Warwick vs. Lampeter-Strasburg - L-L Football

Lampeter-Strasburg's Payton Cunningham (20) runs the ball against Warwick during first-half action of an L-L League football game at Warwick's Grosh Field in Lititz on Saturday, August 28, 2021.

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

1. There are any number of Lampeter-Strasburg’s position groups that will be challenged Friday when the Pioneers take on Bishop McDevitt for D3-4A gold in Harrisburg. But perhaps none more so than L-S’s defensive backs, who are tasked with slowing down the Crusaders’ stable of home-run hitter wideouts, who have spent the season catching pass after pass — and touchdown after touchdown — from freshman wunderkind QB Stone Saunders, whose snazzy stat-line features 42 TD tosses against just two picks. The Pioneers’ defensive backfield is enjoying a sensational season: Berkeley Wagner (51 tackles, 5 for losses, 4 INT, 11 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble), Hunter Hildenbrand (47 tackles, 2 for losses, 2 INT, 14 pass breakups), Weston Weaver (44 tackles, 1 INT, 9 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumbles) and Giovanni Malatesta (33 tackles, 5 INT, 7 pass breakups) are key cogs in L-S’s defense, which has forced 29 turnovers, picked off 16 passes and has 70 pass breakups. The Pioneers would love to add to those numbers against Saunders and McDevitt’s superb passing attack.

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2. Speaking of defensive backs … McDevitt’s D backfield is also an active bunch, and that group must be on its toes to help out in the rush-D department because the Pioneers haven’t thrown the ball nearly as much as the Crusaders. Still, Ty Kephart (37 tackles, 6 for losses, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), Chase Regan (18 tackles, 4.5 for losses, 1 sack, 2 INT), Jaire Rawlison (20 tackles, 2.5 for losses, 6 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries) and TaShawn Russell (12 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 7 pass breakups) have all been ball-hawkers and reliable flank coverage guys for McDevitt.

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3. There will be some explosive return-men on display Friday. For McDevitt, Mario Easterly averages 12.4 yards per punt return, and Kamil Foster averages 43.5 yards per kickoff return, including a 96-yard kickoff return for a TD earlier this season. Cyncir Bowers also returned a kickoff for a TD for the Crusaders this season. Meanwhile, L-S’s Giovanni Malatesta averages 11.0 yards per punt return, and Payton Cunningham averages 34.1 yards per kickoff return, and he took a kickoff 75 yards to the house for a TD earlier this season vs. Lebanon.

TWITTER: @JeffReinhart77

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