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.