Adam Kulikowski

Adam Kulikowski

By Adam Kulikowski: 

Middletown running back Richie Sykes didn’t think he would receive a Division I offer to continue his football career.


Kane champs

By Michael Bullock

4th Down Magazine

HERSHEY — While the opportunities presented themselves and were waiting to be taken advantage of — and Calvin Everett’s club benefited several times — Harrisburg’s valiant Cougars couldn’t quite reel in the result they so desperately wanted.

So, for the second time in three years, silver was the metal they were taking home.

Kyle McCord threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes and ran for a third score as St. Joseph’s Prep pulled away to a 40-20 victory over Everett’s Cougars in the PIAA Class 6A football championship game Saturday night at frosty Hersheypark Stadium.


Kolbe Burrell added a first-half touchdown run — and 147 rushing yards — while Marques Mason tacked on a pair of 4-yard TD runs in the fourth quarter as the Hawks (13-0) turned a one-score game into a three-possession victory.

Saturday’s victory also earned Gabe Infante’s program its fourth big-school championship in six seasons.

For Harrisburg (13-2), which played in the 5A title game two Decembers ago, QB Kane Everson threw for 201 yards and one score. And when Everson hooked up with Donte Kent on a 25-yard TD with 7:38 left in the third quarter, the ‘Burg trailed 27-20.

Jahmir Plant added a 1-yard scoring run in the opening half before suffering an injury that limited his effectiveness when he returned after the break.

The Cougars actually owned a 7-0 lead just 3:02 in when Jai Burney swiped a McCord pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Burney had a remarkable outing, as the 5-7, 210-pound senior linebacker also recovered all three of Prep’s fumbles.

“We put in work all season just to get to this point, but we fell short,” Burney said.

“He’s a heck of a ballplayer,” Everett added, referring to Burney. “Jai’s a monster. He’s very, very small, but his heart is like 6-5 even though he’s only 5-6.”

Yet even though Burney had the ‘Burg up early, Prep responded by scoring on its next three possessions as the 6-3, 195-pound McCord (26-37-1-284) caught fire.

While McCord’s 13-yard strike to Johnny Freeman pulled the Hawks even, Burrell pushed Infante’s bunch in front to stay when he broke off a 59-yard scoring run. McCord added another 13-yard TD to Anthony Rightley just before the teams changed ends.

“Their offense is extremely dynamic,” said Everett of a Prep side that totaled 511 yards of offense. “I knew we were going to struggle. We had to pick our poison. Were we going to commit to try to stop the pass or continue to stop the run like we’ve been doing all year? We tried to do a little bit of both, but that’s a dynamic offense.”

After Plant bounced over from a yard out to make it 20-14, McCord sneaked over from the 1 to restore Prep’s lead to 13 (27-14). Yet the Cougars were threatening again until Rightley picked off Everson in the end zone for the first of his three interceptions.

Prep was moving the ball again in the third quarter, but Marvin Harrison Jr. fumbled at his own 43 after hauling in a McCord pass and Burney returned it 25 yards. Then, on fourth down, Everson hooked up with the elusive Kent for a 25-yard score that moved the ‘Burg within 27-20. Kent finished with six grabs for 111 yards.

When Burrell fumbled on Prep’s next possession — Andre White Jr. caused the bobble with one of his 11 tackles — Burney gobbled it up at the Hawks 47. Plant, however, gave the ball back to the Philly Catholic League entry at the Harrisburg 35.

“We had opportunities and that’s all we can ask,” Everett said. “It would be one thing if we came out on the field and they wiped us off the field.

“We had our opportunities.”

While Mason was busy pocketing scores on a pair of 4-yard runs, Harrisburg watched Rightley end two drives with picks and another possession was ended on downs.

Eventually, Harrisburg’s bid for a 14th consecutive victory and its first state football championship, would come to an end. Everett, however, wasn’t about to let his Cougars bounce away without lauding them for what they accomplished.

“It showed how much we played as a team and how much we are a family,” Burney stated. “We came together with four returning starters to where we are now.”

