We’re down to the final week of the regular season in Central Pennsylvania high school football.
For some teams, that means that pads will be packed away for good after Friday night’s action. But for others, the District 3 playoffs await.
There are several showdowns looming ahead on Friday, the outcomes of which will determine both division titles and playoff positioning.
Here’s a look at some of the best matchups:
FOX43 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FRENZY GAME OF THE WEEK
Central York (7-2) at York (8-1): Just as it was last year, the York-Adams Division I title race was wide open and fun. And once again, it will likely end with co-champions — the winner of this Week 10 showdown, plus Red Lion, assuming the Lions can dispatch Dallastown in their Friday night matchup.
This game will also have some impact on the District 3 Class 5A and 6A playoff fields, though both teams have already clinched spots. York High is ranked No. 3 in the 14-team Class 5A field. The Bearcats are trying to catch Cocalico for the No. 2 spot, and would receive a first-round bye if they managed to pull that off. (The 7-2 Eagles will be favored in their Week 10 battle with Lampeter-Strasburg, but the Pioneers are still dangerous).
Central York is ranked third in the eight-team Class 6A field and is looking to hang on to that spot. A third-place finish would put the Panthers in the lower half of the bracket and allow them to avoid a potential semifinal matchup with top-seeded Harrisburg (although one might argue a date with second-seeded Manheim Township isn’t much of a reward, either).
There is vast potential for a wild, high-scoring shootout in this game, which features two of the top three offenses in the York-Adams League in terms of points and yardage. York ranks first in both categories, averaging 56 points and 492 yards per game, but Central is No. 3 in both scoring (48 points per game) and yardage (466 per game).
The offenses offer a contrast in styles; York High runs the ball all over the place with Dayjure Stewart (1,569 yards, 25 TDs), Tobee Stokes (490 yards, 8 TDs) and Rob Rideout (448 yards, 16 TDs), while Central airs it out behind QB Cade Pribula, who has thrown for a ridiculous 2,723 yards and 30 touchdowns this season, most of those going to wideouts Taylor Wright-Rawls (33-880, 10 TDs) and Saahir Cornelius (35-766, 11 TDs).
That said, this one could come down to which defense makes the most stops, and York has a clear advantage there. The Bearcats give up just 226 yards per game, while the Panthers allow 348.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
Red Lion (7-2) at Dallastown (5-4): The third team in the three-way logjam at the top of the YAIAA Division I standings, Red Lion already boasts head-to-head victories over Central York (56-28 on Sept. 14) and York High (21-20 on Oct. 5). Had the Lions not been upset by Northeastern on Sept. 28, they’d have first place all to themselves. Instead, they’ll have to settle for a share of the top spot — assuming they can overcome the Wildcats, who are just a game out of first and are also on the District 3 Class 6A playoff bubble.
A win would at least give the Lions bragging rights over whomever they finished tied with for the top spot in the division. Red Lion is also trying to grab the best possible first-round playoff matchup it can.
For the Lions to prevail, they’ll need to find a way to contain Dallastown running back Nyzair Smith, the York-Adams League’s second-leading rusher, with 1,855 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Red Lion is ninth in the league against the run, allowing an average of 139.6 yards per game, so stopping Smith could be a tall order.
The Lions prefer to air it out behind QB Zack Mentzer, who is ranked third in the league with 1,637 passing yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
Palmyra (8-1) at Middletown (8-1): The last obstacle between the Blue Raiders and another Mid-Penn Capital Division title is Palmyra, which is currently tied with Milton Hershey in second place (the Raiders knocked off Milton Hershey 32-21 on Oct. 4). Middletown clinches the title outright with a victory on Friday.
Both teams have clinched berths in the district playoffs, but the outcome of Friday’s game still might affect who they face in the first round. Middletown, the defending district champ in Class 4A, is currently ranked second behind undefeated Lancaster Catholic in the power rankings, and would likely jump to the top spot if they win Friday and the Crusaders falter.
Palmyra is ranked No. 8 in the Class 5A rankings; the top 14 teams get in. Depending on the outcome of their game and other matchups on Friday, the Cougars could finish as high as seventh or as low as 10th.
Friday’s game will be a battle between the top top rushers in the division, pitting Middletown’s Jose Lopez (1,165 yards, 13 TDs) against Palmyra’s Caleb Hawkins (1,137 yards, 14 TDs).
But neither team is completely dependent on the run. Palmyra QB Grant Haus is second in the Capital Division with 1,314 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air, while Middletown’s Scott Ash has thrown for 909 yards and 11 scores.
Susquehanna Township (6-3) at Bishop McDevitt (8-1): It feels like the Crusaders have flown under the radar a bit this season — if such a thing is possible for a team that has lost just once all year and is currently the top seed in the District 3 Class 4A playoffs. But McDevitt’s 50-43 shootout loss to Cedar Cliff in Week 5 cost the Crusaders first place in the Keystone Division, and the Colts have maintained that one-game edge as the regular season comes to a close.
McDevitt and Township are tied in second place, and it’s unlikely that either team will be able to catch the Colts, who face Red Land (1-8) this week. Both teams have also already secured berths in the district playoffs.
That said, Friday’s matchup will still be a good one. Township shook off an 0-2 start to post six straight wins before falling 30-0 to Cedar Cliff last week. The key matchup for the Indians will be how their pass defense fares against McDevitt’s Chase Diehl, the Mid-Penn Conference passing leader with 2,643 yards and 30 touchdowns. The Indians haven’t allowed more than 100 passing yards in a game since Week 4.
Manheim Township (8-1) at Hempfield (5-4): Subplots abound in this L-L League Section 1 matchup. First, Township and Hempfield are one of the league’s most bitter rivals, so any late-season matchup between the Blue Streaks and the Black Knights is going to be an intense affair.
But Township is part of a three-way tie for first place in the section race, along with Warwick and Wilson — both of whom will be heavy favorites in their respective Week 10 matchups with Penn Manor and McCaskey, who are a combined 2-16. So to maintain their portion of the section crown, Township needs a win here.
Then there are the playoff implications. Hempfield is currently No. 8 in the Class 6A power rankings, used to determined the eight-team playoff field. The Knights appear to have a comfortable lead over No. 9 Dallastown and are probably in the postseason no matter what, but a win might be enough for them to catch Chambersburg for the No. 7 seed — which would allow them to avoid a first-round visit to top-seeded Harrisburg.
The key matchup Friday will be how Hempfield’s defense holds up against Township quarterback Harrison Kirk, who has completed 123 of 210 passes for 1,766 yards and 16 TDs. His passing yardage ranks second in the L-L League. Hempfield has allowed 1,712 passing yards this season — the most in the league.