High School Football: District 3 Playoff Preview

The regular season might be over, but there’s still plenty of high school football left in Central Pennsylvania.

The District 3 playoffs get underway tonight, with 16 matchups in six classifications on the schedule — many of them involving schools in the FOX43 viewing area.

Our FOX43 High School Football Frenzy Game of the Week is in Class 3A, where undefeated Mid-Penn Capital champion Middletown takes on Bermudian Springs. (More on that game below).

Here’s a breakdown of each bracket:

CLASS 6A

No. 8 C.D. East (6-4) at No. 1 Cumberland Valley (8-2)

Cumberland Valley demolished CD East 42-3 just two weeks ago, on its way to a second-place finish behind 5A powerhouse Harrisburg in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth race. Two-way starter Jake Palmer, a 1,000-yard rusher on offense and the Eagles’ top performer in the secondary, is a standout player for CV.

CD East is stumbling into the playoffs, having lost three of its final four regular-season games. Junior QB Kane Everson has thrown for 746 yards and three touchdowns and leads the team in rushing with 686 yards and 10 TDs on 128 attempts.

No. 5 Dallastown (8-2) at No. 4 Hempfield (7-3)

The Black Knights throttled Dallastown 38-14 in Week 1, but the Wildcats have been the hotter team of late, entering the postseason on five-game winning streak after splitting the YAIAA Division I title with York. Dallastown RB Nyzair Smith, York County’s leading rusher, has 1,893 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. He had an 80-yard TD run in the opener with Hempfield.

The Knights have a dual threat in Temple recruit David Martin-Robinson, who had 38 catches for 585 yards and three TDs and 466 rushing yards and seven scores on 54 carries. Mark Himmelsbach was third in the L-L League in rushing this season, with 1,297 yards and 13 TDs on 183 carries. Hempfield finished third behind Manheim Township and Wilson in Section 1.

No. 7 Central Dauphin (6-4) at No. 2 Manheim Township (9-1)

The Blue Streaks broke Wilson’s stranglehold on the L-L League Section 1 championship and snapped the Bulldogs’ nine-year winning streak in section play earlier this month. Their reward for that success is a first-round rematch with CD, which gave them everything they could handle in Week 1, when Township escaped with a 17-14 victory. QB Luke Emge (89-138-2, 1,304 yards, 18 TDs) and Grayson Sallade (119 carries, 1,053 yards, 16 TDs) are the top weapons for Township.

Central Dauphin quarterback Brady Straub threw for 1,461 yards and 11 touchdowns on 97-of-176 passing this season. The Rams went 2-3 in their last five games, including a 31-10 loss at State College last Friday.

No. 6 Red Lion (8-2) at No. 3 Wilson (7-3)

While the Bulldogs saw their nine-year run of Section 1 dominance broken by Manheim Township, they remain formidable and are a tough draw for the Lions. Wilson had the L-L League’s stingiest defense against the run this season, allowing 86.2 yards per game. Meanwhile, senior RB Iggy Reynoso, Berks County’s all-time rushing leader, led the L-L League with 1,397 yards this season.

Red Lion counters with York County’s most lethal two-way threat — quarterback Zach Throne, who has 1,475 rushing yards, 1,265 passing yards, and 35 combined touchdowns.

CLASS 5A

No. 8 Exeter Township (7-3) at No. 1 Harrisburg (10-0)

Exeter draws the short straw in the first round of the 5A bracket, traveling to Harrisburg to take on the defending district champions. The Cougars, ranked 76th in the latest High School Football America National Poll, haven’t been held under 40 points since Week 2, and have a galaxy of stars at seemingly every position. None are bigger than RB-DE Micah Parsons, who is being courted by Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Penn State, among many others.

Exeter can at least say it’s coming in hot. The Eagles have won five straight. Quarterback Brandon Unterkoefler is their top weapon, with 1,130 passing yards, a team-high 1,097 rushing yards, and 25 combined touchdowns.

