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Saturday, June 15, 2024

High School Football: Results: Week 1 Picks and Predictions

EXPLAINING OUR PICKS: The 4th Down Magazine crew picks all games involving Mid-Penn Conference teams, as well as Schuylkill-Colonial League games featuring former members of the now-defunct Twin Valley Conference. Starting with the state semifinals, our pickers get really bold and predict all the games. And, after 10 weeks of regular season and six weeks of playoffs, the season is officially over. Congrats to the six PIAA champs, all of the district champs, division champs, and everybody else who suited up and gave their all last season. Of course, we must also give a shoutout to Mr. 4th Down, Adam Kulikowski, who somehow found time between his day job and working tirelessly to keep the 4th Down Magazine website updated and running to actually WIN our picks title! The dude is amazing! (And he’s almost certainly going down this year because the Andys won’t stand for a repeat!)

2023 Standings

Picker: Week 1 – Overall – Perfect Picks
Adam Kulikowski: 25-6 — 25-6 — 0

Andy Sandrik: 25-6 — 23-6 — 0

Andy Shay: 23-8 — 21-8 — 0

* Records in parentheses after school name; District and seed in parentheses before school name.

View our team previews:






View our Preseason Elite 11 rankings


Hollidaysburg 21, Altoona 13

Andy Shay: Altoona 26, Hollidaysburg 20: I’m going to bank on the vets and playmakers residing on the defensive side of the ball for Altoona providing enough to start the season with a W. Won’t be an easy opener, either.

Andy Sandrik: Altoona 28, Hollidaysburg 17: There are a lot of scrappers on the Altoona roster looking to prove they belong on the field in the Commonwealth Division. The first test for these guys will be a difficult one against their rivals from Hollidaysburg.

Adam Kulikowski: Altoona 38, Hollidaysburg 14: Hollidaysburg hasn’t beaten the Mountain Lions since 2020 — a streak that will continue for another circuit. 

Carlisle 35, Mechanicsburg 28

Andy Shay: Carlisle 20, Mechanicsburg 14: Both teams are replacing a good bit of their known talent, so early bumps are expected. The list of newbies for the Wildcats is much longer, and that gives the Herd a slight edge.

Andy Sandrik: Carlisle 28, Mechanicsburg 10: Both teams are rebuilding to a certain degree, but I still think Carlisle is about two steps ahead of the ‘Cats.

Adam Kulikowski: Carlisle 24, Mechanicsburg 14: First-year head coach Brandon Cook will look to build on back-to-back playoff appearances by the Thundering Herd when the 2023 circuit kicks off Friday. Finding ways to get the rock to their key playmaker, Carson Swartz, will be key in the opener for the gents in green and white. 

Central York 45, Central Dauphin 35

Andy Shay: Central Dauphin 28, Central York 27: The Rams are coming off a three-win campaign and spent the offseason pressing a big reset button. Getting their QB back from an injury that cost him most of last season will help the offense. Central York is the favorite and has earned that. So this is an upset should CD pull it off.

Andy Sandrik: Central York 21, Central Dauphin 14: When’s the last time Central York had a down season? It seems like no matter how much talent the Panthers lose each year, they come back stronger than ever the following season. Central Dauphin does have a group of men in the trenches that could make this a tight contest.

Adam Kulikowski: Central York 21, Central Dauphin 17: Prior to last season’s 3-7 campaign, the Rams never had a losing season under coach Glen McNamee’s guidance. You can bet the Rams are ready to turn the page on 2022. This one, however, might not be the first step in that revival.

CD East 55, Reading 6

Andy Shay: CD East 25, Reading 20: When you lose all six of your all-star players from a three-win team, you are fighting an uphill battle again for sure. Wins are going to be hard to come by, and this is a 50-50 game all the way.

Andy Sandrik: Reading 27, CD East 21: Tough road game for an unproven CD East squad against a Reading team that is also young but brings back a lot of talent.