“I just wanted them to know that this game does not define them,” Everett added. “Of who they are or what they’re going to be or anything like that. By going through this, it’s just something that’s going to make them stronger in the future.”


Middletown trophy


By Michael Bullock

4th Down Magazine

HERSHEY — While there definitely were highlights tucked into a remarkably chilly 48-minute exercise, Middletown’s football-playing Blue Raiders found their latest taste of the PIAA’s Class 3A championship game just as unsavory as the first two.


Follow along with us as we provide live updates from all the action at Hersheypark Stadium where the Middletown Blue Raiders will battle the Aliquippa Quips for the PIAA Class 3A title.


Jose LopezJose Lopez

By Andy Shay: 



Jose Lopez, RB:On the verge of becoming the all-time leading rusher in program history, the junior needs only 63 yards to take over the No. 1 spot with 4,373 yards. Lopez has posted four consecutive 200-yard games in the postseason and currently has 2,221 rushing yards with 28 touchdowns on the year. There are more weapons than Lopez on this offense, but he powers the engine for sure.

Richie Sykes, DB:WPIAL champion Aliquippa is a very different team than your typical Quips squad. They are balanced offensively and lethal through the air. Sykes plays on both sides of the ball, doubling as a running back, but it’s his work in the secondary that will be critical in the state final. Sykes leads the Blue Raiders in interceptions with six and passes defended. His role on defense will be vital in this matchup. 

Cole Senior, DL:You have to get pressure on the quarterback and create negative plays to even think about slowing down a Quips offense that averages more than 40 points a game. Senior has 76 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss and eight sacks this season. He’s the ringleader up front.


Eli Kasanovich, QB:All the numbers are impressive, but what stands out is Kasanovich’s 66-percent completion percentage. He’s not a dual threat, really, he’s more of a pure gunslinger and has a big arm. He’s thrown for more than 3,330 yards with 40-plus touchdowns for an offense that has scored 40 or more points in 10 of 15 games.

Avante McKenzie, RB:This is the other half of the Quips offensive machine. He averages a staggering 8.1 yard per carry and has more than 1,500 rushing yards. McKenzie did not play in the semifinal victory last week because of a suspension, and it is up in the air whether he’s available for the title game. 

William Gipson, WR:This is your definition of a go-to receiver. Gipson has more than 60 catches and 1,700 receiving yards. He can work any area of the field and is wicked dangerous after the catch. He averages more than 27 yards per catch. That’s a staggering number.



Jahmir Plant, RB:Everyone focuses on quarterback Kane Everson and what he can do with his arm while extending plays with his legs. But the second half of the season, Plant has developed into a back capable of carrying the load and taking some of the pressure off Everson. He’s eclipsed 1,000 yards and against quality opponents is running with confidence to be a go-to back on any down and distance. His development has made this offense more difficult to defend.

Dionte Nichols, DE:The senior has become nearly unblockable off the edge this season. What makes Nichols more lethal is his motor doesn’t stop. His numbers reflect that with 21.5 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks this season. Combining for nearly 40 TFLs and sacks is unheard of. His first step has become more and more visible this season. And he’s solid against the run, registering 76 total tackles.

Andre White Jr., LB:Never hurts to have an anchor in the middle at linebacker. The Texas A&M recruit already had the talent to garner FBS attention, but this season he has become even better. He’s reading the game faster and reacting quickly to what he sees. And his tackling is superior. Leads the Cougars with 125 tackles, including 75 solo, and also has 12 tackles for a loss and three sacks.


Kyle McCord, QB:The FBS recruit has so many receiver options at his disposal, but his ability to share the ball consistently makes him extremely dangerous. McCord, who has an offer from Penn State, among others, has thrown for more than 2,300 yards and nearly 30 touchdowns. And he completes 66 percent of his passes.

Johnny Freeman, WR:The Hawks have three main targets, including Marvin Harrison Jr., the son of former Indianapolis Colts great Marvin Harrison. But the most lethal of the trio is Freeman. He leads the team in receptions and yards, and has nine touchdowns. Most importantly, he averages 16.6 yards per catch.


