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.
Williams Valley's Levi Engle set the career touchdown record Friday night against Tri-Valley. (File photo/Adam Kulikowski-4th Down)
By 4th Down Staff:
Each week throughout the season, we’re gathering the best comments from coaches and players from around the Mid-Penn Conference and Tri-Valley League. Here’s a compilation of the best quotes we heard in Week 3.
Williams Valley 47, Tri-Valley 20:
Setting the stage: Williams Valley quarterback Levi Engle needed just two touchdowns to break the school career record of 45 set by Stephen Sedesse. The senior quarterback threw four jacks on 7-of-9 passing for 128 yards.
Williams Valley coach Tim Savage on Levi’s record-breaking night:
“I’m extremely proud of him because during the course of his career, there’s over 7,000 yards rushing. It is by no means a pass-first offense football team. He’s doing all of this when we obviously want to establish the running game. There’s a lot of guys out there that play in single back sets and they run all sorts of floods and screens, those guys are going to put up huge numbers. But there’s no running back to speak of. Levi has played with the [Pennsylvania] player of the year in [Class A] and still put up great numbers. That’s tough to do. There’s only so many yards to go around in the game.”
Reflecting on Levi’s career:
“He’s a three-sport athlete, and when he was younger, baseball was his thing. He was a great baseball player. He didn’t go out his sophomore year and just lived in the weight room and put on so much muscle. It’s paid huge dividends for him and our football team as a quarterback and defensive back. But even on the basketball court, he’s dunking from 5 feet away from the rim. He’s got explosion and strength. It’s made him a fantastic athlete. He’s always had it. He put on the muscle and he’s now a complete player.
Last year, he wanted to hand the ball off to Dylan [Rabuck] and do what he was asked to do in the passing game. He distributed opportunities to the other great players we had. This year, he wants that entire Viking offense to be a blueprint of him. He wants to be involved in everything. He’s a leader now. He’s helping the younger guys. His whole persona of confidence has just changed dramatically.”
On the team’s performance against Tri-Valley:
“We had to win the game up front on both sides of the ball. When I walked off the field at halftime, a lot of guys in their 70s or early 80s who have been coming to games for the last 50 years said that it was the most impressive interior line play they’ve seen from a Viking team. We really played well up front. Spencer Dimon, Faizan Ali, Jackson Yoder, Cole Warren and Nick Savage at full back. They were on point. It just clicked. Every block was made. Multiple pancakes. It was fun to watch if you were an interior line guy.
“We know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot. There are teams out there that could end up 1-9, and if they beat us, the Gatorade splash is happening. The fire trucks are going through town. We’re the team that everyone wants to beat. We’re going to get the best shot.”
Boiling Springs 34, Big Spring 19:
Setting the stage: Boiling Springs won for the first time in 24 games Friday night. The victory was also the first for head coach Brad Zell, a former assistant at Cumberland Valley.
Zell on the significance of the victory to the Bubblers’ program:
“It was important for me to get these seniors a win. Very few guys on that team have even experienced a win at the varsity level. A lot of emotion last night from players, from fans, from coaches that stayed on from the last regime. A lot of emotion. I think it was important for our staff to get the first win. But it was more important for those boys to experience some success for one of the first times on the football field. They deserve it. Since I came in in May, they gave me everything they’ve got. It was well deserved.”
On the keys to the game:
“Last week, we came out of the gate and played really well in the first half [Boiling Springs led Bermudian Springs 13-0 at the half] and tailed off late. We were in almost the exact same situation this week and we talked a lot about getting up and fighting and continuing to play. We’re working hard to get over that mental block of when things go bad that it’s the same old, same old. They fought mentally and knew that if they kept playing good things would happen.
“Defensively, we made some stops when we needed to. Last week, we had trouble stopping them in the second half. This week, we stood up. A big key [...] we had to run the ball better and we did that this week. We controlled the ball and it paid off.”
On the key stop late in the fourth quarter after Big Spring recovered a muffed kickoff inside the 30-yard line:
“They got it back at the 20-25-yard line after scoring on us and our defense stopped them. They didn’t score. We got the ball back and went down and scored. You could just see them start to believe, ‘Hey, something went our way.’ You could see their confidence building as we moved it down field in that last drive. The excitement was building.”
On the progress of the team’s adaptation to the Wing-T:
“We’re just a few weeks in to a brand new system for these guys, and as much as you can try to implement in the offseason, we were behind the 8-ball to start — but we’re only a few weeks into hitting and being able to teach technique. We got rid of the bags this week and did a lot of one-on-one blocking and it worked. We talked a lot about not just our linemen blocking, but in the Wing-T we need the wings, halfback, receivers to block. We stayed on blocks. They are starting to believe in the system. They see we can move the ball. Confidence is a crazy thing.”
West Perry 56, Camp Hill 16:
West Perry quarterback/defensive back Kenyon Johnson on what’s clicked for the Mustangs offense:
“We have weapons. When one person might not be clicking, there are others that are ready to step in and we make sure we get the ball to them.”
On playing quarterback:
“It’s not a huge adjustment, I played quarterback up through the association in midgets. It is definitely better than running back. It opens things up for the team better and we can do more with it. […] I like that I can run the offense and if I see something, I like to think I’m a smart player, so I can make the audible.”
On the team’s first 3-0 start since 2006:
“Half the kids weren’t even in the locker room after. […] They were out talking with their families and joking around and having fun. Guys in the locker room, they couldn’t stop yelling. We were ecstatic.
On the change in culture at West Perry:
“The change in culture, that comes from coach [Bob] Boden. He is really good at getting players to buy in and wanting to be there. Being contenders for the Colonial is really cool thing to think about.”
On the improvements in his game from last year to this:
“It was a lot of improvement in my legs. That’s a huge part of it. And running track — the 400-meter, it is hard on your quads and you have to have strong legs to finish it.
“This year, my linemen have also made it real easy with good downfield blocking and my wide outs pick off corners and the safety. […] Having blockers down field is huge.”
Northern York 32, Mechanicsburg 6:
Setting the stage: On a night when Mechanicsburg celebrated its 100th season of football, Northern dominated play on the field to get off to a 2-1 start to the season.
Northern coach Bill Miller on the play of his team, after the game to The Sentinel:
“Credit to Mechanicsburg, I really thought there were times where I thought they out-physicaled us. And that was something, coming in, we did not want to have happen. Now, it’s hard to repeat the kind of effort we had [against Middletown last week. …] The defensive effort we had last week was unbelievable — some of the best team defense I’ve seen us play. It’s hard to replicate that week in, week out with high school kids. But when we needed to make some stops [tonight], we made some stops. We benefited from some mistakes, we were opportunistic at times and then when we needed to drive the ball to put the game away, we were able to do that.”
Harrisburg quarterback Kane Everson dominated Cedar Cliff Saturday at Severance Field with his arm and his legs. (Adam Kulikowski/4th Down)
By Andy Shay:
Good Sunday morning. Each week we’ll present to you some thoughts and observations from the week that was in Mid-Penn Conference and Tri-Valley League football.