Adam Kulikowski: CD East 28, Reading 13: On a squad hit hard by graduation, Lance Deane’s returning class is highlighted by a pair of standout defenders in Jared Porter and Xavier Armstrong in the secondary. What other pieces emerge in Deane’s third run as head coach will determine how far this team can go. 

Pope John Paul II 22, Chambersburg 0

Andy Shay: Pope John Paul II 42, Chambersburg 14: Staring down the barrel of a 10-win team from a year ago that still has some key pieces in the fold is a mighty large ask of the Trojans, who have skill players but are green as summer grass up front both ways.

Andy Sandrik: Pope John Paul II 36, Chambersburg 14: Plenty of fun athletes to watch for the Trojans if they can find a line to run behind. Not sure they’re going to find it right away in this tough opener, though.

Adam Kulikowski: Pope John Paul II 48, Chambersburg 21: Four of PJPII’s top five tacklers and their three top playmakers on offense all are suiting back up for the 2023 campaign. Experience pays early in the season, and the Golden Panthers possess it.

Manheim Township 35, Cumberland Valley 6

Andy Shay: Manheim Township 34, Cumberland Valley 14: I have zero doubts the Eagles can hang in the trenches with the Blue Streaks. When it comes to skill positions, though, the Blue Streaks right now are a mile ahead and that will show up late in a game that I expect to be competitive well into the second half.

Andy Sandrik: Manheim Township 28, Cumberland Valley 21: I’ve been seeing the Eagles post weight-room updates all summer and get the sense they’re going to have a heck of a line this fall. Is that enough to topple the Blue Streaks, who are deep in the skill positions?

Adam Kulikowski: Manheim Township 41, Cumberland Valley 20: The Blue Streaks return one of the best QB-WR tandems in District 3 in Hayden Johnson (QB) and Declan Clancy (WR), a duo that connected for 13 TDs and nearly 1,000 yards last season.

State College 49, Williamsport 20

Andy Shay: State College 42, Williamsport 7: Will the Little Lions ride with one signal caller this season? The formula recently was to mix-and-match, and it produced results. They have a star at running back to lean on and a defense that leans on offenses trying to find their way.

Andy Sandrik: State College 35, Williamsport 7: It’s still hard for me to imagine a world where a freshman is as good as D’Antae Sheffey was running the ball for State College last season. He’s only going to be better this time around, right?

Adam Kulikowski: State College 34, Williamsport 14: The Little Lions turn the reins over to senior QB Owen Yerka, a lad who did get some time under center last year. Look for Matt Lintal to lean on his stud back, D’Antae Sheffey, as Yerka gets comfortable at the helm.

Bishop McDevitt 20, Mount Saint Joseph (Md.) 14

Andy Shay: Bishop McDevitt 30, Mount Saint Joseph 21: Enjoy the elite high school quarterbacks that will be featured in this matchup. Couple of really, really good ones who will be facing arguably their toughest test of the regular season right out of the gate.

Andy Sandrik: Bishop McDevitt 28, Mount Saint Joseph 21: I make a lot of jokes at McDevitt’s expense for their cakewalk through the Keystone Division, but I respect the Crusaders for taking the initiative to schedule high-quality non-conference games like these.

Adam Kulikowski: Bishop McDevitt 34, Mount Saint Joseph 27: There aren’t many games on the docket in Week 1 with the type of QB matchup this one features. On one side, the Crusaders will trot out Kentucky commit Stone Saunders, a known pedigree. For the Baltimore-based Mount Saint Joseph, they have a good one themselves in Winston Watkins. He racked up more than 2,000 passing yards with 23 TDs and just five interceptions in 2022.

Lower Dauphin 45, Middletown 0

Andy Shay: Lower Dauphin 28, Middletown 10: Going with the Falcons’ defense and the nine returning starters to be more than enough to slow down a Blue Raiders program that has picked up the pieces and will be starting from scratch after a year on the sidelines.

