EXPLAINING OUR PICKS: It’s Week 6 of the Pennsylvania high school football season, and the 4th Down Magazine team is here to tell you who’s going to win every game involving Mid-Penn Conference teams, as well as Schuylkill-Colonial League games featuring former members of the now-defunct Tri-Valley League.
This year’s group of experts includes veteran reporters Andy Shay and Andy Sandrik, as well as 4th Down owner and manager Adam Kulikowski.
Here’s who we think will win each game this week.
Picker: Week 5 — Overall — Perfect Picks
Andy Sandrik: 13-9 — 105-33 — 0
Adam Kulikowski: 18-4 — 104-34 — 0
Andy Shay: 18-4 — 99-39 — 1
* Records in parentheses after school name; District and seed in parentheses before school name.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 28
Central Dauphin 50, Carlisle 16:
Andy Shay: Central Dauphin 31, Carlisle 6: Thundering Herd have dropped four straight, but three of those setbacks were one-score losses. Rams are looking to steer the ship back on course after falling to State College. The Power of CD shows up here.
Andy Sandrik: Central Dauphin 33, Carlisle 10: After a fast start to the season, Carlisle’s offense suddenly finds itself at a standstill, scoring just seven points over its last two games. The Thundering Herd will need more than that if they hope to keep up with the rising CD Rams.
Adam Kulikowski: Central Dauphin 35, Carlisle 10: Rams learned why State College is a state title contender last week. But lessons like that make good teams better. Rams take full advantage of this matchup to continue to improve.
Cumberland Valley 35, Chambersburg 20
Andy Shay: Chambersburg 20, Cumberland Valley 10: Going with chalk here, especially after the Trojans won a game 3-0 last week. Neither offense brings a whole lot to the table, so if one finds a groove or gets hot that’s your winner. Expect defense to set the tone and tenor of this one.
Andy Sandrik: Cumberland Valley 14, Chambersburg 13: I attended last week’s 3-0 win for Chambersburg over Carlisle. I’m expecting a similar kind of defensive struggle this week.
Adam Kulikowski: Cumberland Valley 24, Chambersburg 10: Perhaps this is an upset, but there’s been progress on the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles. Count on that to pay dividends in this Thursday night tussle.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 29
State College 43, CD East 17
Andy Shay: State College 52, CD East 14: The Panthers are 3-0 in road games this season heading into Happy Valley. CD East will struggle big-time to stay competitive against a Little Lions squad that has found a little bit of mojo on both sides of the ball.
Andy Sandrik: State College 50, CD East 18: The Little Lions made us experts look like a bunch of homers last week when they trounced our backyard contender Central Dauphin. Except for maybe the Harrisburg game, I don’t think I can pick against State College again this season.
Adam Kulikowski: State College 45, CD East 20: Little Lions complete the sweep of the Central Dauphins after flexing its muscle last week against the Rams.
Bishop McDevitt 55, Milton Hershey 14
Andy Shay: Bishop McDevitt 49, Milton Hershey 6: Que the weekly “this has nothing to do with the opponent” line — this week it happens to be the Spartans. McDevitt overpowers teams in waves, and slowing them down is almost impossible.
Andy Sandrik: Bishop McDevitt 56, Milton Hershey 21: It’s Milton Hershey’s turn to get a shot at slaying the McDevitt dragon. Can the Spartans last any longer than Cedar Cliff did last week?
Adam Kulikowski: Bishop McDevitt 55, Milton Hershey 14: Question to the McDevitt fans out there: where does this team stack up historically with other Crusaders squads? Tweet at us or respond on Facebook.
Cedar Cliff 48, Mifflin County 6
Andy Shay: Cedar Cliff 28, Mifflin County 14: I expect the Colts to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and put in a solid effort after getting blitzed a week ago in a game they expected to be competitive but wasn’t. If they fall shot, the Huskies are built to make you pay and will not go quietly.
Andy Sandrik: Cedar Cliff 35, Mifflin County 14: The faster Cedar Cliff can distance itself from the McDevitt beatdown loss, the more prepared it will be to take on a Mifflin County team that it’s heavily favored to beat.
