High School Football: Seven district and state playoff games on tap Friday night; here’s a preview
The District 3 playoffs continue Friday night with six playoff matchups, including the Class 6A and Class 3A championship games and semifinal clashes in Class 5A and 4A.
York Catholic, the newly crowned Class 2A champ, is idle this week, as the Fighting Irish prepare for the upcoming state playoffs.
And speaking of States, the opening round of the Class 1A bracket kicks off Friday night, with District 3 champ Halifax tangling with District 4 titlist Muncy.
Here’s a look at Friday night’s matchups.
CLASS 6A CHAMPIONSHIP
Harrisburg (11-1) vs. Central Dauphin (9-3)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Cedar Cliff HS West Shore Stadium
Harrisburg earned its trip to the title game with a 36-12 drubbing of Wilson, while Central Dauphin punched its ticket by blanking Manheim Township 27-0, avenging a 22-12 loss to the Blue Streaks from Week 3.
It will be the second meeting of the season for the Cougars and the Rams. Harrisburg defeated CD 20-5 in Week 6, a victory that helped propel the Cougars to the Mid-Penn Commonwealth championship. Harrisburg has won 11 straight games since falling to Coatesville in Week 1. Against Wilson, QB Kane Everson threw two touchdown passes to Rynell Gantt and ran for one himself, while RB Jahmir Plant racked up 152 yards and a TD on the ground to help carry the Cougars. Everson has 2,024 passing yards and 28 touchdowns through the air, while Plant has 803 yards and nine scores on the ground.
Central Dauphin handed Manheim Township its first shutout loss since 2013 in its semifinal rematch, limiting the Blue Streaks to 139 total yards, by far their lowest output of the season, and forcing two turnovers. Adam Burkhart took care of the offense for the Rams, rushing for three touchdowns and 99 yards on 20 carries. Burkhart has 1,259 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns this season for CD, while QB Noah Hoffman has completed 88 of 138 passes for 1,154 yards and eight scores.
In their first meeting, Harrisburg spotted CD an early 5-0 lead on a safety and a field goal. But the Cougars pounced in the third quarter, scoring on a TD run and a scoring strike from Everson and a pick-six interception return to rack up 20 unanswered points.
Harrisburg is seeking its second district title in three years and its third overall. The Cougars have a 16-14 all-time record in the postseason. CD is 26-17 in the playoffs and is seeking its fourth title.
CLASS 5A SEMIFINALS
Cedar Cliff (10-2) at Manheim Central (11-0)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Manheim’s Rettew Stadium
The Colts fought their way to the semifinals by holding off Warwick 33-23, while Manheim Central advanced with a 51-14 rout of Governor Mifflin, setting up one what is arguably the week’s most intriguing matchup.
Manheim Central comes in with a perfect record and a No. 2 state ranking in Class 5A by Pennlive. The Barons, who won their record 17th district title last season, are the No. 1 seed in this year’s bracket. They average 383 yards and 42 points per game on offense, while their defense yields 205 yards and 9.7 points per game. In last week’s rout of Mifflin, the Barons got a great game from QB Evan Simon, who threw for 168 yards and two touchdowns and added 134 yards and two scores on the ground. Simon, a junior, has thrown for 1,707 yards and 18 TDs on 90-of-161 passing this season, and has 470 yards and nine scores on the ground. RB Tyler Flick leads the ground game with 1,507 yards and 29 TDs on 212 carries.
Cedar Cliff has won nine in a row after a 1-2 start. The Colts have one of the district’s most potent offenses, averaging just over 400 yards per game. QB Chris Dare eclipsed the 2,000-yard passing mark for the season with a 181-yard, two-touchdown performance against Warwick last week; his season total now stands at 2,052 yards (on 146-of-226 passing), with 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions. RB Jaheim Morris is another potent piece of the attack, with 1,811 yards and 22 touchdowns on 250 carries. WR Bobby Whalen is approaching the 1,000-yard milestone for the season; he’s got 918 yards and 12 scores on 57 catches.
It should be noted that while Cedar Cliff’s offense gets most of the attention, the Colts’ defense limited their last five regular season opponents to 20 total points, including two shutouts. And last week against Warwick, Cedar Cliff limited the Warriors to 181 total yards and 23 points — well below the average of 423 yards and 45 points per game they had coming in.
