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Monday, April 22, 2024

Mid-Penn Colonial Division Breakdown


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Predicted finishing order: Shippensburg, Northern, Waynesboro, Mechanicsburg, Gettysburg, East Pennsboro, Greencastle, Susquehanna Township

We’ve spent a considerable amount of time talking about Shippensburg these past few years, and deservedly so, the Greyhounds have set a standard of excellence not only for their division, but for the Mid-Penn as a whole. But have you noticed how most of the Colonial Division, once viewed as a weaker conference in the Mid-Penn, has followed in Ship’s footsteps? Northern and Waynesboro are winning programs that boast playoff experience, while Mechanicsburg and East Pennsboro are a few big plays from being in the same position. Toss in improved Greencastle and Susquehanna Township squads, along with division newcomer Gettysburg, and it’s clear the Colonial will at the very least be providing high-end competition on a weekly basis during the regular season, if not deep into the postseason.  

Team: Shippensburg

Predicted finish position: 1st

Coach: Eric Foust

Record last season: 11-1, 7-0 Colonial

Team outlook: There are plenty of great programs in the Colonial, but until someone knocks off Eric Foust’s Greyhounds, that’s who we’re going to pick. Under the direction of Foust, Shippensburg has won the division four of the last six years and has made 11 postseason appearances in the last 13 seasons. Expect more of that this year, as the ‘Hounds bring back a wealth of talented starters on offense, including a trio of stud RBs in Traevon Kater (95 carries, 809 yards, 6 TDs), Amari Kerr (92-642-10) and Diesel Koser (92-415-1). This group, along with returning QB Tucker Chamberlin, will be lighting up the scoreboard all season long. Ship should also be formidable on defense, where they return a number of key players in LBs Jaxson Funson, Koser, Cody Wenner and Chris Wenner, along with NT Keshaun Benjamin and rush end Amari Kerr. How solid are the Greyhounds? Well, they lost a Division I talent in Anthony Smith, now at Minnesota, and we haven’t even mentioned him until the end of this outlook. Nothing’s ever easy in the Colonial, but look for Ship to set sail for a division title, perhaps undefeated once again.

One player to watch: Tucker Chamberlin. We’re putting down the QB’s name here, but keep an eye on both Chamberlin and his top WR Erby Weller in their senior seasons this fall. The players are cousins who have been playing together since they were small. That deep connection has made communication on the field a little easier and has allowed both players to emerge as standouts. Chamberlin, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound signal-caller, had a great season last year, going 60 of 112 for 1,144 yards with 15 TDs and three INTs. His main receiver, of course, was Weller, a big target at 6-2 who reeled in 36 catches for 744 yards and 10 TDs. The passing game will be strong enough as it is, especially with a talented group of RBs to keep defense’s honest, but just in case Chamberlin needed another weapon at his disposal, younger brother Troy Chamberlin has joined the receiving corps this season.

Team: Northern York

Predicted finish position: 2nd

Coach: Bill Miller

Record last season: 7-4, 4-2 Colonial

Team outlook: Last year, almost every Colonial Division expert and insider had the Polar Bears pegged for a rebuilding season after the team was hit with graduation losses. How did Bill Miller’s Northern club respond? With their seventh-straight winning season and their first playoff win since 2015. With most of that group back for the 2022 season, there’s no doubt about it, the Polar Bears will be division contenders this season. Sporting a group of nine returning all-stars, Northern is primed to dictate action on offense, defense and special teams. QB Timmy Bonin (70 of 132, 1,002 yards, 11 TDs, 6 INTs, 2 rush TDs) is back to lead the offense for his senior year, while fellow senior RB Tallon Belluscio has a really good chance of going for 1,000 rushing yards after compiling 844 yards on 140 rushes with seven TDs last season. Cole Bartram returns some hard-earned rushing yards (110-514-8), and will serve as a key member of the LB corps along with Joel McClintock (89 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) after a 99-tackle season last fall. Spencer Siegel, Nathan Deller, and Sam Gunning are all big men who will make an impact both ways in the trenches. From “rebuilding” to reloading, pencil Northern in for an eighth consecutive winning season, and maybe more.  

