YORK, Pa. — The District 3 high school football playoffs conclude this weekend in three of the district's six classifications, and all three matchups have their share of intrigue.
In Class 5A, Cocalico will try to continue its Cinderella run through the postseason with another upset Friday night, this time against undefeated defending champion Exeter Township. Also on Friday, the district's two most-successful postseason programs meet for the Class 4A championship when Manheim Central takes on Bishop McDevitt.
In Saturday afternoon's Class 6A title game, Harrisburg hosts Manheim Township in a rematch of a Week 3 classic that the Blue Streaks won, 24-20.
This week's three district title games will also serve as quarterfinal matchups in the state playoffs. The week's winners will move on to the semifinals in their respective classes next weekend.
Meanwhile, three other District 3 teams in Class 3A, 2A and 1A will participate in PIAA quarterfinal games this week. You can find previews of those games here.
Here's a look at our three district championship games:
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 6A CHAMPIONSHIP
Manheim Township (9-3) at Harrisburg (9-2)
Saturday, 1 p.m.
ABOUT MANHEIM TOWNSHIP: The Blue Streaks finished third in the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 race in the regular season behind arch-rival Hempfield and runner-up Wilson. But Township is the last Section 1 team standing after knocking off Hempfield 42-7 in a semifinal rematch last week. The win avenged a 17-14 loss to the Black Knights on Sept. 23.
All three of Township's losses came against Class 6A playoff qualifiers, and came by a combined total of 17 points.
Saturday's game will be the third straight postseason rematch for Township, which defeated Cumberland Valley 37-31 in the quarterfinals after falling 31-27 to the Eagles in their season opener. The Streaks met Harrisburg back in Week 3, prevailing on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Johnson to Asher Wolfe as time expired in the fourth quarter.
Johnson is the key figure in a potent offense for the Streaks, who average 360 yards and 33.5 points per game. The 6-1, 180-pound junior has completed 74 percent of his passes for 2,513 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, while yielding just seven interceptions. Johnson is also an effective runner, with 264 yards and nine scores on 56 carries.
The trio of Landon Kennel (63-705, 15 TDs), Wolfe (32-439, two TDs) and Nick Palumbo (32-413, four TDs) are Johnson's top targets, though seven different Township players have caught at least 10 passes this season. Declan Clancy (103-812, 13 TDs) is the Streaks' leading rusher.
Defensively, Township allows 229 yards per game (fifth in the L-L League) and yields 16.2 points per game (sixth in the league).
This is Township's 16th appearance in the district playoffs. The Streaks won a Class 6A title in 2017 and have an 12-14 overall record.
ABOUT HARRISBURG: The defending District 3 champs booked their fourth trip to the finals in the last five seasons with a 44-7 victory over Central York in the semifinals. It was eighth win in the last nine games for the Cougars, who finished second to State College in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth race after falling 20-6 to the Lions on Oct. 15. (State College went on to capture the District 6 title and hosts North Allegheny in the state quarterfinals on Friday.)
Harrisburg opened the playoffs with a 32-21 victory over Wilson in a rematch of last year's title game. The Cougars followed that up with last week's impressive win over Central York in the semifinals, racking up 467 rushing yards against the Panthers.
Mahkai Hopkins and Kyle Williams Jr. ran wild for Harrisburg in last week's victory. Though he didn't find the end zone, Hopkins racked up 239 yards on 27 carries to set the stage for Williams, who scored three rushing touchdowns and added a 64-yard score on a punt return. Williams finished with 223 yards on 23 rushes.
Meanwhile, Harrisburg's defense held Central York's potent attack to just 67 yards and five first downs and forced four turnovers. The Panthers' star running back, Juelz Goff, managed just 41 yards on 11 touches.
Harrisburg QB Shawn Lee didn't even complete a pass against Central York, but he didn't have to. Lee, a 5-11, 160-pound sophomore, has completed 107 of 153 passes for 1,416 yards and 23 TDs this season.
Hopkins, a bruising 6-2, 230-pound senior, and Williams, a speedy 6-0, 190-pound Temple commit, provide the thunder and lightning in the Cougar backfield. Hopkins has rushed for 848 yards and 11 TDs on 126 carries, while Williams has 510 yards and nine scores on 75 attempts. He's also the team's top receiver, with 39 catches for 511 yards and six TDs.
Harrisburg is seeking its third Class 6A title since 2018 and its fifth overall. The Cougars are 24-16 in the district playoffs. This is their 21st playoff appearance.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 5A CHAMPIONSHIP
Cocalico (9-4) at Exeter (12-0)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Exeter
ABOUT COCALICO: The Cinderella of the Class 5A bracket, the 12th-seeded Eagles continued their impressive postseason run with a stunning 32-8 upset of previously unbeaten and top-seeded Solanco last Friday in Quarryville. It was the sixth straight victory for Cocalico, which had to win its final three regular-season games to grab the final 5A playoff spot.
Once they got in, the Eagles rampaged their way through the playoffs with impressive victories over fifth-seeded Elizabethtown (42-2) and fourth-seeded Gettysburg (23-13) before stunning the No. 1 seeded Golden Mules in the semifinals. Cocalico built a 25-0 lead before Solanco finally cracked the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles held the Mules' impressive ground attack to just 101 yards -- more than 200 yards below their previous average.
