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. The last couple of years, Manheim Township and Cocalico have squared off in their league-mandated crossover game earlier in the season. A lot earlier in the season. This year, the Blue Streaks and the Eagles will clash in the regular-season finale, on Friday in Neffsville. When the league put its truncated schedule together late this summer, they flipped the crossover games to Week 7, so teams could finish their head-to-head section schedules first. So it’ll be Township and Cocalico — two of the heavy duty programs in the county — knocking heads on Friday on Halloween eve. … Sadly, there will be nothing at stake; the section championships have been decided and the district playoff qualifiers are set, so the Streaks and the Eagles will be playing for pride. And hey, that’s OK. Bragging rights are cool, too. … Two teams going in different directions in this tussle; the Streaks are riding a 4-game winning tear, and Township has outscored its opposition by a whopping 168-41 over that sizzling clip. And don’t forget: It’s not like the Streaks got blown out in their first two games, falling to La Salle College (35-27) and Wilson (31-28) by a grand total of 11 mere points. … Cocalico is 1-2 in its last three games, which cost the Eagles a shot at the Section 2 crown and a D3-4A playoff bid. … Cocalico is coming off a 49-14 loss last week at Warwick, which triggered the mercy rule in the third quarter after scoring on its first seven possessions. So it’s back to the drawing board for the Eagles, who must solve Township’s gnarly defense; the Streaks are allowing just 252 yards a game, with 10 sacks, 25 stops for losses, eight QB hurries and nine takeaways. Ball-hawker linebackers Cade Clancy (44 tackles, 4 for losses, 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries) and Tyrese Washington (35 tackles, 1 for a loss, 1 fumble recovery) have been the ringleaders. … Township’s top priority: Slowing down Cocalico’s triple-option attack. That’s not an offense the Streaks see everyday in Section 1. … The Eagles’ defense has also been stingy; Cocalico is allowing just 232 yards a game, but now they’re tasked with limiting Township’s wicked-hot O, which is at 402 yards a game, third-best in the league. … FYI: Township beat Cocalico twice in their crossover meetings in the last cycle, 56-7 last year in Denver and 36-24 in 2018 in Neffsville. … Last year’s setback didn’t stop Cocalico, which went on to win the D3-5A championship; Township made it to the D3-6A semifinals, falling to Central Dauphin in gut-punch, double-OT fashion.
2. Not sure what to make of this game just yet: Warwick is at Hempfield for a crossover tilt on Friday. The Warriors have wrapped up a spot in the D3-5A playoffs, and they’ll host a semifinal game on Nov. 6. So they absolutely, positively must come out of Week 7 healthy and with some momentum going into the postseason. Who starts? How long do they play? Etc., etc., etc. I think you know what I’m saying here. … Warwick, the reigning outright Section 2 champ, and Hempfield are former longtime Section 1 foes; the Warriors won the last two games in the series, 55-7 last fall and 27-0 in 2018. … Hempfield got some good news last week when RB Tanner Hess and WR Jadin Jimenez got back on the field after missing the previous week with injuries and other assorted ailments. Hess broke off a 62-yard TD run vs. Wilson. Alas, the Bulldogs clinched the outright Section 1 crown with a 27-12 win, as the Knights dropped their second game in a row after a 3-game winning streak. … With Hess and Jimenez back, plus dual-threat QB Cam Harbaugh (733 passing yards and 3 TD against just 1 INT; 151 rushing yards, 2 TD) at the wheels, Hempfield is dangerous, and the Knights certainly have nothing to lose here, so we’re fully expecting them to let it rip. … Warwick’s top tacklers include D-end Thatcher Miller (27 sticks, 2.5 sacks) and ‘backers Broc Diem (46 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT) and Aaron Hess (45 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries); those guys need to keep Harbaugh occupied and keep Hess from getting second-level.
3. Lancaster Catholic has found its QB in Will Cranford. And the good news is that the Crusaders’ former QB, Mason McClair, has settled right back in quite nicely at his old wideout spot. … First, Cranford: Since taking over the starting gig two weeks back, he’s gone up top early and often; Cranford is 39 of 83 for 642 yards with four TD throws. He passed for 200-plus yards in each of the last two games, as Catholic has gone more vertical the deeper the season has progressed. … Meanwhile, McClair landed back at his trusty receiver spot — he had 20 grabs there last fall — and he’s been awesome; in last week’s game against Garden Spot, McClair hauled in nine catches for 146 yards with a TD grab, and he’s up to 10 receptions for 188 yards since shifting back over to the flanks. … The bummer news for the Crusaders here is that Catholic is a head-scratcher 0-6 overall and still trying to figure some things out. Three of the Crusaders’ losses have been stingers — 19-14 to Columbia, when the Crimson Tide scored very late to win it; 13-7 to Donegal; and 28-20 in OT to Juniata — and they just haven’t been able to get over the proverbial hump. … Two more games on Catholic’s slate: Friday at home vs. Lebanon — which is hoping to have QB Isaiah Rodriguez back in action after he missed last Saturday’s game vs. Donegal with an injury — in a makeup Section 3 game, and then Nov. 7 at Annville-Cleona in a crossover clash.