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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division Breakdown

Predicted Division Finish: Harrisburg, Cumberland Valley, State College, Central Dauphin, Carlisle, Altoona, CD East, Chambersburg

The toughest division in the Mid-Penn Conference is set to kick off, and we’re expecting yet another rough and tumble season with Commonwealth teams beating the stuffing out of each other. Harrisburg, under the direction of reigning Coach of the Year Calvin Everett, who has been suspended the first three games of the season after pleading guilty to selling used cars with his brother without a license, has a team that will set the bar high for the conference, with a number of other top programs giving chase in hope of a district playoff berth. Cumberland Valley and Carlisle have squads full of impact starters and are looking to move up to that next level, while State College and Central Dauphin, a program tasked with replacing its all-star QB, also have visions of Commonwealth supremacy. Football season is always a marathon, but each week in the Commonwealth is a violent sprint, and we’re here for it. If you want to catch multiple Commonwealth teams in action over one weekend, we recommend you check out the season-opening Chambersburg Peach Bowl, with showcase games featuring division members Harrisburg and Chambersburg, as well as fellow Mid-Penn squads Steel-High and Bishop McDevitt.

Team: Harrisburg

Predicted finish position: 1st 

Coach: Calvin Everett

Record last season: 12-2, 7-1 Commonwealth

Team outlook: From our perspective, there is one clear-cut team to beat in the Commonwealth, and that team is Harrisburg. The Cougars return perhaps the best two players in the conference in seniors DE Terrell Reynolds, the Commonwealth MVP on Defense, and Kyle Williams Jr., the top conference “Athlete.” On the offensive side of the ball, Williams is lethal both rushing (115 carries, 740 yards, 6 TDs) and receiving (70 receptions, 788 yards, 11 TDs), while top returning RB Mahkai Hopkins (169-898-9) seems poised for an even bigger year behind the blocking of junior OL Sirkayne Venable (6-foot-4, 310 pounds). Harrisburg also returns a pair of capable QBs in sophomore Shawn Lee and senior Zakii Lewis. Defensively, the Cougars are going to cause some problems for their Commonwealth playmates. In the event opponents evade DEs Reynolds and Micah Chambers, who combined for 33 sacks last season, they will still have to contend with a linebacking corps that includes Hopkins (91 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Ryan Epps (69 tackles, 3.5 sacks). If Harrisburg can stay healthy, count on the Cougars for a Commonwealth crown, and a deep postseason run.

One player to watch: Terrell Reynolds. Perhaps the baddest man in all of the Mid-Penn this season is the 6-1, 245-pounder, who was the Commonwealth Defensive MVP after putting together numbers that only seem possible in video games. A man amongst boys, Harrisburg records fell when Reynolds compiled 123 tackles, including 37 TFLs and 22.5 sacks. He also intercepted a pass, forced six fumbles, and scored three defensive TDs. There’s no doubt Reynolds has the goods to make a college team very happy some day, but for one more year the Cougars get a chance to watch history made once more. 

Team: Cumberland Valley 

Predicted finish position: 2nd

Coach: Josh Oswalt

Record last season: 5-5, 4-3 Commonwealth

Team outlook: The third season of the Josh Oswalt era is underway at Cumberland Valley, and the Eagles seem ready to fly their highest under his direction. CV’s offense brings back many weapons, including QB Isaac Sines, RBs JD Hunter and Bryce Staretz, and WRs Griffin Huffman and Adam Somerville, not to mention a valuable trench player in Ridge Crispino (6-1, 235). Points could still come at a premium, so even more improvement from the Eagles’ defensive unit is a must. Alex Sauve, a junior LB, brings back 74 tackles and two INTs from his First-Team Commonwealth effort last year. He is joined by DB Hunter (69 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and LB Bryce Beutler (51 tackles). The Eagles have all the ingredients to put together another winning record in the Commonwealth, and possibly a playoff run.

