Lampeter-Strasburg is on the doorstep of making its first trip to a PIAA football state championship game.
Standing in the Pioneers’ way is Jersey Shore, which will invade Lampeter on Friday for a state semifinal showdown.
Here’s a preview ...
THE GAME: District 4 champ Jersey Shore Bulldogs (9-0) at District 3 champ L-S Pioneers (9-0), PIAA Class 4A state semifinals, Friday at 7 p.m.
WINNER GETS: District 10 champ Oil City (10-0) or District 7 champ Thomas Jefferson (8-1) in the PIAA title game, set for Nov. 28 at 3:30 p.m. in Hersheypark Stadium. TJ is the defending state champ.
THE COACHES: Tom Gravish is Jersey Shore’s skipper. This is his ninth season with the Bulldogs, and he previously served as coach at Williamsport and Bellefonte before landing at JS. … L-S coach John Manion is in his 23rd season with the Pioneers, and his teams are 177-82 overall with three district titles and eight L-L League section championships, including this fall, when L-S won the outright Section Three crown.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: Jersey Shore, the three-time reigning District 4 champ, is in the state semifinals for the second year in a row; the Bulldogs fell to Dallas in the 4A final four last fall. … L-S is also in the state semifinals for the second year in a row, and for the third time in program history. The Pioneers fell to eventual state-champ Thomas Jefferson last year, and they lost to Garnet Valley back in 2007.
ABOUT JERSEY SHORE: The Bulldogs compete in the Heartland Conference, and they beat District 2 winner Crestwood 26-14 in a PIAA sub-regional game last week. … Using a high-octane spread attack, JS cranks out 426 yards and 39 points a game behind pinpoint passer Branden Wheary (110 of 191 for 1,561 passing yards, 20 TD against just 1 INT), rugged rusher Cam Allison (159 carries for 910 yards, 7 TD), multi-purpose back Owen Anderson (432 rushing yards, 8 TD; 35 catches for 600 yards, 8 TD) and wideout Cayden Hess (56 catches for 763 yards, 7 TD). … JS has won via shutout four times, and allows just 4.9 points a game while employing a 5-man front on defense. Leading tacklers are LB Hayden Packer (69 tackles, 7 for losses, 2 sacks) and LB Gabe Packer (63 tackles, 6 for losses, 2 sacks), and D-end Dalton Dugan has a team-best nine sacks off the edge. … JS has 22 takeaways and 29 sacks.
ABOUT L-S: The Pioneers rallied past Elco 20-3 last week for their second straight District 3 title, and L-S’s potent spread Wing-T attack averages 376 yards and 46 points a game. … QB Sean McTaggart (72 of 122 for 1,389 passing yards, 23 TD, 2 INT) has been lights-out in the postseason with nine TD strikes, and he has big-play receivers Beau Heyser (15-302, 5 TD), Ian Herr (15-377, 5 TD) and Austin Stoltzfus (13-414, 7 TD) at his disposal. … Drew Harris (447 rushing yards, 5 TD), Alex Knapp (380 rushing yards, 6 TD; plus 13-131, 3 TD receiving) and Owen Fikkert (246 rushing yards, 4 TD) have sparked the ground game. … Stout defense allows just 187 yards a game; tackle ringleaders have been LB Elijah Carr (63 tackles, 7 for losses, 2 sacks), LB Nick Del Grande (57 tackles, 6 for losses, 3 sacks) and S Berkeley Wagner (55 tackles, 3 for losses, 3 INT), and ferocious D-end Parker Owens has 13 sacks. … L-S has 27 takeaways and 21 sacks.
QUOTABLE: “We have to execute on offense,” Manion said. “It’s not about making the big play; it’s about executing every play. That’s our No. 1 thing. Defensively, our first guy has to make the tackle, because they have a lot of guys who can break tackles and make plays. They have a lot of good athletes; we’ll have to worry about more than just one kid.”