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High School Football: Results: Picks and Predictions for Week 3

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EXPLAINING OUR PICKS: It’s Week 3 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 Twin Valley Conference.

This year’s group of experts includes veteran reporters Andy Shay and Andy Sandrick, as well as 4th Down owner and manager Adam Kulikowski.

Here’s who we think will win each game this week.

2023 Standings

Picker: Week 3 — Overall — Perfect Picks
Andy Sandrik: 22-8 — 73-21 — 0

Adam Kulikowski: 21-9— 69-25 — 0

Andy Shay: 19-11 — 65-29 — 0

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

View our new podcast, 4th and Goal with Jake Adams and Andy Shay. This week, we’re chatting with West Perry wide receiver Ian Goodling. We’re also digging into what stood out in Week 2 including Big Spring’s victory over Shippensburg to claim the Little Brown Jug; our surprise team–the Bishop McDevitt Crusaders; plus we highlight an athlete to watch and one must-see game in Week 3.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 8

Altoona 35, Mifflin County 0

Andy Shay: Mifflin County 34, Altoona 20: Pretty obvious what the Huskies’ recipe for success is built around. Powered by an offensive line that is on point, running back Deakon Schaeffer is averaging 200 yards a game. Not sure Altoona can force Mifflin Country out of its comfort zone.

Andy Sandrik: Mifflin County 32, Altoona 24: Altoona will present a challenge, but the Huskies have answered the bell on both sides of the ball so far this season and deserve to be the favorites.

Adam Kulikowski: Mifflin County 27, Altoona 23: The Huskies are clearly trending up, coming off a 6-5 season last year. If the good times are to continue in Huskie Country, the defense will play a key role. One player that’s stood out in the early polling on that unit? Senior Owen Gipe. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound linebacker has racked up team-high 31 tackles to help limit MIfflin County’s first two opponents to 12 total points. 

York 42, Carlisle 40

Andy Shay: York 42, Carlisle 21: Not sure either defense is going to have a lot of say in this outcome, and it appears as if the Bearcats have more firepower in their offensive arsenal right now.

Andy Sandrik: York 39, Carlisle 35: Kulikowski and Shay can pick against Carlisle without hearing about it from everyone in the drive-through elementary pickup. I don’t have that luxury. 

Adam Kulikowski: York 39, Carlisle 28: Fun fact: the Thundering Herd have scored exactly as many points as they have yielded — 56. The result is a 1-1 record. 

Central Dauphin 35, Coatesville 13

Andy Shay: Coatesville 35, Central Dauphin 14: This will be the Rams’ second opponent in three games ranked inside the Top 10 in the state. Red Raiders’ defense has been impressive through eight quarters and will provide the biggest challenge to date for the CD offense.

Andy Sandrik: Coatesville 33, Central Dauphin 17: Vibes are getting better in Rams’ country, but knocking off this tough Coatesville squad is much easier said than done.

Adam Kulikowski: Central Dauphin 28, Coatesville 27: All signs say to go with the Red Raiders — 77 points scored versus just seven yielded; a victory last year against Central Dauphin; plenty of weapons in the cupboard. Yet, the vibe is back with the Rams and momentum can raise the tide to new heights. 

CD East 60, Northeastern 6

Andy Shay: CD East 35, Northeastern 7: There are huge matchup advantages all over the field for the Panthers in this one against a winless Bobcats squad.

Andy Sandrik: CD East 43, Northeastern 7: Even after a blowout loss, CD East is still about four steps ahead of Northeastern, in my book.

Adam Kulikowski: CD East 45, Northeastern 10: Losses to Red Land and Dover provide enough context to draw the conclusion that Northeastern doesn’t have the pieces in the proverbial cupboard to hang with the Panthers. 

Chambersburg 42, Waynesboro 20

Andy Shay: Chambersburg 42, Waynesboro 7: A friendly reminder the Trojans dropped half a century on the Northern Polar Bears a week ago. Enough said.

Andy Sandrik: Chambersburg 45, Waynesboro 10: I’m still stunned at how badly the Trojans gashed Northern last week. Something’s cooking in Chambersburg, and it would be unwise to pick against the Trojans right now. 

Adam Kulikowski: Chambersburg 34, Waynesboro 13: The Trojans have speed to burn, and that will provide plenty of trouble for a rebuilding Waynesboro squad. 

Spring-Ford 63, Cumberland Valley 17

Andy Shay: Spring-Ford 21, Cumberland Valley 17: Rams are 2-0 while the Eagles are winless after facing two high-quality opponents. This feels like a more level playing field despite the records. Path to success for CV lies in more help from the offense.

Andy Sandrik: Spring-Ford 24, Cumberland Valley 14: I know CV has played some really good programs these opening two weeks, but six points in eight quarters is still a red flag for me. The Eagles’ defense will keep this game close for as long as they can, but the offense is going to have to take that next step sooner rather than later.

Adam Kulikowski: Spring-Ford 17, Cumberland Valley 7: Coach Josh Oswalt’s offense scheme is not an easy one to run fluently on Day 1. That means there’s growing pains that come along with a new cast of characters — and the Eagles certainly have faced those pains, netting just six points in their first eight quarters of play. 

Manheim Township 38, Harrisburg 6

Andy Shay: Harrisburg 27, Manheim Township 24: Both squads have come out of the gates flying and executing at a very high level on both sides of the ball. The chess match between the Cougars’ defense and the Blue Streaks’ offense is going to be fascinating to watch play out.

Andy Sandrik: Manheim Township 30, Harrisburg 26: I get the sense that this won’t be the first time these behemoths square off this fall.

Adam Kulikowski: Manheim Township 31, Harrisburg 30: This one is worth the drive for Harrisburg football fans. My crystal ball says we might be getting a preview of a District 3 Class 6A title match later this year.

State College at Hollidaysburg, Canceled

Andy Shay: State College 34, Hollidaysburg 14: Pretty sure the Little Lions are going to be ready to go from the opening whistle this week and focused on getting back on track after watching a late rally fall just short a week ago.

Andy Sandrik: State College 45, Hollidaysburg 21: State College will be fully focused on getting ahead and staying ahead, which could snowball into a blowout loss for Hollidaysburg.

Adam Kulikowski: State College 45, Hollidaysburg 13: The loss to Downingtown East was a mild shock, but don’t let that fool you. The Little Lions are still a force to be reckoned with for any opponent. 

Mechanicsburg 49, Red Land 30

Andy Shay: Red Land 24, Mechanicsburg 21: Toss-up game for me. The Patriots’ run game is a formula for success against the Wildcats’ defense, plus they have a defense that has created some key turnovers. Mechanicsburg offense will be the difference-maker if the Wildcats take this one.

Andy Sandrik: Red Land 21, Mechanicsburg 14: Having that first win under your belt can make a world of difference. The Patriots’ confidence, combined with its running attack and a sprinkle of defense, could serve them well in a grind-it-out kind of game. 

Adam Kulikowski: Red Land 28, Mechanicsburg 20: If the Patriots watched the tape from Cedar Cliff’s victory against Mechanicsburg last Thursday, they likely saw a few tendencies in the passing game that can be exploited against the Wildcats. 

Bishop McDevitt 47, La Salle College 21

Andy Shay: Bishop McDevitt 35, La Salle College 14: A pair of come-from-behind victories against next-level opponents should serve the Crusaders well in this one. I expect this to be close well into the second half before McD takes charge.

