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 …
Helmet Sticker time. And there are plenty of top-notch performers to reward for their outstanding play in Week 8. Yo fellas, take a bow:
1. SECTION 1 HELMET STICKERS
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP: Too many heroes here, so we’re going with the Blue Streaks’ entire defensive unit. If you play defense, and you got on the field on Friday night in Township’s thoroughly dominating 62-0 win over Cedar Crest, here’s to you. Against the Falcons, the Streaks’ D pitched a shutout, gave up just 38 rushing yards and 63 total yards, picked off four passes, recovered a fumble, had 10 tackles for losses and registered a pair of sacks. Not too shabby. Township improved to 8-0 and remained alone in first place in the section chase, and the Streaks can clinch no worse than a tie for the title with a win on Friday at McCaskey. … And this: More fun Township defense numbers — The Streaks lead the L-L League in total team defense (145 yards against a game), rushing defense (just 424 ground yards allowed) and fewest points allowed (55). Two L-L League coaches told me unsolicitedly last week that this is the scariest Township team they’ve ever seen. And they were veteran skippers who said that.
HEMPFIELD: Have a night, Tanner Hess. The Black Knights’ shifty QB-RB dual-threat continued his sizzling season carrying the ball in Hempfield’s 46-0 victory over McCaskey. Hess scooted for 181 yards with three TD runs as the Knights won their first Section 1 game this season. Hess bolted 70, 16 and 16 yards, respectively, for TDs against the Red Tornado. And a sticker for kicker Nick O'Neill, who booted not one, not two, but three field goals in the Knights' victory over McCaskey. O'Neill's makes were from 32, 36 and 45 yards, respectively. The 45-yarder is the fifth-longest boot in the league this season. … And this: A week after Cam Harbaugh took snaps at QB, Hempfield went back to Hess and Colin Peters behind center vs. McCaskey. It’s been a revolving door of sorts at QB for the Knights this season. But this we know: When Hess has had his hands on the football, he’s been electric.
WILSON: Two Bulldogs make this week’s list. We’ll start with LB Anthony Koper, who had four tackles. The biggest was his last, when he leveled Warwick’s Colton Miller on third and goal from Wilson’s 2 with time running out, saving Wilson’s 14-7 win over the hard-charging Warriors. Gotta love a good goal-line stand, and Koper was the hero on Friday. Also, Wilson RB Mason Lenart continued to show off his speed and escapability, racing for 129 yards on just seven totes. He had a 46-yard TD dash, and Lenart added a bob-and-weave, get-out-of-jail 66-yard sprint just before the half, as the Bulldogs handed Warwick its second loss in a row. … And this: Koper and Wilson’s D held the Warriors to 228 yards — about 200 yards less than Warwick’s per-game average. Wilson opened the game with five defensive backs, forcing the Warriors to go with a lot of roll-out, shorter passes. Warwick never really found its groove, and Wilson won it, getting a little revenge from last year, when the Warriors rolled up 600-plus yards in a win over the Bulldogs. … Lastly: He doesn’t have a helmet for a sticker, but a special nod to Wilson skipper Doug Dahms for his 152nd coaching victory — now tops in Bulldogs’ program history. If you’re No. 1 on any list at Wilson, you’re doing something.
PENN MANOR: You’ll notice that a lot of receivers had huge efforts in Week 8, and Comets’ WR Kyle Murr was one of them. Check his numbers: Murr caught five passes for 163 yards — that’s 32.6 yards per reception — with four big TD grabs in Penn Manor’s 37-6 crossover victory against Elizabethtown. Murr’s TD snags covered 27, 34, 59 and 38 yards, as the Comets had a big night up top vs. the Bears. That 27-yarder was on a trick play, by the way. … And this: Murr is the second L-L League receiver to have a 4-TD-catch night this season; Donegal’s Jake Shoemaker — keep reading, his name will pop up here soon — had four TD snags vs. Pequea Valley back in Week 2.
