High School Football: FOX43’s Playoff Games to Watch this week
High school football’s postseason continues over Thanksgiving weekend with four District 3 championship games and the PIAA quarterfinal round in the two small-school classes.
Six teams in the FOX43 viewing area are still alive, four of whom will be competing for district championships.
Here’s a look at all the games involving those teams:
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 6A CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Cumberland Valley (10-2) vs. No. 2 Manheim Township (11-1)
Saturday, 6 p.m. in Hersheypark Stadium
Cumberland Valley got to the final with victories over CD East (62-9) and Hempfield (28-7). Township won a pair of rematches with regular-season foes Central Dauphin (28-0) and Wilson (28-14).
The Eagles are seeking their 12th district championship and are making their third straight appearance in the district finals. Last year, they reached the title game, but fell 28-14 to Wilson. Now they get a crack at Township, which earlier this season snapped Wilson’s 68-game winning streak in L-L League Section 1 play and ended their nine-year run of section titles.
Cumberland Valley running back Jake Palmer has rushed for 1,214 yards and 12 touchdowns on 194 carries. Quarterback Jared Plessinger is closing in on the 1,000-yard milestone as a passer; he’s completed 50 of 90 passes for 972 yards and 10 scores. Charlie Katshir, a Penn State recruit, has 13 combined touchdowns and 854 yards as a rusher and receiver.
Manheim Township rolls into its first title game appearance on a nine-game winning streak. The Blue Streaks’ only loss was to Class 5A finalist Governor Mifflin in Week 3. Township’s balanced attack is spearheaded by quarterback Luke Emge (1,561 pass yards, 22 TDs) and running back Grayson Sallade (1,191 yards, 16 TDs). The Streaks are allowing just 91.8 rushing yards per game on defense, but they’ll be tested by Cumberland Valley’s Wing-T attack this week.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 5A CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 2 Manheim Central (12-0) vs. No. 3 Governor Mifflin (11-1)
Friday, 7 p.m. in Hersheypark Stadium
The second-seeded Barons booked their second straight appearance in the District 3 championship by beating L-L League Section 2 arch-rival Cocalico 21-20 in the semifinals. Governor Mifflin got there by springing one of the biggest upsets in District 3 playoff history, stunning top-seeded Harrisburg 26-14.
The Mustangs rallied for a 14-point deficit against Harrisburg, taking advantage of adverse weather conditions and several uncharacteristic mistakes by the Cougars. But that does not in any way diminish the magnitude of their victory. Mifflin’s game plan was solid and executed to perfection. Isaac Ruoss, the Mustangs’ bellcow in the backfield, carried the ball 38 times for 174 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Kam Wolfe’s second rushing TD of the game in the third quarter put Mifflin ahead to stay.
Ruoss has 1,703 yards and 28 TDs this season for the Mustangs, while Wolfe has passed for 1,129 yards, rushed for 504 yards and has 22 combined scores.
Meanwhile, Mifflin’s defense is allowing 185 yards and 11.8 points per game this season.
Central is coming off its narrowest escape of the season, a one-point nail-biter against its biggest L-L League rival. Cocalico’s two losses against the Barons came by a total of 11 points. Central’s average margin of victory in its nine other wins is 46.4 points.
But the win was a costly one for the Barons, who lost top rusher Tyler Flick to an apparent elbow injury during the game. Flick will reportedly be sidelined for Central’s championship clash Friday night. He had 1,465 yards and 20 TDs on the ground this season. The Barons’ next-leading rusher, Giovanni Lester, has 582 yards and 12 scores on 84 carries. Central quarterback Evan Simon (2,179 passing yards, 24 TDs) and wideout Jake Novak (51-1,079, 12 TDs) might have to carry a heavier load in Flick’s stead.
Central’s defense allows 211 yards and and a L-L League leading 10 points per game.
The Barons are chasing their record 17th district championship. Their last title came in 2009.