Adam Kulikowski: Cedar Cliff 48, Mifflin County 26: There’s a Taylor Swift song that perfectly fits the mentality the Colts need after last week’s drubbing by the Crusaders.
Hershey 41, Red Land 0
Andy Shay: Hershey 34, Red Land 14: Trojans have scored 30 or more points in four of their five games and get to enjoy the Cocoa Bean Bowl trophy for another year. Opposing teams are so focused on the run game, the Hershey pass game has quietly become a viable weapon.
Andy Sandrik: Hershey 39, Red Land 10: I don’t care how much you love the game of football, there’s no way trying to tackle Hershey’s 230-pound sledgehammer RB Angel Cabrera is fun in any way.
Adam Kulikowski: Hershey 48, Red Land 6: I’m just not sure the Patriots have the power in the trenches to battle the Trojans for a full four quarters. Final score shows the wear Hershey’s big men can inflict.
Lower Dauphin 28, Palmyra 7
Andy Shay: Lower Dauphin 28, Palmyra 14: It will take a solid effort from the Falcons’ offense to make hay against a Cougars defense that has been better than you might think on a pretty consistent basis this season. Grinding is an LD specialty, though.
Andy Sandrik: Lower Dauphin 30, Palmyra 7: This Falcons squad is quietly outworking its competition this fall, and a big part of the success has been LD’s defense, which is allowing just nine points per game.
Adam Kulikowski: Lower Dauphin 28, Palmyra 13: The Falcons aren’t going to overpower many opponents, but they sure do find ways to battle through adversity — a welcome change from previous Falcons clubs.
East Pennsboro 29, Mechanicsburg 16
Andy Shay: East Pennsboro 38, Mechanicsburg 14: Good to see the Panthers have to win a game without their signature explosive big plays. Hard to keep East Penn shackled and drawn for eight consecutive quarters, though. Wildcats have enjoyed moments to date, but consistency has been elusive.
Andy Sandrik: East Pennsboro 36, Mechanicsburg 16: I’ve been having a heck of a time picking Mechanicsburg games this year. But with the ‘Cats facing a Colonial contender in East Pennsboro, I feel like I’m finally making the right call this week.
Adam Kulikowski: East Pennsboro 42, Mechanicsburg 28: I fully expect there to be big points scored in this one. But in the end, the firepower the Panthers possess is just too much to handle for the Wildcats.
Gettysburg 13, Shippensburg 0
Andy Shay: Gettysburg 30, Shippensburg 20: Warriors QB Brady Heiser has more than 1,000 total yards and 14 touchdowns through the midway point. And the pieces around him are starting to show up more and more. Greyhounds might not have enough offensive pop to keep up.
Andy Sandrik: Gettysburg 28, Shippensburg 20: These teams have identical 2-3 records, but Gettysburg has scored over 100 points more than Shippensburg up to this point. If this turns into a game of keep up, it will be a long night for the ‘Hounds.
Adam Kulikowski: Gettysburg 38, Shippensburg 14: The Greyhounds have scored more than 14 points just once all season. Not your typical Greyhounds squad.
Greencastle-Antrim 24, Northern 14
Andy Shay: Greencastle-Antrim 21, Northern 7: The Blue Devils’ first loss of the season, to undefeated East Pennsboro last week in a slugfest, qualifies as a quality loss in my book. Two running teams who know each touchdown really matters. Focus here will be on defense.
Andy Sandrik: Greencastle-Antrim 19, Northern 7: The struggling Polar Bears offense broke out for 28 points last week. It’s going to be hard to repeat that feat against a Greencastle defense that doesn’t allow a whole lot.
Adam Kulikowski: Greencastle-Antrim 28, Northern 6: Polar Bears are on a four-game skid heading into a tough matchup against the Blue Devils. If you are a Bears fan, you have to like the fight this club showed last week in a 29-28 loss to Waynesboro.
Susquehanna Township 40, Waynesboro 21
Andy Shay: Susquehanna Township 39, Waynesboro 20: Just feels like the right time for the ‘Hanna Tribe to get on a roll after surviving a crazy affair with Shippensburg last week. Remember, only two points separate Hanna from being 5-0 as compared to 3-2. Slim margins this week for the Indians, but they show up.