Picks and Predictions 2018 main 


PIAA Playoffs


Class 6A Championship

D3 Harrisburg vs. St. Joseph’s Prep

Andy Shay: St. Joseph’s Prep 30, Harrisburg 14: Even with eight new starters on defense the Hawks are heavy favorites in this match-up because of that defense. I think Harrisburg’s defense is just as good. It’s the depth of the weapons SJP has on offense that makes the difference down the stretch.

Andy Sandrik: St. Joseph’s Prep 30, Harrisburg 17: The Cougars like to claim that nobody believed in them this year, but I’ve literally picked them to win every single week. I’d be a fool, however, to say Harrisburg isn’t the underdog for this state final.

Jake Adams: St. Joseph’s Prep 31, Harrisburg 24: You’ll recognize a few names — Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. — sons of former NFL standouts. The Hawks, PIAA champs in 2013, ‘14 and ‘16, are loaded with talent. And that’s not even getting into 2,000-yard passer Kyle McCord, a sophomore with Penn State and Michigan offers. Can Harrisburg hang? Maybe.

Adam Kulikowski: St. Joseph’s Prep 35, Harrisburg 28: The Cougars are underdogs entering this one. That’s common knowledge. But you can bet Calvin Everett’s crew will use that as motivation. Key to me is Harrisburg’s front getting pressure on stud QB Kyle McCord--a sophomore with several top D1 offers. 


Class 3A Championship

D3 Middletown vs. Aliquippa

Andy Shay: Aliquippa 28, Middletown 14: I so badly want to pick the Blue Raiders to win one of these games. I’m worried about one key match-up, though. The Quips passing game is diverse and has a gunslinger pulling the trigger. And I think the only way to beat Middletown is to throw the ball. The Quips defense is no joke, either. They surrendered like four of five touchdowns during the regular season. If QB Scott Ash can stretch this defense the Blue Raiders have a better shot.

Andy Sandrik: Aliquippa 28, Middletown 14: The Quips, with their 4,000-yard rusher serving a suspension, made mistake after mistake and did everything in their power to lose last week. And they still won their semifinal by a 41-7 score. I want to believe in Middletown, but something about this Aliquippa squad gives me the chills.

Jake Adams: Aliquippa 35, Middletown 28: Aliquippa’s coach said after last week’s win Avante McKenzie could “possibly” play. But even without him, the Quips are loaded at RB; Xavier Harvey and M.J. Devonshire each had 100 yards last week after hardly touching the ball all year. This will be a battle of teams with multiple great backs, but the WPIAL unit has more in the tank at other positions. It looks like another heartbreaker for the Blue Raiders, for the third straight year.

Adam Kulikowski: Aliquippa 28, Middletown 27: You can bet the Blue Raiders will need their very best performance to top the Quips.  Aliquippa’s defense has yielded more than 100 yards rushing just twice all season while Jose Lopez has gashed opponents for more than 200 yards in his last four contests. Edge to me is in the Quip’s ability to sling it downfield.


4th Down Staff: 

This deep into the postseason, it's rare that a new face claims our Player of the Week. Usually it's the known studs that stay at the top of the totem pole.


Welcome to another season of High School Football Now with Eric Epler and Andy Shay. Each week throughout the season, we're taking an hour to talk all things football in the mid-state and beyond. This week we're joined in studio by Middletown's Cole Senior and Richie Sykes as we discuss what we learned in PIAA semifinals and look ahead to the championship match-ups. Eric and Andy also wrap up their battle for a Shepler Cup championship with their picks and predictions for each championship match-up!


State Football Rankings graphic

Class 6A
1. St. Joseph’s Prep (12) – 12-0 – 1
2. Harrisburg (3) – 13-1 – 3
3. Coatesville (1) – 14-1 – 2
4. Pine-Richland (7) – 11-3 – 4
5. State College (6) – 12-2 – 5
6. North Penn (1) – 13-1 – 6
7. Bethlehem Freedom (11) – 12-2 – 7
8. Garnet Valley (1) – 12-1 – 8
9. North Allegheny (7) – 10-1 – NR
10. Central Dauphin (3) – 9-4 – 9
Honorable mention: Delaware Valley (2) 9-4, Emmaus (11) 11-2, Downingtown West (1) 11-2, Easton Area (11) 8-4, Seneca Valley (7) 9-4, Manheim Twp. (3) 10-2.

