The District 3 high school football playoffs get underway Friday night.
Here are previews of this week’s matchups in the small-school brackets:
No. 5 Littlestown (7-3) at No. 4 Annville-Cleona (6-4)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Annville-Cleona HS, Annville
The Little Dutchmen finished in a four-way tie for third place in the L-L League Section 3 race behind Lancaster Catholic and Elco, both of whom also qualified for Districts. A-C is the only one of the four third-place teams to make the postseason; Lebanon, Donegal, and Ephrata all did not qualify in their respective classes. The Dutchmen won three of their last four games to sneak into the playoffs, defeating Donegal and Lebanon during that span. A-C’s offense is paced by running back Trevor Porsche (228-1,405, 14 TDs) and dual-threat quarterback Jeremy Bours (685 yards and 17 TDs rushing, 819 yards and eight TDs passing). A-C has made seven prior playoff appearances and is still searching for its first victory.
Littlestown finished a game behind Delone Catholic in the YAIAA Division III race. The Thunderbolts were 2-3 at the season’s midway point, but won their final five games to enter the postseason riding a wave of momentum. Littlestown has relied heavily on its defense, which ranked third in the York-Adams league (207 yards per game). That defense bolstered an attack that averaged under 300 yards per game. QB Zach Ressler completed 70 of 157 pass attempts for 919 yards and nine touchdowns, while the RB tandem of Wyatt Kramer and William Shoemaker V combined for 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns. Littlestown is a three-time District 3 champion, but the Bolts’ last title came back in 2004, when they upset Lancaster Catholic 14-0 to capture a 2A crown. Littlestown is 12-21 overall in the playoffs.
Friday’s winner faces top-seeded Wyomissing (10-0) in the semifinals.
No. 6 Bermudian Springs (6-4) at No. 3 Lancaster Catholic (9-1)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Rossmere Stadium, Lancaster
The Crusaders captured their second straight L-L League Section 3 title and came within eight points of a second straight undefeated regular season, but a 30-22 loss to Lebanon in Week 5 ended those hopes. Catholic rebounded to win its final five games, winning four of those contests by double-figure margins. The only team to stay within a touchdown of the Crusaders during that span was Annville-Cleona, which lost 31-24 on Sept. 27. Catholic’s balanced attack is guided by QB Gavin Sullivan, who threw for 900 yards and seven touchdowns and added 422 yards and three scores on the ground. RBs Jeffrey Harley (122-1,102, 17 TDs) and Alex Cruz (77-653, eight TDs) are the main cogs of the ground game. Catholic has won six District 3 championships and has a 24-10 record in 16 playoff appearances.
Bermudian Springs finished third in the YAIAA Division III race, trailing Delone Catholic and Littlestown. The Eagles fell 42-15 to Delone and 24-7 to Littlestown, and also dropped non-league decisions to New Oxford (38-7) and Shippensburg (37-12) this season. Much like Littlestown, Bermudian Springs relied heavily on its defense to offset middling offensive numbers. The Eagles ranked fifth in the league on defense, allowing just 247 yards per game. Their offense, which averaged just under 300 yards per contest, ranked in the middle of the pack. Ryan Hart (101-576, four TDs) and Aaron Dupler (81-642, 10 TDs) are the main cogs in the rushing attack. This is the 19th District 3 playoff appearance for the Eagles, who have compiled a 15-13 record and won three titles, the most recent coming in 1998.
Friday’s winner faces second-seeded Middletown (9-1) in the semifinals.
No. 4 Newport (7-3) at No. 1 Upper Dauphin (10-0)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Upper Dauphin HS, Elizabethville
The host Trojans captured the final Tri-Valley League championship and claimed the No. 1 seed in the four-team Class 2A bracket, putting up some gigantic point totals as they romped their way through the league. Upper Dauphin’s victories came by an average margin of 37 points, and only two teams came within 20 points of the Trojans. One of those teams was Newport, which fell 36-20 to UD back in Week 2. QB Macklin Ayers and RB Jake Ramberger lead the Trojan offense; both are 1,000-yard rushers. Ayers ran for 1,461 yards and 25 touchdowns to go along with his 863 passing yards and four scores. Ramberger rushed for 1,198 yards and 17 scores. UD is searching for its first district title after going 1-7 in seven prior playoff appearances.
Newport finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Tri-Valley League, joining District 11 competitors Williams Valley and Pine Grove. UD fell 43-21 to Williams Valley in Week 2, but upended Pine Grove 21-13 a week later. The Buffaloes’ other loss was a 35-19 setback to Steel-High in their season opener. Ethan Rode carries most of the load for Newport on offense; he’s rushed for 1,251 yards and 18 scores this season. Newport won a district crown in 2017, but is 3-6 overall in district playoff appearances.
No. 3 Delone Catholic (7-3) at No. 2 Steelton-Highspire (8-2)
Friday, 7 p.m. at War Veterans Memorial Field, Steelton
The second-seeded Rollers finished in third place — two games behind Milton Hershey — in the Mid-Penn Capital Division race after falling 49-27 to the Spartans in Week 10. That loss snapped Steel-High’s four-game winning streak. The Rollers’ only other loss came against second-place Middletown, which thumped them 49-21 in Week 5. Offense hasn’t been an issue this season for Steel-High, which has a small army of athletic burners led by quarterback Nyles Jones and wideout Mehki Flowers. RB Odell Greene also had a spectacular season for Steel-High, but he has reportedly been declared ineligible for the playoffs after a ruling by the district, according to Pennlive. The main problem for the Rollers has been on defense, which has been as porous as the offense is potent. Steel-High has won 12 district championships and is 29-8 in 20 previous playoff appearances.
Delone Catholic captured the YAIAA Division III title, rebounding from an 0-3 start to win its final seven games. Included in that early-season slump is a 35-28 loss to Steel-High, making the Rollers the last team to beat Delone this season. The Squires’ balanced offense revolves around backs Joe Hernandez and Josh Fulton, who have combined for more than 1,800 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns, while QB Kevin Mowrey has passed for 942 yards and eight scores to lead the air attack. The Squires have a rich history in the District 3 playoffs, with eight championships and a 24-13 record in 21 previous appearances.
No. 2 Millersburg (2-8) at No. 1 Fairfield (2-8)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Fairfield HS
It’s been quite a season for Millersburg, which is two weeks removed from having to forfeit a game because a spate of injuries made it impossible for them to field a team. This is also the Indians’ final season; they’ll be joining Upper Dauphin in a co-op deal next year as the Tri-Valley League is absorbed into other leagues in the area. So there’s plenty of motivation for Millersburg to try to capture some district gold before the Indians make their final curtain call. QB Aiden Harman has thrown for 1,179 yards and 12 TDs to lead Millersburg’s offense. The Indians have made 10 District 3 playoff appearances and have a 9-9 record. Their lone title came back in 2009.
Fairfield finished sixth in the York-Adams Division II race. The Knights’ only two victories came over York Tech (34-10) and Hanover (34-13), who went a combined 1-19. Included among Fairfield’s eight losses are blowout defeats to Penns Valley (77-0), Bishop Carroll (31-0), Bermudian Springs (43-0), York Catholic (55-20), and Littlestown (40-15). Fairfield ranked second-last in the York-Adams League in total offense (161 yards per game), and was fifth from the bottom in team defense (384 yards per game). Cody Valentine (70-370) is the Knights’ leading rusher. Fairfield is 0-4 in its previous district playoff appearances.