Cedar Cliff and Manheim Central share three common opponents: Cocalico, Warwick, and Governor Mifflin. The Colts went 2-1 in those games — beating Mifflin 30-0 in Week 1, falling 31-21 to Cocalico in Week 2, and defeating Warwick last week in the playoffs. Central beat Warwick (27-20) and Cocalico (41-23) in the regular season before blasting Mifflin last week.
York High (11-1) at Cocalico (9-2)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Cocalico High School
The Bearcats booked their first trip to a District 3 semifinal since 1988 by defeating Shippensburg 22-6. Cocalico advanced to the semis with a 36-0 rout of L-L League Section 2 neighbor Solanco.
York, which captured a share of the YAIAA Division I title during the regular season, has won five in a row since suffering their only loss, a 21-20 setback to Red Lion, on Oct. 5. Cocalico is also on a five-game winning streak after falling to Manheim Township (36-21) and Manheim Central (41-23) in back-to-back weeks at the regular season’s midpoint.
The Bearcats have the district’s most prolific offense, averaging 485 yards and 47 points per game. They’ve scored at least 30 points in nine of their 12 games. RB Dayjure Stewart is closing in on 3,000 rushing yards for the season; he’s at 2,927 yards and 39 touchdowns on 253 carries. Tobee Stokes (618 yards, nine TDs) and Rob Rideout (1,241 total yards, 19 total TDs) are dangerous weapons as well, as is QB Seth Bernstein (50-of-89, 1,294 yards, 17 TDs). York is also strong on defense, limiting opponents to just 230 yards and 16 points per game. Teams are only averaging 133 yards per game on the ground against the Bearcats.
Cocalico finished second to Manheim Central in the L-L League Section 2 race. The Eagles do almost all of their damage on the ground, where they average 291 yards per game. Quarterback Noah Palm is the team’s top rusher, with 1,109 yards and 22 touchdowns, while fullback Garrett Longenecker (952 yards, eight TDs) is closing in on the 1,000-yard plateau as well. Palm isn’t called on to pass much, but he has completed 29 of 62 passes for 702 yards and 11 scores. The Eagle defense gives up an average of 269 yards per game.
CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS
Conrad Weiser (9-2) at Bishop McDevitt (10-1)
Friday, 7 p.m. at McDevitt’s Rocco Ortenzio Stadium
The Scouts fought their way to the semifinals with a 34-28 double-overtime victory over Gettysburg, while McDevitt cruised past West Perry, 49-14, in its quarterfinal matchup.
The Crusaders are chasing their 14th overall district title, which is second only to Manheim Central’s 17 crowns in the District 3 record book. Should they win this week, they would earn their 17th appearance in the title game, which is also second only to the Barons. McDevitt finished second to Cedar Cliff in the Mid-Penn Keystone Division race in the regular season; the Colts handed McDevitt its only loss, a 50-43 decision back on Sept. 21. The Crusaders have won six straight since then, by an average margin of 32 points. McDevitt averages 444 yards per game on offense. QB Chase Diehl is the district’s most prolific passer, with 3,027 yards and 37 touchdowns on 149 of 213 passing. His top target is Nazir Burnett, who has 1,410 yards and 22 TDs on 64 receptions. CJ Reyes-Diggs leads the ground game, with 1,327 yards and 13 scores.
Conrad Weiser held off Governor Mifflin to capture the Berks League Section 1 championship in the regular season. The Scouts have won four in a row since falling 19-6 to Susquehanna Township; their other regular season loss was a 21-13 setback to Cocalico in Week 1. Weiser averages 286 yards per game on offense. QB Alex MacKenzie has thrown for 963 yards and seven touchdowns, and is the team’s top rusher with 733 yards and 14 scores. Weiser’s defense allows 230 yards per game, but it will face arguably its stiffest test this week.
McDevitt and Weiser both played Susquehanna Township this season. The Crusaders clobbered the Indians 42-14 in Week 9.
Milton Hershey (10-1) at Berks Catholic (9-2)
Friday, 7 p.m. at BC’s Forino Athletic Complex
The Trojans held off Susquehanna Township 14-6 to advance to the semifinal round, while the Saints marched into the semis with a 35-14 victory over Lampeter-Strasburg.
Milton Hershey finished second to Middletown in the Mid-Penn Capital race after dropping a 32-21 decision to the Blue Raiders on Oct. 4. That was the Trojans’ only loss of the season, and they’ve won four in a row since. The Trojan offense’s stats don’t leap off the page at you, but RB Chiago Anyanwu (1,110 yards, 12 TDs) is a potent weapon in the Milton Hershey ground game, as is two-way threat Naeem Cross (949 rush yards, 12 scores). Milton Hershey has one of the district’s top defenses, allowing just 204 yards per game.
