The calendar says early July. But the Lancaster-Lebanon League football season is right around the corner, and the pads will be popping and footballs will be filling the air before you know it.
Here are some key dates, anomalies and other notables about the upcoming season, as players and coaches continue to gear up for the 2019 campaign with summer workouts, team camps and 7-on-7 sessions ...
* The first heat acclimatization practice is Monday, Aug. 5. That’s one month out. Those practices continue daily through Friday, Aug. 9, and Aug. 9 is also L-L League Football Media Day in Manheim.
* All 24 L-L League teams will participate in 19 scheduled scrimmages on Saturday, Aug. 17. We’ll delve more into these matchups later, but for now, here is the schedule …
Donegal at Steel-High, 9 a.m.
Eastern York at Ephrata, 10 a.m.
Cocalico at Warwick, 10 a.m.
Parkland at Wilson, 10 a.m.
Hempfield at Red Lion, 10 a.m.
Palmyra at Elizabethtown, 10 a.m.
Bishop McDevitt at Cedar Crest, 10 a.m.
Exeter at Penn Manor, 10 a.m.
McCaskey at Oxford, 10 a.m.
Solanco at Conrad Weiser, 10 a.m.
Northern Lebanon at Minersville, 10 a.m.
Lampeter-Strasburg at Lancaster Catholic, 10 a.m.
Elco at Garden Spot, 10 a.m.
Jenkintown at Pequea Valley, 10:30 a.m.
Midd-West at Columbia, 11 a.m.
Octorara at Hamburg, 5 p.m.
Lebanon at Conestoga Valley, 6 p.m.
York Vo-Tech at Annville-Cleona, 6 p.m.
Manheim Township at Manheim Central, 7 p.m.
Scrimmages, yes. But plenty of terrific matchups there. The juiciest? The last game of the day, Township at Central, is intriguing for sure. The Blue Streaks won the D3-6A crown in 2017, and are set to return a slew of talent this season. The Barons are the back-to-back D3-5A champs, and went to the state finale last December. A couple of rocket-armed quarterbacks will be on display in that scrimmage: Township’s Harrison Kirk picked up an offer from Colgate this week. And Central’s Evan Simon — who is closing in fast on the Barons’ all-time passing-yard mark — is committed to Rutgers.
* The first full day of L-L nonleague play is Friday, Aug. 23. All 24 teams will be in action that night. And yes, we’re going with Week 1. If it’s the first official play-date of the season, and if all 24 teams are indeed playing, it’s Week 1. Right? No more of this Week 0 nonsense.
* For the first time in, well, a long time, Solanco will play all of its home games at 7 p.m. No more 7:30 kick-off times for the Golden Mules. Because of the school’s proximity in Quarryville, school officials used to push football games back to 7:30 so other athletes, band members and parents could get from other afternoon activities back to Solanco for the Friday night football game. But after hashing it out this summer, the school decided that 7 p.m. kick-offs would work, and that everyone who wanted to get back to the campus for the game could arrive safely. So 7 p.m. it is for Solanco. That includes one of the three Saturday games on this season’s L-L League docket …
* There are three Saturday games on the slate, and two of them are nonleague matchups on the same day: On Sept. 7, L-S will travel to West York for a 1 p.m. clash. The same day, McCaskey, with new skipper Sam London in charge, will take on Reading in Albright College’s Shirk Stadium, also at 1 p.m. As mentioned, Solanco will also play a Saturday game, on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. when Conestoga Valley comes to town for a Section 2 tilt. That will be the annual Quarryville Fair weekend, and that game almost always draws an overflow crowd. This year should be no different, with a backyard section rival paying a visit.
* There will also be a pair of Thursday games on the slate, and those too will be on the same night: On Aug. 29, for the Week 2 games, Octorara will visit Annville-Cleona, where the Braves and Little Dutchmen will do battle in their Section 3 opener. They also played on a Thursday last year in Atglen, when Octorara played its first official head-to-head L-L game as a full-time league member. Also on Aug. 29, Cocalico will travel to the West Shore to take on Cedar Cliff in a nonleague game. The Eagles clipped the Colts 31-21 last year in Denver; Cocalico went on to reach the D3-5A title game, falling to Manheim Central. The Barons beat Cedar Cliff 42-20 in the semifinals.
* Speaking of 7:30 p.m. start times … there is just one 7:30 p.m. kick-off this season: On Sept. 13, L-S will host CV in a Section 2 clash at 7:30 p.m. in Lampeter. Not sure why this game has a 7:30 p.m. start time? But everything else on the 2019 L-L schedule is either 7 p.m. or 1 p.m.