Andy Sandrik: Bishop McDevitt 35, La Salle College 10: The star-studded Crusaders have had to fight and claw for everything they’ve gotten in their 2-0 start. That experience will serve them well in this contest. 

Adam Kulikowski: Bishop McDevitt 41, La Salle College 20: Crusaders survived about 20 haymaker shots last week but never toppled. Consider this crew hardened and ready for the final test before division play begins next week. 

Cedar Cliff 43, McCaskey 6

Andy Shay: Cedar Cliff 27, McCaskey 20: There’s a little bit more pop in the Colts’ offense that you might think. They are a patient and efficient unit that will test McCaskey’s defense over the course of 48 minutes.

Andy Sandrik: Cedar Cliff 28, McCaskey 18: Cedar Cliff’s defense has been quietly having a nice little season, but I think they’ll be tested by a McCaskey squad that’s scored a point or two this season.

Adam Kulikowski: Cedar Cliff 41, McCaskey 17: The numbers Cedar Cliff has posted through Week 2 won’t wow you, but that’s just what’s scary about this team. They are getting solid contributions from a wide array of gents.

Hershey 35, Dallastown 19

Andy Shay: Dallastown 28, Hershey 21: Fully aware the Trojans are 2-0 and the Wildcats come into this one licking their wounds, sporting an 0-2 ledger. Who you play also matters, and Dallastown will have a say in the outcome of this game.

Andy Sandrik: Hershey 28, Dallastown 21: Hershey’s been a nice surprise this fall, but sooner or later someone’s going to knock off the Trojans, right? This seems like another 50-50 game, but fortune has favored Hershey in those kinds of contests this fall.

Adam Kulikowski: Hershey 24, Dallastown 21: Wavered on this pick for a few minutes, but I’m settling with the dudes in our coverage area who sport a tidy 2-0 record and a rushing offense that’s averaged a healthy 6.1 yards per carry.

Lower Dauphin 30, Elizabethtown 0

Andy Shay: Lower Dauphin 34, Elizabethtown 7: Bears have lost each of their first two games by 27 points and have struggled to be competitive. Fully healthy, the Falcons should have little trouble posting victory No. 2. 

Andy Sandrik: Lower Dauphin 41, Elizabethtown 14: I’m having more difficulty trying to type “Elizabethtown” than I think LD will actually have with the Bears this week.

Adam Kulikowski: Lower Dauphin 41, Elizabethtown 13: Falcons have the firepower to get some of the youngsters varsity experience in the second half. 

Palmyra 21, at Donegal 14

Andy Shay: Palmyra 28, Donegal 21: At first glance this might appear to be an upset. Not sure I see it that way. The Cougars’ defense has played eight solid quarters, and despite Donegal’s 2-0 mark, I think the 1-1 Cougars are playing their best football.

Andy Sandrik: Donegal 21, Palmyra 14: This has the makings of a defensive-minded contest. Give the edge to the L-L outfit playing at home.

Adam Kulikowski: Donegal 24, Palmyra 14: Give the Cougars credit for hanging tough against an East Pennsboro crew that has had their number in recent seasons. Perhaps it is a bellwether for what is to come in Palmyra, but for me it’s a bit early to bank just yet. 

Susquehanna Township 28, Middletown 13

Andy Shay: Susquehanna Township 35, Middletown 14: This is still a very dangerous ‘Hanna Tribe offense, and the Blue Raiders have already surrendered 79 points this season.

Andy Sandrik: Susquehanna Township 48, Middletown 14: The Middletown rebuild continues, and with ‘Hanna on tap, there’s sure to be more growing pains this week.

Adam Kulikowski: Susquehanna Township 55, Middletown 6: The Indians would be a pristine 2-0 if not for the last-second heroics of Milton Hershey in the season opener. Middletown continues to look for footholds after an idle year on the sidelines. 

East Pennsboro 34, Milton Hershey 28

Andy Shay: Milton Hershey 26, East Pennsboro 21: Nearly half of the 44 meetings (19 to be exact) have been decided by eight or fewer points. All indicators are this battle of 2-0 clubs could be a tight squeeze, as well.

Andy Sandrik: Milton Hershey 28, East Pennsboro 21: I’d rather drink a Grimace Shake than try to figure out this puzzle of a game. I think the Spartans have an edge, but this seems like it could go either way.

Adam Kulikowski: East Pennsboro 24, Milton Hershey 21: Panthers have yet to be fully tested heading into Week 3, but that’s not their fault. The pieces are there with Keith Oates III and some supporting playmakers to challenge in the Colonial Division. And you know the Spartans will make it a grudge match for four quarters — just ask Susquehanna Township. 

Greencastle-Antrim 35, Delone Catholic 21

Andy Shay: Greencastle-Antrim 21, Delone Catholic 14: Blue Devils are a surprising 2-0, and the Squires are struggling defensively and have lost to a pair of quality opponents. This will be a test at the next level for G-A.

Andy Sandrik: Greencastle-Antrim 24, Delone Catholic 12: Greencastle’s stats aren’t completely up to date, but we know the Blue Devils have at least three players who each have at least two sacks. That tells me Greencastle is fully capable of wrecking this game. 

Adam Kulikowski: Greencastle-Antrim 26, Delone Catholic 20: Jury is deliberating just how good the Blue Devils can be in 2023, but let’s not overthink this one. 

Dover 39, Northern 14

Andy Shay: Dover 17, Northern 14: Couple of 1-1 teams that were rolled by big-school opponents a week ago. Big concern for Northern is only three touchdowns scored in eight quarters. Change that, and this contest could easily be a W.

Andy Sandrik: Northern 14, Dover 7: I’m giving Northern the benefit of the doubt, here, but I have some concerns.

Adam Kulikowski: Northern 21, Dover 14: This may have more the feel of a soccer game than football — a game that is likely decided by field position and a key turnover. Both teams have the ability to gain the advantage, but the Polar Bears have the pedigree in recent years. 

Shippensburg 14, Spring Grove 6

Andy Shay: Shippensburg 27, Spring Grove 7: Pretty sure the Greyhounds are less than pleased at having to surrender the Little Brown Jug. This is the right matchup for Ship to steer its season in a new direction. 

Andy Sandrik: Shippensburg 21, Spring Grove 14: The Greyhounds’ offense is still trying to find some traction, so this could be a closer contest than a lot of folks might think.

Adam Kulikowski: Shippensburg 31, Spring Grove 13: The troops from Spring Grove won’t be sending Big Spring party favors anytime soon after the Bulldogs shook the hornet’s nest last week en route to their first victory against Shippensburg in more than a decade. 

Big Spring 47, Newport 0

Andy Shay: Big Spring 26, Newport 7: Bulldogs are on a heater and understand they can’t let the hangover of claiming the Little Brown Jug for the first time since 2010 define their season. Buffaloes’ offensive woes are clear and obvious.

Andy Sandrik: Big Spring 48, Newport 12: I can’t even imagine how big the bonfires were in Newville after Big Spring finally won the big game against the ‘Hounds. Even if the ‘Dogs are a little “hung over” from last week, I still think they have enough studs in the trenches to make life difficult for Newport.

Adam Kulikowski: Big Spring 33, Newport 13: Is there a better feel-good story from Week 2 than the Bulldogs’ victory in the Little Brown Jug game? Those good vibes should continue against a Newport team that is enduring the pain of a rebuild. 

