Game ball winners: Week 1

4th Down Staff:

Each week during the 2017 high school football season, each member of our team--and those working behind the scenes as well at 4th Down Magazine--will pass out game balls to top performers.

Players will earn five points per game ball. 4th Down will feature the player with the highest point total heading into the PIAA semifinals. We may even throw in a little swag for the overall winner.

With Week 1 in the books, here' out initial list. It's Game Ball time!

Jake Palmer, RB-DB, Cumberland Valley: If Palmer wasn’t already enemy No. 1 in Coatesville, the 5-9, 185-pounder is now. With Cumberland Valley opening the season against one of the top-ranked progams in Class 6A, Palmer again played the role of unstoppable force at Chapman Field. The senior rushed 24 times for 137 yards and three second-half touchdowns, the last a 10-yard sweep around the left side with three seconds left in regulation. The Eagles claimed a 21-14 win to stun the visitors. Palmer had 141 rushing yards against the Red Raiders in last year’s 41-21 CV win at Coatesville.

Dylan Rabuck and Dylan Wolfgang, Williams Valley: In one of the biggest Tri-Valley League season, the Vikings validated their early top 10 ranking in Class 1A by dispatching Juniata 35-13. Rabuck got the Vikings in motion with an 80-yard TD run that erased Juniata’s quick 7-0 edge. The RB finished with 262 rushing yards on 32 carries, adding touchdowns of 17 and 2 yards. Wolfgang, meanwhile, led Williams Valley’s ferocious defense with 16 tackles, including 11 solo stops. He also chipped in one of four interceptions by Juniata.

Brenden Cregger, ATH, Line Mountain: After absorbing a 48-14 loss to Tri-Valley in its season opener, the Eagles needed a boost heading into the heart of league schedule. Well, Cregger helped deliver it with his overall performance against Millersburg on Friday. The versatile senior caught four passess for 179 yards and two scores. Plus, Cregger converted three 2-point conversion attempts, including two through the air from QB Evan Herb.

Andy Shay’s Game Balls:

Micah Parsons, Harrisburg: The best player in Pennsylvania is focused and fully engaged this season. That is NOT good news for the Cougars’ opponents. For the 6-7 quarters the 230-pound DE, RB and occasional LB has played this season against Imhotep and Bishop McDevitt have been some of the best football he’s played during his high school career. In helping the Cougars move to 2-0 with a 35-0 whitewash of the Crusaders, Parsons carried the ball 20 times for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He also registered a pair of sacks that included one where he knocked McDevitt quarterback Chase Diehl out of the game with a shoulder injury in the first half.

Onasis Neely, East Pennsboro: In a game with Big Spring that featured nearly 1,000 yards of total offense and more than 100 combined points, Panthers coach Todd Stuter said it best after the game when he quipped “I don’t know what we would have done without 12 tonight”. Neely had to be at his very best in Week 1, because Big Spring demanded it. If the Panthers’ star RB doesn’t have a big game, East Pennsboro loses. Neely rushed for 262 yards on 31 carries with four touchdowns. His 58-yard run where he went right, broke tackles, made guys miss then cut back and went all the way across the field to outrun Bulldogs to the end zone is a certain Play of the Year nominee.

Zack Kuntz, Camp Hill: When the only coach you’ve known in high school resigns the day before your first game, there’s going to be chaos and collateral damage. It’s unavoidable. The Lions have faced some major adversity with the resignation of former skipper Frank Gay. They coughed up a two-score lead at Palmyra in the opener and fell to the Cougars. How you respond after something like this is what really matters. Kuntz is the Lions’ best player. The Penn State TE recruit did not have a catch in the opening loss. You need your best players to be your best players. And Kuntz, along with every other single Lion, revealed their football character by beating a very good Lancaster Catholic squad in Week 1. Kuntz finished with 209 receiving yards on nine receptions with a pair of touchdowns. On every front, that’s a big-time game ball worthy performance.

Michael Bullock’s Game Balls:

Dylan Rabuck, Williams Valley: While the Vikings may have fallen into an early road hole at Juniata’s Deitrick Field, Rabuck’s 80-yard touchdown run on Williams Valley’s first play from scrimmage quickly erased that deficit. Well, the 6-0, 195-pound senior was far from done last Friday night, as Rabuck added touchdown runs of 17 and 2 yards and finished with 32 rushes for 262 yards in a come-from-behind 35-13 victory that kept Tim Savage’s club parked at the top of the Tri-Valley League standings.

Jay Zerby, Halifax: The Wildcats’ productive junior just might be the TVL’s most-efficient player, as Zerby needed just 10 carries last Friday night to pile up 135 rushing yards and touchdown runs of 1, 24, 29, 4 and 2 yards in a 38-7 victory over visiting Pine Grove. Zerby also caught two passes for 24 yards. In two weeks of action — Halifax (2-0, 2-0) won at Millersburg in Week 1 — the 5-10, 195-pound junior has scored eight times while toting the ball 17 times for 347 yards and catching four passes for 55 more yards.

