4th Down Magazine will continue to highlight impact players each week leading up to PIAA Championships in December. Below are our five Week 2 players to watch.
1. Jaheim Morris, RB, Cedar Cliff: So the last time the Colts’ star tailback didn’t run for more than 100 yards was in the first week of September against Harrisburg. The emergence of Morris behind his OL the second half of this season has added another dimension to an already potent offense. Morris has more than 1,600 yards, 21 touchdowns and is averaging 7.6 yards per carry. In eight straight games he’s rushed for 130 or more yards with three 200-plus yard games in a row.
2. Richie Sykes, RB-DB, Middletown: How valuable has this transfer been to the Blue Raiders? His versatility on both sides of the football has added so much depth and strength to this team … not that the Blue Raiders were lacking for talent, mind you. Sykes is approaching 1,000 yards rushing to join mate Jose Lopez in the 1,000-yard club. He catches the ball out of the backfield and has a unique ability to rip off a big play with only a glimmer of daylight. And the intensity and physical play he displays on defense might be his most impressive football asset in my book.
3. Naeem Cross, RB-LB, Milton Hershey: He has the natural ability to do a little bit of everything on offense – run the ball, play quarterback or move outside and play receiver. But with his size — 5-foot-11, 190 pounds — he’s best served pounding the rock in between the tackles and making defensive players get sick of running into a brick wall that’s not easy to get to the ground. Cross has more than 1,000 total yards this season with 14 touchdowns. And he’s approaching 1,000 yards as a running back this season and is already over 2,000 career yards. He gives the Spartans' offense that stability it needs inside so they can pick and choose when to attack on the edge.
4. Chase Diehl, QB, Bishop McDevitt: Remember this guy, central Pennsylvania high school football fans? It’s been so long since the Crusaders faced an opponent capable of providing even a little opposition, and Diehl has quietly been doing what he does – rolling up huge passing numbers in limited minutes because the game is a blowout. In 10 games, he’s thrown for 2,850 yards and 33 touchdowns on only 139 completions. That’s nearly 21 yards per completion, folks. And he’s completing a staggering 71 percent of his passes. Most importantly, he’s taking care of the ball and has only three picks as a veteran who knows better. Yes, they have receivers that get open, but delivering the rock still matters more.
5. Harrisburg Cougars Secondary: For a brief second I considering picking one of these guys to highlight. Then I came to my senses and realized the sum of their parts is about 100 times better than any one single player. Most teams, by the way, would love to have any one of these guys roaming around. Rynell Gantt Jr., Donte Kent and Elijah Scott are the three who have done the most damage. The Cougars rotate about 5-6 guys in and out as the last line of defense, but Gantt, Kent and Scott are the hammers. This trio has combined for 16 interceptions as part of a defense that has swiped 24 passes in 11 games. Gantt, Kent and Scott also have 20 pass break-ups in 2018. So that’s 16 interceptions and 20 pass break-ups. Those are ball hawks that make any throw downfield against them dangerous.