2. SECTION 2 HELMET STICKER
COCALICO: Ronald Zahm gets the nod, after he helped the Eagles cruise past Garden Spot 54-13. Zahm came up big in special teams yet again, popping a punt return 90 yards for a TD. It was the fourth different way he’s reached the end zone this season: Punt return TD, rushing TD, receiving TD and kick-return TD. Zahm had two kickoff returns for scores against Manheim Central a few weeks back, covering 98 and 96 yards, respectively. Then he busted a punt 90 yards vs. the Spartans. He also has four rushing scores and five TD grabs this season — a multi-purpose season for Zahm, who continues to be a handful in all three phases. … FYI: Zahm’s 98-yard kick-return TD vs. Central is the longest scoring play in the league this season. Nobody has gone 99 or 100 yards to the house in any phase.
MANHEIM CENTRAL: Two players to honor for the Barons, who shook, rattled and rolled longtime rival Conestoga Valley 56-27. First up, WR Ben Wagner had a monster game in the pass-catching department, hauling in seven grabs for 136 yards with two TD receptions, covering 22 and 77 yards up top. Those scoring tosses were thrown by Central’s other honoree, QB Evan Simon, who had an unreal night against the Buckskins. Check the numbers: Simon went 14-for-18 for 273 yards with three TD strikes through the air, and he bolted for 138 yards with three TD keepers on 15 rushes as the Barons won their fourth game in a row, and remained alone atop the Section 2 standings. Simon upped his career total to 7,073 passing yards, now No. 5 in L-L League history — and he’s just the sixth QB in league history to hit 7,000. Simon leapfrogged former Wilson standout Chad Henne on Friday. If he keeps up this pace — and if Central can make another spirited postseason run — Simon has a legit shot at finishing his prep career as a top-3 passer in league history.
LAMPETER-STRASBURG: A four-pack of Pioneers made the list, after L-S KO’d Solanco 41-14 to reclaim the Milk Jug traveling trophy. QB Connor Nolt had his best game to date, clicking on 13-of-17 passes for 286 yards with four TD tosses against no picks. He helped the Pioneers pile up 373 yards. WR Austin Stoltzfus nabbed four of Nolt’s completions for 128 yards with a pair of TD grabs, covering 64 and 55 yards, respectively. LB Christian Garver had a big night on defense, piling up 16 tackles, two for losses, with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and he picked off a pass and returned it 32 yards for a pick-6 TD. Last but certainly not least, DB Jacob Kopelman was absolutely everywhere from his safety spot, accumulating 21 tackles, with an interception, in the Pioneers’ victory.
SOLANCO: The Golden Mules had to hand over the Milk Jug traveling trophy after a 41-14 setback at L-S. And you know they hated like heck having to do that. But Solanco FB Nick Yannutz continued his awesome season, and had a milestone moment in the process. Yannutz barreled for 234 yards — including a 16-yard TD rumble — against the Pioneers, giving him 3,090 ground stripes in his career. It’s also his second 1,000-yard rushing season in his prep career. Yannutz leads the league with 1,260 rushing yards heading into Week 9. So many milestones this season …
3. SECTION 3 HELMET STICKERS
ANNVILLE-CLEONA: A dynamite 45-35 victory over Donegal for the Little Dutchmen, and we’re handing out stickers to a trio of performers. First up, the kicker. Give it up for Mac Plummer, who snapped his own L-L League record with an eye-popping 54-yard field goal. That’s right, 54. Plummer booted a 51-yarder back in Week 1 vs. Milton Hershey. He rewrote the league’s record book with his booming 54-yarder vs. the Indians. And if you watch the video (see below), it’s safe to say Plummer’s attempt probably would have been good from 60 yards. It was pretty epic. Next up, QB Junior Bours, who had a crackerjack dual-threat night vs. Donegal. He completed 5-of-6 passes for 63 yards with a TD throw. And Bours bolted for 138 yards with four TD dashes on 17 keepers. His TD runs covered 27, 4, 2 and 27 yards, respectively. And RB Trevor Porche had another big night out of the backfield, rushing for 144 yards on 23 carries, giving him 1,026 rushing yards this season for the Dutchmen. … And this: What a week for A-C, eh? The Dutchmen beat Pequea Valley 45-0 in the rain on Monday, and then had to turn around and play section tri-leader Donegal on Friday. Both games were in Annville, and the Dutchmen took advantage of some home cooking, gouging out 90 points in eight quarters for two wins. Plummer, Bours and Porche had their fingerprints all over both victories.
