From the first day of heat acclimatization practice on Aug. 31, until the 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 going on around the league …
1. Annville-Cleona’s defense will be tested right out of the chute on Friday, when the Little Dutchmen pay a visit to Mount Joy to take on former Section 3 rival Donegal. With the new four-section format kicking in this season, A-C is shifting down to Section 4, so this will be a nonleague tilt against a pair of combatants that are familiar with one another. Donegal is ahead of the curve in the returning skill-kid department, with QB Trent Weaver (909 passing yards, 12 TD tosses last season) and reliable backs Garrett Blake (691 rushing yards, 8 TD) and Mason Ober (452 rushing yards, 7 TD) all back to make plays out of the Indians’ Wing-T package. A-C, fresh off winning a playoff game for the first time in program history, but in retooling mode after losing a slew of talent to graduation, returns just one of its top-10 tacklers from last fall, and that’s active ‘backer Chase Maguire, who piled up 75 tackles, with 12 sticks for losses, plus four sacks, a pair of pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last season in his breakout sophomore campaign. Two other holdover tacklers to watch for A-C in this game are DT Logan Wagner (21 tackles, 3 for losses) and DB Drew Eby (28 stops, 1 pass breakup). The Dutchmen will be breaking in seven new starters defensively overall, against a Donegal offense looking to pick up where it left off during last year’s 6-win season.
BONUS NUGGET: The Conestoga Valley vs. Warwick Week 2 game is on after all. The Buckskins will already miss their season-opener on Friday vs. Daniel Boone because the school is closed over positive COVID-19 tests. CV won't return to the practice field until Sept. 22 at the earliest, and needs 15 total practice days before playing their first game. Now, CV and Warwick will play their Section 2 opener one day later — on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. in Lititz. Mark your calendars.
2. Ditto on the defensive end for Manheim Central, which must replace 10 full-time D starters from last year, and just two of the Barons’ top-10 tacklers are set to return: Wily vet safety Owen Pappas (team-high 91 tackles last year, with four fumble recoveries) and DT Tyler Fahnestock (46 tackles, 4 sacks). Central gets a road tester on Friday at Cedar Crest, and while the Falcons have some beef to replace up front, they do have multiple offensive weapons to defend, like: QB Chris Danz (102 of 202 for 1,672 yards, 15 TD), receivers Dalton Reinhart (9-89, 1 TD) and Brayden Koehler (9-88, 1 TD) and RB Aadyn Richards, who rushed for 172 yards and one TD behind 1,300-yard rusher Tyler Cruz last fall. Also a free-flowing, hit-machine LB, Richards is Cedar Crest’s X-factor kid this fall. If he stays healthy, watch out. He should get plenty of touches against Central, which will be looking to make a statement on D.
3. Defense seems to be a popular theme, so we’ll stick with it here: Northern Lebanon allowed 406 yards and 40 points a game last year, so the Vikings are definitely looking to clean things up on that side of the ball. Their first test: Lebanon, and the Cedars’ pass-happy air raid attack, which will touch down in Fredericksburg on Friday. Northern Lebanon must devise plans to get pressure on Lebanon QB Isaiah Rodriguez, who threw for 2,155 yards with 18 TD strikes last fall. And the Vikings’ D-backs must keep tabs on Cedars’ fleet wideout Alex Rufe, who caught a league-best 74 passes last season, for 1,095 yards with nine TD receptions — plus scads of other big plays in special teams. The good news for Northern Lebanon: Kalani Adams, an all-star D-end last fall, returns. He’ll switch to LB this season to take advantage of his ball-hawking skills. The Vikings will need a big night from him, and the 10 other defenders flanking Adams, to cool off Lebanon’s jets.