Gettysburg 50, Boiling Springs 14

Andy Shay: Gettysburg 32, Boiling Springs 20: If nothing else the Warriors’ offense has been good enough to be 2-0 instead of 0-2. This game will be determined by how much hay the Bubblers’ offense can make against a struggling Gettysburg defense.

Andy Sandrik: Gettysburg 38, Boiling Springs 14: Boiling Springs would love to slow this game down with its defense and turn this into a low-scoring affair, but I think the Warriors have a little too much pop for that to happen.

Adam Kulikowski: Gettysburg 45, Boiling Springs 20: Gettysburg may be the most dangerous 0-2 team in District 3. But to make any ground in the Colonial, the Warriors are going to need to limit the defensive miscues.

Camp Hill 42, Upper Dauphin 20

Andy Shay: Camp Hill 28, Upper Dauphin 14: When the dust settles around this one, the bottom line is the defense will play a key role in guiding Camp Hill to a 3-0 start. 

Andy Sandrik: Camp Hill 36, Upper Dauphin 21: Austin Duplessie has three sacks in two games for Upper Dauphin from his defensive tackle position. Can he disrupt the Camp Hill passing attack?

Adam Kulikowski: Camp Hill 35, Upper Dauphin 21: For a small school, the Lions always seem to find a young lad who can sling it. They have another in QB Drew Branstetter. The junior’s completion percentage is a hardy 69% (40 of 58 for 549 yards), and he has yet to toss a pick. 

Wyomissing 35, Trinity 34

Andy Shay: Wyomissing 31, Trinity 21: I’m fascinated by this matchup in so many ways. Spartans are the clear favorites, but the T-Rocks have some offensive firepower and the Wyo defense will present a challenge at another level. 

Andy Sandrik: Wyomissing 30, Trinity 21: This is one of those games where I think the Shamrocks need to force a turnover or two to stay within striking distance.

Adam Kulikowski: Wyomissing 38, Trinity 36: To me, this is the biggest prove-it game on the docket for the Shamrocks. We know they are good, but we don’t know yet if they can knock off a perennial District 3 superpower.

West Perry 39, Juniata 21

Andy Shay: West Perry 42, Juniata 7: The Indians have allowed nearly 100 points over eight quarters, and keeping the scoreboard rolling is not a problem at all for the high-octane Mustangs. 

Andy Sandrik: West Perry 51, Juniata 14: The Mustangs are the Perry County champs after routing Susquenita and Newport, and it doesn’t seem like anything is going to stop WP from taking over Juniata County next.

Adam Kulikowski: West Perry 48, Juniata 13: The Mustangs are running like a finely tuned Cobra right now. It isn’t a matter of if they will win, but rather when will they let off the gas. 

Halifax 53, Hancock (Md.) 6

Andy Shay: Hancock 35, Halifax 31: Wildcats are riding high after a convincing 40-0 victory, and the Panthers were blown out in their season opener. Opportunity for Halifax to be 2-1 is right in front of them.

Andy Sandrik: Halifax 36, Hancock 20: It’s so nice to see the Wildcats showing a little pop this season. This is going to be a tough road test, but I’m riding with Halifax.

Adam Kulikowski: Hancock 45, Halifax 20: In my heart, I want to take the Wildcats. But my gut says don’t overvalue the offensive explosion displayed in Week 2.

James Buchanan 21, Biglerville 19

Andy Shay: Biglerville 21, James Buchanan 7: By a slim margin it feels like the Canners have a few more options in terms of offensive weapons. Will say the Rockets’ defense has been up to the task so far, though.

Andy Sandrik: Biglerville 28, James Buchanan 7: In a few months that fall drive through Adams County will be one of the most picturesque trips you can take on a budget. But I don’t think this ride home from Canner Country will be that fun for the Rockets.

Adam Kulikowski: Biglerville 21, James Buchanan 14: The Canners have scored just 21 points in their first eight quarters of play but have a 1-1 record to show for their efforts. Doubling the tally from the first two weeks should be enough to get the dub.

Tri-Valley 23, Line Mountain 14

Andy Shay: Line Mountain 38, Tri-Valley 28: Let the good times roll, right? This has all the ingredients of being a back-and-forth slugfest for a long time despite each squad checking in at 1-1. Throw the records out.

Andy Sandrik: Tri-Valley 27, Line Mountain 24: Coin-flip game, in my mind, but I’ll take the scrappy Bulldogs. Any team whose QB doubles as a DE, like the Bulldogs’ Blake Schwartz (6-6, 190), deserves to be called scrappy. 

Adam Kulikowski: Line Mountain 32, Tri-Valley 31: Last year, the Eagles nearly pulled off a huge upset when they took Tri-Valley to the wire. In some regards, it was the beginning of the awakening of LM. This year, I’m not even sure we would categorize a victory by the home squad as an upset.

Schuylkill Valley 48, Susquenita 14

Andy Shay: Susquenita 27, Schuylkill Valley 21: Give me 6-4, 230-pound Blackhawks QB Derek Gibney and his 500-plus passing yards, six touchdowns and one INT in eight quarters. Shots will be taken is all I know.

Andy Sandrik: Schuylkill Valley 28, Susquenita 20: As a West Perry grad, I’m obligated to pick against the ‘Hawks in a 50-50 game, right? 

Adam Kulikowski: Susquenita 34, Schuylkill Valley 31: The Gibney brothers, Derek and Drew, are taking the backyard pitch-and-catch to new heights this season, connecting 18 times for 236 of QB Derek Gibney’s 527 stripes to date. 

North Schuylkill 48, Pine Grove 0

Andy Shay: North Schuylkill 33, Pine Grove 14: Fully aware each squad is 1-1, just think the Spartans are going to ask some questions of the PG defense that haven’t been asked of them to date.

Andy Sandrik: North Schuylkill 32, Pine Grove 12: I’ve been on the wrong end of some of those 48-6 losses, like the one PG took last week. It’s remarkably hard to get back on track, even if you’re facing an opponent that may otherwise be an even match. 

Adam Kulikowski: North Schuylkill 37, Pine Grove 20: Coming off a week in which Williams Valley gashed the Pine Grove defense for 370 yards, the thought of NS senior running back Jaxson Chowansky and his 7.6 yards per carry (26 carries, 198 yards) likely is keeping the PG defensive coordinator up at night.

Schuylkill Haven 24, Williams Valley 21

Andy Shay: Williams Valley 35, Schuylkill Haven 20: When you have a dude who averages more than 280 yards a game on the ground, that will cover up for a lot of other gaps on your squad.

Andy Sandrik: Williams Valley 44, Schuylkill Haven 9: Folks are buying tickets just to see Alex Achenbach run the ball, and No. 5 is doing it so well that Williams Valley’s hustling defense — which has allowed six points all season — is still an afterthought.

Adam Kulikowski: Williams Valley 45, Schuylkill Haven 13: Last week, Vikings running back Alex Achenbach broke the school rushing record with 343 yards on just 14 carries. Whose record did he break, you might be wondering? His own — 321 yards against Panther Valley in 2021. 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 9

Steel-High 29, West Catholic (Philadelphia) 22

Andy Shay: Steel-High 46, West Catholic 19: While West Catholic is a known name brand in the state, not sure the Burrs have the firepower this season to hold serve against the Rollers. Steel-High is better at putting pressure on teams to play its style of game.

