Harrisburg needed every ounce of its ability to stay cool under pressure in a tight spot to hold off surging Wilson Saturday to win the District 3 Class 6A championship at Severance Field.
All season this Cougars team has been rock steady and consistent in terms of how they take care of their business, and that showed up in spades in a really tight spot against the Bulldogs in the 14-10 Harrisburg triumph.
Late in the third quarter after Wilson had just taken a 10-7, Cougars quarterback Shawn Lee was strip-sacked inside his own 30 and Wilson took over. The Bulldogs had the lead, momentum and a sudden change of possession deep in Harrisburg territory to really put the Cougars in a bind.
Guess what didn’t happen? Wilson wasn’t able to knock the Cougars out of their comfort zone. Harrisburg’s defense rose to the challenge and slammed the door on the Bulldogs with a huge fourth-down stop.
Once the Cougars avoided going down two scores, they quickly went to work and put the game away. Mahkai Hopkins, who led all rushers with 128 yards, broke free for a nearly 40-yard run and rolled up 63 yards on the decisive march.
Lee capped the drive with a 7-yard scamper early in the third quarter to put the Cougars in front for good with 9:24 to play.
This was a defensive battle all the way. Neither offense managed to reach 225 total yards. Harrisburg lost the turnover battle 2-0 and had 10 penalties. Yet still the Cougars prevailed.
Denied an opportunity to participate in the 2020 postseason by an outbreak of COVID-19 after struggling so hard just to meet the minimum qualification, this was a sweet trophy to lift for the one-loss Cougars.
Boiling Springs’ 2021 season ended in the exact same manner the Bubblers’ 2020 campaign came to a close — with a lopsided defeat at the hands of Wyomissing in Berks County.
You can check out the recap of what took place at Varsity A Field in Wyomissing as the Spartans claimed their third consecutive District 3 Class 3A title 55-14.
This game was about strength vs. strength. Could Boiling Springs’ offense be explosive and consistent enough against a Wyomissing defense that has slammed the door on every opponent this season? The answer was a resounding no.
Three years ago this program was a mess. In 2019 the Bubblers went 0-10. A boatload of the seniors on this year’s team played that year as sophomores. Over the last two seasons, the Bubblers have posted a 15-4 mark overall, made consecutive trips to the playoffs, won a postseason game and played for a district championship. After the game, Brad Zell said this senior class laid the groundwork for the start of a football program. He nailed it.
Steel-High will not repeat as PIAA Class 1A champions after the Rollers traveled three hours north to within 25 miles of the New York border to Towanda only to fall to undefeated District 4 champion Canton by five.
The Rollers had the ball with 1:15 to play and 85 yards of field to cover trailing 32-25. It’s a scenario during this run Steel-High has navigated before to snap victory from the jaws of defeat. Not this time.
Steel-High had plenty of offense — 246 passing yards from QB Alex Erby, Daivin Pryor rushing for 127 yards and wide receiver Tyrone Moore hauling in seven passes for 109 yards. What did the Rollers in against the Warriors was four turnovers — a pair of interceptions and a pair of fumbles.
The miscues allowed Canton to stay in its comfort zone and stick with its grind-it-out run offense.
Winning a District 3 Class 1A title might feel like a consolation prize for this team, but every championship should be celebrated. The final month of the season was a struggle. The Rollers lost three of their final four games to Big Spring, Boiling Springs and Canton.