Andy Sandrik: Susquehanna Township 31, Waynesboro 14: If ‘Hanna races out to an early lead and forces Waynesboro to play catch-up, it could be lights out early at Rip Engle Sports Complex on Friday.
Adam Kulikowski: Susquehanna Township 38, Waynesboro 20: The Tribe’s 3-2 record can be deceiving. This is a club that lost its two games by a combined two points.
Trinity 28, Big Spring 22
Andy Shay: Trinity 35, Big Spring 14: The T-Rocks navigated some smooth waters last week and it was much needed coming out of a two-game fog. This is still a very good squad. Bulldogs will put up a fight but struggle with speed in space, and Trinity will want to show its chops in the open field.
Andy Sandrik: Trinity 28, Big Spring 14: Never count out a backfield that includes both Connor Green and Grant Hall, but this seems like it’s Trinity’s game to lose.
Adam Kulikowski: Trinity 41, Big Spring 28: We know the Shamrocks have the ability when healthy to score in a hurry. Question to me is just how healthy is Messiah Mickens?
West Perry 72, Boiling Springs 28
Andy Shay: West Perry 48, Boiling Spring 14: After two consecutive games falling short of the 40-point standard for this offense, the Mustangs can make it two straight above that mark. Bubblers are approaching 200 points surrendered after five games.
Andy Sandrik: West Perry 46, Boiling Springs 12: I’m not sure what path to victory the Bubblers have if West Perry comes out and simply executes the fundamentals.
Adam Kulikowski: West Perry 51, Boiling Springs 6: The West Perry crew has all the pieces it needs to put this game to bed before halftime.
Camp Hill 22, Susquenita 3
Andy Shay: Camp Hill 21, Susquenita 14: After a promising 3-0 start, the Lions have been saddled with a couple tight setbacks. Defense is the ticket for Camp Hill to get back on track. Blackhawks hit some big plays and press the accelerator offensively but still have only one win to show for it.
Andy Sandrik: Camp Hill 28, Susquenita 14: After toiling through heartbreaking losses to Big Spring and Middletown, I expect Camp Hill to have slightly more breathing room this week.
Adam Kulikowski: Camp Hill 35, Susquenita 28: ‘Nita has surrendered 171 points as we begin the second half of the season — that’s an unsavory 34.2 points per game.
Upper Dauphin 36, Halifax 0
Andy Shay: Upper Dauphin 41, Halifax 14: Couple of 3-2 squads, but the Trojans seem like they are on a different trajectory right now. This UDA group took some early lumps, but the pieces are coming together at the right time and they are playing well.
Andy Sandrik: Upper Dauphin 37, Halifax 20: The reality of the Liberty Division is starting to catch up with Halifax, while Upper Dauphin is hitting its stride for a possible run at the division.
Adam Kulikowski: Upper Dauphin 42, Halifax 21: The Wildcat faithful won’t be happy with our crew’s assessment of their chances in this Week 6 matchup, but the Trojans present a challenge the Wildcats might not be equipped to handle.
Juniata 46, James Buchanan 16
Andy Shay: Juniata 42, James Buchanan 7: Indians get back to .500 in this one against a Rockets outfit that has surrendered 92 points over the last eight quarters.
Andy Sandrik: Juniata 38, James Buchanan 6: If you haven’t added Juniata sophomore WR Jasper Shepps to your high school fantasy team yet, what are you waiting for? The kid already has 36 catches for 654 yards and seven TDs.
Adam Kulikowski: Juniata 45, James Buchanan 6: The last two matchups have provided the Indians with plenty of time to get some of their young playmakers valuable experience. One more tune-up before the schedule becomes more challenging.
Line Mountain 27, Newport 0
Andy Shay: Line Mountain 35, Newport 0: Couple of tight-squeeze wins in a row for the Eagles to keep a positive outlook on the season. Buffaloes have scored only 19 points this season and have been non-competitive on a weekly basis.
