Another week, and another juicy Lancaster-Lebanon League-mandated crossover football game on Friday’s slate.
Repping Section 1 will be Manheim Township, the defending section and District 3 Class 6A champ. Repping Section 2 will be Cocalico, fresh off a trip to the D3-5A semifinals last fall.
The Blue Streaks and the Eagles are both 4-0 out of the gate, and they both won their respective section openers last Friday with convincing victories: Township blanked Penn Manor 41-0 and Cocalico sailed past Elizabethtown 41-14.
Despite classification differences and section homes, Township and Cocalico used to play in nonleague games quite a bit back in the day; the Streaks lead the series 16-3, but these programs haven’t met since a home-and-home nonleague set in 2004 and 2005, which they split.
In 2004, Cocalico skipper Dave Gingrich was making his head-coaching debut in Denver, while Mark Evans, Township’s boss, was running the show at Elco. Gingrich and Evans will square off for the first time as head coaches in this much-anticipated clash.
The Streaks and the Eagles will renew pleasantries Friday in Neffsville at 7 p.m., and we’ll have our eyes on Cocalico’s defense. That unit welcomed 10 new full-time starters to the fold this season, and that group has clicked.
The Eagles are yielding just 249 yards a game — second-best among Section 2 clubs — as linebackers Cody Shay (33 tackles), Ben Sola (33 tackles) and Garrett Longenecker (24 tackles) have become the ringleaders, and safety Noah Palm (32 tackles, 4 pass breakups) has been fantastic in the secondary.
Speaking of Palm, Cocalico’s dual-threat QB has completed 15 passes this season, and eight of those have gone for touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 284 yards and three scores, so Township’s defense will be tested by the Eagles’ powerful Flexbone attack, which is averaging 320 yards a game.
Conversely, the Streaks are allowing just 217 yards a game — second-best among Section 1 outfits — and they’re coming off a shutout win last week, when Township held Penn Manor to a nary 11 rushing yards.
Offensively, QB Harrison Kirk keys the Streaks’ attack; he’s had three 200-yard passing games in a row, and he’s thrown for 766 yards and eight scores against just one interception, and he’s completed passes to 12 different receivers already.
Needless to say there is plenty to like in this crossover clash, where one team will emerge with a perfect record still intact.
There are 11 other games on Friday’s slate. All kick times are 7 p.m.
Here are those previews ...
Cedar Crest (1-0, 3-1) at Hempfield (0-1, 1-3): Two teams going in opposite directions here; the Falcons — with wideout Brody Dunlop subbing at QB for injured Logan Horn — rallied past McCaskey 35-21 last week, while the Black Knights lost their third game in a row, 27-0 against Warwick. Hempfield’s top priority here is slowing down Crest RB Tyler Cruz, who rumbled for 201 yards and three scores last week, when the Falcons overcame a 21-13 deficit for a 14-point victory. Key kid: Hempfield RB Matt Heuston (68-310, 1 TD) has become the Knights’ workhorse back; this could be a running kind of a night if Dunlop — who rushed for 165 yards and two scores last week — and Cruz also get it cranking on the ground. Rush defense could be at a premium in Landisville.
McCaskey (0-1, 1-3) at Warwick (1-0, 3-1): The Red Tornado couldn’t slam the door last week against Cedar Crest, and now McCaskey’s defense, which allows 365 yards and 35 points a night, will be tested by the top-scoring team in Section 1; the Warriors have 172 points and average 395 yards a game. They’ve been explosive, to say the least. Two sure-handed wideouts on display in this scrap: Warwick’s Trey Glass leads the L-L in receptions (23) and receiving yards (528) and McCaskey’s Jamiere Gray (17-297) has been a major deep threat. They both have five TD grabs. Key kid: Warwick WR-DB Justin Gerhart has two picks, nine tackles, three catches, a TD grab, 211 all-purpose yards and he returned an interception 91 yards for a score. And this nugget: This series is all tied up at 11-11. So that tie be snapped on Friday in Lititz.
Penn Manor (0-1, 0-4) at Wilson (2-2): The Comets — scuffling coming off a shutout loss against Manheim Township and last in the L-L in total offense (137 yards a game) and in points scored (just 20) — have never beaten the Bulldogs in a varsity football game; Wilson leads this series 26-0, and the Bulldogs are growling after last week’s 20-10 come-from-ahead loss against Manheim Central. Injuries are catching up to Wilson, but keep an eye on shifty RB Elijah Morales (58-387, 5 TD) to establish the Bulldogs’ rushing attack in this skirmish, which doubles up at Wilson's section opener. Key kid: Wilson LB Cam Magalotti has 22 tackles — six for losses — plus an interception. With reigning Section 1 LB of the Year Nick Johnson (broken leg) and Avanti Lockhart out with injuries, Magalotti will be even busier on D. FYI: Wilson at Manheim Township next Friday. File that away, won't you.