No. 5 York (9-1) at No. 4 Governor Mifflin (9-1) 

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup in any class, this game pits the YAIAA Division I co-champion Bearcats against the Berks League Section 1 titlist Mustangs. York, which won just one game last year, turned its program around behind RB Khalid Dorsey, a 1,700-yard rusher this season who has already set the school’s all-time and single-season rushing records.

Mifflin, which hasn’t lost since Week 3, is powered by RB Isaac Ruoss, who has 1,304 yards and 21 TDs this season.

No. 7 Waynesboro (7-2) at No. 2 Manheim Central (10-0)

One of four undefeated teams left in the district, the Barons finished in their customary spot atop the L-L League Section 2 standings and appear primed for another deep run in Districts. Manheim Central ranked second in the league in total offense (434 yards per game), second in scoring offense (48 points per game), second in total defense (221 yards per game) and first in scoring defense (10.7 points per game). QB Evan Simon (1,700 yards, 18 TDs), RB Tyler Flick (1,297 yards, 18 TDs) and WR Jake Novak (897 yards, 10 TDs) are the top stars on offense.

Waynesboro, the newly crowned Mid-Penn Colonial champion, has won six in a row. The Indians have a three-pronged rushing attack powered by RBs Tom Drumsta and Mason Frampton (1,356 combined yards, 12 combined TDs) and QB Isaiah Kershner (492 yards, six TDs).

No. 6 Cedar Crest (8-2) at No. 3 Cocalico (9-1)

Cedar Crest had a solid season, but the Falcons’ two losses came against the teams that finished ahead of them in the L-L League Section 2 race — by a combined margin of 97-12. Crest will try to avenge one of those losses when it visits Denver to take on Cocalico, which finished a game behind Manheim Central in the Section 2 race.

The Falcon offense revolves around quarterback Logan Horn, who has passed for 1,402 yards and 13 TDs and rushed for 668 yards and 10 TDs. Cocalico counters with first-year QB Noah Palm, who has only passed for 338 yards, but compiled a team-high 991 yards and 17 TDs on the ground.

Class 4A

No. 8 Gettysburg (7-3) at No. 1 Berks Catholic (10-0)

The Warriors drew the short straw in this bracket, and get the first crack at the defending champion Saints. Berks Catholic outscored its opponents 456-52 this season, and only two teams even came within 30 points of the Saints. Cooper Lutz is the main cog of the offense, leading Berks Catholic in rushing (862 yards) and receiving (167 yards), with a combined 19 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t jump out at you, but keep in mind the Saints’ starters rarely played past halftime and only played nine games; they won a forfeit victory over Kutztown in Week 9.

Gettysburg finished behind Susquehannock and Dover in the YAIAA Division II race. The Warriors have won five straight after a sluggish 2-3 start.

No. 5 East Pennsboro (8-2) at No. 4 Susquehannock (8-2)

After finishing third behind Middletown and Steel-High in a tough Mid-Penn Capital race, East Pennsboro will tangle with YAIAA Division II champ Susquehannock in its playoff opener. East Pennsboro has a powerful offense driven by running back Onasis Neely, who has racked up an astounding 2,211 yards and 31 touchdowns on 221 attempts. With Neely leading the way, East Pennsboro has reeled off five straight victories, outscoring opponents 233-81 during that span.

Susquehannock has won six in a row, including a 24-17 victory over Dover last week that gave the Warriors the YAIAA Division II title. The Clapp brothers — Daniel and Allen — lifted the Warriors in that game, scoring all three Susquehannock touchdowns.

No. 7 Shippensburg (6-4) at No. 2 Bishop McDevitt (8-2)

Shippensburg is looking to get to the District 3 championship game for the second straight year; theGreyhounds fell to Berks Catholic in last year’s final. But to get back, they’ll have to overcome the surging Crusaders, who have won six in a row and are coming off a 60-10 beatdown of CD East in Week 10. Shipp quarterback Carter Vanscyoc has passed for 1,500 yards and 17 TDs this season; he’ll be the No. 1 target of the McDevitt defense.

The Crusader offense is piloted by QB Chase Diehl, who has passed for more than 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns. Nazir Burnett and T’ynis Becker are his top targets, with 76 combined catches, 1,307 combined yards and 13 combined TDs.

