By 4th Down Staff:
NORTHERN (5-2, 2-1) at SHIPPENSBURG (6-1, 3-1)
7 p.m. Friday, Veterans Stadium, Shippensburg
ABOUT THE POLAR BEARS: Northern had erased the memory of its week 2 setback to a strong Middletown side and were on an uptick before hosting West Perry two weeks ago. It could have been worse. Most believed the leg injury top RB-LB Kyle Swartz suffered against the Mustangs was the type that ends seasons. It was not as Swartz put up 240 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns a week ago vs. Susquehannock. QB Chris Barrett certainly has options outside, like Tyler Yohn (15 catches, 216 yards, 3 TDs) and Aidan Wenger (8-133), but Swartz delivers the most punch on Bill Miller’s O. A unified approach on defense also is paramount here. The Hounds might not be flashy, but they force defenses to play at their pace. Pay attention to DE Donovan Bair (45 tackles) and LBs Joe Samsei (57) and Bay Blaschak (3.5 sacks). Finding Shippensburg’s No. 8 is tough but getting him down is something else.
ABOUT THE GREYHOUNDS: Unlike Northern, which is hanging out near the District 3 Class 5A fence line, Shippensburg is sitting nicely in the Colonial and district 3 picture. However, nothing is guaranteed in the MPC and coach Eric Foust & Co. must remain sharp down the stretch. Currently tied with Mifflin County, which tripped the Hounds a few weeks back, atop the division, Shippensburg will again lean on all-purpose back Adam Houser. The senior has turned 141 carries into 1,135 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns to date. QB Zack Manning has thrown more than 10 passes in a game just once all season, so you can translate that nugget into how successful Shipp’s O-line has been in the run game. The Hounds have been mostly successful on defense, too, allowing 20 points per game. The group even shutout West Perry in the second half in last week’s 34-21 come-from-behind scalp.
THE SERIES: Northern, winning 14-7 a year ago, has claimed the last three games in the series and owns a 6-4 edge in the last 10. Plus, division rivalries don’t show better than this one. Only once in the last 10 meetings -- Northern won 14-3 in 2008 -- has the game been decided by more than a touchdown. In fact, the last five meetings have been decided by a combined 21 points.
KEY STAT: 8.1. Yards per carry by Shippensburg’s Adam Houser. The standout has been a guiding force for the Hounds since his sophomore season
THE PICK: This one really does feel like a coin flip, although Veterans Stadium is a difficult atmosphere for the opposition. What we can predict is healthy doses of Swartz and Houser, two of the most gritty and reliable rushers in the conference. It may take an extraordinary defense to swing momentum for good. And it might take 40-plus minutes to make it happen. That wouldn’t be a surprise.
1. Biggest midseason surprise is …
As we crash into the halfway point of the regular season this week, the contenders and pretenders are coming into much clearer focus. With that in mind, which of the following is the bigger surprise in the MPC Commonwealth Division: Chambersburg 4-0 or Cumberland Valley 0-4? After 26 years of covering high school football, I’ve never experienced a winless and struggling-to-compete team at CV. All I know is HS football is less fun when the Eagles are winless after a month. The bigger surprise in my book is Chambersburg. That win over Red Lion carries a little more weight as the season unfolds, and going to Mansion Park and rolling Altoona is a quality win. And if the Trojans can get to 6-4 with their remaining schedule they could be a playoff team. It’s a real possibility and that’s why the Trojans stand out.
2. Everson on another level
Is there a quarterback in the state who has better numbers the last two weeks than Harrisburg’s Kane Everson? The senior has accounted for 750 total yards the last eight quarters with 11 touchdowns. He’s completed 81 percent of his 32 throws for 587 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s rushed 19 times for 163 yards (8.6 yards per carry) with another couple touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions, but who cares with those kind of numbers? Cougars have Cumberland Valley this week and will be looking to throw another 40-spot on the board.
3. Colonial stepping up early
I tip my cap to the Colonial Division. I’ve always been consistent throwing a little shade their way when they dropped the ball when it came to coming up short during the non-conference phase of the season. Well, as we approach Week 5, the seven squads in the MPC Colonial own a combined 17-11 record. Well done! Two teams, Shippensburg and West Perry, are unbeaten. Mifflin County is the only club with a sub-.500 record overall.
4. Big games for both squads
The five most important games I see on the docket this week in terms of both clubs have lots of reasons to need a victory are Altoona at CD East, Susquehanna Township at Hershey, Lower Dauphin at Red Land, Northern at Greencastle-Antrim and Big Spring at Waynesboro.