One player to watch: Mason Yohn. There aren’t many players who can occupy four different spots on a single all-star team, but Yohn showed last year that he can excel almost anywhere you try to put him on a football field. Yohn, a versatile 6-foot, 165-pound player, made the Colonial First Team as a kicker (54.1 avg), Second Team as a punter (32.3 avg), Second Team as a DB (24 tackles, 2 INTs), and Honorable Mention as a WR (6-153-5). Yohn, who earned all-state honors as a kicker and punter, can be called upon to nail field goals of 50 yards or more, which makes him especially valuable in a division that could be dominated by defense. A potential college future almost certainly lies in special teams, but look for Yohn to make gains as both a WR and DB in his final year wearing the Polar Bears uniform.

Team: Waynesboro

Predicted finish position: 3rd

Coach: Josh Sprenkle

Record last season: 9-3, 6-1 Colonial

Team outlook: Waynesboro is a program that takes a lot of pride in its defense, but teams will be testing the Indians ‘D’ right off the bat, as the team has graduated two of the best secondary players in the Colonial in Rhyan Day and Brody Rhodes, who combined for nine INTs last season. There’s a mostly green group of guys in the secondary, led by returning CB Nick Brill (23 tackles, 3 INTs), so the responsibility will fall on the big guys up front, like DT/NG Marcus Smith (38 tackles, 2 sacks), DE/DT Kaden Ditch (26 tackles) and NG/DE Tristan Franklin (10 tackles) to force the action on offense to create easier plays for the guys behind them. Offensively, we’re excited to see the backfield combination of RB Mikel Holden, a bruising back, and QB Jaylon Bean, a slippery dual-threat QB, with big man Cody Tharp (5-11, 220). Like we said, there are a couple pieces missing from last year, but the Indians have more than enough coming back to once again be a contender in the Colonial.

One player to watch: Mikel Holden. A stud RB since his freshman season, Holden seemed ready for a breakout year when he ripped off 505 yards on 102 rushes with 11 TDs, but his campaign was cut short when he broke his leg. Waynesboro not only survived, but thrived when now-graduated backfield mate Aiden Mencia took on the burden and ran his way to the Colonial Offensive MVP award. Now, the 5-9, 195-pound Holden is back healthy and stronger than ever. He is THE man expected to carry the load for Waynesboro this season. Can Holden handle all of that weight on his shoulders? Well, he can lift more than most linemen, and that strength transfers to the field, where he loves to run between the tackles and deliver big hits to defenders. Holden can also catch passes out of the backfield, making him a nightmare matchup in open space when considering one man alone is almost never enough to bring him down. Look for Holden, with nearly 2,000 career rushing yards, to flirt with a 1,000-yard campaign this fall. 

Team: Mechanicsburg

Predicted finish position: 4th

Coach: Anthony Rose

Record last season: 6-5, 3-4 Colonial

Team outlook: Mechanicsburg enters this season without the services of a host of linemen lost to graduation, but the team believes it has the pieces to not only replace those guys in the trenches, but also take a big step forward. The Wildcats are counting on returning starter Jayden Connors (6-foot, 220) to set the tone up front with a group that includes Davon Hutchinson (6-2, 245) and Ted Lechthaler (6-foot, 240). If the line gels, we could very well see career-best seasons from returning dual-threat QB Jeffrey Lougee (52 of 119, 675 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs), and the 1-2 punch of RBs Parker Sample and Sage Thomas (249 rush yards, 2 TDs). Many of Mechanicsburg’s offensive starters will also be starting on defense, including TE/DE Seth Brubaker, TE/LB Antonio Zeno and WR/DB Vance Koontz, as well as Lougee and Sample at DB. The Wildcats have the size, speed and experience to make a dent in their Colonial Division schedule, it’s just up to Mechanicsburg’s men on the field to make it happen.