Andy Sandrik: Steel-High 50, West Catholic 13: Rollers are averaging 44 points per contest. I have a feeling that average rises a little bit after this weekend. 

Adam Kulikowski: Steel-High 55, West Catholic 14: West Catholic scored just six points in its season opener last week. That’s simply not enough offensive firepower to contend with Alex Erby and the gents in Steelton. 

Vote Now: Mid-Penn Conference Player of the Week Sponsored by Vertical Raise PA

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Vote now for our 4th Down Magazine Mid-Penn Conference Player of the Week. Our poll will remain open until Tuesday evening at 11 p.m. Voting is allowed once every 30 minutes.

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Vertical Raise is the premier online fundraising platform for organizations of all types and sizes. Vertical Raise provides solutions to the challenges of fundraising by utilizing its b

Durrell Ceasar Jr., sr., WR/DB, Steel-High: Heckuva run for these Rollers seniors, who capped a four-year run with a third state title after routing Fort Cherry 42-8 in the PIAA Class 1A championship. Caesar was electric again, catching 13 passes for 147 yards, plus a 32-yard touchdown before halftime.

Alex Erby, sr., QB, Steel-High: No surprise here. Erby led the Rollers to his third state title in four years, already had state career passing yards and touchdowns marks and then set the single-season TD record. He’s one of the best in state history. But just to fill in his stats here for your consideration, Erby went 29 of 39 for 340 yards and five touchdowns (5, 17, 77, 32 and 3 yards), and ran four times for 36 yards and a 37-yard score.

Eugene Green, sr., DE/OL, Steel-High: Gotta throw a defender onto this list after the Rollers held a very good Rangers team to just eight points, and only in the fourth quarter. Green swarmed the ball, snagging 12 tackles, eight unassisted and a tackle for loss. Steel-High held Fort Cherry to just 180 total yards on 55 plays and forced three turnovers.

Nazier Fuller, jr., WR/DB, Steel-High: A first-time nomination for Fuller, who was only targeted three times but was incredibly efficient in the championship game, catching two passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns, including the game’s longest of 77. 

Jaeion Perry, sr., WR, Steel-High: Another favorite target of Erby all season, Perry finished with nine catches for 84 yards and the game’s first touchdown, a 5-yarder just 3:37 into the game.

This poll has ended (since 2 months).
Jaeion Perry, sr., WR, Steel-High:
0.00%
Nazier Fuller, jr., WR/DB, Steel-High:
0.00%
Eugene Green, sr., DE/OL, Steel-High:
0.00%
Alex Erby, sr., QB, Steel-High:
0.00%
Durrell Ceasar Jr., sr., WR/DB, Steel-High:
0.00%

Ranking the Dynasty: Where do the ’23 Rollers stack up in the long and storied winning legacy at Steel-High?

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Alex Erby has been around the block a round or two. He knows how to answer a less-than-stellar postgame question.

The Steel-High record-setting quarterback had just completed an undefeated season Thursday afternoon with a commanding individual performance as part of a complete domination across the board of WPIAL champion Fort Cherry.

It was the Rollers’ second consecutive PIAA Class 1A title and third in four years with Erby as the signal caller.

Erby, a United States Naval Academy commit, was asked – unfairly, because the premise of the question is flawed – where this team stacks up in the long and storied winning legacy at Steel-High.

Essentially, is this team the best ever?

First, the answer is an emphatic no! If you were around 30-40 years ago and remember when Steel-High played football as part of the Mid-Penn Conference Division I starting in 1982 when the conference formed with 27 schools for football, there are several teams from that era that stood above the rest.

Those Mid-Penn I teams competed against the big dogs, including Harrisburg and Cumberland Valley. And the Rollers not only held their own, they were one of the teams at the top of the food chain on a fairly consistent basis.

That was a different era. Times have changed dramatically in the tiny hamlets of Steelton and Highspire.

The real question to answer: is this the best Steel-High team in the modern football era, competing as a Class 1A school?

Erby, smarter and more savvy than most, knew exactly what to say.

“This puts (our team) in the conversation with guys like Jordan Hill and Jordan Smith, all those guys right there. They won in ‘07 and ‘08 … to put our names with the likes of those guys is great,” Erby said. “It’s truly amazing. Those guys are legends at Steel-High.”

He is 100% right.

This does put them in that conversation, and history will remember him as one of those legends, as well.

Going back 15 years, and for argument’s sake, let’s call this the modern era of Steel-High football, the Rollers have won five state titles at the PIAA Class 1A level since 2007.

Which one of these five championship teams is the best in the modern era?

Let’s narrow it down to the 2008 and 2023 Rollers squads for starters. The second state title victory for each team was built on elite talent and veteran savvy blending to form an unstoppable machine.

Both finished 16-0 and featured a plethora of high-end players who for the most part went both ways.

The late Rob Deibler’s 2008 squad had a quartet of uber elite players, Jordan Hill, Jordan Smith, Andre Campbell and Jeremiah Young. Andrew Erby’s 2023 version had a similar quartet in Alex Erby, Jaeion Perry, Ronald Burnette and Amari Williams.

In that respect the team are eerily similar in how they won two in a row.

In my 30-plus years of covering high school football in Pennsylvania, all I know is Alex Erby is one of the 10 best quarterbacks I have ever seen. Jeremiah Young was one of the Top 10 running backs I watched play, and Jordan Hill is inside my Top 10 of most complete two-way interior players.

This is all classifications over 30-plus years. They are each one of the best of the best at their positions.

A big difference for me between the 2008 and 2023 team was the level of competition. The 2007-2008 champions were part of the four PIAA classifications era. The playing field was simply deeper at the state level back then. It was a harder minefield to navigate in those days.

Having said that, I would have enjoyed watching this 2023 team navigate its way through the Class 1A field in that era. They’d stack up pretty darn good.

Because let’s be honest, what this 2023 Rollers team did during this state playoff run was show they were of a completely different class than the rest of the field. And that’s a testament to the players and their coaches.

One final point of parliamentary procedure in a debate where any answer isn’t necessarily the right or wrong one: I would dearly love to see the 2023 Steel-High offense play four quarters against the 2008 Steel-High defense. That, folks, is modern Rollers football nirvana right there.

Your reward for sticking with me until the end is the 2008 Rollers are the modern era kingpin in my book. I contemplated the co-champions route, but you deserve my honest answer – backed into a corner I might add.

My reason is a tougher and more level Class 1A playing field made the month-long grind to a perfect season for that 2008 squad somewhat of a minor miracle. The 2008 squad beat the likes of Susquehanna Township, CD East and the Camp Hill Lions twice to complete a perfect regular season and win the District 3 title.

Then they had to overcome Bishop McCort, Schuylkill Haven and Clairton in the state playoffs to run it back for the second year in a row. The only loss for each of those teams was Steel-High.

And comparing apples to apples, I think the 2023 team would have matched up well against all three of those teams from the 2008 state playoff run. Winning was very difficult for the ‘08 squad, and this 2023 team would have faced the same long odds but with the tools and pieces to make it happen.

Steel-High stifles Fort Cherry 42-8 en route to PIAA Class 1A Championship plus Making the Grade analysis from Andy Shay

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What figured to be one final test for this talented bunch of Steel-High Rollers turned into just another day at the office in the PIAA Class 1A title game.

The District 3 champions simply outclassed WPIAL champion Fort Cherry. The Rollers were too big, too strong and too fast for the Rangers to handle Thursday afternoon at Chapman Field on the campus of Cumberland Valley High School.

