The regular season’s second half officially gets underway this week, and there are showdowns aplenty on the schedule — especially in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
In addition to our Frenzy Game of the Week, a clash between two of the three teams that trail first-place Donegal by one game in the Section 3 race, there are four 5-0 teams squaring off with a share of first place on the line in Section 1.
And we didn’t even mention the renewal of what is arguably the L-L League’s best rivalry between Manheim Central and Cocalico — though we could have.
It all adds up to a crazy week of football.
Here’s a look at five games to watch:
FOX43 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FRENZY GAME OF THE WEEK
Annville-Cleona (3-2) at Lancaster Catholic (4-1)
It’s a battle between two of the three teams chasing first-place Donegal in what’s shaping up to be a wild Section 3 race.
Lancaster Catholic’s 14-game regular-season winning streak came to an end last week with a surprising 30-22 loss to Lebanon. The Crusaders had the advantage in yardage, first downs, and time of possession, but fumbled the ball five times (losing three) and gave up a touchdown on a blocked punt during a 22-point explosion by Lebanon in the third quarter.
Catholic generally relies on its ground game, which churns out an average of 229.2 yards per game. Running backs Jeff Harley (66-396, nine touchdowns) and Alex Cruz (42-342, five TDs) power the rushing attack, with help from quarterback Gavin Sullivan, who has rushed for 296 yards and a touchdown on 73 carries to go along with the 513 yards and two scores he’s thrown for.
A-C has the section’s most prolific offense, averaging 381.4 yards per game, most of that coming on the ground. RB Trevor Porsche does most of the heavy lifting; he has 647 yards and nine touchdowns on 113 attempts, which ranks third among all L-L League backs. Quarterback Jeremy Bours is second on the team in rushing (50-332, eight TDs), and has passed for 420 yards and four touchdowns.
If the game comes down to defense, it appears Catholic has the advantage. The Crusaders allow just 261 yards per game, while the Little Dutchmen rank near the bottom of the league, yielding 394 yards per game.
The Dutchmen face Donegal in Week 8, while Catholic gets the Indians in Week 9. Donegal already has a win in hand over Lebanon, the other team in the second-place logjam. The winner of Friday’s clash keeps a showdown with the Indians intact. The loser is likely out of the hunt for the section crown.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
Cedar Crest (5-0) at Warwick (5-0)
One of two showdowns between undefeated Section 1 teams on the docket this week, this game also features a battle between two of the league’s top quarterbacks. The host Warriors will trot out senior Joey McCracken, who currently second in the league in passing yards (1,326) and first in passing TDs (18). McCracken’s top two targets, Caleb Smitz and Conor Adams, are the top two receivers in Section 1, with 43 combined catches, 858 combined yards, and 14 total touchdowns. Warwick has put up a league-high average of 51.6 points per game this season, and has allowed a league-low 6.6
Cedar Crest has thrust itself into the middle of the section title conversation with its hot start, paced by quarterback Chris Danz, who has completed 45 of 82 passes for 849 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Falcons’ offense has a little more balance than Warwick’s; running back Tyler Cruz leads the league in rushing yards, with 842 on 132 attempts. His 10 rushing touchdowns are tied for second in the league.
Manheim Township (5-0) at Wilson (5-0)
Friday’s second battle of Section 1 unbeatens features two of the three teams that split the section title last year. The host Bulldogs have the league’s fourth-rated rushing attack, averaging 276.4 yards per game. Running back Avanti Lockhart is the workhorse, with 418 yards and seven touchdowns on 65 carries, but quarterback Kaleb Brown is a threat on the ground as well, with 384 yards and three scores on 50 attempts. Brown has also completed 44 of 67 pass attempts, for 654 yards, 11 TDs, and just one interception. It’s been 56 years since the Bulldogs last had a non-winning season. They’re one win away from wrapping up 44 straight years at .500 or above.
Manheim Township is the team that snapped Wilson’s 68-game winning streak against Section 1 teams back in 2017, and the Blue Streaks have won two of their last three meetings with the Bulldogs. This year, the Streaks have relied on a stout defense, which has allowed a league-low 132 yards per game through five outings, and a balanced offense that ranks third in the league in yardage (429 yards per game). Princeton-bound quarterback Harrison Kirk has completed 62 of 96 passes for 939 yards and 10 touchdowns, while running back Jaden Floyd has 534 yards and seven TDs on 59 carries.
South Western (3-2) at Central York (4-1)
The host Panthers are one point away from being undefeated; a 13-12 loss to Cumberland Valley in Week 2 is their only blemish. They’ve ripped off three straight victories since then, including a 43-7 drubbing of New Oxford last week. Central York QB Beau Pribula guides an offense that leads the York-Adams League in scoring (40.8 points per game), though it ranks in the middle of the pack in yardage (278.6 per game). Pribula has completed 26 of 54 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns. RB Imeire Manigault has racked up 357 yards and five TDs on 40 carries.
South Western has won three in a row since opening the season with back-to-back losses. The Mustangs survived a 17-14 nail-biter with Red Lion last week. They’ve also beaten Carlisle (27-14) and Dallastown (21-7). So far, defense has carried the Mustangs, who lead the league in yards allowed (197.8 per game) and rank second in points allowed (13.2 per game). RB Tyler Higdon (40-391, four touchdowns) is one of the Mustangs’ primary weapons on offense.
Mechanicsburg (4-1) at Susquehanna Township (4-1)
The host Indians are tied with Cedar Cliff for first place in the Mid-Penn Keystone Division race, a half-game up on the surging Wildcats, who have won four in a row, including last week’s 35-7 rout of previously unbeaten West Perry in the Frenzy Game of the Week. Hanna has also won four in a row after its season-opening loss at Manheim Central, including a 27-19 triumph over Hershey last week. The Indians have playmakers in quarterback Rahsaan Carlton, Jacob Seigle, and Stevie Graves III, and a mammoth Penn State commit in Fatorma Mulbah to anchor the defense.
Mechanicsburg made a huge statement with last week’s win over West Perry, rolling to a 20-0 lead at halftime in a dominant performance. Junior quarterback Micah Brubaker was a force for the Wildcats, racking up 151 passing yards, 87 rush yards, and three total touchdowns in the blowout win. The Mechanicsburg defense held West Perry star QB Kerryon Johnson to 29 rushing yards and just 117 yards through the air. The Mercy Rule was in effect before the Mustangs cracked the scoreboard with a late third quarter touchdown.