Governor Mifflin has never won a district title.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Berks Catholic (12-0) No. 2 vs. Bishop McDevitt (10-2)
Friday, 1 p.m. in Hersheypark Stadium
The top-seeded Saints are seeking their second straight district championship. They rolled into the title game with a 48-7 victory over East Pennsboro in last week’s semifinals. Bishop McDevitt, the second seed, blasted Lampeter-Strasburg 47-17 to make its first finals appearance in three years.
Berks Catholic has one of the district’s toughest defenses, allowing just 6.4 points and 141 yards per game. The Saints haven’t allowed a single point in the first quarter all season, and are outscoring opponents 393-7 in the first half. Their offense is powered by running back Cooper Lutz, who has 1,178 yards, 26 touchdowns and averages 14.8 yards per carry.
McDevitt has won its last eight games. The Crusaders’ only losses were to Harrisburg (35-0) and Cumberland Valley (49-23). The trio of quarterback Chase Diehl (2,500 passing yards, 25 TDs) and wideouts Nazir Burnett (1,046 yards, 13 TDs) and T’ynis Becker (826 yards, four TDs) powers an aerial attack that averages 212 yards per game.
The Crusaders have won 13 district championships overall, tying them with Cumberland Valley for second place on the all-time list behind leader Manheim Central. McDevitt’s last title came in 2015, when the Crusaders competed in Class 3A.
PIAA CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
Middletown (12-0) vs. Scranton Prep (13-0)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Bethlehem Stadium, Bethlehem
Middletown captured its second straight District 3 championship last Thursday with a 49-0 rout of Wyomissing. The Blue Raiders got a stellar performance from senior running back Brady Fox, who became the school’s all-time leading rusher with a 207-yard, four-touchdown performance that boosted his career rushing total to 4,008 yards. Fox, who has 1,301 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, is one of two 1,000-yard backs in the Middletown backfield; Jose Lopez has racked up 1,749yards and 25 scores this season. Lopez had 124 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against Wyomissing.
Scranton Prep captured the District 2 championship with a 31-28 victory over District 4 champ Loyalsock last weekend to set up a rematch with Middletown, which ousted them from last year’s state playoffs in the quarterfinals with a 40-13 decision. The 28 points allowed in their last game was uncharacteristic for the Cavaliers, who have won six games by shutout this season. Scranton Prep has a balanced offense that features running back Matt Gilmartin (1,556 yards, 21 TDs) and 6-7 junior quarterback Leo O’Boyle, who has passed for 1,362 yards and 22 scores and ran for two touchdowns in last week’s win over Loyalsock, including a 92-yarder.
PIAA CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS
Steel-High (10-2) vs. Williams Valley (13-0)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Milton Hershey School
The District 11 champion Vikings rolled to another impressive win with a 44-25 rout of District 2 champion Old Forge. Williams Valley scored on its first four possessions to build an insurmountable early lead, but the Vikings’ primary weapon, RB Dylan Rabuck, left the game after tweaking his ankle during a 47-yard touchdown run and did not return. It’s unclear whether Rabuck was kept out as a precaution, or if his absence will continue through Friday night’s game. If he can’t go, he’ll leave a big void to fill — Rabuck has rushed for 2,893 yards and 42 touchdowns this season.
Quarterback Levi Engle has 1,700 passing yards and 21 touchdowns through the air, so the Vikes could always lean on their passing game if Rabuck really is out.
Steel-High blasted Wyalusing Valley 45-7 in the first round of the state playoffs, one week after hammering Fairfield 68-45 in the District 3 championship game. The Rollers have won nine of their last 10 games. Their only losses of the season were to North Schuylkill (35-20 on Sept. 1) and Middletown (45-7 on Nov. 4).
Quarterback Malachi Young (107-171-5, 1,528 yards, 20 TDs) and RB Dupre Andrews (974 rush yards 311 receiving yards, 19 combined TDs) are the main cogs of the Steel-High offense.