Andy Sandrik: Lower Dauphin 28, Middletown 7: Lower Dauphin stud RB Ty Millhimes will test each and every defender in the re-assembled Middletown lineup. That factor alone should push the Falcons to a convincing win.

Adam Kulikowski: Lower Dauphin 21, Middletown 20: If you know what to expect with this one, props to you. Middletown makes its return to the field after the doors were shuttered last year following a hazing incident while Lower Dauphin continues to make strides in its rebuild. 

Cedar Cliff 29, Shippensburg 13

Andy Shay: Cedar Cliff 31, Shippensburg 14: Simply put, the Colts have significantly fewer questions to answer than the Greyhounds, and defensively Cedar Cliff brings back nine regulars who know the ropes.

Andy Sandrik: Cedar Cliff 21, Shippensburg 18: I love the little rivalry that has developed from this cross-division matchup. Great games in recent years. Colts will be hungry for this one against the ‘Hounds, who were responsible for disposing of CC in the playoffs last fall.

Adam Kulikowski: Cedar Cliff 24, Shippensburg 20: I learned long ago never to doubt the chops of the Greyhounds, but graduation hit this squad hard. It takes time to break in a new crew, and the Colts offer a battle-tested bunch in Week 1. 

Northern 13, Red Land 7

Andy Shay: Northern 34, Red Land 20: The Polar Bears have a huge advantage at the skill positions in this one, and that will be too much for the Patriots to handle over 48 minutes. The battle in the trenches will be a more equal battleground, and Red Land will make a case by hanging around.

Andy Sandrik: Northern 28, Red Land 21: Northern is breaking in a new QB, but with Cole Bartram in the lineup who really needs passing, anyway?

Adam Kulikowski: Northern 42, Red Land 14: Bartram and his 1,600 rushing stripes headlines the returning cast for the Northern Polar Bears, who a year ago thumped the Patriots 45-6. Expect a similar result Friday night. 

Hershey 36, Gettysburg 35

Andy Shay: Gettysburg 21, Hershey 10: In many ways these teams are in a similar position in terms of replacing lost key ingredients. Except the Warriors have QB Brady Heiser back under center, and his abilities are the biggest difference maker.

Andy Sandrik: Hershey 17, Gettysburg 10: I’ve had a bad habit of underrating Gettysburg in recent years, and that certainly has cost me on this pick ‘em panel. Some people just never learn. But I think Hershey has enough pieces to steal an upset win in front of the home crowd. 

Adam Kulikowski: Gettysburg 31, Hershey 17: A good QB can mask bumps in the road as new talent gets acclimated to the speed of varsity football. We know Gettysburg has that dude in Brady Heiser, while Hershey is hoping sophomore Cameron Sweeney can become that guy. 

Milton Hershey 35, Susquehanna Township 34

Andy Shay: Susquehanna Township 34, Milton Hershey 20: This is a great first test for two quality teams that should absolutely have postseason aspirations. ‘Hanna was a bit of a surprise story a year ago with how far this group moved the needle. Winning this one would be validation and another big step forward.

Andy Sandrik: Milton Hershey 28, Susquehanna Township 21: Both teams possess size, skill, experience and speed. I think this is more of a coin-flip game than most folks might think.

Adam Kulikowski: Susquehanna Township 32, Milton Hershey 21: Pegged by our own Andy Sandrik to win the Colonial, the Indians are looking to build on a turnaround season in 2022. This will be a nice first step.

Palmyra 50, Lebanon 7

Andy Shay: Palmyra 14, Lebanon 7: Combined, these teams went 1-19 a year ago. The Cougars have most of those players back, but lost a key piece to transfer in the offensive backfield. Coin flip on this one for sure.

Andy Sandrik: Palmyra 21, Lebanon 7: This is perhaps the most winnable game on the schedule for both teams, which makes this a potentially entertaining Week 1 matchup.

