NO. 3 UPPER DAUPHIN (9-1) at NO. 2 DELONE CATHOLIC (9-1)
District 3 Class 2A semifinal, 7 p.m. Friday, John Flaherty Stadium, McSherrystown
ABOUT THE TROJANS: How does a program go from 4-6 to 9-1 in one season? Well, you trust your second-year head coach and install an innovative offense that accentuates your skill position players. The glue is an athletic junior quarterback named Macklin Ayers, who can trigger the Pistol-T offense with precision by land or air. Ayers has accounted for 1,820 yards (875 pass) and combined for 24 touchdowns, including 15 on the ground. It’s a scary proposition for any defense when the opposing QB is averaging 7.5 yards per carry. And that’s only half the battle. UD deploys a number of hard-charging runners in Jake Ramberger, Mason Wiest and Donny Gelnett. That interchangeable trio can spread teams thin. Ramberger is over 1,000 yards and has 16 TDs. Wiest and Gelnett are well above 500 stripes. Only rival Halifax managed to decipher the code during an impressive run through the packed Tri-Valley League. Defensively, DT Brennen McCallister and LB Darien Wiest (78 tackles) are game changers. McCallister owns 16 TFLs. Both will need to be razor sharp against the downhill Squires.
ABOUT THE SQUIRES: Pay no attention to that week 9 victory by York Catholic. Yes, the Irish claimed a dominant 35-7 victory over their rivals, but if Upper Dauphin is banking on a similar margin, the Trojans will be taking their final bus ride. The Squires are top-to-bottom solid, worthy of a No. 2 seed and hellbent on playing their brand of football. That’s means pounding the rock behind Logan Brown, Tyler Monto and a couple more weapons that have contributed to 298 rushing yards per game. That’s a mighty total, no doubt slightly elevated by its 559-yard haul vs. No. 4 Steel-High earlier in the season. Brown and Monto have shared 17 scores, and QB Evan Brady can burn defenses, as well. He’s holding at a 16-to-7 touchdown to interception margin over 10 weeks. Even more impressive is the work by DE Marquis Suite, LB Monto and the rest of the Squires’ defense. Opponents have managed just 9.2 points per game, with Suite dug in for 41 stops and Monto 59.
DISTRICT 3 HISTORY: You bet the Trojans are thrilled to earn a spot. Upper Dauphin is making its first District 3 appearance since 2013, the last time it finished at or above .500. It’s only victory in seven games came against York Catholic (26-14) in 2009. … Delone Catholic is 23-12 all-time in District 3 action and won the last of its eight titles in 2012 (Class 1A) with a 28-13 clip over Steel-High.
KEY STAT: 1,585. All-purpose yards for Delone Catholic senior Logan Brown. He’s DC’s top rusher, receiver, return man and has collected two of Delone Catholic’s 12 interceptions. He may even lead the Squires band at halftime.
THE PICK: It’s certainly one of the most intriguing games on the central Pa. docket. Delone proved its mettle in a better-than-advertised YAIAA Division III. The same can be said for Upper Dauphin in the bulging TVL. Upper Dauphin might be a bigger mystery here while toiling in its first postseason game in several years, but nothing seems to deter the Trojans these days. Who knows, Smeltz & Co. might really like the new neighborhood.