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.
4th Down Staff's Game Balls:
Kaiden Karper, RB, Boiling Springs: During an often difficult rebuilding season, the Bubblers made a commitment to finish the season at max potency. And that’s not an easy task when the first eight weeks of the season results in zero wins. Saturday in Steelton produced another tough assignment, one that Karper and 10 of his teammates on offense went straight at. With senior Evan Mancuso guiding the huddle, Karper’s tough running helped the Bubblers make this a 48-minute game, carrying 28 times for 106 yards. Those carries helped produce first downs and give Mancuso added time to pitch confidently to Tayven Kelley and Cameron Wolf, each collecting 10 receptions in a 42-33 setback to the Rollers.
Kevin Littles, RB-LB, Susquehanna Twp.: The Indians are not the only Keystone Division franchise to struggle with a consistent rushing attack. It’s one of the reasons why Joe Headen’s quarter, sophomore Rashaan Carlton, is pitching it 30-plus times a game. But Littles provided a much-needed boost to the run game Friday in Susquehanna Twp.’s must-win situation against Hershey. Littles rushed 17 times for 97 yards and a third-quarter touchdowns that snapped a 7-7 game. Later, Littles returned a Hershey fumble 37 yards to the house, sealing the Indians’ 36-7 victory. With a Week 10 visit to Cedar Cliff, the Indians (4-5) might wiggle into the District 3 Class 4A bracket with a win and some help.
Brady Fox, RB, Middletown: Following a pair of hard-nosed battles with Trinity and Palmyra, the Blue Raiders have scored two dominating performances and are building steam for the postseason. On Friday, Fox, who has missed considerable time, joined fellow RB Jose Lopez to put on a show against Milton Hershey. It was a good sign for the Raiders, especially with their Week 10 scrum at Steel-High looming. Fox dug in against the Lions, rushing 14 times for 151 yards and two scores, one a 71-yard gallop that put Middletown up 28-0 at the break. The end result was a 45-7 victory that pulled Middletown to 9-0.
Michael Bullock's Game Balls:
Dylan Rabuck, RB, Williams Valley: Geez, just when one settles into some sort of comfort level with Williams Valley’s high-octane Vikings, Rabuck puts together another of those one-half efforts that just keep the ‘Wows!!!’ coming in multiples. Friday night, in a 62-7 frontal assault on Pine Grove that secured Tim Savage’s club (10-0) the Tri-Valley League championship and the No. 1 seed in the District 11 Class A playoffs, was no different. Or was It? In full gear from the start, Rabuck wheeled for 325 yards rushing on just 13 carries (he’s rushed for 2,149 yards through 10 outings) and scored five touchdowns for the third time this season. Scoring on runs of 66, 82, 5, 4 and 99 yards, Rabuck’s repeated bursts allowed the Vikes to roll to a 46-0 halftime lead and start thinking about next weekend’s postseason opener against Marian Catholic between the tall pines. Heck, he even added a two-point conversion. There’s only one thing to say ... and that’s ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’
Dylan “Pickles” Wolfgang, LB, Williams Valley: While Williams Valley’s attack generates much of the attention along U.S. 209, Kyle Bingaman’s defensive group has a number of talented players working just as effectively. And this week we’ll focus on all-state inside linebacker Wolfgang, who totaled 15 tackles, one for loss, Friday night in the Vikings’ 62-7 smothering of Pine Grove. On the season, Wolfgang has amassed 107 stops, 11 tackles for loss, three quarterback sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
Cole Rothermel, LB, Tri-Valley: Since we’re on a defensive roll, let’s swing our attention to Tri-Valley’s 14-0 whitewash of East Juniata and the 16 tackles the 5-9, 185-pound Rothermel racked up in the Bulldogs’ regular-season finale. Rothermel, who raised his season total to 107 stops, also registered one quarterback sack as Tri-Valley limited the visiting Tigers to just 184 total yards. Up next for Mike Ulicny’s club (7-3) is a visit from Pottsville Nativity in next weekend’s District 11 Class A semifinals.