Adam Kulikowski: Palmyra 28, Lebanon 6: When your crew struggles like the Panthers did in 2022, you look for anything to provide a spark. Panthers have the edge in this one just as they did a year ago.

Mifflin County 41, Central Mountain 6

Andy Shay: Mifflin County 41, Central Mountain 13: They have a couple quality linemen to replace, but for the most part the Huskies are pretty well stocked with known talent from a six-win season. The Wildcats were 0-10 a year ago, so this is most likely a mismatch.

Andy Sandrik: Mifflin County 44, Central Mountain 21: The Huskies have a lot of returning pop on offense. It’s going to take some kind of an effort for Central Mountain to stop its losing streak.

Adam Kulikowski: Mifflin County 31, Central Mountain 20: Central Mountain last won a ball game in October 2021 — a span of a dozen contests. Huskies won’t be the ones who allow the Wildcats to sip some victory root beer. 

Greencastle-Antrim 17, Big Spring 14

Andy Shay: Big Spring 26, Greencastle-Antrim 20: Couple of squads that lost some major horsepower at the most high-profile positions from a year ago. The Bulldogs have a little more to work with up front on offense and in the backfield. That’s enough for me in an otherwise even landscape.

Andy Sandrik: Big Spring 21, Greencastle-Antrim 18: I think Big Spring deserves to be favored by more than three points, but something tells me this will be a scrappy contest that remains in doubt until the final second ticks away.

Adam Kulikowski: Greencastle-Antrim 24, Big Spring 14: In a game filled with question marks and new faces in both starting lineups, I’ll line up two all-star defensive studs in the run-heavy Colonial any day. And that’s what the Blue Devils have in lineman Parker Funk (6-foot-1, 245 pounds) and linebacker Logan Shifflett (5-11, 185). 

Littlestown 23, Boiling Springs 8

Andy Shay: Littlestown 28, Boiling Springs 24: Tales of two seasons for a Thunderbolts team that went 1-4 the first half of the season a year ago and proceeded to win their final five games. Still think this is a tight shave, but the Bubblers are in a tough division and have a lot of skill player questions to answer. 

Andy Sandrik: Littlestown 24, Boiling Springs 14: I’m going to have to see some consistent production from Boiling Springs before I can start picking the Bubblers in games this year.

Adam Kulikowski: Littletown 38, Boiling Springs 21: Consider this the year of redemption for the Thunderbolts after getting whooped 66-18 last year.

Camp Hill 21, Newport 0

Andy Shay: Camp Hill 37, Newport 14: These Lions are better than you think, but in the very top-heavy Capital Division they are a little lost on the attention meter. They have to be better on defense to finish above .500, and winning favorable matchups like this one is critical. The Buffs just don’t have enough skill dudes to keep pace right now.

Andy Sandrik: Camp Hill 35, Newport 7: Camp Hill is a team that’s been to hell and back with the West Perrys, Big Springs and Steel-Highs of the world. This is a tough matchup for the Buffaloes.

Adam Kulikowski: Camp Hill 45, Newport 13: Lions return a 2,000-yard QB in junior Drew Branstetter. For a club that loves to sling it, that’s a pretty darn good building block. 

Trinity 49, Delone Catholic 12

Andy Shay: Trinity 34, Delone Catholic 14: This is still a solid Delone squad, but they just do not match up well against the Shamrocks. Both wins by Trinity a year ago were blowouts, and the crew from Shiremanstown hasn’t lost many horses.

Andy Sandrik: Trinity 44, Delone Catholic 10: It’s no secret that Trinity has some weapons that could turn this into a lopsided affair rather quickly. 

Adam Kulikowski: Trinity 37, Delone Catholic 20: Each year I have a handful of gents who I look forward to watching play in person. Jordan Hill’s squad possesses one of those dudes in running back Messiah Mickens. If you haven’t seen clips from this cat’s freshman year, fire up Google and take a look — or better yet, buy a ticket to one of the Shamrock games this year.