One player to watch: Isaac Sines. With a full season of development in CV’s spread offense and a stable full of capable receivers, senior QB Sines is poised to have his biggest year in an Eagles uniform. The 5-11, 180-pound southpaw runs a very nice option play and is slippery to tackle. Sines improved his throwing last season (74 of 162, 1,020 yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs) and established some great rapport with Huffman (28-475-5) and Somerville (15-188-0), as well as Hunter (14-200-4) out of the backfield. In a Commonwealth Division that promises to be ruled by defense, CV will need to take points when it can get them, and Sines can help his team do just that as a kicker. Last season he banged 14 of 16 PATs through the uprights and connected on 12 of 13 field goals.

Team: State College

Predicted finish position: 3rd 

Coach: Matt Lintal

Record last season: 8-6, 4-4 Commonwealth

Team outlook: A stable group of returners with size, speed, and high football IQ are eager to restore State College’s status as an upper-echelon team in the Commonwealth. Don’t be fooled by the name “Little” Lions, as the team brings back some big dudes in Michael Dincher (6-2, 300), Justin Castro-Dixon (5-11, 355), and Stephen Scourtis (6-4, 235). State College has a capable group of runners and receivers who, oddly enough, all seem to be engaged in a four-way battle for the QB position. The Little Lions return four players who threw a TD pass last season, including senior Jack Morris (43 of 103, 664 yards, 5 TDs, 4 INTs), senior Finn Furmanek (51 of 94, 834 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT), junior Owen Yerka (43 of 82, 537 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INT), and senior Ian Brandt (7 of 17, 82 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT). If State College runs a multiple-quarterback system this season, it could make preparation a nightmare for the opposition. 

One player to watch:¬†JW Scott. When this 6-1, 230-pound ILB is on the move teasing the blitz during the pre-snap, expect opposing QBs to sweat. That’s because they know they’ll have mere seconds, if that, to force a rushed throw before Scott makes them one with the turf. As an underclassman last fall, Scott showcased his constant motor and proved himself as one of the division’s most durable and reliable defenders, registering a team-high 139 tackles and three sacks to earn Commonwealth First Team honors. With fellow all-conference defenders up front in DE Stephen Scourtis (6-4, 235) and DL Justin Castro-Dixon (5-11, 355) to take on double teams, look for Scott to once again log a high volume of tackles, and make a few plays along the way.


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Team: Central Dauphin 

Predicted finish position: 4th

Coach: Glen McNamee

Record last season: 5-3, 4-2 Commonwelath

Team Outlook: Look for Central Dauphin to once again set the Commonwealth standard for defensive excellence. Yards will be awfully tough to come across against the Rams, who return a deep linebacking corp that includes David Chase (61 tackles, 5 TFL), Sam Sauers (56 tackles), Xander Toland (68 tackles) and Kyle McCullough (34 tackles), not to mention a dangerous DE in the 6-foot-3 Jett Franz, who logged 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. We get the sense that even in games where the Rams are the underdog, they’ll be within striking distance from first whistle to the last bell, thanks to their defense. With that said, points could be at a premium for the CD offense, which is tasked with replacing QB Max Mosey, who was the division’s Offensive MVP last season. David Chase, a bruising runner and pass catcher, could be a big weapon, but the Rams will need a few more stars to emerge if they hope to contend for the Commonwealth crown.

One player to watch: David Chase. An exceptional linebacker named to the Commonwealth Second Team last season, the 5-11, 190-pound Chase has been training all summer to ensure his senior season is his best one yet. The OLB never gives up on plays and is strong enough to overpower and shed blockers. But as much value as Chase brings as a defender, the success of the Rams just might hinge on how much he has improved on other side of the ball. Chase is the team’s leading returning rusher (28-181-1) and the only returning WR (9-237-2). Central Dauphin will also be breaking in a new QB, so look for Chase to be that safety valve for the offense, at least until the next young crop of Rams playmakers emerge.