Jeremiah Parson, QB, Juniata: A dual-threat type quarterback that can torment opponents with his legs and his throwing arm, Parson used both in Juniata’s 32-13 triumph over Upper Dauphin. Parson rushed eight times for 53 yards — Parson scored on runs of 3 and 55 yards — but also completed 2 of his 6 passes for 58 more yards and two scores. Both of Parson’s touchdown passes, which covered 9 and 49 yards, went to Ben Lauver as the Indians (7-3) closed out the regular season with their third straight victory. Juniata will be in action next weekend as well, hosting Bald Eagle Area in the opening round of the District 6 Class AAA playoffs.
Wade Moore, DT, Juniata: Also busy in Juniata’s 32-13 victory at Upper Dauphin was the 5-11, 220-pound Moore, who racked up 13 tackles and one quarterback sack as the Indians collared their third victory in as many weeks. Moore’s efforts at defensive tackle enabled Kurt Condo’s defensive unit to put a lid on UD’s attack and limit the Trojans to just 116 total offensive yards. On the season, Moore has totaled 79 tackles and recorded eight sacks for a Juniata squad that will open the District 6 Class AAA playoffs next weekend at Dietrick Field against Bald Eagle Area.
Geoff Morrow's Game Balls:
Qualik Davis, RB, Bishop McDevitt: Holy cow, you need to find the video of Davis' 85-yard touchdown run from the first quarter of Friday's Mid-Penn Keystone championship-clinching 41-21 takedown of Lower Dauphin. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior zips through a huge hole on the left, then is met by some would-be tacklers near midfield. All Davis did was toss them away like moldy produce, then sprint toward the end zone for what was the go-ahead score. This was part of a career day for Davis, who finished with 20 carries for 175 yards. He added a 39-yard reception as well as the Crusaders (7-2) won their fifth straight. If Davis, who'd never before cracked 100 yards, gives McD a consistent RB threat moving forward to complement and outstanding passing attack, this team will be a VERY tough out in the playoffs.
Mike Dubas, RB, Cedar Cliff: Dubas knows as well as anybody that this particular Game Ball is shared with the big boys up front, as linemen Justin Resto, Ben Gregory, Brandon Riggleman, Anthony Shires, Ian McCauley, Tyson McDonald, etc., paved the way to Dubas' 195 rushing yards and two TDs on 20 carries. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior often wasn't touched by Mechanicsburg defenders until several yards downfield, though Dubas certainly did his share of shrugging off tacklers and powering for extra yardage. He'd eclipsed 100 yard by halftime in the 49-14 victory, including a go-ahead 4-yard TD in the second quarter. He then rumbled 36 yards for another score in the third as the Colts (6-3) continued their late playoff push with their fourth straight win.
Kenyon Johnson, RB/LB, West Perry: Helping the Mustangs snap an eight-game head-to-head skid vs. Shippensburg, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound sophomore raced 19 times for 121 yards and two scores, added three catches for another 26, and was part of a defense that limited the Greyhounds to fewer than 100 rushing yards in a 15-13 victory at Mustang Stadium. Johnson scored on runs of 29 yards in the first quarter and 1 yard in the third (on a direct snap). It was a superb win for the Mustangs (4-5), who were clocked the week prior by 40 points and hadn't beaten Shippensburg since 2006.
Peyton Stretch, CB, Palmyra: The Cougars needed a win after suffering three straight losses, some in heartbreaking fashion, against the meat of the Mid-Penn Capital. Though the playoffs aren't in the cards for a quality Palmyra side, Stretch made sure the Lebanon County outfit is finishing with pride. The 5-foot-11, 150-pound senior intercepted three passes in a 16-8 defensive slugfest victory over Trinity. At corner, he was part of a unit that picked off four throws by the usually potent Shamrocks, who on this night were limited to 7-of-33 passing for just 116 yards and fewer than 200 yards of total offense. Stretch sealed it for the Cougars (6-3) with a late pick as Trinity was marching for a potential tying score.