5. Down (times) at the shore
Did somebody throw some bad mojo to the West Shore or something? East Pennsboro, Trinity, Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, Cedar Cliff and Red Land are a combined 3-21 this season with four of those six looking for victory No. 1. I’m just asking the question. It’s very odd for all of these teams to be struggling at the same time. At least two of these programs make some serious noise each year. Not this season, it seems.
6. Extremely random observations from the first month:
Attendance everywhere is way down and it baffles me because the weather has been good; I’ve seen more poor tackling than good tacking; snack bars at some (not all) stadiums are starting to get greedy with their prices; the free game programs at West Perry are a nice touch; Bishop McDevitt and Harrisburg are even more dangerous than I imagined; Middletown getting spanked by McDevitt is a really good thing, I’m surprised Trinity and Camp Hill aren’t competitive; I have a football man crush on Shippensburg’s Adam Houser because you know he’s getting 75 percent of the touches and still can’t be stopped; and, finally, two weeks straight ordering and paying for a hot sausage and getting a regular hot dog is annoying as a fan.
By 4th Down Staff:
Each week during the 2018 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 a point per game ball they receive during the season. The top earner will receive an award at the end of the season from our crew.
Fourth Down Game Balls
Kane Everson, QB, Harrisburg: The Cougars will enter the always dicey Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division schedule on a high note after blasting Cedar Cliff 46-13 Saturday. More good news is Everson will be fresh off the most complete performance of his career. The southpaw was simply unstoppable at Severance, chewing up yardage on the ground and through the air. Here’s the proof. Everson connected on 16 of 19 pass attempts for 349 yards and four touchdowns. After misfiring on his first attempt, Everson connected on 12 straight passes as Harrisburg built a commanding 34-0 halftime edge. On the ground, Everson slashed through the Colts for 109 stripes and two long TD keepers.
Joshua Parra, WR-DB, Milton Hershey: The Spartans certainly have a few home run hitters on both sides of the football. The question, however, was where the production would surface beyond the Spartans’ notable run game. Well, Parra and Milton Hershey’s defense answered the bell against Hershey Friday in the annual Cocoa Bean Bowl. At Henry Hershey Field, Parra chipped in a pair of interception returns for touchdowns, stretching 54 and 60 yards, in MHS’s 35-7 victory. That’s a rare double-up and certainly a shot of adrenaline for the Spartans heading into the Capital Division schedule. For good measure, the WR-DB caught four passes for 57 yards.
Russ Amick, RB, and Austin Kenny, RB-OLB, Susquenita: It’s most difficult splitting a football in half, but we have no choice in this circumstance. You might have noticed the Blackhawks earned a win Friday over Juniata, which kept Indians coach Gary Klingensmith from reaching 300 career wins for the third straight week. To blame is Amick, a sophomore, and Kenny, a freshman, who each barreled past 100 rushing yards in Susquenita’s 28-14 edge. Amick rushed 20 times for 121 and two scores. Kenny carried 16 times for 138 stripes and two scores. That’s good stuff from the young guns.
Jake Adams Game Balls
Kyle Swartz, RB, Northern: The most impressive player on the field Friday night in the 32-6 win at Mechanicsburg. The third-year starting back looks bigger and stronger and made a couple bruising runs. It was a weird night, though. Mechanicsburg sent extra blitzers a lot, even on clear running downs, selling out to stop Swartz and shifty Polar Bears QB Chris Barrett (who also had 100 yards rushing) at all costs. The Wildcats (0-3) had an advantage against an undersized and inexperienced interior Northern (2-1) o-line, with the center routinely blasted 5 yards back. So Swartz, who had 120 yards and three scores in the win, was bottled up several times. But when he was able to get to the second level he made the most of it. He nearly doubled his rushing yards for the season.
Boiling Springs Bubblers: A team effort to snap a 24-game losing streak means the entire team deserves credit. Cumberland Valley disciple Brad Zell now firmly has the Bubblers (1-2) believing after a two straight years of futility. Bubbletown is still several pieces away from completing a rebuild, but beating Big Spring 34-19 at home will jumpstart the process and complete the buy-in phase of the process. This Wing-T is far from flashy, but if Quentin Jones can run for 100 yards and a score and the offense can push back the Bulldogs (2-1) for more than 300 rushing yards, it certainly is effective. At this point in the season, I can see wins over Trinity and Camp Hill coming, and the Week 10 game against East Pennsboro could be intriguing. Now the goal doesn’t just becoming getting one win, it’s about getting multiple.
