranking out 421 yards a game. … Key kid: Cocalico D-end Shawn Fester must be a pest off the edge; he has 18 tackles, four stops for losses and four QB sacks for the Eagles, who are giving up 278 yards a game, second-best in Section 2.
Wilson (4-0) at Penn Manor (0-1, 1-3): The howling Bulldogs are set for their section opener, and they’re sailing behind a defense that has allowed just 247 rushing yards (second-least in the league), and some outstanding special teams production; Mason Lenart has returned a kickoff for a TD in the last two games in a row for Wilson, which gets a Comets’ club trying to shake a three-game losing streak. … Key stat: Penn Manor has rushed for just 94 yards, least in the league. … Key kid: Wilson QB Kaleb Brown continues to impress in his first season as the Bulldogs’ full-time starter behind center. Brown is completing 65 percent of his attempts (35-for-54) for 464 yards with eight TD throws against just one pick. And he’s rushed for 320 yards with three TD keepers as Wilson is producing 391 yards and 43 points a night. Penn Manor must keep Brown contained in the pocket.
Warwick (1-0, 4-0) at McCaskey (0-1, 0-4): A thorny defensive assignment for the Red Tornado, which is tasked with slowing down the league’s top-ranked offense — the Warriors are averaging 472 yards and 52 points a game — and QB Joey McCracken leads all L-L League passers with 1,180 air yards and 15 TD strikes. He needs 250 passing yards for 3,000 in his career. … Key stat: McCaskey is yielding 383 yards and 46 points a game, as the Tornado looks to snap an 11-game losing skid. … Key kid: McCaskey QB Shaliam Montalvo had his best game last week, throwing for 98 yards and a couple of scores against Cedar Crest.
Hempfield (0-1, 1-3) at Cedar Crest (1-0, 4-0): The hot-as-a-firecracker Falcons are going for their second 5-0 start in the last three years, while the Black Knights are out to snap a three-game losing skid. Two of the league’s top rushers will be on display in this matchup: Cedar Crest’s Tyler Cruz (94-489, 7 TD) and Hempfield’s Tanner Hess (64-439, 6 TD) have been tough to tackle, so may the best rush defense win this clash. … Key stat: Hempfield averages 328 yards a game; Cedar Crest 327. … Key kids: Keep an eye on Cedar Crest wideouts Chris Rios (13-275, 3 TD) and Cole Miller (13-257, 3 TD). If QB Chris Danz — fresh off a 243-yard, 4-TD bombs-away effort against McCaskey — can hit those guys for some chunk plays, it could open up the ground attack for Cruz.
Manheim Central (2-2) at Elizabethtown (0-1, 2-2): It’s the section opener for the Barons, and they’ll come to E-town spitting fire after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time since 2014. Priority No. 1 for Central is keeping QB Evan Simon clean in the pocket. Keep an eye on the Bears’ QB spot; freshman Josh Rudy stepped in for the injured Patrick Gilhool last week. We’ll see if Gilhool is back in the saddle against the Barons. … Key stat: Simon needs 110 passing yards to snap Jeff Smoker’s program record of 5,900 air yards. … Key kid: E-town WR Cole Rice (16-482, 4 TD) averages 30 yards per catch, so he can stretch the field. Central’s secondary must be wary of Rice, who had three catches for 168 yards last week vs. Cocalico.
Lampeter-Strasburg (1-0, 4-0) at Garden Spot (0-1, 0-4): The Pioneers lead all Section 2 teams in total offense (416 yards a game) and total defense (154 yards a game) in their blazing start. And newbie QB Connor Nolt — in for the injured Sean McTaggart — has been an efficient, cool customer in the pocket. The Spartans, out to snap an 18-game slide, must contain L-S’s stable of playmakers. … Key stat: Garden Spot has yielded 999 rushing yards, most among Section 2 teams. … Key kid: L-S LB Michael DelGrande has a team-best 16 solo tackles, plus five stops for losses, a sack and a QB hurry. He’ll lead the D brigade against Spartans’ shifty dual-threat QB Jesse Martin.
Pequea Valley (0-3, 0-4) at Octorara (1-2, 1-3): It’s the annual Brave Bowl showdown between these backyard rivals, as PV and Octorara will square off for the 10th time. Octorara leads the series 6-3, and is two weeks removed from a shutout victory over Northern Lebanon. Octorara’s defense has been good; the Braves are allowing 236 yards a game, second-best in Section 3. PV, which is averaging just 93 yards a game, looks to snap a 14-game losing streak. … Key stat: PV is last in the league in total offense, and the Braves have surrendered 199 points, most in the L-L League. … Key kid: Octorara DB Bryan Pennypacker had seven sticks last week against Elco. PV QB Collin Bailey must be aware of Pennypacker on the edge when the Braves go up top.
