High School Football: Two District 3 championships and three state playoff games on tap this week
While the FOX43 Frenzy Five has hung up its cleats for the season, the postseason continues for several Central Pennsylvania football programs, so we’ll continue to post scouting reports as long as any of them are still dancing.
On tap this week are a pair of District 3 championship games and three state playoff quarterfinal matchups.
Three of the games are slated for Friday, while two others will be played on Saturday.
Here’s a look at each matchup:
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 5A CHAMPIONSHIP
Manheim Central (12-0) vs. Cocalico (10-2)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Manheim Township HS
Manheim Central, the defending District 3 champion, is facing its Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 2 arch-rival in the district playoffs for the eighth time overall and the second time in the title game. The Barons have yet to lose any of those playoff matchups with Cocalico, and defeated the Eagles 21-20 in the semifinals last year on the way to their district-record 17th championship.
This will be the 21st time these teams have met since Cocalico joined Section 2 of the L-L League in 2004. While the Eagles’ 4-16 record over that span does not inspire a lot of confidence in their ability to spring an upset Friday night, it should be noted that they’ve come agonizingly close to beating the Barons on numerous occasions — including last year’s classic clash in the district semis.
In their regular-season meeting this year, Central spotted Cocalico an early 10-0 lead before rallying to earn a 41-23 decision in Denver. Tyler Flick rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries, while QB Evan Simon threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for another to help the Barons pull away.
QB Noah Palm threw for 118 yards and a touchdown and added 82 yards and another score on the ground for the Eagles.
Cocalico is making its ninth appearance in the district championship game. The Eagles got here by defeating Solanco (36-0) and York High (61-35) in the playoffs. In last week’s victory over York, fullback Garrett Longenecker racked up 232 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while Palm racked up 118 yards and four TDs on just eight rushing attempts (he also hit Austin Landers with a 34-yard TD pass). Cocalico outgained York 552-475 in total yards, blowing a close game wide open with 21 straight points in the third quarter.
Central, meanwhile, defeated Governor Mifflin (51-14) and Cedar Cliff (42-20) in the playoffs to book its record 22nd appearance in the district title game. In their semifinal victory over the Colts, the Barons pulled away with 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to turn a close game into a rout. Simon threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for two scores to lead the Central offense, which outgained Cedar Cliff 373-285 in total yards.
Simon has completed 97 of 180 passes for 1,946 yards and 21 touchdowns and has rushed for 497 yards and 11 TDs for the Barons. Flick has 1,535 yards and 29 touchdowns to lead the Central ground attack.
Palm is the Eagles’ leading rusher (1,225 yards and 26 TDs), while Longenecker, with 1,184 yards and nine scores, is right behind him. Palm has also completed 30 of 64 pass attempts, for 736 yards and 12 TDs.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP
Bishop McDevitt (11-1) vs. Berks Catholic (10-2)
Friday, 1 p.m. at Manheim Township HS
This is a rematch of last year’s championship game, which Berks Catholic won 45-24. The Saints are going for their fourth straight district title; they’ve captured the last two Class 4A crowns, and won a Class 2A title in 2015, before the district expanded to six classifications.
Bishop McDevitt, meanwhile, is chasing its 14th district championship. The Crusaders’ last title came in 2015, when they were competing in Class 3A.
Berks Catholic, the No. 2 seed in this year’s bracket, rolled over Lampeter-Strasburg (35-14) and Milton Hershey (49-21) to reach its fourth straight title game. The Berks League Section 2 champions have won seven in a row coming into Friday’s final. Their only losses this season were to Central Dauphin (7-0) in Week 2, and Malvern Prep (42-32) in Week 5. The Saints have a powerful rushing tandem in Abdul MacFoy (949 yards, 18 TDs) and Brandon George (819 yards, 14 TDs) and a solid quarterback in Terrance Derr (1,080 passing yards, 15 TDs). BC averages 344 yards per game, while its defense yields 197 yards per game.
That defense will be tested by McDevitt, which arguably has the best offense of any District 3 team still standing. The top-seeded Crusaders average 375 yards per game, the bulk of those yards coming through the air. QB Chase Diehl has completed 149 of 213 passes for 3,027 yards and 37 touchdowns, with the bulk of those targets going to wideout Nazir Burnett (64-1,410, 22 TDs). CJ Reyes-Diggs handles the lion’s share of the rushing duties, with 1,327 yards and 13 touchdowns on 118 attempts.
McDevitt hammered West Perry (41-14) and Conrad Weiser (40-16) on its way to the title game. The Crusaders have won seven straight since suffering their only loss of the season, a 50-43 shootout setback against Cedar Cliff.