One player to watch: Parker Sample. A 5-9, 180-pound RB who constantly keeps his legs churning forward, Sample could be the difference-maker that pushes Mechanicsburg to a big year. He’s a straightforward, no-nonsense runner on his way to the line of scrimmage, and once he finds open space he can juke defenders or flat out run them over. Last season he piled up 933 rushing yards and six TDs in a campaign that saw him earn Colonial First Team honors. A DB on the defensive side of the ball, Sample logged 41 tackles last season, including five TFLs and two sacks. A senior this season, look for Sample to have his best season yet for the Wildcats.

Team: Gettysburg

Predicted finish position: 5th

Coach: Matt Heiser

Record last season: 7-4, 5-1 York-Adams Division 2

Team outlook: Gettysburg sure would have loved to make its re-entry into the Mid-Penn with its best offensive player, RB Landon McGee, and defensive player, safety Tanner Newman, still in tow, but hey, that’s how graduation rolls, sometimes. Even with those impact players in the rear-view mirror, the Warriors still have enough gas in the tank to keep things interesting in their new division. Sophomore QB Brady Heiser is back after an all-conference season as a freshman, while senior OL/DL Dunn Kessel returns up front to guide the offensive line. Gettysburg also returns all-stars in MLB Cody Furman (5-10, 195) and kicker Jermain Gondwe. Will the Warriors have a winning mark in the Colonial, in their first time playing in the Mid-Penn since 2013? As the season progresses, that question will almost certainly be answered by Gettysburg’s supporting cast. 

One player to watch: Dunn Kessel. Listen, if your name is Dunn Kessel, we don’t even have to look up your position, we know you’re a big dude taking souls in the trenches. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound OT/DE was a monster on the line for Gettysburg, driving players into the turf all season long for the Warriors. Kessel is a menace in the run game, especially when he pulls to land a block, and is an immovable object on his pass blocks. On defense, Kessel doesn’t get pushed around, so look for him to draw double teams and still find a way to keep contain on the QB. There are some concerns about the Gettysburg running game now that York-Adams Division II Offensive POY Landon McGee has been lost to graduation, and while those shoes will be hard to fill, there’s a lot of easy production that can still happen by following the warpath of Kessel.

Team: East Pennsboro

Predicted finish position: 6th

Coach: John Denniston

Record last season: 5-5, 3-4 Colonial

Team outlook: With seven players returning on offense and nine back to play defense, East Pennsboro likes its chances to do some damage in the Colonial. With conference all-stars Josh Angelo (6-foot, 245) and Colton Yohe (6-foot, 250) back up front, along with Carter Stup (6-foot, 290), look for East Pennsboro to hang in the trenches with the division’s best. Junior QB Keith Oates (34 of 83, 449 yards, 1 TD, 5 INT, 3 rush TDs) is back, as is do-everything back Dakota Campbell and WR Breckin Swope. Defensively, the Panthers will have to cope with the loss of all-star LB Devin Shepherd, who transferred to Central Dauphin, but have enough talent to possibly close the gap with players like LB Caden Holmes (5-8, 175), LB Matthew Sullivan (5-10, 165), DB Travis Brown (5-9, 165), DB Trey Good (5-10, 170), LB Oates, DL Yohe and DL Stup (16 tackles, 5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections) in the mix. If Oates can continue to develop as a QB and the team can establish a productive running game, we see no reason why East Penn can’t battle its way to at least the top half of the Colonial.