Sam Steffy led the way for the Eagles with 251 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries, while QB Josh Myer found the end zone twice and added 67 yards on the ground. Cocalico rushed for 315 yards overall.
The victory avenged a 21-7 loss to Solanco in Week 2. Cocalico's other losses came to district playoff qualifiers Manheim Central (35-19), Lampeter-Strasburg (23-14) and Wyomissing (38-7).
The Eagles are back in the district finals for the 11th time in program history. Cocalico has won three championships, the most recent coming in 2019, when they defeated Cedar Cliff to win the 5A crown. Cocalico has a 28-19 overall record in 23 playoff appearances.
ABOUT EXETER: The Eagles captured the L-L League Section 2 title in their first season with the league, defeating Manheim Central 21-17 in Week 10 to clinch the crown. After receiving a first-round bye in Districts, Exeter rolled to wins over Dover (42-12) and Northern York (21-7) to punch its ticket to the finals.
In addition to its signature win over Central, Exeter also knocked off Section 1 champ and Class 6A top-seed Hempfield 44-22 in a non-conference matchup on Oct. 14. Other than that narrow win over Central, the Eagles haven't really been challenged for most of the season, winning their games by an average margin of 27.9 points per game.
The Eagles' balanced offense averages 368 yards and 38.9 points per game, while their defense gives up 190 yards and 11 points per game.
QB Mason Rotelli has completed 91 of 136 passes for 1,513 yards and 22 touchdowns, while RB Richie Karstien has 1,533 yards and 19 touchdowns on 213 carries. The Eagles' top wideout, Joey Schaffler, has caught 39 passes for 888 yards and 11 scores.
Exeter is back in the 5A title game for the second straight season after defeating Governor Mifflin 31-28 in last year's final. That was the Eagles' first championship. They are 10-11 in 12 previous playoff appearances.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP
Manheim Central (10-1) at Bishop McDevitt (10-1)
Friday, 6 p.m. at McDevitt
ABOUT MANHEIM CENTRAL: The Barons are back in the district title game for the first time since 2018 thanks to an impressive 42-6 triumph over former L-L League Section 2 rival Lampeter-Strasburg in the semifinals. Central defeated York Suburban 63-14 in the quarterfinals after receiving a first-round bye.
In the regular season, the Barons finished second to Exeter in the Section 2 title race after dropping a 21-17 decision to the Eagles in Week 10. The loss is the only blemish on Central's record this season.
Central leads the L-L League in total offense (445 yards per game) and scoring (51.9 points per game). The Barons are sixth in the league in total defense (239.9 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (12.6 points per game).
QB Zac Hahn has completed 129 of 207 pass attempts for 2,187 yards and 29 touchdowns. RB Brycen Armold, who shredded L-S with 231 yards and three scores, has 2,204 yards and 34 TDs on 248 carries this season. Aaron Enterline, the Barons' top receiver, needs just 18 yards to hit the 1,000-yard plateau for the season. He's caught 40 passes in all, 12 for touchdowns.
Central and McDevitt are the two most successful programs in District 3 playoff history. The Barons have won 18 district titles -- including a run of 10 straight from 1992 to 2001 -- and have a record 23 appearances in the title game. Central and McDevitt share the record for playoff victories with 61; Friday's winner will have that record all to themselves. This year marks the Barons' 34th appearance in the district playoffs, which is another record.
ABOUT BISHOP McDEVITT: The Crusaders are back to defend their district title after blowing out Twin Valley 47-3 in the semifinals. It was the 10th straight victory for McDevitt, whose only loss -- a 19-14 setback to Philly-area powerhouse Imhotep Charter -- came all the way back in Week 1.
No one has come within 35 points of them since. The Crusaders' average margin of victory over the current 10-game streak has been 47 points per game.
In last week's win over Twin Valley, the combination of QB Stone Saunders and RB Marquise Williams accounted for more than 400 yards and six touchdowns. Saunders completed 11 of 19 passes for 256 yards and three scores, while Williams racked up 149 yards and three TDs on just 12 carries.
That was more than enough to subdue Twin Valley, which managed just 36 total yards against the rugged Crusader defense.
Saunders' big week allowed him to eclipse the 3,000-yard milestone for the season. The 6-2, 200-pound sophomore has completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 3,029 yards and 44 touchdowns and has thrown just one interception in 11 games.
Williams, a 5-10, 185-pound senior, has 1,034 yards and 23 touchdowns on 103 carries. Meanwhile, the receiving tandem of senior TaShawn Russell (47-1,124, 16 TDs) and junior Rico Scott (49-954, 15 TDs) has accounted for the bulk of McDevitt's aerial output.
While the Crusaders share the record with Central with 60 district playoff wins, their winning percentage is actually better than the Barons'. McDevitt has a 61-9 record in the district playoffs, while Central's record stands at 61-15.
The Crusaders are chasing the 16th championship in program history. They are 15-3 in 18 previous title-game appearances.
McDevitt is 2-0 against Central in the playoffs. The Crusaders beat the Barons 48-7 in the 2013 Class 3A title game and won 35-10 in the 2014 Class 3A quarterfinals.