PIAA CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
Middletown (11-1) vs. Conwell-Egan (13-0)
Friday, 7 p.m. at Milton Hershey HS
Middletown begins its quest for a third straight state championship game appearance with a stiff test against the newly crowned District 12 champions. Conwell-Egan opened the state playoffs with a 28-14 victory over District 11 champ North Schuylkill last week. The Eagles hammered New Hope-Solebury 41-13 in a sub-regional clash the week before.
Conwell-Egan, which plays in the Philadelphia Catholic League, relies primarily on its ground game. Senior Patrick Garwo does most of the heavy lifting; he’s rushed for 2,024 yards on 252 carries and has 30 touchdowns. QB Alex Goldsby (591 yards, 13 TDs) is also a capable rusher, as is Terome Mitchell (501 yards, seven TDs). Mitchell is also the Eagles’ leading receiver, with 14 catches for 355 yards and six scores.
Middletown counters with the spectacular 1-2 punch of running backs Jose Lopez (1,739 yards, 23 TDs) and Richie Sykes (1,144 yards, 14 TDs). Quarterback Scott Ash has completed 69 of 127 passes for 1,237 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Blue Raiders pounded Bermudian Springs (42-20) and Wyomissing (41-6) on their way to their third straight District 3 championship. In last week’s victory over Bermudian Springs, Lopez rushed for 210 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries.
PIAA CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS
York Catholic (12-0) vs. Southern Columbia (13-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m. at Shamokin HS
All the Fighting Irish have to do to advance to the state semifinals is knock off one of Pennsylvania’s most storied football dynasties. No problem, right?
Southern Columbia captured its fifth District 4 Class 2A title (and the 26th district crown in program history) with a 39-14 victory over Mount Carmel last week. Now the Tigers are embarking on their quest for a ninth PIAA championship. Southern Columbia won the state Class 2A championship last season with a 16-0 record, so their winning streak stands at 29 games. The last time the Tigers lost a game was in the 2016 state championship. They’ve won seven state titles in the last eight years.
This year, the Tigers boast one of the state’s most prolific offenses, averaging 455 yards and 54 points per game. Southern Columbia has a 1,500-yard rusher in Gaige Garcia (157-1,552, 30 TDs), a 1,200-yard passer in QB Stone Hollenbach (65-103-3, 1,253 yards, 20 TDs), and a 1,000-yard receiver in Julian Fleming (63-1,300, 18 TDs). The Tigers have scored at least 39 points in every game. Meanwhile, the Tiger defense allows just 138 yards and 9.1 points per game and has forced 16 turnovers.
York Catholic was idle last week after defeating Delone Catholic 28-21 in overtime to capture the District 3 championship. It was the third district title in program history for the Irish. York Catholic’s formula for success this season is to rely on a strong defense and an opportunistic offense. The Irish defense led the York-Adams league in points allowed (9.4 per game) and yards allowed (189 per game), but their offense ranked around the middle of the pack in both categories (30.7 points and 282 yards per game).
York Catholic’s ground attack was paced by Cole Witman, who rushed for 710 yards and 15 touchdowns despite missing a handful of games early in the season. Witman, whose father Jon was a standout at Penn State and played in the NFL, rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns in Catholic’s win over Delone.
PIAA CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS
Halifax (11-1) vs. Lackawanna Trail (12-1)
Saturday, 7 p.m. at Northern Lehigh HS
The most successful season in program history continues for Halifax, which followed up its first-ever district championship with its first-ever state playoff victory when the Wildcats clipped Muncy 19-18 last week. Now they continue to the state quarterfinals, where they will take on surging Lackawanna Trail, which dusted Halifax’s TVL neighbor Tri-Valley 41-6 in last week’s state opener.
The Lions racked up 444 rushing yards against Tri-Valley, cruising to a 28-0 lead at halftime in a game that was never really close. Lackawanna Trail has won six straight games since falling 28-21 to Old Forge in the regular season, and the Lions avenged that defeat by beating the Devils 29-12 in their playoff opener one month later. Lackawanna Trail relies almost entirely on its rushing attack; the Lions have attempted just 87 passes all season.
The team’s leading rusher is Ray Melnikoff, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard milestone last week. His season total stands at 1,052 yards on 126 attempts, with 10 touchdowns. Melnikoff is also tied for the team lead in catches, with 11 grabs for 149 yards and one score. Cody Moyle (768 yards, 16 TDs) and Jeffrey Resto (699 yards, eight TDs) are also key cogs in the Lion ground attack.
Halifax does most of its damage through the air. QB London Johnson has completed 64 of 107 passes for 1,077 yards and 11 touchdowns. When the Wildcats do run it, the trio of Jay Zerby (423 yards, nine TDs), Evan Billow (409 yards, five TDs) and Tyler Berzowski (323 yards, three TDs) divvy up the carries.
The Wildcats have won three in a row since dropping their only decision of the season, a 16-14 setback against Williams Valley, in Week 9. They defeated Tri-Valley 28-12 when they hosted the Bulldogs in Week 6.