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.
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.
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.