Berks Catholic is seeking its third straight District 3 Class 4A title after capturing the Berks League Section 2 crown during the regular season. The Saints have won six in a row since falling 42-32 to Malvern Prep in Week 5. BC’s balanced attack averages 356 yards per game, with most of that coming on the ground. RBs Abdul MacFoy (869 yards, 17 TDs) and Brandon George (747 yards, 11 TDs) are the main cogs in the ground game, while QB Terrance Derr has kept defenses honest by throwing for 1,063 yards and 15 scores. Meanwhile, the Saint defense yields just 192 yards and 10 points per game.
CLASS 3A CHAMPIONSHIP
Middletown (10-1) vs. Bermudian Springs (9-3)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Cedar Crest High School’s Earl Boltz Stadium
Middletown, the two-time defending District 3 Class 3A champ, earned its third straight trip to the district finals with a 41-6 rout of Wyomissing, while Bermudian Springs upset previously unbeaten Lancaster Catholic 20-10 to earn its title shot.
In addition to winning back-to-back district titles, the Blue Raiders have also made two straight visits to the PIAA Class 3A title game — though they’ve come home empty-handed both times. This year, Middletown is using the same formula that has brought them previous success — strong defense, a punishing ground game, and an opportunistic passing attack. The Raiders rely on RB Jose Lopez, who punished Wyomissing last week with a 209-yard, four-TD performance on the ground and added a 51-yard reception for a fifth TD. Lopez has 1,529 yards and 19 TDs on 190 carries this season, but he’s not the only 1,000-yard rusher in the Middletown backfield. Richie Sykes has racked up 1,070 yards and 14 scores on 102 attempts. Meanwhile, QB Scott Ash has completed 63 of 115 passes for 1,101 yards and 12 TDs to lead the air attack.
Bermudian Springs stunned Lancaster Catholic after finishing third in the YAIAA Division III race behind York Catholic and Delone Catholic, who battled in the Class 2A title game last week (York Catholic won). Since dropping two straight losses to York Catholic and Delone Catholic midway through the season, the Eagles have won five in a row. Bermudian Springs has pedestrian offensive numbers — the Eagles ranked in the middle of the pack in the York-Adams League with 288 yards per game — the defense is rock-solid, yielding just 205 yards and 12.3 points per game. Lancaster Catholic managed just 225 total yards against the Eagles last week, and turned the ball over twice.
York Catholic captured the District 3 title with a 28-21 overtime victory over York-Adams rival Delone Catholic. Now the Fighting Irish advance to the first round of the state playoffs, where they will face the District 4 champion in two weeks. York Catholic is idle this week.
The District 4 title will be determined Friday night, when perennial state powerhouse Southern Columbia (12-0) hosts legendary program Mount Carmel (10-2). The Tigers, who have won nine state championships and made a record 16 state-final appearances, torched Mount Carmel 41-7 in the regular season.
PIAA First Round
Halifax (10-1) vs. Muncy (9-3)
Friday, 7 p.m. at West Perry HS
Halifax captured their first-ever district title by winning Class A crown two weeks ago, beating Fairfield 37-6. The Wildcats’ first-round foe, Muncy, won the District 4 title with a 9-7 victory over Canton last Friday, avenging an 18-0 regular-season loss to the Warriors.
Playing in a steady downpour against Fairfield, Halifax got a stellar performance from QB London Johnson, who threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another. Johnson has completed 64 of 107 passes for 1,077 yards and 11 TDs and added 240 yards and five scores on the ground for the Wildcats. In addition to winning its first district crown, Halifax won a share of the Tri-Valley League title for the first time in program history in the regular season. The Wildcats’ only loss this season was a 16-14 setback against Williams Valley, with whom they split the title. They’ve won four in a row since then.
Muncy, which competes in the Northern Tier Small School Conference, had an up-and-down regular season. The Indians won their first five games, then lost three of their next four. They avenged two of those losses in the playoffs by defeating Sayre and Canton. The Indians have a two-man platoon at quarterback, as seniors Kolby Moyer and Coleman Good have combined for 1,819 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. Dylan Wilt leads Muncy with 898 yards and 11 touchdowns on 40 catches.
Friday’s winner will face either District 2 champ Lackawanna Trail (11-1) or District 11 champion Tri-Valley (9-3) in the state quarterfinals.