HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: District 3 Class 5A Quarterfinal Previews
There’s a theme to the quarterfinal round of the District 3 Class 5A playoffs.
That theme is: rematches.
Two of the four games on tap for Friday feature teams looking to avenge losses to their opponent in the regular season. The Lancaster-Lebanon League figures prominently in that storyline as well.
In one game, top-seeded Cocalico faces Governor Mifflin, which hasn’t been defeated its Week 3 loss to the Eagles.
In the second matchup, defending 5A champ Manheim Central will look to avenge its 37-7 Week 3 loss to Warwick.
Here’s a look at those games, plus the other two showdowns on Friday’s 5A docket:
Governor Mifflin (8-3) at Cocalico (8-2)
The top-seeded Eagles were idle last week after earning a bye through the first round. They watched as Governor Mifflin pummeled Northern York to set up a rematch in the quarterfinals. Cocalico defeated Mifflin 26-14 back in Week 3 of the regular season. Cocalico’s only losses were a 56-12 defeat to eventual Section 1 champ Manheim Township on Sept. 20 and a crazy 46-43 setback against Manheim Central a week later. The latter loss wound up costing the Eagles the L-L League Section 2 title, but they still managed to grab the No. 1 seed in the 5A bracket, while the Barons finished fourth.
The Eagle offense ranked fifth in the L-L League, averaging 376 yards per game. The Veer attack centers around senior QB Noah Palm, who finished the regular season with 1,075 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns on 125 carries. He also completed 40 of 61 pass attempts for 855 yards and eight scores, and added a pair of defensive touchdowns from his spot in the Cocalico secondary.
Mifflin won the Berks League Section 1 title, and has won eight straight since its Week 3 loss to Cocalico. The Mustangs finished fourth among Berks teams in total offense (354 yards per game), but were the runaway leaders in rushing (295 yards per game). Senior running back Nick Singleton led the league in rushing, with 1,669 yards on 167 carries. His 31 touchdowns also led the league.
In the first matchup with Cocalico, Singleton rushed for 105 yards and two scores on 22 carries.
Warwick (9-2) at Manheim Central (9-2)
When we last saw the fourth-seeded Barons, they were licking their wounds after falling 37-7 to Warwick in the FOX43 High School Frenzy Game of the Week in Week 3. A 49-14 loss to Wilson one week later in a Section 1-2 crossover game raised legitimate questions about whether Manheim Central was going anywhere this season.
But the Barons righted their ship in a big way after that, and enter Friday’s rematch with Warwick riding a seven-game winning streak. A three-point shootout win over top-seeded Cocalico in Week 6 ultimately led to a 26th Section 2 title for Central, which stomped Waynesboro 48-0 in last week’s playoff opener.
Quarterback Evan Simon has thrown for 2,411 yards and 23 touchdowns and leads Central with 282 yards and 14 scores on the ground. His top target, wideout Colby Wagner, is second in the L-L League in receptions (68), first in yardage (1,361) and second in touchdowns (12).
Powered in part by its blowout win over Central in Week 3, Warwick roared to a 6-0 start before hitting a mid-season slump, falling to Manheim Township (28-7) and Wilson (14-7) in consecutive weeks. Those losses dropped the Warriors into third place in Section 1, which is where they finished the season. But Warwick has won three in a row since then, including a 34-6 blowout of Mechanicsburg in last week’s quarterfinals.
Warwick QB Joey McCracken has completed 136 of 214 passes for 2,338 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. He’s only been picked off twice. McCracken’s top targets, Conor Adams and Caleb Smitz, have a combined 90 catches for 1,613 yards and 19 scores. RB Colton Miller (181-934, 23 TDs) is closing in on the 1,000-yard plateau for the Warriors.
New Oxford (7-4) at Cedar Cliff (8-2)
Cedar Cliff, the No. 2 seed in the bracket, was off last week after earning a first-round bye. The Colts were no doubt watching intently as New Oxford defeated Northeastern 41-14 in the quarterfinals to avenge a loss to the Bobcats one week earlier.
The Colts won the Mid-Penn Keystone Division title in the regular season, outlasting district playoff qualifiers Bishop McDevitt, Susquehanna Township, and Mechanicsburg. After starting the season 1-2 with back-to-back losses to Cocalico and Harrisburg, Cedar Cliff won seven straight games to close out the regular season. Paced by Mid-Penn rushing leader Jaheim Morris (281-1,859, 21 TDs) and quarterback Gannon McMeans (88-175-5, 1,103 yards, 11 TDs), the Colts boasted one of the conference’s top offenses, averaging 322.7 yards and 28.4 points per game.
New Oxford fell 38-21 to Northeastern in Week 10, but rebounded to win the rematch in a blowout. The Colonials got a strong performance from quarterback Brayden Long and a dominating effort from their defense to turn the tables on the Bobcats. Long accounted for five touchdowns, throwing for three and running for two, while the defense limited Manny Capo, the top rusher in York-Adams, to 93 yards on 19 carries.
Long led all York-Adams passers this season, completing 155 of 252 attempts for 2,442 yards and 28 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. His top target, Abdul Janneh, also led the league with 54 catches for 1,029 yards and 13 scores.
Exeter Township (8-3) at Shippensburg (11-0)
The third-seeded Greyhounds had their hands full against Solanco in last week’s quarterfinals, but eventually held on for a 42-35 triumph. Solanco had the ball inside the Shippensburg 10-yard line in the game’s closing seconds, and spiked the ball in an attempt to stop the clock. Unfortunately, the spike came on fourth down, ending the Golden Mules’ upset bid in heartbreaking fashion.
Shippensburg’s Alex Sharrow torched Solanco for 249 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries. Two of his TD runs were from 80 and 90 yards.
Sharrow is one of two 1,000-yard rushers in the Greyhound backfield. He leads the team with 1,253 yards and 15 touchdowns on 111 carries. Quarterback Jay Loy has 1,187 yards and 19 scores on 194 attempts. Loy has also completed 54 of 101 passes for 1,025 yards and 15 TDs.
Exeter advanced to the quarterfinals with a 42-14 rout of York-Adams Division I runner-up York High in the first round, taking advantage of five Bearcat turnovers and racking up more than 400 yards of offense. Jeremiah Nixon rushed for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11 carries for the Eagles, while Gavin McCusker threw for 188 yards and two scores on 6-for-17 passing.
McCusker is the top passer in Berks County, with 1,826 yards and 24 touchdowns on 100-of-179 passing. He’s been picked off four times. His top target, Alex Javier, is second among Berks receivers with 39 catches for 835 yards and 12 scores.
The Eagles, who finished second to Governor Mifflin in the Berks League Section 1 race, have won six of their last seven games. Their three losses were to Mifflin, Spring-Ford, and Berks Catholic.