From the first day of heat acclimatization practice on Aug. 31, until the last Lancaster-Lebanon League football team is standing later this fall, we’ll bring you three fun L-L League pigskin facts on a daily basis to keep you updated about what’s going on around the league …
1. Hempfield and rookie skipper George Eager are definitely feeling better about things. First and foremost, because the Black Knights bounced back from a sucker-punch 41-34 OT loss at Exeter in Week 1 to topple backyard rival Penn Manor 40-7 in the first “Battle of 462” trophy game last Friday. Winning definitely cures all ills. Second, because Hempfield got some good news when QB Cam Harbaugh, who exited the Penn Manor game with a lower-body injury, was cleared to start this week at McCaskey. Harbaugh, the Knights’ first-year signal-caller, has been steady: He’s a cool 29 for 39 (75 percent) for 275 yards with a TD toss and no picks, plus 39 ground yards and a TD keeper. Stephen Katch, who has piled up 72 rushing yards and a TD keeper in relief of Harbaugh, will also likely see some time behind center against McCaskey so everyone is fresh and healthy moving forward for Hempfield. The Red Tornado, out to snap a 19-game losing streak, must slow down the Knights’ multi-purpose offense, which is averaging 340 yards and 39 points in two games. The quarterbacks aren’t the only weapons; RB Tanner Hess (43 carries for 272 yards, 5 TD) and WR Jadin Jimenez (league-leading 14 catches for 161 yards) are also doing damage. McCaskey’s defense, yielding 39 points and 386 yards a game, needs to rise to the occasion vs. Hempfield.
2. One of the two teams in the league with three 100-yard rushers through the first two games this season: Donegal, which has its Wing-T attack cranking in midseason form already. Garrett Blake (219 yards, 3 TD), Ian Brown (180 yards, 1 TD) and Mason Ober (123 yards, 3 TD) have shared the ball splendidly along with QB Trent Weaver for the Indians, who are 2-0 after amassing 557 ground yards and 338 yards a game in victories against Annville-Cleona and Lancaster Catholic — both longtime league foes. So this has been a heck of a statement-making start for coach Chad Risberg and his crew, who will go for a 3-0 getaway Friday at Garden Spot, which is looking to end a 26-game losing streak. Donegal hasn’t been 3-0 in more than a decade. The Spartans have given up 344 rushing yards, and their priority Friday is pretty simple: Bottle up the Blake-Brown-Ober trio, and don’t let the Indians’ vet O-line get in a hole-opening rhythm. Or else. … FYI: The other L-L League team with three 100-yard rushers so far is Solanco: RB Zach Turpen (159 yards, 2 TD), QB Mason St. Clair (113 yards, 3 TD) and FB Robert Castagna (102 yards).
3. While Section 4 co-leaders Columbia and Octorara will be duking it out up on the hill to see who remains in first place, Northern Lebanon will be at Annville-Cleona and Pequea Valley will travel to Elco, which shares first place with Columbia and Octorara. … The NL/A-C tilt features a pair of 0-2 squads, so someone is going to get healthy quick with a W in that backyard scrap. The Little Dutchmen’s bugaboo: Defense. A-C is yielding 443 yards a game, and that’s last in the league. The Dutchmen have surrendered 790 rushing yards, and that’s the most ground stripes against in the league. NL hasn’t found its offensive groove just yet; the Vikings are averaging only 122 yards a game, least in the league, and they’ve mustered just two touchdowns in eight quarters. NL has gone with a pair of quarterbacks so far, with Nate Shirk and Grady Stichler both taking snaps. … Meanwhile, Pequea Valley — which has played two spirited games despite a 0-2 getaway — heads to Elco, where the Raiders are humming right along at 2-0 with the fourth-ranked defense in the league, allowing just 198 yards a game. The Braves’ losing skid sits at 22 games in a row; PV’s last victory, interestingly, was against Elco, a 28-27 win on Nov. 3, 2017. Since that setback, the Raiders are 17-7 with a pair of D3-4A playoff trips. Elco is angling for its first 3-0 start since 2009, when the Raiders opened up 5-0 on the way to the D3 playoffs. Two backs to keep an eye on in this tussle: PV RB Tony Lazar (268 yards, 1 TD) and Elco’s Jake Williams (252 yards, 3 TD, 13.3 yards per carry) are 1-2 in Section 4 in rushing.
PICKS: A decent start in the pick category, with some tasty Week 3 matchups on the menu. My selections …
LAST WEEK: 10-2
Manheim Township over Cedar Crest
Hempfield over McCaskey
Wilson over Penn Manor
Cocalico over Solanco
Elizabethtown over Conestoga Valley
Warwick over Manheim Central
Ephrata over Lebanon
Donegal over Garden Spot
Lampeter-Strasburg over Lancaster Catholic
Annville-Cleona over Northern Lebanon
Octorara over Columbia
Elco over Pequea Valley