With summer workouts in full effect, and with heat acclimatization practice and fall camp right around the corner, LNP and LancasterOnline continues its look at the upcoming Lancaster-Lebanon League football season.
It’ll be here before you know it.
Every team loses key kids. It’s high school. It happens. Kids graduate and move on, leaving a new crop of players to step in and step up. Here’s a look at where all 24 L-L League teams must plug holes and improve as the Aug. 5 heat acc practices quickly approach.
Cedar Crest: QB Logan Horn has taken his dual-threat talents to IUP in the PSAC West, leaving a big void behind center for coach Rob Wildasin’s club. Last fall, Horn passed for 1,398 yards (94 of 173) with 10 TD strikes, and he rushed for another 550 yards (6.3 yards per keeper) with seven TD runs. He’ll be missed. All signs point to rising junior Chris Danz stepping into the QB role; he joined Lebanon coach Gerry Yonchiuk and Cedars’ QB Isaiah Rodriguez at the prestigious Manning Passing Camp in Louisiana earlier this summer, so he’s been working hard to secure the starting spot. In backup duty last season, Danz completed just 3 of 18 passes for 21 yards, and he rushed for 54 yards and a TD. There aren’t too many L-L teams breaking in new quarterbacks this season; Cedar Crest is one of them.
Hempfield: The Black Knights feature a spread/option-oriented offense, with dual-threat QB Colin Peters due back to pilot the troops. But coach Ron Zeiber and his club lost a key flank threat with the graduation of fleet wideout/return-man Darien Ressler, who is at Shippensburg. Ressler was a home-run threat last fall, averaging 19 yards per catch (43 grabs for 807 yards) with nine TD receptions. He was Peters’ go-to target. The good news: Jackson Shand (21-212, 2 TD) and Luke Miller (17-142) are due back, and they have plenty of pass-catching experience. Losing Ressler’s speed game on the outside will sting, so the quicker Peters can jive with his down-field targets, the better.
Manheim Township: There is tons to like in Blue Streaks’ camp; QB Harrison Kirk (Colgate), TE-DE Ben Mann (Yale) and WR-DB Jon Engel (Lafayette) have all recently made their college verbal commitments, and Township is set to return 10 of its top 11 tacklers on defense from last year’s 10-win squad. That’s certainly an awesome start. Early on, we’ll have our eyes on the offensive trenches, where skipper Mark Evans must replace 2018 L-L all-stars Blake Hoffmaster (O-tackle) and Sean Marks (center). If the Streaks can plug a couple of holes along the line, watch out. Township must also replace all-state kicker Jack Rodenberger, who was nearly automatic during his prep days in Neffsville. He's at F&M.
Penn Manor: The Comets lost three thumpers in the trenches in 2018 L-L all-stars Greg Zanowiak (DT), Joel Stoner (DT) and Zach Banta (TE-LB). So coach John Brubaker’s club needs some big dudes to step in and step up along the line. The good news is that QB Luke Braas and reliable rushers Isaiah Stoltzfus and Josh Gibson are due to return. But Penn Manor will need some newbies to step into some key spots up front.
McCaskey: We’re anxious to see what changes rookie coach Sam London implements in Tornado Alley. One of his first jobs will be replacing a pair of key-cog O-line stalwarts and 2018 L-L all-stars Orlando Vazquez at center and George Santos at guard. It always starts up front, doesn’t it?
Warwick: The cupboard is hardly bare in Lititz, after the Warriors had an unforgettable 2018, which included nine wins, a tri-title in Section 1 and the program’s first District 3 playoff victory. But coach Bob Locker must replace two absolute studs in Wisconsin recruit Hayden Rucci and Delaware recruit Nick Coomer. They were hard-charging D-ends, Rucci was an all-state tight end, and Coomer was a multiple all-star performer along the O-line. The bar has been raised at Warwick; it’s time for some new blood, stepping into some big spikes, to keep it there.
Wilson: The Bulldogs need a new full-time signal-caller after Anthony Futrick graduated. He passed for 1,486 yards (132 of 247) with 15 TD strikes last fall. The only underclassman who attempted a pass last year for Wilson was Kaleb Brown, a rising junior. Vet wideouts Brady Gibble and Matt Fry are due back in West Lawn. So whoever wins the QB job this summer will have a pair of experienced receivers at his disposal.
Cocalico: There are plenty of key pieces due back in Eagles’ camp — including pitch-man QB Noah Palm (we’re going to have to check his ID soon; seems like he’s been there forever) and grinder all-state trench vet Brock Gingrich — but Cocalico must replace stud two-way threat Garrett Longenecker, who had an amazing season on both sides of the ball last fall in Denver. Longenecker was a ball-hawker linebacker who could swarm and make sticks with the best of them. And on offense, he played the all-important fullback spot in the Eagles’ Veer attack, rumbling for 1,259 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 8.2 yards per pop. He will be missed. Speed back Ronald Zahm (618 yards, 8 TD) is set to return. But coach Dave Gingrich needs to find that ultra-important, durable FB guy — who can also double-up as a stout defender — to make Cocalico’s O go. Keep an eye on Cody Shay to be that kid as things unfold. Shay was an L-L all-star pick at LB last fall; look for his offensive production to go up this time around.
