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 …
1. Here’s a fun trivia question: Manheim Central — in the District 3 playoffs for the 32nd time, and owners of 59 D3 playoff wins and 18 championships — is set to square off against L-L League neighbor Warwick in a 5A quarterfinal-round showdown on Friday. It hasn’t been uncommon over the years for the Barons to draw an L-L League foe in a D3 playoff game. Who was the last league team to defeat Central in a D3 playoff showdown? That would be Lampeter-Strasburg, 25-20 in a 3A quarterfinal-rounder back in … 2010. Since that setback, the Barons have faced two different L-L League neighbors in seven different D3 playoff games, and won all of them: Garden Spot three times (W 31-7 in 3A first-rounder in 2012; W 34-17 in 3A first-rounder in 2013; W 72-24 in 3A first-rounder in 2014) and Cocalico four times (W 42-20 in 3A semifinals in 2013; W 50-13 in 5A semifinals in 2016; W 21-20 in 5A semifinals in 2017; W 48-14 in 5A championship in 2018). … Incredibly, that setback to L-S in 2010 is the only time any Central team has lost to an L-L League foe in a D3 playoff game. The Barons are 19-1 vs. league opponents heading into Friday’s game vs. Warwick. Prior to the loss against L-S, Central had victories over Conestoga Valley (1992, 1994, 1997, 2000), Cocalico (1996, 1997, 2005, 2008), Garden Spot (1992, 1995), Elizabethtown (1989) and Elco (2008). … In D3 championship games, Central has beaten L-L League rivals Cocalico (1997, 2018), Conestoga Valley (1992, 1994, 2000) and Garden Spot (1995). … Central goes for its 60th D3 win on Friday vs. Warwick, as the Barons try and make it three 5A titles in a row — and four D3 championship-game appearances in a row.
2. If Wilson’s defense wants to get to Harrisburg QB John McNeil and limit RB Jahmir Plant, it must first get through Cougars’ punishing junior OG Nate Bruce, a menacing 6-5, 325-pound QB-protector and hole-opener. Bruce has 10 D1 scholarship offers, and he recently made a verbal commitment to Penn State. He also has offers from Bowling Green, UMass, Rutgers, Toledo, Virginia Tech, UConn, Iowa State, Texas A&M and West Virginia. Rivals has Bruce as the 13th-ranked OG in the state in the class of 2021, while 247sports has Bruce as the 14th-ranked OG in the state in the class of 2021, and as the 30th-ranked OG in the country in the class of 2021. Both recruiting services list Bruce as a 3-star player. Two Wilson D-line types to watch in Friday’s matchup: DT Jeff Colacin (24 tackles, 6 for losses, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery) is really good at shedding blocks and finding ball-carriers, and DE Ethan Capitano (22 tackles, 7 for losses, team-leading 6.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery) is a speed-rusher and backfield-crasher. Safe to say Wilson’s D-front must solve Bruce if they’re going to limit Harrisburg’s big-play capability.
BONUS NUGGET: Haven't updated this list for a while, so I absolutely loved this stat from Mike Drago at the Reading Eagle. Most program victories among District 3 football teams — Steel-High (787), Middletown (592), Bishop McDevitt (587), Manheim Central (571), Gettysburg (also 571) and Wilson (570). ... On Friday, Middletown will take on Lancaster Catholic in 3A; Bishop McDevitt will take on Susquehanna Township in 4A; Gettysburg will take on Berks Catholic in 4A; Manheim Central will take on Warwick in 5A; and Wilson will take on Harrisburg in 6A, as those programs look to add to their career W total.
3. Undefeated, top-ranked, top-seeded Wyomissing is set to welcome Annville-Cleona for a D3-3A semifinal-rounder on Saturday at 1 p.m., and the Spartans are No. 1 in the Berks League in two key categories: Points per game (40.6) and total team defense (169 yards a game against). If you’re going to pick two categories to lead your league in, that’s a pretty good start right there: Most points scored and least amount of yards allowed. Wyo is giving up just 9.5 points per game; that’s second-fewest in all of D3 — regardless of classification — behind Manheim Township, which is yielding just 7.3 points per game. Wyo has surrendered 845 rushing yards and 852 passing yards, and those are also least among Berks League outfits, and the Spartans are a nifty plus-13 in turnover margin with 21 takeaways. They’re also picking up 334 yards a game on offense, and RB Max Hurleman is averaging more than 10 yards per carry. Needless to say the Little Dutchmen will need an ‘A’ performance against a Wyo team angling for its eighth D3 championship.