From the first day of heat acclimatization practice on Aug. 5, until the very last Lancaster-Lebanon League football team is 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 …
Monday is the first day of fall camp. Enjoy those two-a-days, fellas. Stay hydrated.
1. More random notables from last Friday’s Media Day event in Manheim …
* I was surprised how many coaches — unsolicitedly — brought up the possibility of Berks County officials calling back and reigniting talks of a potential football merger between the L-L League and the Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association. You’ll recall the Berks folks contacted the L-L League front office a year or so back about potentially joining forces, and creating one, giant 37-team mega conference. L-L League officials kicked the tires on the plans and decided to table it for another day. Could that day be coming soon? At last check, no phone calls had been placed, and there are no plans on anyone’s table. But several L-L League coaches, it should be noted, brought it up last week, particularly the smaller-school skippers, who are always looking for nonleague games and who must often play against larger schools in section games. The 2020-21 cycle is booked, so the earliest anything could — could — potentially happen would be 2022. I have zero guesses on this — and honestly, I wouldn’t be opposed to it after thinking it over for a year or so — but my gut-hunch is that the Berks League will, at the very least, call the L-L League brass back and see if anything has changed. It can’t hurt. Stay tuned.
* Speaking of schedules, several L-L League skippers said they were still struggling to fill out their nonleague slate for the 2020-21 cycle. Don’t forget: The league goes to four sections next year, with four nonleague games, a Week 5 mandated crossover matchup — Section 1 vs. Section 2 and Section 3 vs. Section 4 — and then five head-to-head section games to close out the regular season. Getting a fourth nonleague game is no easy chore, and we heard from several coaches who are still searching for a game; Week 4 seems to be a sticking point. The most intriguing new-look nonleague game we’re aware of: Manheim Central vs. Cumberland Valley in Week 3. That's an attention-grabber. The Barons are set to open with Susquehanna Township, Hempfield and Cumberland Valley, and they'll get Wilson in the Week 5 crossover clash. But they're still poking around looking for a Week 4 matchup.
* There will be QB battles in a couple of camps, starting bright and early Monday: Wilson needs a new starter, and Kaleb Brown, Ryan Moseman and Nick Williams will be duking it for that gig. Cedar Crest needs a new starter, and Chris Danz — who went to the Manning Passing Academy this summer — is in line to fill the role, and coach Rob Wildasin is confident that he’ll be ready to go after a summertime injury snafu. Elizabethtown needs a new starter, and rising sophomore Patrick Gilhool sits atop the depth chart heading into camp. Solanco needs a new starter to kick-start the Mules’ Triple Option attack, and Grady Unger will get every opportunity in camp to win that job. Donegal needs a new starter, and Trent Weaver, who saw ample time last fall, including a spot-start, will slide into the starter’s seat to pilot the Indians’ Wing-T. And we’ll have our eyes on McCaskey camp, where new skipper Sam London listed five quarterbacks on his preseason roster, including holdover starter Isaiah Thomas. But there’s a chance Thomas will take his electrifying skill-set to wideout, leaving the other four guys to battle it out. That includes holdover Ben Desmarais, who passed for 213 yards and a pair of scores last fall. Everyone else returns their starting QB from last fall, so it could be the year of the passer in the L-L League this season.
* We’ll get into Saturday’s scrimmage schedule in the coming days, but here’s a juicy four-team event to circle: McCaskey and Octorara will join Philly West Catholic at Oxford for a 10 a.m start on Saturday. It’s the only multi-team scrimmage on the L-L League schedule.
* Speaking of scrimmages, I heard this interesting idea at Media Day: Why not have a scrimmage at the end of heat acclimatization week? Even a controlled scrimmage. With heat acc on the books, and with the season starting earlier than ever, teams that choose to open the season on Aug. 23 have one scrimmage date, and this year, that’s Saturday, Aug. 17. In the past, teams had two scrimmages to settle position battles. Now, since everyone is choosing to play on the first official play date, they have one. One coach suggested a scrimmage after heat acc week. It doesn’t have to be mandatory, but if you wanted to get together with another school, or two, and have some sort of timed scrimmaged session, why not? It gives your kids more live looks and, again, could help settle some position battles. Food for thought ...
* Tip of the cap to longtime Conestoga Valley coach Gerad Novak, who has retired as a teacher after 30-plus years at CV. He will continue to guide the Bucks in retirement.
2. Lampeter-Strasburg rising senior Jacob Kopelman on the Pioneers’ offensive firepower — “We’re going to stretch some defenses. We have some skill players who can really make a difference, like Bryan McKim back at running back. And Austin Stoltzfus is a great receiver who can really catch the ball. And Beau Heyser is another guy at tight end. (Sean McTaggart) can do a lot of things from the quarterback position. He can run and throw, and he’ll do whatever it takes for us.”
3. Manheim Central coach Dave Hahn — “We accept the pressure. You can’t fear making mistakes. You can’t fear losing. If you work hard enough, all of those fears go away. And nobody will out-work us. We’ll be ready to go. ... We don’t talk about having to win a state championship. We talk about our tradition, and if you want to uphold the tradition here, what are you going to do about it? Here’s what the guys did in the past, now what are you going to do? I think that means a lot to our kids, because it makes them work harder, and we refuse to be out-worked.”