Evan Herb, Line Mountain: Flashing his rollout ability — the 5-10, 175-pound sophomore can go right or left — Herb completed eight of his 15 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns in Line Mountain’s 56-7 victory over Millersburg. Not bad for a kid making his second varsity start. Two of Herb’s touchdown aerials covered 73 and 63 yards to Brenden Cregger — Cregger caught four balls for 179 yards — as the Eagles (1-1, 1-1) winged to a 44-0 halftime lead. Herb, who rushed for 50 yards on four carries, also tossed an 82-yard scoring pass to Gage Bowers in the third quarter.

Trent McGuire, Susquenita: Displaying his speed throughout the Blackhawks’ 41-7 nonleague triumph at Elco, McGuire wheeled for 251 yards on 22 carries and scored on runs of 49, 36, 34, 1 and 4 yards. Seven of McGuire’s 22 carries went for 11 yards or more as Scott Acri’s club (1-1, 0-1) evened its overall mark. One of the TVL’s fastest players, McGuire also caught one pass for 10 yards and returned one punt for 18 yards.

Geoff Morrow's Game Balls:

Jose Lopez, so. RB, Middletown: This was an interesting spot for Brett Myers' Blue Raiders, who last year stormed to a District 3 title and a PIAA championship berth. Some vital components graduated, but enough returned to keep hopes high. Well, raise 'em up even more after this sophomore running back erupted to help Middletown down a tough Lower Dauphin side 24-7 in the annual Iron Spike Bowl. In what was a three-point game into the fourth quarter, Lopez busted off TD runs of 16 and 25 yards to finish the triumph and get the Blue Raiders (1-0) off on the right foot yet again. Lopez finished with 159 yards on 25 carries.

Cade McDowell, sr. QB, Greencastle-Antrim: Many figured Chambersburg, which blanked the Blue Devils 20-0 in Week 1 last year, would again have its way with a team that won just twice last season. But McDowell and crew, despite falling behind on the second play of the game, said no. The steady signal caller ran for a pair of first-half touchdowns, helping G-A move back in front, and finished with solid if unspectacular numbers in a 28-7 triumph. McDowell scored on runs of 5 and 1 yards in the first half to vault the Blue Devils in front, and he finished with 74 yards on 15 carries as the balanced running game racked up 292 yards on 49 totes. McDowell only had to throw only four times but completed all four for 64 yards.

Bobby Whalen, jr. QB, Cedar Cliff; and Tommy Kirchhoff, sr. QB, Trinity: Both of these guys are tremendously gifted athletes who start at QBs for dangerous offenses. Whalen's first start at QB came in a 27-6 triumph at Penn Manor in which he completed 8-of-14 passes for 148 yards and two scores, ran for 49 yards and another TD on eight carries, and even caught a 35-yard pass, while Kirchhoff's second start with the Shamrocks featured 132 yards passing, 27 rushing and one TD in a tough 30-29 loss at Delone Catholic. But these boys are honored here for what they've launched to raise money for Project ALS. The "We Will W1n 4 ALS" campaign was started by Whalen for his best friend Kirchhoff, whose father, Tom, died of the disease two years ago. Their fundraiser is set up so that the more touchdowns Whalen and Kirchhoff are involved in, the more money that ultimately goes to ALS research. They started with a goal of raising $50,000 but have already pushed that goal to $100K after initial response boosted estimates to nearly $65,000 (as of now). Good work, boys, and continued luck in this fight.

Jake Adams’ Game Balls:

Gavyn Barnes, Carlisle: Yeah, yeah. Some of my colleagues here are teasing me because I brought his name up a few times over the past 48 hours or so, but I don't care. Barnes balled out in a tough win over Mechanicsburg that required his OT touchdown haul in the front corner of the end zone, only after his snare in the back of the end zone was ruled incomplete when he appeared to toe-tap and keep a firm grip on the ball while falling on his stomach. Barnes showed frustration when the offense stalled, but he finished with a pair of TD grabs, nearly busted a kickoff return for a score that would've ended it in regulation, and made numerous pass defenses and tackles at the line of scrimmage.

Dylan Smith, Mechanicsburg: I don't WANT to name two kids from the same game normally, but Smith deserves a shout out. The senior went 0-20 for bad teams the past two years at QB. Then in comes a new coach (Billy Furman) and a QB competition with Justin Stine that I wasn't aware of. I spoke to Smith at camp, and he was all smiles and never let on. Turns out, he's the starting tight end. He played admirably in what could've been a tough situation for any two-year starting senior. Smith caught six passes for 53 yards and a score from the junior who beat him out and laid several big blocks in the run game.

West Perry's first half: The Mustangs did what many didn't think possible: they nearly upset Palmyra. West Perry roared to an 18-0 first half lead with an offense that was alive and kicking. Dom Salinetro threw TD tosses to three different guys -- Joey Reisinger (23 yards), Terrance Quaker (65) and Jake Quaker (6) -- and the defense did the job. Reisinger finished with three receptions for 112 markers. Colonial Division best not sleep on these guys. They just have to finish games now; the Cougars won 28-24 on a fourth-quarter TD scamper by Eddie Cannon.