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High School Football: District 3 Class 6A championship preview

Perennial powerhouses Wilson and Harrisburg will square off for district gold Saturday afternoon at Harrisburg's Severance Field.
Credit: WPMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. — They've got 10 district championships and 16 finals appearances between them, so Wilson and Harrisburg are certainly no strangers to the big stage. 

Yet Saturday's District 3 Class 6A championship matchup between Wilson and Harrisburg will be just the second time they've met in the finals. The Bulldogs knocked off the Cougars 39-14 back in 2012. 

Harrisburg will look to return the favor on Saturday.

Here's a closer look at the matchup.

Wilson (9-3) at Harrisburg (11-1)

Saturday, 1 p.m. at Harrisburg's Severance Field

ABOUT WILSON: The Bulldogs are back in the title game after knocking off defending champion Central York 14-11 last week in the semifinals. They opened the playoffs with a 50-32 triumph over York High. 

Against Central York, the Bulldogs got a 21-yard field goal from sophomore Ben Rada with 1:13 left in the fourth quarter, and Wilson held on for the victory when Central York missed a 32-yard field goal attempt in the game's closing seconds.

Wilson kept Penn State recruit Beau Pribula and the Central York offense on the sidelines as much as possible, using a ground-and-pound offensive game plan to churn out 348 rushing yards and more than 34 minutes of possession time. Pribula completed 20 of 36 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown in his final game as a Panther.

The Bulldogs' 1-2 punch of RB Jadyn Jones and QB Brad Hoffman did most of the damage on the ground. Jones had 161 yards on 27 carries, while Hoffman racked up 167 yards and Wilson's only touchdown on 29 attempts.

Jones and Hoffman have both rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. Jones has 1,264 yards and 13 TDs on 191 carries, while Hoffman has 1,038 yards and 12 scores on 158 attempts. He's also completed 57 of 123 passes for 776 yards and 11 TDs.

Since they went 2-3 to start the season, the Bulldogs have won seven in a row. 

Their three losses all came against District 3 playoff qualifiers. They fell 42-14 to Governor Mifflin, 42-14 to Exeter Township, and 24-21 to Manheim Central. 

This is Wilson's 11th appearance in the District 3 championship game. The Bulldogs have won seven district titles in their storied program history, the last coming in 2016 -- which was the first year that the district expanded from four classes to six. 

ABOUT HARRISBURG: The Cougars fought their way into the finals with a 32-10 triumph over Hempfield last week. Harrisburg defeated Mid-Penn Commonwealth foe Carlisle 36-7 in its playoff opener.

Against Hempfield, running backs Mahkai Hopkins and Kyle Williams both turned in huge days for the Cougars, who 456 yards of offense, including 314 on the ground. Hopkins rushed for 214 yards on 17 carries and scored on an 88-yard run in the first quarter, while Williams found the end zone four times, racked up 138 yards of total offense, and returned a punt 78 yards for a score.

Hopkins and Williams have combined for 1,170 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground this season. Williams also leads Harrisburg in catches (57), receiving yards (636), and receiving TDs (nine). Freshman QB Shawn Lee, who threw for 142 yards and a touchdown last week, has 866 yards and eight TDs in seven starts this season. 

Harrisburg enters Saturday's game on an eight-game winning streak. The Cougars' only loss was a 49-13 defeat at Governor Mifflin on Sept. 17.

The Cougars share two other common opponents with Wilson: Hempfield and Manheim Township. Both teams went 2-0 against their common foes. 

Harrisburg defeated Township 20-17 in overtime on Sept. 11 and knocked off Hempfield last week. Wilson beat Hempfield 28-21 on Oct. 22 and defeated Township 21-14 a week later.

Harrisburg is back in the title game for the second time in three years. The Cougars won the title in 2018 and fell to Central Dauphin in the 2019 final. Last season, they appeared to be primed to make another deep playoff run, but they were forced to forfeit their semifinal matchup with York High when one of their players tested positive for COVID-19 days before the game. 

The Cougars are 3-3 in their previous six championship game appearances.

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