Andy Sandrik: Line Mountain 33, Newport 0: I don’t know how many defenders have the kind of gear Line Mountain’s Maxim Johnson has. Dude’s a 6-foot-4 defensive end with eight sacks, 16.5 TFLs and an INT to boot. Not good news for a Newport team struggling to score points as it is.
Adam Kulikowski: Line Mountain 45, Newport 6: This is another game on the Week 6 docket where the outcome simply is not in question.
Tri-Valley 33, Shenandoah Valley 14
Andy Shay: Tri-Valley 30, Shenandoah Valley 22: This won’t be easy for the Bulldogs against a 2-3 Blue Devils squad that keeps itself in most games. Something tells me the Tri-Valley passing game has a say in the final outcome of this game.
Andy Sandrik: Tri-Valley 28, Shenandoah Valley 21: The Bulldogs are balanced on both sides of the ball, which has kept them in every single game this fall. I’m expecting another close, grind-it-out kind of game this week, too.
Adam Kulikowski: Tri-Valley 21, Shenandoah Valley 20: The Blue Devils don’t sport the flashy numbers that jump off a stats page, but they are getting solid contributions from a bevy of playmakers. To me, that makes this a dangerous club for the Bulldogs.
Palmerton 41, Pine Grove 22
Andy Shay: Palmerton 49, Pine Grove 6: Tough sledding here for the Cardinals with the undefeated Blue Bombers welcoming Pine Grove to town as ungracious hosts. Palmerton has scored more than 200 points and has rarely been slowed down.
Andy Sandrik: Palmerton 52, Pine Grove 6: When you combine an offense that’s scoring a lot of points with an opposing defense that’s allowing just as many points, you end up with a lopsided result like this.
Adam Kulikowski: Palmerton 55, Pine Grove 13: When you talk about dawgs at the high school level, there are few performing better right now than dual-threat quarterback Matthew Machalik. This dude has surpassed 1,100 yards rushing and 700 passing yards through five matchups.
Williams Valley 35, Nativity BVM 28
Andy Shay: Williams Valley 35, Nativity BVM 21: Did you know Vikings RB Alex Achenbach has accounted for nearly 80% of the total yards of offense for Williams Valley at the halfway point of the season? He drives this team, obviously.
Andy Sandrik: Williams Valley 28, Nativity BVM 21: I can’t say I know a ton about Nativity, but I can see the teams share a common opponent in Schuylkill Haven. The Vikings played within three points of the Hurricanes, while the Nativity Green Wave was washed away.
Adam Kulikowski: Williams Valley 33, Nativity BVM 14: Vikings don’t try to hide what they are going to do to beat you. Hint: you must stop Achenbach. Can a Nativity BVM team that has yielded just 99 points this year force the Vikings a Plan B?
SATURDAY, SEPT. 30
Middletown at Steel-High, noon
Andy Shay: Steel-High 49, Middletown 7: Up front and on the outside in those open spaces, the gap between the Rollers and Blue Raiders right now is as wide as the Susquehanna River that flows along each town.
Andy Sandrik: Steel-High 45, Middletown 7: Congrats to Middletown for nailing down that first win faster than anyone could have imagined. The Blue Raiders will have a little more trouble with a Rollers squad that matches up well in the trenches.
Adam Kulikowski: Steel-High 55, Middletown 6: Earning that first win of the year had to feel good for a Blue Raiders club searching for positive momentum. Rollers pose a much greater test.
Altoona at Harrisburg, 1 p.m.
Andy Shay: Harrisburg 41, Altoona 0: There’s a growth spurt happening with this Cougars offense that bodes well moving forward. The pieces are falling place. The Mountain Lions’ offense has little to test this Cougars defense right now.
Andy Sandrik: Harrisburg 41, Altoona 7: With the way Harrisburg’s defense has been playing of late, it only takes a simple mistake or two for opponents to suddenly find themselves on the wrong end of a blowout.
Adam Kulikowski: Harrisburg 49, Altoona 13: It took the Cougars a bit to get their high-octane offense in gear last week, but Calvin Everett’s crew still dropped 42 on Cumberland Valley. Expect another big offensive performance in Week 6.