West Perry 45, Susquenita 22

Andy Shay: West Perry 42, Susquenita 14: I think the Blackhawks, who have yet another head coach, will be part of the conversation in the Liberty Division. They are nowhere near the Mustangs’ level right now. West Perry is hunting for an RB1 for this season. Finding the answer starts in this one.

Andy Sandrik: West Perry 38, Susquenita 7: I’m not that old, but I am old enough to go back with parents of kids on both of these teams. It’s a weird feeling.

Adam Kulikowski: West Perry 45, Susquenita 16: WP’s Marcus Quaker and crew take charge of this one early — that’s more of a testament to how good the Mustangs can be this year than an indication of troubles in Duncannon. 

Waynesboro 21, Spring Grove 3

Andy Shay: Spring Grove 31, Waynesboro 7: The Rockets might have some questions that need answers going into this one, but they do not have more questions than the Indians. Waynesboro is starting from scratch pretty much.

Andy Sandrik: Spring Grove 26, Waynesboro 7: Could be a lean year in Waynesboro this fall. I’m not sure how long the Indians will be able to stick with the Rockets on Friday.

Adam Kulikowski: Spring Grove 24, Waynesboro 13: Former Chambersburg head coach Mark Saunders has the reins of the Indians heading into the 2023 circuit. Filling the cupboard might take a little time in the ‘Boro.

East Pennsboro 37, York Suburban 6

Andy Shay: East Pennsboro 34, York Suburban 20: The Panthers took out YS a year ago and have almost everybody back. That’s enough for me.

Andy Sandrik: East Pennsboro 28, York Suburban 17: I’ve caught some flack for possibly overrating East Pennsboro in my Colonial Division preview. But I stand by my pick, and think the Panthers open with a big win in York County. 

Adam Kulikowski: East Pennsboro 24, York Suburban 21: We’re bullish on the Panthers, but that doesn’t mean they will notch the dub in blowout fashion. Takes a strong effort to notch No. 1 on Friday. 

Hamburg 49, Halifax 19

Andy Shay: Hamburg 42, Halifax 14: I can see where the Wildcats will improve, but the Hawks are coming off a nine-win campaign and have way more known talent in their camp.

Andy Sandrik: Hamburg 45, Halifax 8: Hamburg lost some quality players, but I still see the Hawks and Wildcats being in two completely different tiers.

Adam Kulikowski: Hamburg 38, Halifax 14: I think we will see positive steps in the Halifax program this year. But it’s a tough call to predict a victory in Week 1. 

York Tech 14, James Buchanan 7

Andy Shay: James Buchanan 20, York Tech 7: Slight edge to the Rockets, who will face some tough times ahead in the Liberty Division. Chance to get started right with a lot of new faces.

Andy Sandrik: James Buchanan 24, York Tech 7: Mike Bullock wrote some nice things about Jacob Frey in his Liberty preview for 4th Down. Look for that kid to put up some nice numbers in this one.

Adam Kulikowski: James Buchanan 21, York Tech 14: Both teams likely have this one circled in the winnable-games column. Rockets have more firepower — get it? — to actually get it done. 

Line Mountain 54, Athens 12

Andy Shay: Line Mountain 21, Athens 14: This will not be an easy opener for the Liberty Division favorites, who are experienced but still have another level to discover. The Wildcats are a competitive squad.

Andy Sandrik: Line Mountain 18, Athens 14: I think Line Mountain gets tested, but ultimately prevails, against a Wildcats outfit that has a lot of skill positions to replace. 

Adam Kulikowski: Line Mountain 27, Athens 13: It wasn’t long ago that we were simply hoping the Eagles would find their footing and put some points on the scoreboard. Now, we have them pegged as the favorite in the feisty Liberty Division thanks to a strong returning class featuring 10 returnees on defense and nine more on offense. 

Williams Valley 28, Upper Dauphin 0

Andy Shay: Upper Dauphin 30, Williams Valley 28: Give me the Trojans in this one because … I’m taking Upper Dauphin, that’s why. 