Galen Witmer, FB, Cumberland Valley: The way CV's Wing-T is buzzing right now, you just never know the whereabouts of the next big hit. In a 42-3 thrashing of CD East, it was Witmer's turn in the spotlight. The 5-foot-8, 230-pound bowling ball pounded his way to a career-high 129 rushing yards on 17 straight-ahead attempts, leading a ground attack that amassed nearly 400 yards after last week surpassing 500. Witmer opened the scoring with a 22-yard run, then found the end zone again late in the first half to put the Eagles (8-1) up comfortably by a 27-3 count. With Harrisburg on the horizon this week, CV needs to be at full strength, and Witmer certainly provides some outstanding strength.
Andy Shay's Game Balls:
Tayven Kelley, WR-DB, Boiling Springs: One of the better two-way players we don’t hear much about because he plays for an 0-9 team. The 6-2, 180-pound junior is have a solid season for the Bubblers and put together a monster game against Steel-High. Kelley hauled in 10 passes from Evan Mancuso for 199 total yards and four touchdowns to lead a Bubblers offense that came very close to helping pull off a major upset. Kelley had touchdown passes covering 53, 49 49 and 7 yards. His final touchdown catch came with 21 seconds to play to pull the Bubblers within two points, but the two-point attempt failed and Steel-High held on.
Micah Parsons, RB-DE-LB-P, Harrisburg: His impact on this game was immediate as he took the opening handoff from QB Yahmir Wilkerson and rumbled 65 yards for a touchdown. He also returned an interception 97 yards for a score. Look, the guy in the most gifted and talented football players in the state of Pennsylvania. He’s expected to do great thing, corret? But to truly understand his true impact, check out the videos of a couple of the play from Friday night on the Twitter feed for Timothy Johnson (@tjj5009) and watch these plays. The Carlisle guys trying to get to Parsons have all the angle and advantages and Parsons just makes it all evaporate. It speaks volumes about the pure game-changing talent of Parsons.
Dupri Andrews, RB, Steel-High: It wasn’t easy against winless Boiling Springs, but the Rollers will get their shot at a MPC Capital Division title against undefeated Middletown thanks to a monster game from Andrews against the Bubblers. Five touchdowns and 222 rushing yards on 19 carries from the Rollers’ top playmaker was the difference. Andrews had three touchdowns rushing, caught a TD pass and returned the late desperation onside kick by Boiling Springs 44 yards for a touchdown.
Jake Adams' Game Balls:
Onasis Neely, RB, East Pennsboro: Got my first in-person look at the Panthers’ sensation, and I was not disappointed. Neely was 210 yards away from 2,000 for the season and finished with 223 on just 13 carries (adding a 74-yard punt return TD for good measure). The Panthers didn’t really need him, going up 42-0 at the half. Wasn’t sure Neely would get a shot in front of the home crowd for 2K, but coach Todd Stuter left his first team out there for a chunk of the second half (and left him out JUST long enough). Fast, shifty and strong, Neely, who had two rushing TDs north of 40 yards, is the best back in the Mid-Penn and among the best in the state.
Kyle Swartz, RB, Northern: If Swartz stays healthy, he’s going to be a nightmare in the Mid-Penn Colonial for the next two-plus years. Few are as strong at first contact. He ran for 109 yards on 20 carries in a 35-10 win over Greencastle-Antrim, keeping the Polar Bears within range of division-leading Waynesboro heading into the final week. He scored three rushing touchdowns and hauled in a 67-yard TD pass for good measure. Northern is now in ninth in the District 3 Class 4A power rankings, a spot out of the playoffs. If No. 8 Shippensburg falls to Big Spring in the Little Brown Jug game and Northern does its job at West Perry, the Polar Bears could be a playoff team after looking like an afterthought a few weeks ago.
Gage Scheaffer, RB, Mifflin County: The It’s not often coaching changes pay immediate dividends, but something is clicking in Huskies Country. Mifflin County won its second straight, thumping Big Spring 35-7 behind the efforts of Scheaffer, who ran 20 times for 157 yards. The Bulldogs couldn’t find an answer against the Huskies run game, as Scheaffer scored from 20, 69 and 3 yards out in the win.