Lancaster Catholic (3-0, 4-0) at Lebanon (2-1, 2-2): The Crusaders’ opportunistic defense had a pair of interception returns for touchdowns last week in a gut-check win over Ephrata to remain in a first-place tie with Donegal — and stretch Catholic’s regular-season winning streak to 14 games in a row. To make it 15, the Crusaders must curtail the Cedars’ fancy passing attack, as Lebanon looks to remain in the lead pack in the section race. … Key stat: Lebanon leads all Section 3 squads in total team defense; the Cedars are yielding just 235 yards a game — fourth-best in the league. … Key kid: Catholic durable RB Alex Cruz has been really good here lately; he rushed for 107 yards and a TD two weeks ago against Elco, and he went for 87 yards and another score last week against Ephrata. He’s a solid between-the-tackles runner, so Lebanon's D must get to Cruz before he picks up speed.
Donegal (3-0, 3-1) at Ephrata (2-1, 2-2): The Indians are looking for their fourth win in a row, and a victory will keep them atop the section standings. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are coming off a stinger loss at Lancaster Catholic, and they need a victory to remain in the chase. Two playmaker quarterbacks to watch in this clash: Donegal’s Trent Weaver went 8 for 9 for 159 yards with two TD strikes last week against Lebanon — including a scoring toss to Jake Shoemaker, who has six TD grabs already — and Ephrata’s Caden Keefer is a big-time dual-threat who burned Annville-Cleona for 380 passing yards and four scores just two weeks ago. … Key stat: Donegal has 31 tackles for losses, so Indians’ defenders have been in the backfield a lot; D-tackle Connor Ruhl leads the way with 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage. … Key kid: Ephrata RB Miracle Wratto (45-312, 6 TD) had a pair of TD runs last week against Lancaster Catholic, but the Crusaders bottled him up for just 40 rushing yards — one week after his 122-yard, 3-TD bonanza against Annville-Cleona. Safe to say Donegal must keep Wratto under wraps.
Columbia (1-2, 2-2) at Annville-Cleona (2-1, 2-2): Contrasting styles on display in Annville, where the Crimson Tide will bring its air arsenal to town to take on the Dutchmen’s ground-and-pound Veer attack. The rub: Columbia QB Matt McCleary has thrown for 931 yards and 11 scores, while A-C’s defense has given up 878 passing yards, most in the league. Uh, oh. … Key stat: Columbia’s Ryan Redding leads the league in receptions (26-333, 5 TD) and McCleary leads the league in completions and pass attempts (73-for-126, 58 percent). … Key kid: If this game comes down to a late kick, A-C has a good one in Mac Plummer. He drilled an L-L League-record 51-yard field goal earlier this season, and he’s 15-for-16 on PAT kicks and 3-for-3 on field goal attempts in four games. Plummer has also booted 10 touchbacks on kickoffs, and he’s averaging 31.4 yards on five punts to spearhead the Dutchmen’s kicking game.
Elco (1-2, 1-3) at Northern Lebanon (0-3, 0-4): The Raiders picked up a much-needed, stress-relieving victory last week, holding off Octorara 14-6 to finally dent the win column. Braden Bohannon continued his torrid start for Elco with a TD keeper and a TD pass. Now the Raiders’ defense will be tested by Vikings’ QB Ethan Borcky, who had a whopper 347-yard, 3-TD night last week against Annville-Cleona. Alas, Northern Lebanon suffered its eighth loss in a row. … Key stat: Northern Lebanon has allowed 1,305 rushing yards, most in the league. … Key kids: All eyes on Elco’s secondary, which must mark Vikings’ wideouts Nate Leedy-Reidel (15-247, 2 TD) and Alex Folmer (13-163, 1 TD), who have been sure-handed, field-stretching targets for Borcky.
Conestoga Valley (0-1, 0-4) at Solanco (1-0, 3-1): It’s Solanco Fair time, and that means the Golden Mules’ annual Saturday night home game, with the Buckskins coming to town looking to change their fortunes. CV has had a couple of close calls, but the Bucks have had a hard time stopping people. And now CV must cope with the league’s top-ranked rushing attack; Solanco has gouged out 1,376 rushing yards, and FB Nick Yannutz is the league’s top ground gainer (78-659, 7 TD). … Key stat: CV’s Zach Fisher (22-317, 4 TD) leads all Section 2 receivers in catches. … Key kid: Solanco QB Grady Unger has settled in quite nicely behind center in his first season as the Mules’ full-time starter; he’s piloted the triple-option to the tune of 331 rushing yards with five TD keepers. More importantly, Unger has gotten the ball safely and soundly to backs Yannutz, Ronnie Fulton (22-213, 2 TD) and Rashawn Carter (10-121, 1 TD); that trio all produced 100-yard rushing nights last week vs. Garden Spot, as the Mules’ offensive line had a big night in the trenches against the Spartans.