One player to watch: Dakota Campbell. Whether he’s tackling, rushing, receiving, punting or kicking, expect to hear Campbell’s name all season. The 5-11, 185-pound Campbell is most valuable to his team on defense, where he earned Colonial Second Team Honors as a DB last year after logging 44 tackles, four TFLs, one sack, six INTs, 10 pass defenses, one punt block, one kick block and one fumble recovery. Campbell is a hustle player who plays with attitude and is not afraid to put his body in danger to make a play. He has great anticipation in the secondary and equally great athletic ability to snatch INTs out of mid air. Look for Campbell to take on an increased workload on offense, where he can excel running (65-265-0) or receiving (4-36-0). Campbell will also make an impact on special teams, where he stars as a kicker and all-state punter (36.1 avg). He was 19 of 20 on PATs last season, while also connecting on 5 of 8 field goals, including two FGs over 40 yards. A PA All-Academic player, Campbell already has one offer from Division II West Virginia Wesleyan.

Team: Greencastle-Antrim

Predicted finish position: 7th

Coach: Devin McCauley

Record last season: 4-7, 2-6 Colonial

Team outlook: Greencastle will be angling for its winning season since 2015, but collecting victories in the rugged Colonial Division is easier said than done. The Blue Devils will give it their best shot, though, with a group led by returning Colonial First Teamers Elijah Britner (DL) and Tavon Cooper (RB). Britner, a 6-4, 305-pound menace of a nose tackle, can line up right over center and command the attention of two, sometimes three, blockers. With all-star senior DB Seth Stouffer (6-0, 175) also returning, opponents will have to think long and hard when choosing between running or throwing the ball. Offensively, look for Cooper to follow the blocks of Britner to keep his team staying ahead of the chains. Add in senior Austin Wyand, who can change the course of a game as a return specialist, and it’s easy to see that the Blue Devils won’t be going down without a fight this fall.

One player to watch: Tavon Cooper. Sure, the Blue Devils lost a number of big guys up front to graduation, but look for the 5-10, 163-pound Cooper to some way, somehow power his way to another 1,000-yard rushing season. The RB has great vision and is good at finding holes, so he doesn’t necessarily need a group of all-stars in the trenches to get his yards. Cooper can take direct snaps to make life miserable for opposing defenses and is capable of hauling in passes from the backfield. Most successful team rebuilds are built around a good running game, and if Cooper can get going this fall, Greencastle could be in business. 


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Team: Susquehanna Township

Predicted finish position: 8th

Coach: Joe Headen

Record last season: 0-10, 0-7

Team outlook: With two wins over the last two seasons, Susquehanna Township believes it is beyond due for a rebound season. That could very well happen for an Indians squad that returns some talent from a squad that was better than last year’s winless record indicates. Township took its lumps early on last fall, but by the end of the season the team was competitive in losses to East Pennsboro (21-14), Mechanicsburg (21-12) and West Perry (31-28). The Indians return all-conference offensive all-stars in sophomores WR Lex Cyrus (5-11, 165) and center Mason Lubold (6-0, 250). Look for playmakers to include WR Ryan McClain and Javon White, who brings experience to the huddle as a passer, runner and receiver. Defensively, ‘Hanna will be anchored by all-stars DL Aubrey Carter (6-3, 250) and DB Dorian Smith (5-8, 150), with S/CB McClain, CB White and LB Razay Bowles also returning to the starting lineup. The Colonial Division is a weekly blue-collar job, and if the Indians’ defense is up for the challenge, we think the team will be able to win a few games. 

One player to watch: Lex Cyrus. After starting at WR as a freshman, the 5-11, 165-pound Cyrus, already has two offers to his name from UConn and UMass. The speedy Cyrus has a knack for getting wide open, but is very capable of reaching up and making tough catches. Once the ball is secured, Cyrus has more moves than an underclassman should to make would-be tacklers miss. It’s hard to tackle a blur, so look for the elusive Cyrus to take his fair share of end-around runs to further keep opponents off balance. With a budding star like Cyrus on the roster, pencil the Indians in for several highlight-reel plays, and perhaps a few wins, as well.

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