Class 5A

1. Penn Hills (7) – 15-0 – 1
2. Manheim Central (3) – 14-0 – 2
3. Archbishop Wood (12) – 9-4 – 3
4. West Allegheny (7) -- 10-3 – 4
5. Gateway (7) – 12-1 – 6
6. Upper Dublin (1) – 12-2 – 5
7. Cocalico (3) – 10-3 – 7
8. Bayard Rustin (1) – 10-3 – 8
9. Penn Wood (1) -- 11-2 – 9
10. Peters Twp. (7) – 10-3 – 10
Honorable mention: Cedar Cliff (3) 10-3, Hollidaysburg (6) 9-5, Wallenpaupack (2) 10-3, Warwick (3) 9-3, York High (3) 11-2.

Class 4A
1. Imhotep Charter (12) – 11-2 – 1
2. Cathedral Prep (10) – 12-3 – 2
3. Valley View (2) – 13-1 – 6
4. Bishop McDevitt (3) – 12-2 – 3
5. Bethlehem Catholic (11) – 11-4 – 4
6. Berks Catholic (3) -- 10-3 – 5
7. South Fayette (7) -- 12-2 – 7
8. Thomas Jefferson (7) – 11-1 – 8
9. Pottsgrove (1) – 12-2 – 9
10. Clearfield (9) – 12-1 – 10
Honorable mention: Belle Vernon (7) 9-2, Blackhawk (7) 10-2, Dallas (2) 10-2, Milton Hershey (3) 10-2, Saucon Valley (11) 10-3.

Class 3A
1. Middletown (3) – 13-1 – 1
2. Aliquippa (7) – 13-1 – 2
3. Scranton Prep (2) – 13-2 – 3
4. Conwell-Egan (12) – 13-1 – 4
5. Sharon (10) – 10-4 – 5
6. Grove City (10) – 11-1 – 6
7. Bald Eagle Area (6) – 11-3 – 7
8. North Schuylkill (11) – 11-2 – 8
9. Derry (7) -- 11-2 – 9
10. Mercyhurst Prep (10) – 10-1 – 10
Honorable mention: Bermudian Springs (3) 9-4, Danville (4) 10-3, Montoursville (4) 11-3, North Catholic (7) 10-2, Wyoming Area (2) 11-1.

Class 2A
1. Southern Columbia (4) – 15-0 – 1
2. Wilmington (10) – 13-1 – 2
3. West Catholic (12) – 12-3 – 3
4. Steel Valley (7) – 12-2 – 4
5. Richland (6) -- 13-1 – 5
6. York Catholic (3) – 12-1 – 6
7. Ligonier Valley (6) – 12-1 – 7
8. South Side Area (7) – 10-4 – 8
9. Charleroi (7) – 10-2 – 9
10. Chestnut Ridge (5) – 10-3 – 10
Honorable mention: Burgettstown (7) 10-1, Freedom Area (7) 11-2, Mount Carmel (4) 10-3, Ridgway/Johnsonburg (9) 11-2, Shady Side Academy (7) 10-1, Delone Catholic (3) 10-2.

Class 1A

1. Farrell (10) – 14-0 – 1
2. Lackawanna Trail (2) – 14-1 – 3
3. Our Lady Sacred Heart (7) – 13-2 – 2
4. Jeannette (7) – 11-1 – 4
5. Clairton (7) – 9-2 – 5 
6. Juniata Valley (6) – 11-3 – 6
7. Halifax (3) – 11-2 – 7
8. Rochester (7) – 11-2 – 8
9. Shade (5) – 11-2 – 9
10. United (6) – 9-5 – 10
Honorable mention: Canton (4) 10-2, Coudersport (9) 8-4, Muncy (4) 9-4, Smethport (9) 11-1, Tri-Valley (11) 9-4.


Monday, 03 December 2018 20:41

Week 15 Game Balls

Jahmir Plant HGB

By 4th Down Staff: 


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