* Hempfield will have a 3-game home stand: Week 6 vs. L-S (crossover game); Week 7 vs. Wilson; and Week 8 vs. McCaskey, all in Landisville. The Black Knights were a D3 playoff team last fall with a 5-5 record. Can they get back to the postseason this time around?
* Manheim Township will have a 3-game road trip: Week 5 at Cocalico (crossover game); Week 6 at Wilson; and Week 7 at Warwick. Talk about a gauntlet. Cocalico is a reigning D3-5A finalist and played the Blue Streaks tough in Neffsville last fall. And Township shared the Section 1 title with Wilson and Warwick last year, and those matchups should be beauties — and should go a long way in determining who wins section gold this time around. Definitely circle that 3-week bus-trip stretch for Township.
* Cocalico gets a 3-game home stand: Week 2 vs. Governor Mifflin; Week 3 vs. Elizabethtown (Section 2 opener); and Week 4 vs. Manheim Township (crossover clash) all in Denver. Mifflin features rising sophomore RB Nick Singleton, who picked up an offer from Penn State this week.
* Conestoga Valley is facing a 3-game road trip: Week 3 at Spring Grove; Week 4 at L-S (Section 2 opener); and Week 5 at Solanco (in the Saturday night, Section 2 Quarryville Fair throw-down).
* Manheim Central has a 3-game road trip: Week 3 at Warwick; Week 4 at Wilson (crossover showdown); and Week 5 at Elizabethtown (Section 2 opener). The local folks were clamoring for a Central-Warwick D3-5A semifinal-round clash last fall, but it didn’t pan out. Barons at Bulldogs should be a gas — as Wilson looks for some payback. And that E-town game will be key because Central will welcome Cocalico the following week, and that’s arguably the best rivalry going in the L-L these days.
* Solanco must navigate a 3-game road trip: Week 6 at Elizabethtown; Week 7 at McCaskey (crossover tilt); and Week 8 at L-S. The Mules will play all five of their away games in the season’s first eight weeks. That’s a lot of long bus rides out of Quarryville.
* Pequea Valley — with first-year skipper Jeff Werner at the helm — won’t pack up the bus until Week 4; the Braves get three home games in Kinzers right out of the chute: Week 1 vs. Kennard-Dale; Week 2 vs. Donegal (Section 3 opener); and Week 3 vs. Lebanon. Of course, this also means PV will have five road games in its final seven weeks. But the Braves will get plenty of home cooking to get their season started.
* There are four trophy games on the docket: Ephrata at Warwick for the George Male Trophy (Week 1 in Lititz); CV at L-S for the Lampeter Bowl Trophy (Week 4 in Lampeter — at 7:30 p.m., don’t forget); Solanco at L-S for the Milk Jug Trophy (Week 8 in Lampeter); and Hempfield at Manheim Township for the Joseph F. Kurjiaka Trophy (Week 10 in Neffsville). And yes, L-S is at home, on the turf in Lampeter, for both of its trophy games.
* This will be the second year of L-L-mandated crossover games between Section 1 and Section 2 squads. Once again, the results will not count toward the league record, so they’re like a nonleague game. Only the league is making them play. Moving on … this will also occur in the 2020-21 cycle, when the L-L goes to four sections — and teams in all four sections will play league-mandated crossover games those two seasons. You might have heard a thing or two about that. For now, it’s one last go-round with these crossover games …
Week 4 — Manheim Central at Wilson
Week 5 — Manheim Township at Cocalico
Week 6 — L-S at Hempfield
Week 7 — Solanco at McCaskey
Week 8 — Warwick at Conestoga Valley
Week 9 — Elizabethtown at Penn Manor
Week 10 — Cedar Crest at Garden Spot
* We haven’t dug into the nonleague schedules for the 2020-21 cycle just yet, but we can confirm that Manheim Central and longtime Mid-Penn big-school thumper Cumberland Valley will have a home-and-home series those two years. When the Barons and Eagles clash, those will be much-anticipated meetings between the two programs that own the most D3 championships.
* This past weekend, Lebanon QB Isaiah Rodriguez and Cedar Crest QB Chris Danz participated in the prestigious Manning Passing Academy camp near New Orleans. Lebanon coach Gerry Yonchiuk worked the camp — which featured Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Archie Manning and a host of college quarterbacks who were there as counselors — and he took Rodriguez and Danz along to get some pointers. Rodriguez had a breakout sophomore season last fall for the Cedars, throwing for 1,900 yards. Danz, a rising sophomore, is in line to replace graduated multi-purpose threat Logan Horn behind center for coach Rob Wildasin and his Falcons.
In case you missed any of our posts about the top returning talent due back around the L-L League this fall, here are those links ...