Conestoga Valley: Gunslinger QB Bradley Stoltzfus is due back in Buckskin Country, and he had a breakout debut last fall, throwing for 1,601 yards (122 of 204) with 11 TD strikes against just seven picks. But then his top three targets from 2018 all graduated, including first-team section all-stars Joe Cardina (35-485, 4 TD) and Parker Graff (27-363, 2 TD), plus Gavin Horning (28-361, 3 TD). Ouch. The good news: Derek Ulishney (15-236, 1 TD) is set to return to the flanks. But Stoltzfus will be working with some newbie receivers, so coach Gerad Novak and CV will have to be patient in the passing game until those fresh down-field faces get on the same page.
Elizabethtown: Speaking of gunslinger quarterbacks … Cole Patrick had an amazing senior season behind center for the Bears last fall, winging the pigskin all over the lot for 2,570 yards (158 of 266) with 26 TD tosses against just 10 picks in all of those attempts. He had back-to-back 400-yard passing efforts to get the season started, as E-town wore out opposing defenses through the air for 10 weeks. Patrick graduated, so second-year coach Andy Breault (a QB guru himself) must find Patrick’s replacement. That could be rising sophomore Patrick Gilhool, who attempted four passes in back-up duty as a ninth-grader last fall. Remember his name, won’t you. He’s a multi-sport kid with a high ceiling.
Garden Spot: It was not a fun season in New Holland last fall; the Spartans went 0-10 and struggled mightily across the board. And now former skipper Matt Zamperini is back in the saddle for his second stint as head coach, and he’s guided Garden Spot to successful seasons in the past. The Spartans have several holes to plug, including receiver; fleet QB Jesse Martin is set to return, but he lost his top two pass-catching threats from last fall to graduation in flank burner Zeb Fisher (20-169) and sure-handed TE Zack Ringler (23-277, 3 TD), who were both L-L section all-star selections. Garden Spot won’t go up top a ton — reliable RB John Dykie (893 yards, 5 TD) is due back to spearhead the rushing attack — but Martin will need some new guys to click with in the passing game.
Lampeter-Strasburg: The Pioneers lost some key seniors to graduation, including three trench thumpers in TE Connor Blantz, OG Jack Eckman and D-tackle/sack-master Tyler Phenegar, who were all L-L section all-star picks in 2018. So coach John Manion has some holes to fill along the line. L-S also lost L-L all-stars Joey Underwood (RB-DE) and Gabe Frederick (LB) to graduation, so there will be fresh faces in those spots this fall. The good news in Lampeter: There are a ton of skill kids due back in Pioneers’ camp. Plug some spots along the line, and L-S, as usual, will be a Section 2 and D3-4A contender.
Manheim Central: So long, Tyler Flick. What a career he had toting the rock for the Barons; Flick graduated last spring as Central’s all-time leading rusher with 3,913 yards, including 1,820 stripes last fall, when the Barons went 14-1, successfully defended their L-L Section 2 and D3-5A titles, and reached the PIAA finale. Flick, a Colgate recruit, had 33 TD sprints in 2018, and he had 62 TD runs in his prep career. Needless to say, he’ll be missed coming out of the backfield in Manheim. So who will step into Flick’s shoes? Coach Dave Hahn lists Owen Pappas, Larry Marley and Maliki Rivera on his preseason depth chart. None of those guys had a varsity carry in 2018. Don’t fret, Baron Nation: Cracker-jack QB Evan Simon, a Rutgers recruit, is back to steer the offense, so the aerial game — with twin pass-catchers Ben and Colby Wagner due back — should be in excellent shape. But the Barons have to find a reliable feature-back to take the pressure off Simon.
Solanco: For the first time in four years, the Golden Mules are in need of a new QB, after three-year starter Joel McGuire graduated. It goes without saying that he’ll be missed dearly in Quarryville; last fall, the fleet-footed lefty led the L-L in rushing during the 10-game regular season, and he ended up bolting for 1,671 yards with 30 TD keepers. McGuire also passed for 389 yards and five scores, and he was an absolute stalwart behind center, piloting Solanco’s powerful Flexbone attack the last three seasons. So now what? Coach Tony Cox had just one other QB take snaps last fall, and that Grady Unger, who was 0 for 1 passing, and he also rushed for 22 yards in back-up duty. Unger is a rising senior. Will he get the call? We shall see. Either way, somebody has some awfully big spikes to step into now that McGuire is gone. He was terrific.
Annville-Cleona: Ball-hawker du jour LB Gavin Stout and his 400 career tackles have departed via graduation, leaving a big hole to fill in the middle of the defense. But here’s some good news for the Dutchmen: L-L all-star ‘backers Trevor Porche and Dan Tobias are due back for coach Matt Gingrich. Still, replacing Stout — and his uncanny find-the-ball-carrier instincts — won’t be easy. He was also a starting O-guard, so A-C needs to fill that spot as well.