Led by quarterback Alex Erby, the Rollers came out flying offensively and never let their foot off the gas the opening 24 minutes. Steel-High had its second consecutive state title wrapped up by halftime, leading by five touchdowns on its way to a commanding 42-8 triumph.

It was complete domination on both sides of the ball.

“I knew some things had to go our way in the early going. This is the first team we’ve faced this season, Steel-High, that I felt was complete from front to back defensively,” Fort Cherry coach Tanner Garry said. “We knew we were going to have a hard time against that defense. Their offense demands that you be where you are supposed to be every single time without fail, or they are going to take advantage of it. They are a hard team to prepare for, and they are very good at what they do.”

Steel-High came out on point, ran its first 10 plays from the script as planned and enjoyed a 14-0 lead less than seven minutes into this state title bout.

Erby completed his first 10 passes, was mixing and matching based on what the defense gave him, and had the Rangers’ defense completely guessing the rest of the way.

“This was all about preparation, and we have the weapons to spread the ball around and stretch a defense,” said Erby, who threw five touchdown passes and ran for a sixth TD. “That’s a good defense they have. And we put in the work and got ready, and it showed up in our execution. Our guys came out and put on a show today. We earned the right to celebrate our accomplishment. We put a lot into this game, one last time together.”

Steel-High kept the pressure on by adding three more touchdowns in the second quarter while the defense made it extremely difficult for Fort Cherry to even make a first down. It was a two-headed hammer that crippled the Rangers.

Erby completed 12 of his first 13 passes for 123 yards and two scores. And then the second quarter started. Yeah, he was in the zone. Erby went to intermission leading 34-0 with a stat line of 18 for 22, 275 yards and four touchdown passes with a 37-yard touchdown run thrown in for good measure. 

And he departs as Pennsylvania’s record holder for single-season passing touchdowns (61), which he secured in his final game, career passing touchdowns and career passing yards.

Overall, Steel-High ran 37 plays in the first half for a staggering 392 yards. The Rollers averaged a difference-making 10.6 yards per play. 

Time to hand out some postseason grades.

STEEL-HIGH ROLLERS

Quarterback: What a way for the record-setting United State Naval Academy recruit to go out, winning his third state title in four years as a starter and helping his team win back-to-back PIAA championships. Erby is one of the greats in Pennsylvania history, and his first half showed the next-level player he became. He completed 12 in a row to start the game, making it look so easy. The lefty’s first incompletion was a drop on a 52-yard TD pass that would have padded his already ludicrous numbers to start. He finished with 335 passing yards and five touchdowns. The numbers are one thing, it’s how he commanded and ran the offense that will be remembered most by me. It was nearly flawless. Grade: A+

Running back: This was going to be tough sledding for Ronald Burnette Jr. The hallmark of the Fort Cherry defense is the speed of its linebackers, who close down gaps and get to the ball in a hurry. And they played well. Last year the senior stole the show in the state title game to carry the Rollers across the line. Today he dug deep and ran extra hard just to accumulate 67 yards on 16 carries. There’s nothing wrong with 4.2 yards per carry. He never flashed or ran away from defenders, he just leaned hard and moved the chains several times when his number was called. Grade: A-

Wide receivers: The wealth of riches here at Erby’s disposal is borderline ridiculous. No high school secondary can cover this much talent. Durrell Ceasar and Jaieon Perry combined for 23 catches and 231 yards with one touchdown each. If that wasn’t enough, Nazier Fuller chipped in with two catches for 94 yards, and both his catches went to the house. There were two big-time drops that each would have gone the distance for touchdowns. But on this day those mistakes fell into the “who cares” category because they were running such great option routes and blocking downfield for each other. Nearly uncoverable. Grade: A+

Offensive line: It was a struggle to run the ball inside the tackles all day, but I will say the interior trio of Eugene Green, Devon Reid and Andrew Erby Jr. were on point when it came to pass blocking and not allowing a single pressure up the middle. That was so key for this offense. Erby had clean sightlines all day. And can we talk about Amari Williams at right tackle protecting the QB’s blind side? Never a hint of pressure from behind. Grade: A

Defensive line: Take a bow Kameron Chisholm, Andrew Erby Jr., Green and Samerus Rivers, ya’ll made life miserable on every front for the Fort Cherry offense. The Rangers didn’t have either the time or space to get anything they wanted going. And that extended well into the second quarter as the Rollers built a 34-0 halftime cushion. The pressure on pass attempts altered the course of this game because it removed that from the table. Grade: A+

Linebackers: Outside linebackers Williams and Angel Luciano turned into predators in this game. They were getting so much cover from the group in front of them they could just be homewreckers based on what they were seeing and reading. The inside calming presence of Taevon Legrande allowed his partners on the outside even more leverage to take chances and cut corners to make splash plays. Best overall effort of the season from this group? I think it might have been. Grade: A+

Secondary: The Rollers’ defense created four turnovers, but the secondary set the table with interceptions by star wideouts Perry and Ceasar to really limit the playbook for the Rangers. Only 21 passing yards allowed on the day. Keep in mind the Fort Cherry QB came in with more than 2,200 yards through the air. Nobody was open and it was too hot in his kitchen, forcing him to get the ball out in a hurry. Grade: A+

Special teams: Here’s a shocker: the Rollers didn’t punt. I will say everybody on the planet knew that fake punt late in the first quarter was NOT going to be a punt. And still they couldn’t stop Perry from picking up 19 yards. Why do I love those squib kickoffs for the Rollers? I just do. Kick coverage was average, and on this day that was good enough. The missed PAT just before the half delayed the mercy rule, but it also fell into the previously mentioned “who cares” category. Grade: A-

Pennsylvania high school football playoffs: Scores, highlights from PIAA state championships

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Steel-High can win its third PIAA football championship in four years and its second in a row  Thursday afternoon. 

The undefeated Rollers face District 7 champion Fort Cherry at 1 p.m. at Cumberland Valley High School, a hop, skip and a jump from their home turf. It’ll be the final game of quarterback Alex Erby’s career. The Naval Academy recruit is one of the best to ever do it in the Keystone State, owning the career passing yards and touchdowns records with a chance to set the single-season TD mark in his last hoorah.

As always, bookmark this page on your phone, laptop or tablet to follow every matchup and see every highlight from the Mid-Penn and some of the teams in the Colonial-Schuylkill League. We’ll update scores throughout the night on this page (refresh the page to see new updates), and you can follow our Twitter feed below for minute-by-minute updates.

PIAA football playoffs: State championships analysis, staff picks and previews

Each week 4th Down Magazine will preview the weekend slate, predict the winners and provide extra analysis. Here’s everything to get you ready for the PIAA championship games:

2023 PIAA football championships schedule and scores: 

Follow along for every result from the PIAA football championships this weekend at Cumberland Valley High School:

Thursday, Dec. 7

  • Class 1A championship: 3-1 Steel-High 42, 7-1 Fort Cherry 8 Final
  • Class 4A championship: 2-1 Dallas vs. 7-1 Aliquippa, 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 8

  • Class 2A championship: 4-1 Southern Columbia vs. 8-1 Westinghouse, 1 p.m.
  • Class 5A championship: 12-1 Imhotep Charter vs. 7-1 Peters Township, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 9

  • Class 3A championship: 11-1 Northwestern Lehigh vs. 7-1 Belle Vernon, 1 p.m.
  • Class 6A championship: 12-1 St. Joseph’s Prep vs. 7-1 North Allegheny, 7 p.m.

