From the first day of heat acclimatization practice on Aug. 8, until the very last Lancaster-Lebanon League football team is still standing later this fall, we’ll bring you three L-L League gridiron facts on a daily basis to keep you in the loop about what’s happening around the league …
A happy turkey day to you and yours, as five L-L League football teams — Manheim Township, Cocalico, Exeter, Manheim Central and Wyomissing — gear up for Thanksgiving practices. That’s always a cool moment if your program is still playing this time of year. Here’s more preview items for this weekend’s games. And please pass the gravy:
1. Cocalico’s Veer rushing attack has been tough to stop during the Eagles’ 6-game winning tear. Cocalico has rushed for 300-plus yards in all six games, with a high-water mark of 417 stripes in a 23-13 victory at Gettysburg in the D3-5A quarterfinals. In wins over Donegal, Berks Catholic, Conrad Weiser, Elizabethtown, Gettysburg and Solanco — the last three all on the road in the D3 playoffs — Cocalico has pounded out 2,047 rushing yards, good for 341.2 ground stripes per game. That’s a a lot of piles. The 12th-seeded Eagles — still wrapping my head around that one, but really not surprised, quite frankly — will try and dominate on the ground again Friday when they play at unbeaten Exeter for D3-5A gold. A nod to Cocalico QB Josh Myer here. The Eagles were going dual signal-callers earlier in the season, but right around that Donegal game, Myer started getting the full-time snaps, and he’s responded. During Cocalico’s 6-game tear, he’s scooted for 351 yards on 57 carries with seven big TD keepers, averaging 6.2 yards per rush. He had a 3-TD night vs. E-town in the D3 opener; he had a 116-yard, 1-TD effort vs. Gettysburg in the quarterfinals; and he rushed for 67 yards with two TD keepers last week vs. Solanco, as the Eagles KO’d the top-seeded, previously undefeated Golden Mules to punch their tickets to the title tilt. Operating behind a rugged O-line that has caught fire at the perfect time, Myer has been making all the right reads in the triple-option. And this: Cocalico’s defense has risen to the occasion; during the Eagles’ 6-game dub blitz, they’re a plus-8 in turnover margin, and Cocalico is allowing just 136 yards a game in the postseason, holding E-town, Gettysburg and Solanco to 1.4 yards per carry in the ground game. Cocalico has yielded just three touchdowns in the last five games. That’s a lot of heavy duty wrap-and-tackling. This is a far different team that was once 3-4 and teetering on even getting a D3 invite. But Cocalico has found its groove, and when the Eagles touch down at Exeter on Friday, they’ll play for a D3 title for the third time in the last five years — against an Ex bunch looking to defend their 5A championship.
2. Manheim Central has to get some pressure on Bishop McDevitt QB Stone Saunders on Friday, when the Barons and the Crusaders — D3 royalty colliding on the same field — crack the proverbial pads for the 4A trophy in Harrisburg. It’s the first time MC and McD will clash since 2014. Saunders has been given ample time in the pocket to fire 44 TD passes against just one interception this fall, so the Barons have to make him uncomfortable. All eyes on a pair of D-end swarmers for Central: Jaden Weit (89 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery) and Wyatt Kupres (27 tackles, 2 sacks) have to control the edge and keep Saunders in their sights. The Barons’ opportunistic D has produced 24 sacks and 24 takeaways. They’ll need more of the same vs. McD.
3. Harrisburg will flash some big-play capability on Saturday, when the Cougars welcome Manheim Township back to Severance Field for the D3-6A title game. The Blue Streaks clipped Harrisburg 24-20 in a nonleague game in the same venue back in Week 3. The rematch is for all the 6A marbles. Cougars’ crafty QB Shawn Lee (1,416 passing yards, 15 TD tosses) isn’t shy about airing it out, and he has a pair of home-run hitter flank threats at his disposal in Kyle Williams (39-511, 6 TD grabs) and Ameer Grandberry (28-369, 1 TD grab). Township’s pass-coverage is a must in this matchup, so be sure to keep an eye on Charlie Kingsbury (15 tackles, 2 pass breakups), Antonio Vazquez (27 tackles, 3 INT, 10 pass breakups) and Asher Wolfe (36 tackles, 2 pass breakups) in the back, and Nick Palumbo (19 tackles, 4 INT, 4 pass breakups) is coming off a 3-INT night — with a pick-6 TD return — in the semifinals vs. Hempfield. Township must limit chunk plays against Harrisburg.