Columbia: The good news for coach Bud Kyle’s crew is that the Crimson Tide lost just three seniors from last year’s club, which bounced back with three wins after a 0-10 campaign in 2017. More good news: QB Matt McCleary is due back, along with a host of talented skill kids. But the other news for Columbia: Can Kyle get enough kids out to fill a roster and have some depth on Friday nights? That’s been the Tide’s biggest issue in recent years.
Donegal: The Indians’ bread and butter is their vaunted Wing-T attack. That attack, which produced 350 yards per game last fall, took a huge graduation hit. Gone: QB Dylan Martin (721 passing yards, 9 TD), scat-back Zion Gibbs (1,082 yards, 19 TD), RB Jordan Minick (821 yards, 6 TD) and FB Dalton Mullhausen (420 yards, 6 TD). Yep, that’s the whole starting backfield. So second-year skipper Chad Risberg has to find their replacements. Pronto. Some new names to familiarize yourself with in Donegal camp: QB Trent Weaver and backs Garrett Blake, Joe Fox and Mason Ober. Fox (62 yards), Blake (52 yards) and Ober (42 yards, 2 TD) all got some touches last fall, and Weaver attempted a couple of passes and had a TD toss last season. This season, those guys will be in the spotlight to make Donegal’s Wing-T crank.
Elco: The Raiders should hit 2019 riding some serious momentum after last year’s wildly successful 8-win campaign, which included a D3-4A trip. Coach Bob Miller pocketed Section 3 Coach of the Year honors for his efforts, and Elco is set to return several key kids, including shifty Veer QB Braden Bohannon. But the Raiders lost two vet trench kids up front in L-L all-star offensive guards Joe Nelson and Sam Montijo. So Bohannon will have a couple of new blockers to work with. Keep an eye on that.
Ephrata: Speaking of momentum … coach Kris Miller and his Mountaineers should have plenty of mo after winning five games last season. No more streak talk in Ephrata these days. And the Mounts have plenty of talent due back, including dual-threat QB Caden Keefer and dangerous wideout/return-man Tucker Parmer. But graduation wasn’t overly kind, especially up front, where Ephrata must replace L-L all-star O-tackles Ethan Moyer and Arturo Ramirez. And on D, section all-stars Dylan Coen (DB), Parker Heisey (D-end) and Dakota Deemer (LB) also graduated, leaving some holes to plug on that side of the ball. Still, there’s a much better vibe around this program these days. And that’s a great thing.
Lancaster Catholic: Continuing with the offensive-line theme, the Crusaders lost three key L-L all-star road-grader cogs to graduation in OG-DT E.J. Pratt, C James Sheetz and O-tackle Michael Brezina. So second-year coach Todd Mealy has to replace those guys up front — particularly Pratt, who took home Section 3 Defensive Lineman of the Year and Outstanding Lineman of the Year honors in 2018, when Catholic went 10-0 in the regular season and captured section gold. Also, L-L all-star OG-LB Charlie Skehan moved out of the state, and he’ll be missed.
Lebanon: The Cedars always seem to churn out top-shelf, go-to receivers to compliment coach Gerry Yonchiuk’s air-it-out, spread-gun offense. But they lost a pair of sure-handed, field-stretching flank threats in Leighton Rivera and Jahlil Young to graduation. Rivera earned Section 3 Receiver of the Year honors last fall after hauling in 41 receptions for 584 yards and six scores. Young added 36 grabs, including four TD catches. QB Isaiah Rodriguez is due back, but he’ll have to develop a pitch-and-catch relationship with some new receivers this time around.
Northern Lebanon: The Vikings are looking for a snap-back season after an un-NL-like 1-9 finish a year ago. Coach Roy Wall must replace three L-L all-star performers from 2018 in WR Eyan Margut, active ‘backer Ethan Herb and D-end Seth Ebersole. Those guys all graduated.
Octorara: It’ll be Year 2 in the L-L for coach Jed King and his Braves. And Octorara opened a lot of eyes in 2018 with three victories, plus a multi-purpose, 2-QB-system offense that caused a lot of headaches. A lot of those guys are due back in Atglen this fall. But King must replace two heavy hitter trench kids in section all-stars Jake Eckman (OT-DE) and Jarek Wasko (OT-DT). Octorara lost just five seniors off last year’s team — including Eckman and Wasko — so there should be plenty of familiarity in Braves’ camp, and that's always a good thing.
Pequea Valley: One of the first orders of business for rookie coach Jeff Werner will be replacing a pair of standout section all-star skill kids in Dalton Temple and Dylan Jackson. Temple had a team-best 37 catches last fall, and he was dangerous in the return game. And Jackson rushed for 503 yards and four scores, and he chipped in with 13 grabs out of the backfield. So PV will need some new skill kids to step up and spark the offense, after last year’s disappointing 0-10 finish.