Pennsylvania high school football live updates and highlights

Click on this Twitter/X list link to follow updates from area teams and reporters from tonight’s games.

Mid-Penn Conference Player of the Week for PIAA Semifinals sponsored by Vertical Raise PA: Alex Erby

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One of the best quarterbacks in Pennsylvania high school history is again the 4th Down Magazine Mid-Penn Conference Player of the Week.

Steel-High’s Alex Erby was voted by fans as the POTW this week after yet another dominant performance in the PIAA Class 1A semifinals, throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-18 passing against South Williamsport.

The senior is now two touchdowns away from breaking the state’s single-season record of 57 set in 2021 by Central Martinsburg’s Jeff Hoenstine; Erby already has the career TD and passing yards mark.

One of the best to ever sling the rock, Erby won 175 of the 359 votes cast this week, with only Harrisburg junior QB Shawn Lee Jr. coming close with 129 votes for second.

Erby and the undefeated Rollers have a chance Thursday afternoon to win their third state championship in four years and repeat as champions when they face District 7 champion Fort Cherry at 1 p.m. at Cumberland Valley High School.

PIAA football championships 2023: Predictions and previews for Steel-High vs. Fort Cherry and more

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EXPLAINING OUR PICKS: It’s championship week in Pennsylvania.

Twelve teams will descend on Cumberland Valley High School for three days beginning Thursday afternoon for the 2023 PIAA football championships. One Mid-Penn team is left standing, undefeated and defending Class 1A champion Steel-High. The Rollers, who have dominated almost everyone who crossed their path this season, take on WPIAL champion Fort Cherry on Thursday at 1 p.m.

And the 4th Down Magazine team is here to tell you who will win all six title games. For one last time in 2023, 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 and why, with the kind of analysis you won’t find anywhere else. 

Our final episode of 4th & Goal with Andy Shay and Jake Adams features an interview with Steel-High’s Ronald Burnette Jr. plus we break down the keys to victory for Steel-High and other PIAA state final match-ups. We’ll also looking back at what went wrong for Bishop McDevitt and Harrisburg in the PIAA semifinals.

2023 Standings

Picker: Last Week — Overall — Perfect Picks

Andy Sandrik: 1-2 — 232-68 — 0

Adam Kulikowski: 1-2 — 230-70 — 2

Andy Shay: 2-1 — 219-81 — 1

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

THURSDAY, DEC. 7

PIAA CLASS 1A CHAMPIONSHIP

3-1 Steel-High vs. 7-1 Fort Cherry, at Cumberland Valley HS, 1 p.m.

Andy Shay: Steel-High 41, Fort Cherry 30: The quarterbacks in this matchup are both elite and have plenty of weapons around them to choose from. This game could be combustible for stretches, and each defense is going to see an offense the likes of which they haven’t experienced yet. Entertainment factor here is off the charts.

Andy Sandrik: Steel-High 45, Fort Cherry 27: The Rollers will allow some points, sure, but their offense is just so dialed in I don’t think there’s another Class 1A defense that can stop them from nailing down the program’s third state title in the last four years. I have a bittersweet feeling knowing that this is the last time I’ll get to watch this masterful team in motion. 

Adam Kulikowski: Steel-High 55, Fort Cherry 38: Where does a team that could claim its third state championship in four seasons rank among the best in Steel-High history? Top five in my book if the Rollers complete the mission Thursday afternoon.

PIAA CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP

2-1 Dallas vs. 7-1 Aliquippa, at Cumberland Valley HS, 7 p.m.

Andy Shay: Aliquippa 42, Dallas 14: That was a massive upset Dallas pulled off a week ago. Its defense and special teams were spectacular. And it will need the same kind of help this week as the Quips bring a physical element to the table that is hard to prepare for. The 1-2 punch at RB for Aliquippa is simply lethal.

Andy Sandrik: Aliquippa 39, Dallas 21: There’s a big part of me that believes Dallas cracked the code when it knocked off Bishop McDevitt and has all the tools to duplicate the feat against Aliquippa. There’s an even bigger part of me that worries the Mountaineers played well beyond their capabilities just to get here and are one of the teams in these PIAA finals most vulnerable to a blowout loss. 

Adam Kulikowski: Aliquippa 48, Dallas 20: Dallas did all the small things right to capitalize on Bishop McDevitt’s miscues and knock off the defending state champions. Counting on the Quips to open the door again would be foolish. 

FRIDAY, DEC. 8

PIAA CLASS 2A CHAMPIONSHIP

4-1 Southern Columbia vs. 8-1 Westinghouse, at Cumberland Valley HS, 1 p.m.

Andy Shay: Southern Columbia 34, Westinghouse 20: I can see a path to victory for the upset-minded Bulldogs from Pittsburgh, however, the Tigers demand a certain level of excellence over 48 minutes to knock them off that is hard to reach. I keep hearing this isn’t the same Southern team, but good gracious the results and record look very, very familiar.

Andy Sandrik: Southern Columbia 28, Westinghouse 14: I was impressed with how thoroughly Southern Columbia beat up on what I thought was a very physical Dunmore team. Westinghouse is unbeaten, but the Bulldogs haven’t always been dominant. My gut is telling me SoCo will be one or two steps ahead from beginning to end.

Adam Kulikowski: Westinghouse 28, Southern Columbia 27: Betting against the Tigers is hardly ever where the smart money goes, but I’m chasing a two-game deficit in our pick standings and this is one matchup the venerable Bulldogs can help a brotha out! 

PIAA CLASS 5A CHAMPIONSHIP

12-1 Imhotep Charter vs. 7-1 Peters Township, at Cumberland Valley HS, 7 p.m.

Andy Shay: Peters Township 27, Imhotep Charter 23: In so many ways this is about as level of a playing field of any matchup in the state championships. The quality of what the District 7 champions faced on a weekly basis this season shows a lot of adaptability and mettle. That matters in my book and should serve them well in this tight affair.

Andy Sandrik: Imhotep Charter 28, Peters Township 14: Imhotep, 1-6 in state title games, has gained the reputation of being the Buffalo Bills of Pa. high school football. But I think they turn it around this week. The key matchup for me is Peters Township sophomore QB Nolan DiLucia vs. a Panthers secondary that has picked off 22 passes this season.

Adam Kulikowski: Peters Township 34, Imhotep Charter 27: Let me help translate Mr. Sandrik’s prediction for those of you who may not have been born in the early 90s: the Buffalo Bills played in four straight Super Bowls in the early 90s and came away with nothing but parting gifts. I actually find that a fitting comparison for IC, which is 1-6 in the big game in its history while Peters Township makes its first appearance in the state final. 

SATURDAY, DEC. 9

PIAA CLASS 3A CHAMPIONSHIP

11-1 Northwestern Lehigh vs. 7-1 Belle Vernon, at Cumberland Valley HS, 1 p.m.

Andy Shay: Belle Vernon 26, Northwestern Lehigh 24: This is pretty simple. No way I’m picking against the defending PIAA champions. The Leopards’ balance on offense is hard to slow down with any consistency, and it taxes a defense.

Andy Sandrik: Belle Vernon 28, Northwestern Lehigh 21: My favorite part about the PIAA title games is seeing the stars. And Belle Vernon RB Quinton Martin, a Penn State recruit, is a star who leads his team in both rushing and receiving.

