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High School Football: District 3 Class 5A semifinals preview

Top-seeded Governor Mifflin hosts Spring Grove in one semifinal clash Friday, while Cedar Cliff takes on Exeter Township in the other.
Credit: WPMT

YORK, Pa. — The District 3 Class 5A playoffs continue tonight with two semifinal matchups and one burning question: Can anybody stop Governor Mifflin and star running back Nick Singleton?

The top-seeded Mustangs have been running wild all season behind Singleton, a Penn State commit who is reputed to be the No. 1 recruit in the nation at running back. 

The next team to try their luck against the mighty Mustangs is Spring Grove. The Rockets visit Governor Mifflin in Shillington Friday in one of two semifinals clashes. 

In the other, upstarts Exeter Township and Cedar Cliff square off after both teams sprang upsets in last week's quarterfinal round.

Here's a look at tonight's semifinal matchups.

Spring Grove (10-1) at Governor Mifflin (9-0)

Friday, 7 p.m. at Governor Mifflin Stadium, Shillington

ABOUT SPRING GROVE: The Rockets knocked off Waynesboro 21-6 last week to advance to the semifinals after opening the playoffs with a 33-6 rout of Twin Valley. Running back Zyree Brooks paced the offense with 150 rushing yards and all three touchdowns for Spring Grove against Waynesboro.

Brooks, the YAIAA rushing leader, has racked up 2,243 yards and 30 touchdowns on 249 carries this season. 

Spring Grove, the York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association Division I runner-up, has won five in a row heading into Friday's matchup. The Rockets' only loss this season was a 48-17 defeat against division champ Central York on Oct. 8. Their victory over Twin Valley in the first round of the playoffs was their first win in districts since 2012.

Spring Grove's stout defense allows just 111.7 yards per game on the ground and 14.1 points per game. But that defense is facing its stiffest test this Friday.

ABOUT GOVERNOR MIFFLIN: The Mustangs rolled to their ninth straight victory with a 63-35 win over Warwick in last week's quarterfinals. It was another huge night for Singleton, who set a single-game school record with seven touchdown runs. The 6-0, 218-pound Penn State commit racked up 326 rushing yards on just 16 carries. He scored on runs of 13, 55, 26, 2, 18, 60 and 63 yards.

For the season, Singleton has 1,832 yards and 37 touchdowns on 136 attempts for an average of 13.2 yards per carry. Those totals have come in just nine games; the Mustangs had two games canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, and since they won their games by an average margin of 36.7 points, he didn't play four full quarters in all of his outings.

Governor Mifflin averages 394 yards per game on the ground. The Mustangs have attempted just 18 passes all season and have just 251 yards through the air.

No matter how far Governor Mifflin advances in the playoffs, Singleton has already made his mark in Berks County annals. His 6,099 career rushing yards are already a county record, as are his 111 career touchdowns. 

Mifflin is the defending Class 5A district champ and is looking to improve on last year's state playoff run, which ended in the semifinals.

Exeter Township (8-3) at Cedar Cliff (10-2)

Friday, 7 p.m. at West Shore Stadium, Camp Hill

ABOUT EXETER TOWNSHIP: The Eagles knocked off second-seeded Manheim Central 43-26 last Friday to earn a date with Cedar Cliff in the semifinals. Exeter scored on five of its first six possessions to take a commanding 36-0 lead at halftime, then held off the Barons' furious comeback attempt in the second half. 

Running back Eric Nangle rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns for Exeter, while QB Colin Payne threw for 165 yards and a pair of scores on 6-of-10 passing. Exeter held Central to minus-4 rushing yards and 261 total yards in the victory. 

It was the fourth straight victory and the sixth in seven games for Exeter, which finished second behind Governor Mifflin in the Berks I-C Section 1 race during the season. The Eagles dropped a 54-21 decision to the Mustangs on Oct. 8, but haven't lost a game since.

Exeter's other regular-season losses came to Central York (35-28) and Hempfield (17-14).

Nangle has rushed for 1,207 yards and 15 touchdowns this season for Exeter, while Payne has completed 94 of 162 passes for 1,761 yards and 18 scores. 

Exeter has never won a district title, nor has it ever appeared in a championship game.

ABOUT CEDAR CLIFF: The sixth-seeded Colts surprised No. 3 Shippensburg 10-7 last week to fight their way into the semifinals. It was Cedar Cliff's fifth straight victory; the Colts defeated Lower Dauphin 31-18 to open the playoffs.

Against Shippensburg, running back Jontae Morris carried the ball 40 times for 202 yards, while QB Ethan Dorrell scored the Colts' only touchdown with a one-yard sneak in the first quarter. Cedar Cliff also got a 27-yard field goal from Derick Witmer in the second quarter.

That's all the Colt defense needed. Cedar Cliff held Shippensburg to 133 total yards and a season-low seven points to pull out the victory.

Morris' output boosted his season rushing total to 1,998 yards on 282 carries. He's scored 22 touchdowns for the Colts, who average 354 yards and 30.8 points per game on offense.

Dorrell, a junior, has completed 115 of 204 passes for 1,465 yards and 15 TDs. His top target is senior Trenton Smith (51-810, six TDs). 

Cedar Cliff is seeking its fourth district title. The Colts' last crown came back in 1996, but their last visit to the finals came in 2019, when they lost 45-7 to Cocalico in the 5A title game.

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