Solanco (1-0, 4-0) at Conestoga Valley (1-0, 3-1): First place will be on the line in Witmer, where two terrific rushing attacks — and offensive lines — will collide. The Golden Mules have hammered out a league-best 1,637 rushing yards (that’s a gaudy 409 yards a game on the ground, by the way), and QB Joel McGuire paces the L-L in rushing yards (733) and TD runs (13), while FB Nick Yannutz (68-361) and RB Nafis Moore (26-315, 9 TD, plus 2 kick returns for scores) have been tough to tackle. CV, fresh off a turnover-inducing 20-7 win over Lampeter-Strasburg in the Lampeter Bowl (snapping a seven-year losing streak against the Pioneers in the process), counters with rugged RB Keegan Martin, who has piled up 544 yards and seven scores on the ground. Key kid: CV’s Joe Cardina has a team-best 13 receptions for 194 yards with a pair of TD catches, and he’s booted a pair of field goals, both 36-yard kicks.
Elizabethtown (0-1, 2-2) at Manheim Central (4-0): Two losses in a row for the Bears, and now they’ll get a Barons’ squad that rallied valiantly past Wilson last week — but is antsy to get back on track offensively after the Bulldogs played some spirited defense. Nice QB showdown in this classic, old-school Section 2 matchup, with E-town’s Cole Patrick (league-best 1,139 passing yards, 11 TD) and Central’s Evan Simon (534 passing yards, 6 TD) on display. Simon is looking to bounce back after Wilson held him to just 3-of-16 completions last week. This is Central’s Section 2 opener. Key kid: E-town multi-purpose threat Cole Livingston has a team-best 256 rushing yards, he’s caught nine passes for 215 yards and tallied 485 all-purpose yards with four touchdowns. He also has 12 tackles, a pair of picks and he blocked a field goal attempt.
Garden Spot (0-1, 0-4) at Lampeter-Strasburg (0-1, 3-1): Someone will earn their first section win in this clash, as the Spartans search for their first victory against a Pioneers’ crew coming off a four-turnover, 20-7 setback against CV last week in the Lampeter Bowl. L-S is third in the L-L in rushing — with 1,087 ground yards — and the Pioneers are averaging 424 yards a game (third-best in the league), so Garden Spot’s defense, which has already surrendered the second-most points in the league (178; 44 per game), will be tested here. Key kid: Garden Spot D-tackle Luke Shirk has a team-best 19 tackles and two sacks, plus a forced fumble for the Spartans.
Octorara (1-2, 1-3) at Pequea Valley (0-3, 0-4): It’s the Battle of the Braves, and Octorara leads the backyard Brave Bowl series 5-3, dating back to 2010, which was Octorara’s second season of organized varsity football. Octorara won the first three games in this set, and PV is 2-1 in the last three. It’s been a rocky start for PV, which must contain Octorara’s double-barreled QB duo of Nick Mattingly and Jansen Schempp, who have combined for 1,130 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns. Key kid: PV multi-purpose back Dylan Jackson has rushed for 168 yards and two scores and he’s caught eight passes, including a TD grab.
Annville-Cleona (3-0, 3-1) at Columbia (1-2, 1-3): The Crimson Tide snapped its 13-game losing streak with a 25-13 win over Pequea Valley last week, as QB Matt McCleary continued his air assault. But A-C, in a three-way tie for first place with Donegal and Lancaster Catholic, is a different animal. The Dutchmen have gouged out 1,469 rushing yards, and RB Trevor Porche has galloped for 230-plus rushing yards in the last two games in a row. Columbia has yielded 1,038 rushing yards, third-most in the L-L. So the Tide must wrap and tackle against the run-heavy Dutchmen. Key kid: A-C NG Logan Wagner has 30 tackles and two sacks, and the sophomore trench patrolman also blocked a punt.
Ephrata (1-2, 1-3) at Donegal (3-0, 3-1): It’s been a tough stretch schedule-wise for Ephrata, which fell to A-C at the horn and then lost to Lancaster Catholic last week, and now the Mounts get tri-leader Donegal to complete a dizzying three-week grind against the section leaders. Ephrata’s bugaboo has been rush defense (the Mounts have allowed nearly 1,000 yards on the ground, and give up 405 yards a game), and they’ll get a Donegal club that has already produced 1,070 rushing yards out of its Wing-T scheme. Key kid: Ephrata LB Dakota Deemer has a team-high 41 tackles — two for losses — plus a sack.
Northern Lebanon (0-3, 0-4) at Elco (2-1, 3-1): The Raiders picked up a gut-check 21-14 win over Octorara last week, with backup QB Darian Ulrich at the controls, subbing for injured Braden Bohannon. Elco’s defense has been stingy (230 yards a game against, second-best in Section 3), and they’ll get a Vikings’ squad that is at or near the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories. Hang tough, Fredericksburg. Key kid: NL receiver Nate Leedy-Reidel has nine grabs for 183 yards with three TD catches; he’s been tough to mark on the flanks.
Lebanon (1-2, 1-3) at Lancaster Catholic (3-0, 4-0): The Crusaders are yielding just 170 yards a game, tops in the L-L, and now Catholic must slow down the Cedars’ Air Raid attack, which has showed some good pass-run balance as of late. Lebanon’s top priority is slowing down the Crusaders’ rushing attack, which has churned out 1,288 yards; RB Jeff Harley has been tough to corral with 447 yards and seven scores on just 29 carries. He’s averaging 15 yards per pop. Key kid: Lebanon’s Jahlil Young has 14 catches and he averages 12 yards carry, with a TD run.