Adam Kulikowski: Northwestern Lehigh 31, Belle Vernon 29: Northwestern Lehigh is in the big dance for the first time in school history after taking down Wyomissing last week. Yes, Belle Vernon has a Division I-pedigree back in Quinton Martin, but throw some respect on Lehigh’s Dalton Clymer, who piled up 1,807 stripes and 31 scores on the ground. Expect a tight battle where one score should decide it.

PIAA CLASS 6A CHAMPIONSHIP

12-1 St. Joseph’s Prep vs. 7-1 North Allegheny, at Cumberland Valley HS, 7 p.m.

Andy Shay: St. Joseph’s Prep 35, North Allegheny 17: Since the PIAA went to six classifications for football in 2016, St. Joseph’s Prep has played in the championship game all seven previous years. Make it 8-for-8 now. SJP has won five of the seven state championship games. Look, I love what NA brings to the table, but no way I’m picking against the horse for the course.

Andy Sandrik: St. Joseph’s Prep 38, North Allegheny 14: Even if you ignore SJP’s history of dominance in the 6A classification and just focus on this season, the Hawks still deserve to be overwhelming favorites based on how badly they’ve massacred their PIAA competition.

Adam Kulikowski: St. Joseph’s Prep 45, North Allegheny 20: This is the 10th trip to the state finals in the last 11 seasons for St. Joseph’s Prep. In the biggest games, experience matters and Prep has it. Oh, and it has a defense that has completely snuffed out even the highest octane offense this season. 

Eric F. Epler’s State High School Football Rankings After Week 15

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For more content from Eric Epler, visit Pennlive.com.

CLASS 6A 

Rank – Team – District – Record – Previous 

1. St. Joseph’s Prep (12)          — 12-1 – 1 

2. North Allegheny (7)            — 13-1 – 2 

3. Harrisburg (3)                      — 12-2 – 3 

4. Manheim Township (3)       — 12-1 – 5 

5. Pittsburgh C.C. (7)               — 10-2 – 6 

6. Central Bucks South (1)      — 13-2 – 4 

7. Nazareth (11)                      – 12-2 – 7 

8. Parkland (11)                      — 12-1 – 8 

9. Downingtown West (1)       — 11-3 – 9 

10. Downingtown East (1)      — 11-1 – 10 

Honorable mention: Central Bucks West (1) 12-1, Central York (3) 11-1, Cumberland Valley (3) 7-5, McDowell (10) 8-5, Souderton (1) 11-1. 

CLASS 5A 

Rank – Team – District – Record – Previous 

1. Imhotep Charter (12)          — 14-0 – 1 

2. Peters Township (7)            — 15-0 – 2 

3. Cocalico (3)                         — 12-2 – 3 

4. Strath Haven (1)                  — 13-2 – 4 

5. Chester (1)                          — 12-2 – 5 

6. Roman Catholic (12)           – 8-3 – 6 

7. Cathedral Prep (10)             — 7-4 – 7 

8. Delaware Valley (2)             — 10-4 – 8 

9. West Chester Rustin (1)      — 10-2 – 9 

10. Ephrata (3)                        — 12-2 – 10 

Honorable mention: Cedar Cliff (3) 10-2, Penn Hills (7) 9-3, Pine-Richland (7) 9-4, Springfield-Delco (1) 11-2. 

CLASS 4A 

Rank – Team – District – Record – Previous 

1. Aliquippa (7)                       – 13-0 – 2 

2. Dallas (2)                             — 15-0 – 4 

3. Bishop McDevitt (3)            – 13-1 – 1 

4. Selinsgrove (4)                    – 13-1-1 – 3 

5. McKeesport (7)                   – 11-2 – 5 

6. Manheim Central (3)          — 11-2 – 6 

7. Pope John Paull II (1)          — 12-1 – 7 

8. Jersey Shore (4)                  — 10-1-1 – 8 

9. Bonner-Prendergast (12)    — 9-3 – 9 

10. Montour (7)                      — 10-2 – 10 

Honorable mention: Allentown C.C. (11) 9-3, Bethlehem Catholic (11) 7-6, Lampeter-Strasburg (3) 9-3, Twin Valley (3) 10-2, Valley View (2) 10-3. 

CLASS 3A 

Rank – Team – District – Record – Previous 

1. Belle Vernon (7)                  – 12-1 – 1 

2. Northwestern Lehigh (11)  — 15-0 – 3 

3. Wyomissing (3)                   – 12-2 – 2 

4. Danville (4)                          — 12-2 – 5 

5. Avonworth (7)                     – 12-1 – 6 

6. Hickory (10)                         — 11-3 – 4 

7. Central (6)                           — 12-1 – 7 

8. Scranton Prep (2)                — 12-2 – 8 

9. Elizabeth-Forward (7)         — 10-2 – 9 

10. Palmerton (11)                  — 12-1 – 10 

Honorable mention: Clearfield (9) 8-4, Neumann-Goretti (12) 10-2, North Schuylkill (11) 9-3, Sharon (10) 9-3, West Perry (3) 11-2. 

CLASS 2A 

Rank – Team – District – Record – Previous 

1. Southern Columbia (4)        – 14-1 – 1 

2. Westinghouse (8)                – 13-0 – 2 

3. Bald Eagle Area (6)              — 12-2 – 3 

4. Farrell (10)                           – 11-2 – 4 

5. Troy (4)                                — 12-1 – 7 

6. Dunmore (2)                       — 12-3 – 5 

7. Beaver Falls (7)                    — 9-6 – 6 

8. Steel Valley (7)                    — 10-2 – 8 

9. Central Clarion (9)               — 11-1 – 9 

10. Mercyhurst Prep (10)        — 10-1 – 10 

Honorable mention: Camp Hill (3) 8-6, Mohawk (7) 10-3, Richland (6) 11-2, Washington (7) 11-2, Williams Valley (11) 10-3. 

CLASS 1A 

Rank – Team – District – Record – Previous  1. Steelton-Highspire (3)         — 15-0 – 1 

2. Fort Cherry (7)                    — 15-0 – 2 

3. Redbank Valley (9)              — 12-2 – 3 

4. South Side (7)                     — 13-1 – 6 

5. South Williamsport (4)       — 11-3 – 4 

6. Lackawanna Trail (2)           – 13-1 – 6 

7. Northern Bedford (5)          — 12-1 – 7 

8. Bishop Canevin (7)              — 10-2 – 8 

9. Muncy (4)                            — 10-2 – 9 

10. Cambridge Springs (10)    — 12-2 – 10 

Honorable mention: Cambria Heights (6) 10-4, Clairton (7) 10-3, Lakeview (10) 9-3, Port Allegany (9) 10-3. 

Vote Now: 4th Down Magazine Player of the Week for December 1-2 Sponsored by Vertical Raise PA

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Vote now for our 4th Down Magazine Mid-Penn Conference Player of the Week. Our poll will remain open until Tuesday evening at 11 p.m. Voting is allowed once every 30 minutes.

Editor’s note: We have implemented safeguards to prevent voting which falls outside the spirit of the rules in place. We reserve the right to block users who cast fraudulent votes.

Browser cookies must be accepted to vote.

Put those Candy Boxes Away; No more Sub Sales; Retire from Washing Cars! And elevate your team’s fundraising this season with Vertical Raise!