No. 6 Lampeter-Strasburg (6-4) at No. 3 Northern Lebanon (9-1)

These teams both come from the L-L League, but haven’t played each other since 2009, one year before Lampeter-Strasburg left Northern Lebanon and Section 3 behind and moved to its new home in Section 2. This year, the Pioneers finished behind Manheim Central, Cocalico and Cedar Crest in the rugged section race, and have lost three of their last four games. QB Todd Shelley (165-of-282, 2,334 yards, 20 TD) is the primary weapon on an offense that averages 430 yards per game.

Northern Lebanon hasn’t lost since September 8, when the Vikings fell 35-7 to Cedar Crest. Northern Lebanon defeated Lancaster Catholic last week to capture the Section 3 championship, notching its eighth straight victory. The Vikes have Section 3’s top-ranked offense (388 yards per game) and its second-ranked defense (238 yards per game).

Class 3A

No. 4 Bermudian Springs (7-3) at No. 1 Middletown (10-0)

(This is the FOX43 High School Football Frenzy Game of the Week)

The Blue Raiders captured the Mid-Penn Capital Division title by running over their regular season schedule behind the backfield tandem of Jose Lopez (169-1,436, 20 TDs) and Brady Fox (93-942, 17 TDs). Middletown’s average margin of victory in its 10-game winning streak is 33.6 points, though its wins over Trinity (45-34) and Palmyra (17-10) were fairly tight.

Bermudian Springs, which finished third in the YAIAA Division III race, snapped a two-game skid with last week’s 40-0 rout of Biglerville. The Eagles depend on QB Chase Dull (1,297 passing yards, 13 TDs) and the backfield duo of Ryan Curfman (833 yards, six TDs) and Darren Beall (662 yards, 13 TDs) to power their offense.

No. 3 Littlestown (9-1) at No. 2 Wyomissing (9-1)

The second-seeded Spartans finished just behind Berks Catholic in the Berks League Section 2 race; their 28-0 loss to the Saints last week is the only blemish on their record. Wyomissing averages 220 yards per game on the ground, with the tandem of Tim Kowalksi (642 yards) and Nolan Babb (624 yards) doing most of the heavy lifting. Kowalksi and Babb have 19 combined touchdowns.

Littlestown’s only loss was a 21-14 setback against Class 2A top seed York Catholic on Oct. 6. The Thunderbolts have won four straight since. Junior quarterback Jakob Lane is the main cog of the offense, with more than 1,200 passing yards and six touchdowns.

Class 2A

No. 2 Newport (9-1) at No. 1 York Catholic (8-2)

We skip right to the championship game in the district’s two smallest classes, so this clash between the top-seeded YAIAA Division III champs and the Tri-Valley League runner-up will be for all the marbles. The Fighting Irish have won six in a row since suffering back-to-back losses against Berks Catholic and Delone Catholic in mid-September. York Catholic doesn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher or a 1,000-yard passer, but the combo of quarterback Kyle Dormer and Andrew Snelbaker (1,758 combined yards, eight total TDs) is tough to stop.

The Buffaloes have won two straight since dropping a 27-14 decision to Line Mountain; that loss cost them a share of the league crown. Sophomore Ethan Rode has emerged as Newport’s top rushing threat, with 687 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Class 1A

No. 2 Fairfield (4-6) at No. 1 Steelton-Highspire (8-2)

The Rollers got rolled themselves on Saturday, falling 45-7 to undefeated Middletown. That loss cost them a share of the Mid-Penn Capital title. Steel-High’s attack revolves around the dynamic duo of quarterback Malachi Young (1,147 passing yards, 11 TDs) and RB Dupree Andrews, the team’s leading rusher (813 yards, 11 TDs) and receiver (311 yards, six TDs).

Fairfield is the only team in the District 3 playoffs with a sub-.500 record. The Knights are riding a three-game losing streak into the postseason. Charlie Burnett (949 yards, nine TDs) is the Knights’ biggest offensive threat.