DONEGAL: A gut-punch 10-point setback at Annville-Cleona, yes, as the Indians have picked a bad time for a hiccup. But once again, Donegal’s QB-WR pitch-and-catch combo of Trent Weaver and Jake Shoemaker did major damage. Weaver was nearly perfect in the pocket, connecting on 12-of-13 passes for 204 yards with four TD throws. Shoemaker caught 10 of those completions for 186 yards with three TD receptions, covering 19, 26 and 27 yards, respectively. As mentioned, Shoemaker had a 4-TD-grab night earlier this season, and he now leads the league with 10 TD catches this fall.
COLUMBIA: Speaking of red-hot QB-WR combos, the Crimson Tide’s Matt McCleary and Ryan Redding were up to their old tricks in Columbia’s wildly entertaining 52-49 victory over Octorara. McCleary went 24-for-41 for 285 yards with — get this — six TD passes. He also had a 1-yard TD sneak, helping the Tide fend off the pesky Braves. Redding had 14 catches for 185 yards with two TD grabs, covering 11 and 43 yards, respectively. Redding had an 11-catch effort vs. Annville-Cleona a few weeks back, and he now leads the L-L League in receptions (58) and receiving yards (897). Meanwhile, McCleary cracked the 2,000-yard passing plateau on Friday; he’s up to 2,160 yards (tops in the league) with a league-leading 25 TD throws, as Columbia continues to torch teams via the air.
OCTORARA: The Braves gave Columbia absolutely, positively all it could handle before the Tide hung on by its fingernails for a 52-49 win. But Octorara QB Jansen Schempp was sensational behind center. He completed 6-of-19 passes for 139 yards with a pair of TD flips. But Schempp did most of his damage on the ground, carrying 14 times for 272 yards — 19.4 yards per pop — with a pair of TD keepers, covering 94 and 71 yards, respectively. The 94-yard TD run is the longest rushing score in the L-L League this season.
ELCO: The Raiders completed four passes on Friday in their 48-0 victory at Pequea Valley, and Evan Huey was on the receiving end of all four of them, for 129 yards. Huey hauled in a pair of TD catches, covering 62 and 47 yards via the friendly skies, as the rampaging Raiders won their fifth game in a row. … And this: Big-game alert — Elco is set to host equally-hot Annville-Cleona on Friday. Circle that one, as the Raiders and Dutchmen continue their playoff push.
EPHRATA: In a season seemingly filled with record-breaking and milestone performances, you can add Mountaineers’ QB Caden Keefer to the list. He gets a sticker for helping Ephrata bump off tri-leader Lebanon, 24-22. Keefer went 11-for-19 for 153 yards with a TD toss through the air, and he also had a 1-yard TD sneak as Ephrata knocked the Cedars out of a first-place tie. Keefer is up to 2,983 career passing yards, and that’s now No. 1 on the Mounts’ all-time list. Keefer passed Jeremy Franck, an Ephrata assistant coach. Keefer will need just 17 passing yards on Friday at home vs. Pequea Valley for 3,000 in his career.
LEBANON: The Cedars stumbled, losing grip on a share of the Section 3 lead. But WR Alex Rufe continued his dynamic season with another big flank performance vs. Ephrata. Rufe caught 11 passes for 148 yards against the Mounts. He also had a 2-point conversion pass. Rufe is up to 35 catches for 612 yards in the last four games; Lebanon is 3-1 over that clip, and is still scratching and clawing in the section and playoff chases.
LANCASTER CATHOLIC: The Crusaders cruised past Northern Lebanon by a 63-0 count, and Catholic took over sole possession of first place in Section 3 when Donegal and Lebanon were both tripped up. The star of the show on Friday was the Crusaders’ defense, so that entire unit gets a salute. Catholic held the Vikings to minus-13 rushing yards, 118 total yards, and pitched a shutout, cashing in on a pair of fumble recoveries and two punt-blocks along the way.