Vertical Raise is the premier online fundraising platform for organizations of all types and sizes. Vertical Raise provides solutions to the challenges of fundraising by utilizing its best-in-class software to create the easiest, most efficient and effective fundraising.

Quincy Brannon, jr., WR, Harrisburg: Brannon had a career day, even though the Cougars lost 24-12 to North Allegheny in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals. The junior had a career-high 115 yards and two touchdowns of 82 and 15 yards on four catches. 

Ronald Burnette Jr., sr., RB/LB, Steel-High: Burnette was brutally efficient, averaging nearly 10 yards a carry as the Rollers dominated South Williamsport 48-21 in the PIAA Class 1A semifinals Friday night. He finished with 116 yards and touchdowns of 8 and 23 stripes on just 12 carries.

Alex Erby, sr., QB, Steel-High: It was easier sledding this week for Erby, who carved up South Williamsport for 229 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-18 passing Friday night. He’s now two TDs away from breaking the state single-season record of 57 set in 2021 by Central Martinsburg’s Jeff Hoenstine. Erby also ran for a 35-yard TD.

Nazir Jones-Davis, so., RB, Bishop McDevitt: Jones-Davis did his part to try to prevent the Crusaders’ shocking end Friday in the state 1A semifinals. He ran for 97 yards on 18 carries, scoring the opening TD from a yard out. He also caught the tying TD pass from 13 yards out in OT, but McD lost to Dallas 26-23.

Shawn Lee Jr., jr., QB, Harrisburg: Lee recorded his ninth straight 100-yard rushing game in Saturday’s state semifinal loss, churning out 104 stripes in 20 attempts. He also completed 13 of 22 passes for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Brannon. Lee finished the season with 1,509 rushing and 2,256 passing yards, both career highs.

Jaeion Perry, sr., WR/DB, Steel-High: Everything Perry touched nearly turned to gold in Friday’s win to clinch a return trip to the state championship. In six total touches, Perry scored twice — on a 39-yard reception 25 seconds into the game and a 70-yard carry in the third quarter — and finished with 70 rushing yards and 121 receiving (on five grabs).

This poll has ended (since 2 months).
Alex Erby, sr., QB, Steel-High:
60.00%
Jaeion Perry, sr., WR/DB, Steel-High:
20.00%
Shawn Lee Jr., jr., QB, Harrisburg:
20.00%
Nazir Jones-Davis, so., RB, Bishop McDevitt:
0.00%
Ronald Burnette Jr., sr., RB/LB, Steel-High:
0.00%
Quincy Brannon, jr., WR, Harrisburg:
0.00%

Steel-High punches its title to state finals; Bishop McDevitt upset by Dallas in 2OT

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For the third time in his four-year career, Steel-High quarterback Alex Erby steered his team to the PIAA Class 1A championship game.

The United State Naval Academy commit and the Rollers are gunning for back-to-back championships after they easily dispatched South Williamsport 48-21 Friday night in Shamokin.

The all-time passing yards leader in Pennsylvania history is 2-0 in championship games, and this team is dialed in at another level right now with 91 points in its last two state playoff games.

Erby had four touchdowns by halftime, three passing and one rushing, as the Rollers raced to a 35-7 halftime cushion on the strength of 21 consecutive points to start the game. The senior finished with 229 passing yards, completing 13 of 18 passes.

And don’t be fooled by the final four-touchdown margin. It wasn’t that close.

Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter the running clock kicked in on a Ronald Burnette 23-yard touchdown run. Burnette finished with 116 yards on only 12 carries.

The mercy rule would have gone into effect midway through the third quarter, but the Rollers missed an extra point and led 41-7. For the most part, like many regular season games for Steel-High, the competitive phase of this one was over by halftime.

South Williamsport might have scored 21 points, but two of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter after the mercy rule was in full bloom. Through 36 minutes, the Rollers’ D allowed only one touchdown.

Thursday’s state title game should be something special. Steel-High and WPIAL champion Fort Cherry are both 14-0 this season. The Rangers’ defense surrendered less than 13 points a game this season. How enticing is that matchup?

Special teams lets down Bishop McDevitt in stunning upset

When you climb to the upper reaches of the PIAA championships, all three phases of the game are, obviously, critical. Special teams matter, too.

Dallas pulled off a massive upset in the PIAA Class 4A semifinal round by knocking off defending state champion Bishop McDevitt 26-23 in double overtime and bringing the Crusaders’ reign as champions and their 26-game winning streak to a halt.

Make no mistake, this is a massive upset.

The undefeated Mounts played excellent defense against the high-powered Crusaders’ offense, limiting it to fewer than 300 total yards. And that was a critical piece of the puzzle.

But the real difference-maker for the District 2 champions was special teams. They dominated, and that cleared the path for the upset.

Dallas blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, recovered a fumble on a kickoff and opened the second half with a deliciously well-executed onside kick. And most importantly it blocked a PAT in regulation, then blocked a field goal in the second OT to set up the opportunity to kick the game winner on second down.

That’s a ton of mistakes by one team (McDevitt) and the other squad (Dallas) taking full advantage of those miscues. It’s a minor miracle the Crusaders even made it to extra time with that many mistakes in one phase of the game.

McDevitt’s defense surrendered one touchdown in regulation — on a short field after the fumbled kickoff return — and allowed less than 200 yards of total offense. And the Crusaders lost the game. 

That high-octane offense we saw all regular season and early in the playoffs sputtered for long stretches last week, and that continued in this one.

And no matter how well the defense or offense plays or how much talent the roster has, that many miscues that cost you points on special teams is nearly impossible to overcome.

Pennsylvania high school football playoffs: Scores, highlights from PIAA state semifinals

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Twenty-four teams remain standing. Three of them are from right here in Harrisburg.

Harrisburg (Class 6A), Bishop McDevitt (4A) and Steel-High (3A) are among the PIAA football state semifinalists this weekend. And all of them have recent championship pedigrees. The Cougars face WPIAL power North Allegheny on Saturday; the undefeated Crusaders take on District 3 champ Dallas on Friday; and the small-school titans and undefeated Rollers get District 4’s South Williamsport. 

Can the Mid-Penn Conference claim three state championships in a week’s time. We’re about to find out.

As always, bookmark this page on your phone, laptop or tablet to follow every matchup and see every highlight from the Mid-Penn and some of the teams in the Colonial-Schuylkill League. We’ll update scores throughout the night on this page (refresh the page to see new updates), and you can follow our Twitter feed below for minute-by-minute updates.

PIAA football playoffs: State semifinals analysis, staff picks and previews

Each week 4th Down Magazine will preview the weekend slate, predict the winners and provide extra analysis. Here’s everything to get you ready for the PIAA semifinals involving local teams:

PIAA football playoffs schedule and scores: 

Looking for the latest updates and final scores from this weekend’s games involving Harrisburg-area teams? We have you covered:

Friday, Dec. 1

PIAA CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS

  • 3-1 Bishop McDevitt 23, 2-1 Dallas 26 Final, 2OT

PIAA CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS

  • 3-1 Steel-High 48, 4-1 South Williamsport 21 Final

Saturday, Dec. 2

PIAA CLASS 6A SEMIFINALS

  • 3-1 Harrisburg vs. 7-1 North Allegheny, at Altoona HS, 1 p.m.

Pennsylvania high school football live updates and highlights

Click on this Twitter/X list link to follow updates from area teams and reporters from tonight’s games.