Cumberland Valley at Bishop McDevitt
The game is a battle of traditional Mid-Penn Conference powerhouses, though Cumberland Valley is coming off an uncharacteristically down year in 2018. The Eagles went 3-7 overall, though the more optimistically inclined might point to the fact they won three of their last four games after on 0-6 start and threw a scare into Class 6A state playoff quarterfinalist State College (a 16-13 loss) in Week 10. This year, CV brings back a load of talent on the offensive line, an experienced backfield, and a couple of cornerstones on defense. They're looking to make a big improvement.
McDevitt had a fairly typical season in 2018, going 12-2 overall, capturing a District 3 Class 4A title and reaching the state semifinals before bowing out. The Crusaders have some holes in their lineup to spackle over, but they should have a stellar defense to lean on while their new offensive starters settle in. Devyn Clair, Justin Piper, and Ben Marisco are the standouts on defense.
York Suburban at York Catholic
After taking its share of lumps with a young roster for the last two years, York Suburban is eyeing bigger things this season -- possibly even a Division II title and a District 3 playoff berth. In the preseason, YAIAA coaches labeled the Trojans as division title contenders, along with defending champ Gettysburg. But Suburban faces a stiff challenge to start the year with a visit to the defending Division III champs this week and a date with Delone Catholic, last year's Division III runner-up, next week. Suburban brings back 10 starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Max Reinecker and running back Savion Harrison. Reinecker threw for 751 yards and eight touchdowns and completed 54 of 121 passes, while Harrison ranked fifth in the league in rushing with 1,231 yards and 11 TDs on 174 carries.
In addition to edging Delone Catholic for the Division III title in the regular season, York Catholic knocked off Delone in overtime to capture the District 3 Class 2A crown before bowing out in the second round of States with a 12-1 record. This year, the Fighting Irish have to replace 18 graduated seniors, but word in the preseason was they're confident they have the pieces in place to reload quickly. They'll be relying on returning starters like tight end/linebacker Noah Kiel, WR/DB Benjamin Nelson-Moir, and junior quarterback Mitchell Galentine to lead their quest for a fourth straight division crown.
Ephrata at Warwick
The George Male Trophy will be on the line when these two Lancaster-Lebanon League neighborhood rivals open the season in Lititz. Ephrata made headlines last year by putting together a 5-5 season, snapping a 52-game losing streak in the process. The Mountaineers even came close to pulling off a late charge to the postseason. Now they are looking to build on that momentum by putting together a winning season for the first time since 2003. And with 18 lettermen back from last year, led by QB Caden Keefer (1,231 passing yards, 760 rushing yards, 27 touchdowns in all), spectacularly named running back Miracle Wratto, and a bevy of experienced returnees at many positions, Ephrata just might have the horses to do it.
Speaking of high expectations, Warwick is also looking to build off a memorable campaign last year that saw the Warriors go 9-3 overall, capture a share of the L-L League Section 1 title, win a District 3 playoff game for the first time in program history. And the Warriors bring back a ton of talent from that squad, including quarterback Joey McCracken (1,900 pass yards, 27 TDs) and wideout Trey Glass (74 catches, 1,326 yards, 15 TD), who is healthy again after suffering a knee injury in Warwick's season-ending playoff loss to Cedar Cliff. There are quite a few veterans on both lines back as well -- enough to throw the bullseye on Warwick as a section title contender, even with Manheim Township and Wilson in the field as well. The Warriors have won the last 13 matchups with Ephrata in a series that goes back 89 games.
Susquehanna Township at Manheim Central
The host Barons won their fourth straight section title, their second straight District 3 championship, and made it all the way to the state championship game last season before the magical ride came to an end. They're back in the saddle with a new group up front, and Rutgers-bound quarterback Evan Simon and an experienced group of players in the backfield. Simon threw for a school-record 2,753 yards and 30 TDs last season, and his 59 career TD tosses are a program record. Central's defense looks tough as well. It all adds up to another potential playoff charge for the Barons, but they've got to handle their business on the field. This is the start of a difficult month for Central; after Friday's tussle with Hanna, the Barons face Section 1 neighbors Hempfield, Warwick, and Wilson in consecutive weeks before moving into their thorny Section 2 slate.
Susquehanna Township posted a 6-5 overall record last season and brief foray into the District 3 playoffs, but expectations this year are a little higher. Safety Jacob Seigle, a Yale recruit, leads a talented defense that also includes Penn State commit Fatorma Mulbah on the line and Maine recruit Tyshawn Stewart at linebacker. And the offense features three-year starter Rahsaan Carlton and the usual army of talented skill players. The Indians were dusted 44-0 by Central in last season's opener, and will be looking for revenge.