Keyshawn Jones, RB, Chambersburg: 4DM gave Jones a game ball last week, but I want to follow up this time with the Trojans 3-0 and readying for Altoona in Week 4. The Trojans could be 4-0 by this time next week, and I’m starting to wonder how close the Cumberland Valley game two weeks from now will be. Jones has produced every week this season, averaging two touchdowns, 14 carries and 152.7 yards per game on the ground. That’s double-digit yards per touch as well. Add in his 102 receiving yards, and one of the breakout weapons of the season is averaging 186.7 offensive yards a contest. He had 12 carries for 179 yards and two TDs in the 28-19 win over Red Lion.
Andy Shay Game Balls
Joey Corado, P, Hershey: I know the Trojans gave up all the big plays and fell to Milton Hershey. Still a stud job by a punter that resembles a big-time college or NFL line gets a game ball from me. Corado, a sophomore, punted five times for Hershey and averaged a stellar 45 yards per punt including a pair downed inside the 20-yard line. Those are most definitely not average high school numbers. With those numbers and more than two years remaining, Corado is officially on our potential stud punter radar.
Nazir Burnett, WR, Bishop McDevitt: The Syracuse commit is most visible in the biggest of games, and the victory over Middletown was no different. Burnett finished with nine catches, four of those went for touchdowns, and 223 receiving yards against Middletown. His touchdown grabs covered 38, 9, 32 and 33 yards. The smooth-handed wideout has to be double covered, at the very least, otherwise he will torch you. In big games you want your No. 1 weapon in the passing game to come up big. Burnett did exactly that.
Terrance Quaker, RB-DB-KR, West Perry: There is a legitimate debate about the competition West Perry has faced in 2018. And I fully agree that can be debated. But when you hang 50 on everybody, there’s a pattern that’s developing where what you can control, you are dominating. And that’s the Mustangs and Quaker. In a comfortable win over Camp Hill, the do-everything weapon totaled 130 yards rushing on four carries with a couple touchdowns. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, he added a 22-yard touchdown catch, returned an interception 85 yards for a score and took a punt back 38 yards for yet another touchdown. That’s five touchdowns in three phases of the game. That’s a Hall of Fame Game Ball right there.
Micheal Bullock Game Balls
Broc Grosser, WR/S, Halifax: All over the field in Halifax’s 37-7 victory, the Wildcats were trailing Line Mountain late in the first half until Grosser returned the first of his two picks 51 yards for a game-tying score. Grosser, who finished with seven stops and assisted on an eighth, added a second pick before the break that enabled Earl Mosley’s club to take a 10-7 halftime lead. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound senior also caught two passes for 62 yards — including a 50-yard TD reception — and rushed three times for 14 yards for the 3-0 Wildcats.
Macklin Ayers, QB/LB, Upper Dauphin: Directing an attack that rolled up more than 700 yards of total offense, Ayers completed 8 of 16 passes for 259 yards and a pair of scores in UD’s 74-56 triumph over Millersburg. Ayers tossed a 52-yard TD pass to Zach Rupp in the opening quarter, then capped the first half by hooking up with Dalton Boyer from 43 yards out as the Trojans carried a 41-24 lead into the halftime break. Ayers added a 4-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Levi Engle, QB-DB, and Nick Savage, RB-LB-DE, Williams Valley: Already a fixture after just three weeks, Engle threw just nine times in the Vikings’ 47-21 victory over rival Tri-Valley yet completed seven for 128 yards and four touchdowns. All of Engle’s TD passes arrived in the first half — a 44-yarder to Nick Savage, a 25-yarder to Jayden Cruz and dishes of 10 and 18 yards to younger brother, Jesse — as Tim Savage’s club opened a 40-7 lead. Engle’s effort also allowed him to break Williams Valley’s career record for touchdown passes previously held by Stephen Sedesse (45). Engle is at 48 heading into a Week 4 clash with Susquenita. Engle also recorded his third interception in as many games — he has 12 for his career — returning it 68 yards. Savage, meanwhile, rolled up 119 yards rushing on just 11 attempts and scored on runs of 3 and 2 yards. Savage also opened the scoring for Tim Savage’s bunch, the 5-9, 180-pounder catching a 44-yard touchdown pass from Levi Engle for his lone reception.
Colin Luckenbill, RB, Pine Grove: Luckenbill had another productive outing in Pine Grove’s 33-14 triumph over Newport, rushing 18 times for 152 yards and one touchdown. Luckenbill cashed in from 53 yards out with 2:04 gone in the fourth quarter, upping the Cardinals’ lead to 27-14 as Frank Gaffney’s squad (3-0, 2-0) remained unbeaten.