Andy Sandrik: Williams Valley 33, Upper Dauphin 28: Alex Achenbach ran all over UD for 305 yards and five TDs last year, and could very well do it again Friday night.

Adam Kulikowski: Williams Valley 28, Upper Dauphin 27: In years past this would be one of the marquee matchups on the docket in Week 1 — and it still might be, but both teams enter the 2023 circuit with big questions to answer. Edge goes to the lads with Alex Achenbach on their side. 

Pine Grove 20, Northern Lebanon 14

Andy Shay: Pine Grove 20, Northern Lebanon 17: Two evenly matched teams who each ended up below the .500 bar a year ago. Not sure I see a clear advantage for either club here.

Andy Sandrik: Pine Grove 17, Northern Lebanon 7: Pine Grove carries a lot of size on the defensive line and could use that beef to lean on the Vikings and wear them down over four quarters. 

Adam Kulikowski: Pine Grove 31, Northern Lebanon 28: If we’re being honest, it’s a coin flip who ends up on top of this matchup. One thing I do know is that Lane Lehman can be a difference maker for the Cardinals. The 5-10, 175-pound senior led the team last year with 90 tackles and 1,000 rushing yards. Not too shabby. 

Minersville 38, Tri-Valley 34

Andy Shay: Minersville 20, Tri-Valley 13: The Bulldogs took out the Battlin’ Miners twice a year ago, but both games were competitive. Seems like a level playing field and just feels like Minersville is due to get one.

Andy Sandrik: Tri-Valley 14, Minersville 7: Give me the Bulldogs’ defense winning at home, while T-V’s new-look offense learns the ropes in a grind-it-out game. 

Adam Kulikowski: Minersville 24, Tri-Valley 7: Incoming sophomore QB Dante Carr earned valuable reps under center last year for the Battlin’ Miners. Look for the 6-4, 205-pound field general to take a big step forward in 2023.


Harrisburg 50, York 20

Andy Shay: Harrisburg 49, York 6: You do not want to be looking to replace your top three rushers and receivers and be playing this Cougars defense. That just isn’t going to end well. Harrisburg will control this one from start to finish.

Andy Sandrik: Harrisburg 38, York 15: Harrisburg certainly has the advantage in the skill department, but York possesses some all-star experience in the trenches. This will be a good test for a new-look Cougars’ line. 

Adam Kulikowski: Harrisburg 45, York 13: The Cougars return a nice core on both sides of the ball, while the Trojans will be searching for playmakers after their top three rushers and receivers all turned their tassels. 

Steel-High 42, Imani Christian Academy 27

Andy Shay: Steel-High 48, Imani Christian Academy 14: Not sure the Saints’ defense has enough tools in their defensive chest to keep up with the Steel-High offense. ICA surrendered more than 30 a game last season. The Rollers punish defenses that struggle at times.

Andy Sandrik: Steel-High 44, Imani Christian Academy 12: Steel-High can, and should, dictate the pace of this game. Gonna be exciting to see how many points these Rollers can put up this fall.

Adam Kulikowski: Steel-High 52, Imani Christian Academy 13: The Rollers have the potential to put up points at a lightning pace. Just when does Andrew Erby let off the gas in Week 1? 

Troy 56, Juniata 21:

Andy Shay: Troy 20, Juniata 13: I still think the Indians are in the hunt to grab the Liberty Division crown, it just feels like playing a rising Troy squad this early on level ground will be a grind. But Juniata grinds better than most.

Andy Sandrik: Troy 24, Juniata 16: The Indians will be just fine as the season progresses, but there are too many question marks to take them over a battle-hardened Troy squad in Week 1. 

Adam Kulikowski: Juniata 24, Troy 21: Judging from my colleagues, this might be an upset. But in Week 1 anything is possible — and I know Kurt Condo’s club always plays tough defense. 

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