Coach: Calvin Everett
League/division: Mid-Penn Conference/Commonwealth Division
2020 record: 4-1, 1-0
Postseason: Did not qualify
Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD
Rushing: Att-Yards., Avg., TD
Receiving: Rec.-Yards, Avg., TD
KEY PLAYERS: Justin Cook, sr., WR-CB; Kyle Williams, jr., WR-DB; Tyrell Young, OL; Roy Irvin, sr., OL; Tyshawn Black, sr., OL-DL; Terrell Reynolds, jr., DE; Anthony Day, sr., MLB; Mahkai Hopkins, jr., RB-LB.
OUTLOOK: Teams in the Commonwealth have a tendency to just reload after shedding talent-laden senior classes, but there are no guarantees for Everett’s small-rostered squad. While the Cougars have several of the pieces already in place at WR, as well as running back with Mahkai Hopkins, they will also be breaking in a new quarterback against an unforgiving schedule. Look for Harrisburg to lean heavily on the aforementioned Young-Black-Irvin combo up front to give the skill players a chance to make plays and allow the young guns an opportunity to learn the trade under fire. If the Cougars can survive the week-in, week-out rigors of their schedule — once again, not a guarantee — they will be as hardened as any team for the district postseason.
3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Gauntlet of Death
Calvin Everett, in his 11th year at the helm for the Cougars, said he was feeling no butterflies on the eve of heat acclimation week, saying it’s just another day. But will those feelings change when Everett’s Harrisburg outfit begins with perhaps the most treacherous opening schedule in the state? The Cougars open their season with defending 6A state champion Pine-Richland. Following a Week 2 road scrap with Hazleton, a team that went 4-3 last year, Harrisburg will defend its home turf against a talent-rich Bishop McDevitt squad. If the Cougars are still standing in Week 4, they’ll open Commonwealth play on the road against defending division champion Central Dauphin. “Those opening games, I love it,” Everett said. “Our kids love it. Our coaches love it. We all love it. We love the competition. Those games give us good indications of what we’re working with. We’re going to throw them in the fire with the big dogs and see what happens.”
2. Position battles rage on
With the defending state champs on tap in the opening week, Harrisburg finds itself still looking for a starting quarterback. The Cougars have been working four different players in with the offense, but the coaching staff will need training camp for one player to rise to the starting position. Everett didn’t show his cards on who those players might be but added there are a lot of positions other than quarterback that are up for grabs. “We still have a bunch of guys fighting for jobs, we don’t know who’s who or what guys will do just yet,” Everett said. “We graduated a bunch of senior starters and have a young group of guys who didn’t get an opportunity to play last year, because there was no JV team or freshman team. It’s extremely challenging.” Everett said that his roster is small for a 6A school but carries quality over quantity. Expect for Harrisburg’s best players to play on both sides of the ball this season. “Our guys have been showing up every single day and working extremely hard,” Everett said. “We’re just as excited as coaches, we want to know who our guys are going to be. You want to know the playmakers, all those types of things, but you just don’t know until you get some live action.”
3. “Sky is the limit” for Williams
There are still no college offers for rising junior Kyle Williams, but don’t expect that trend to continue long for the 6-foot, 185-pound athlete, who is a solid prospect on both offense and defense. A regular in Harrisburg’s lineup since his freshman season, Williams runs sharp routes, has the speed to return punts and leads by example. Everett will tell you those are just a few of the things that Williams can do. “He can catch the ball, run the ball, defend the pass,” Everett said. “We’re going to be asking Kyle to do a lot of things for us. He’s a great young man who is dedicated to the program and doesn’t miss workouts. He works extremely hard.” Williams will be complemented on offense by returning senior wide receiver Justin Cook, as well as linemen Tyrell Young, Tyshawn Black and Roy Irvin, who should give Harrisburg’s new QB, whoever that ends up being, enough time to find his targets.