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 …
Fall camps are open for business, and we’ll continue to get you ready for the season with a four-pack of players to keep an eye on in the coming months:
1. Jonathan Forbes, rising senior inside linebacker, Warwick: Yes, the Warriors’ offense will likely garner much of the pub, and why not? QB Joey McCracken, a 1,900-yard passer last fall, is set to return, along with record-breaking, all-state WR Trey Glass and rugged OT Nolan Rucci. But Warwick strung together the third-best defense in Section 1 last fall, allowing just 256 yards a game — on the way to sharing the section championship pie with Manheim Township and Wilson. Forbes was a key contributor on D last fall, and he’s set to return to be one of the ringleaders in the Warriors’ 3-4 scheme. Check out his numbers from 2018: 37 solo sticks and 48 total tackles, including six stops for losses, plus a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery. Can coach Bob Locker and his squad win another section crown — shared or outright — and advance another round in the D3-5A playoffs this time around? We’re thinking the offense should do enough damage to make it happen. But it’ll be up to Forbes and the Warriors’ D to stop people and make all of those crooked-number points hold up.
2. Teammates — Cole Rice, rising senior free safety, and Cole Hitz, rising senior strong safety, Elizabethtown: The Cole boys are back to patrol the safety spots for second-year skipper Andy Breault, who said the Bears tweaked some things in their 4-3 D scheme heading into fall camp. Rice and Hitz will be key pieces in the back for E-town, which will be out to improve on last year’s defensive numbers; the Bears allowed 365 yards per game, fourth-best in the section. E-town was blessed with a powerhouse offense last fall, and the Bears produced six wins and went to the D3-5A playoffs. Rice and Hitz are fast-closers, and they can both stop the run and shift over into pass coverage. Last season, Rice had 64 tackles (36 solos), including three for losses, plus eight pass breakups, a pair of forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and he blocked a field goal. Hitz had 23 tackles (one for a loss) and he had a fumble recovery. Rice and Hitz will be busy; not only will they patrol the secondary, but they’ll be wideout targets for first-year QB Patrick Gilhool on the flanks. Cole and Cole. Remember their names.
3. Richard Greer, rising junior defensive end, Ephrata: You all know the Mountaineers’ story by now. Ephrata snapped that harrowing losing skid last fall and had a .500 season, getting everyone’s attention along the way. Next on the list for coach Kris Miller’s crew is having a winning season, as in six-plus wins, and perhaps a playoff push. Greer was a big part of Ephrata’s turnaround last fall, when he racked up 56 tackles, including 8 1/2 stops for losses, 2 1/2 sacks, plus four QB hurries, a fumble recovery and a pair of forced fumbles off the edge in the Mounts’ 4-3 look. Greer is a speed-rusher who makes quarterbacks panic, and he can also wrap and tackle. Ephrata yielded 339 yards per game last season, just eighth-best in Section 3. So you know they want that number to improve. Having Greer chasing quarterbacks and unsuspecting ball-carriers is a great start.