From the first day of heat acclimatization practice on Aug. 9, until the very last Lancaster-Lebanon League football team is still 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 …
It's the Happy Thanksgiving edition of the daily 3 L-L League football facts. Enjoy the turkey:
1. Jeff Weachter has L-L League roots; he got his head-coaching career started at Lebanon Catholic, skippering the Beavers from 1993 through 1997. Lebanon Catholic picked up 10 league victories over that clip, and had a third-place finish in Section 3 in 1995. Weachter has gone on to great success at Bishop McDevitt, where he’s in his 23rd season as the Crusaders’ coach. McD is 227-66 under his watch, including a 10-1 record — and a current 10-game winning streak — this season, which continues Friday when the Crusaders take on back-to-back reigning champ Lampeter-Strasburg (11-1) in the D3-4A finale. Weachter’s resume is a show-stopper; he’s guided McD to nine of the program’s 14 D3 championships, and under his watch, the Crusaders have gone to three PIAA state-championship games. Weachter has coached 70 future D1 college players, and seven future NFL players, most famously perhaps LeSean McCoy, who recently retired from the pro ranks. … Weachter’s coaching counterpart on Friday is L-S rookie skipper Victor Ridenour, who stepped in for longtime coach John Manion in August and has taken the Pioneers back to the D3-4A title game for the third year in a row — after L-S successfully defended its L-L League Section 3 championship, and is riding a program-record 11-game winning tear with eight D3 victories in a row. It’ll be fun to watch Weachter, the wily vet, and Ridenour, the first-year skipper, move their chess pieces and try and punch the right buttons on Friday.
2. With 29 takeaways under its belt, L-S has feasted on a lot of short fields, which have resulted in a lot of quick-strike touchdown drives this fall. Still, the Pioneers are averaging a spiffy 43 points and 382 yards a game, behind a balanced run-pass attack piloted by QB Berkeley Wagner. He’s been steady behind center, completing 79-of-144 throws for 1,437 yards with 18 TD strikes against eight picks. Wagner is also L-S’s leading rusher, with 130 carries for 799 whirling-dervish yards with a team-best 15 TD runs. He has a stable of reliable ball-carriers behind him, including breakaway backs Giovanni Malatesta (96-608, 11 TD), Jonathan Mellinger (67-431, 8 TD) and Peyton Cunningham (55-387, 7 TD). Three Pioneers’ pass-catchers of note: TE Beau Heyser (22-494, 22.5 avg., 7 TD), slot-man Hunter Hildenbrand (12-156, 2 TD) and Malatesta (12-241, 20.1 avg., 3 TD) all have a penchant for tackle-busting, yards-after-catch chunk plays. Bishop McDevitt’s defense has been gnarly — five shutout victories, 25 takeaways, just 63 points against and 5.7 points a game against — but L-S’s offense has been tricky to stop. These teams mirror each other in many categories.
3. WEEK 14 PICKS
Just one L-L League team still standing, so I’ll go ahead and offer up some picks for the two D3 title games on tap for Friday …
LAST WEEK: 2-0
D3-5A championship: Governor Mifflin over Exeter
D3-4A championship: Bishop McDevitt over Lampeter-Strasburg