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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

4th Down Magazine’s Game Balls for the Week of Oct 30-31

Each week, our crew will dish out ‘Game Balls” to athletes who turned in impressive performances across our coverage area. Here are our selections for Week of Oct. 30-31 of the regular season.

Jake Adams’s Game Balls

Offensive line, East Pennsboro: I feel like going against the grain this week, so I’m looking at the cumulative. And the Panthers’ big uglies deserve some shine. The five big men up front have shoved aside defensive lines all season, with their running backs benefitting for 284 yards per game. They can beat teams with jet sweeps, with full back dives and with everything in between. Three different backs have 380 yards or more, and the Panthers have scored 22 times on the ground. Against unbeaten Mechanicsburg, even in a loss, East Penn rolled up 293 yards and four TDs on 52 carries. It’s a group that loves to run the ball and doesn’t shy away from it despite the score.

Defense, Carlisle: The last time the Thundering Herd pitched a shutout was in 2016, a Week 1 44-0 victory over Mechanicsburg. That was a stretch of 33 games until Friday’s 21-0 beatdown of CD East. It featured four Panthers turnovers and just 213 yards earned (an average of just 3.5 yards per play) against the Herd. Carlisle is 3-2 and can thank its defense for getting them above .500 for the first time since Week 1. 

WR/DB depth, Mechanicsburg: Again, going against the grain. The Wildcats are without Swiss Army Knife Caleb Brubaker, who broke his scapula in Week 5 and is out for the season. And for at least one week, the 6-0 Wildcats were just fine without him. Brubaker will certainly be missed, especially with the playoffs beginning and No. 1 Governor Mifflin on deck. But when he’s missed time — like in Week 6 or in Week 1 this year — the Wildcats have made due. This week it was Rashawn Early-Holton to again step up at WR as the deep threat, hauling in a 52-yard score. And the defense again forced multiple picks, the fifth time they’ve done that this season. And just think … three or four years ago the Wildcats were lucky to have one good weapon.

Andy Shay’s Game Balls

Tyree Morris, DE, Mechanicsburg: Lost in all the crazy numbers the Wildcats offense has put up this year is a defense that has held its own through six games and helped earn Mechanicsburg a playoff spot. Morris is a major part of that push on defense. Against an East Pennsboro team that has a strong running game and can score some points, Morris registered 12 tackles, including 11 solo stops, and added 2.5 tackles for a loss in a 43-21 victory. All his numbers led the Wildcats defensively in a game Mechanicsburg led 30-7 about midway through the third quarter.

Donald Leach, QB, Susquehanna Township: This has been a difficult start-stop-start-stop-start season for the Indians dealing with COVID-19. Over the last week, though, Susquehanna Township has played 12 quality quarters and went a respectable 2-1 playing three games in seven days. Leach has come on big-time and capped a week where ‘Hanna didn’t have any trouble scoring points by exploding for 389 total yards and accounting for four touchdowns in a 33-22 win over West Perry. Leach threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns and added 135 yards on the ground with a rushing TD. As he’s developed during this tough time in terms of practice and reps, Leach has blossomed and become a threat.

Tymir Jackson, RB-DL, Middletown: The senior is the latest version of the horse at running back for the Blue Raiders. And when the stakes were raised in a Class 3A playoff game, it is not a surprise that Jackson carried a big load against Bermudian Springs. He finished three yards shy of 200 rushing yards on 23 carries and scored five touchdowns in Middletown’s 46-7 victory over the Eagles. This one was close for a while before the Blue Raiders exploded for 34 second-half points. Jackson averaged a stellar 8.6 yards per carry.

Adam Kulikowski Game Balls

Brad Zell, coach, Boiling Springs: Yes, the Bubblers dropped its District 3-3A playoff bout against Wyomissing by a lopsided 47-7 final tally. But consider this a full season nod to Zell and his Bubblers. After a winless circuit in 2019, Zell and the Bubblers notched four victories and fought Middletown tough for four quarters to have a chance to win the game in its final possession of the night. Boiling Springs isn’t a finished product, but in a year where we had no idea if teams would even touch the field, this blue-collar squad was exciting to watch, well-coached and is heading firmly in the right direction.

Timmy Smith, RB, Central Dauphin: Raise your hand if you saw a 42-15 Central York victory against the Rams in the pipeline. The Rams game plan featured a heavy dose of Smith, who churned out 116 rushing yards on 18 carries and a touchdown against a formidable Panthers defensive front. He did his job helping to execute a game plan that centered on keeping the ball out of the hands of Penn State recruit Beau Pribula. 

Odell Greene, RB, Steel-High: Anyone who totes the rock 42 times in one game should earn an automatic game ball just for toughness and grit. But Greene did more than just step up to the plate. He helped deliver a District 3 title to the Roller Nation. Messy conditions largely grounded the Rollers’ air attack, but the senior back chewed up 158 yards, reaching the end zone twice in a narrow 21-13 victory against Delone Catholic to return the District 3 Class 1A championship hardware back to the fine folks of Steelton. 

Michael Bullock’s Game Balls

Jace White, FB-LB, Juniata: One of numerous Juniata players that contributed significantly to the Indians’ 24-21 victory over Bellefonte in Friday’s District 6/9 Class 4A title game, White definitely did his part. The 6-foot, 225-pounder caught a 10-yard TD pass with less than a minute left in the first half as Kurt Condo’s squad pulled into a 14-all tie at the break. White also made four solo tackles as the Indians held on for a positive result that popped them into the PIAA tournament for the first time.

Ezi Hite, OL-DL, Williams Valley: Cranking out a terrific two-way effort, Hite’s play on both fronts helped propel the Vikings to a 41-10 conquest of Marian Catholic in Williams Valley’s regular-season finale. Hite actually registered a handful of stops from his defensive tackle spot, including four for losses, as Tim Savage’s bunch limited the Colts to 142 total yards — many of them arriving late — and ran their winning streak to six. 

 Jake Scheib, FB-DE, Tri-Valley: Part of a Tri-Valley ground assault that piled up nearly 400 rushing yards in a 41-6 mauling of Panther Valley, Scheib rolled up 103 yards on just 10 attempts as the Bulldogs prepped for an intriguing date with Nativity in the District 11 Class 1A semifinals. Scheib also popped a 55-yard scoring run against the Panthers and made several stops from his spot on the edge.

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