Team: Carlisle 

Predicted finish position: 5th

Coach: Brett Ickes

Record last season: 7-4, 4-3 Commonwealth

Team outlook: With a roster stacked with athletes and enough size up front to handle the behemoths of the Commonwealth Division, Carlisle seems more than ready to prove that last year’s winning campaign was more than a fluke. Senior QB Louis Shank (53 of 107, 740 yards, 11 TDs, 0 INTs) will once again line up under center with a solid group of receivers to throw to, including Eli Hargrove (17-285-4), Jeremiah Hargrove and Jeremiah Snyder (6-116-2). The Thundering Herd will be fresh at RB all season long thanks to a deep stable of runners that includes Ezeekai Thomas (106-519-6), Hargrove, Jaqueece Morrell (61-288-3), Marquise Miller (21-248-2) and John Smith (43-199-3). Trench warriors Layton Schmick (6-2, 280) and Thomas Nelson (6-4, 305) will look to control the flow of battle up front. Throw in a defense highlighted by all-conference returners DB Thomas, DL Nelson and DB Hargrove, and Carlisle has the potential to have an even better campaign than last fall.

One player to watch: Jeremiah Hargrove. We’re sure a lot of media outlets will focus their attention on Ezeekai Thomas, who was named the Commonwealth’s Second Team “Athlete” last season, and that’s quite OK with Hargrove, who could fly under the radar on his way to another star-studded season. Hargrove, a junior DB/RB, has grown a few inches since last year’s breakout season, when he was named Commonwealth Second Team on both defense and offense. On defense, Hargrove serves as a key cog for a ball-hawking Carlisle secondary, and offensively, he is a home-run threat both as a rusher (39-308-6) and a receiver (10-155-2). Measuring in at 5-9, 190 pounds, Hargrove can also change the outcome of a game with his explosive play as a kick returner.

Team: Altoona 

Predicted finish position: 6th

Coach: Vince Nedimyer

Record last season: 4-7, 1-6 Commonwealth

Team outlook: The beastly Commonwealth Division chews teams up and spits them out, but Altoona has rolled with the punches and continues to march itself back for more. Don’t expect this year’s strong group of battle-tested Mountain Lions to back down, either. Led by a group of senior playmakers who wear quite a few hats, Altoona seems primed to do some damage of its own within the division. It starts with two do-it-all players in RB/FS Alexander Yost and RB/DB Tyson Reid. Yost, at 6-foot, 200 pounds, was effective on offense both as a rusher (77-392-6) and receiver (7-113-2), and contributed defensively with 32 tackles and an interception, to go along with a few kick return reps. Reid is lightning in a bottle as a rusher (19-160-1) and punt returner (15.8 avg.) and was a ballhawk on defense with three INTs and 43 tackles. Keep an eye on Altoona’s special teams, a scrappy group of players combined with a pair of kicking aces in K Cohen Crawford (51.2 avg.) and PK Ian Palilla, who misfired on just two kicks all of last season. The Mountain Lions will be competitive in all games, but the difference between wins and losses could rest on the progression of projected senior QB Sean Bettwy, who attempted two varsity passes last season.

One player to watch: Manny Miller. When opposing offenses take the field against Altoona this season, the first thing they’ll want to do is find out where the 6-2, 225-pound Miller is lined up. A ferocious pass rusher, Miller can overpower blockers out of a four-point stance from his DE position and is strong enough to approach the line standing and still dispose of the opposition. He piled up 59 tackles and five sacks, with some of those stats coming from splitting out to play OLB. And that’s just what Miller can do with his reactionary time. As an OL with the first move, Miller violently explodes out of his stance and is going to keep the lower center of gravity with almost any defender he engages. Miller is listed a TE on this year’s roster, so any catches will be icing on the cake for one of the Commonwealth’s most phyical returning trench players.

Team: Central Dauphin East

Predicted finish position: 7th 

Coach: Lance Deane

Record last season: 7-4, 5-2 Commonwealth

Team outlook: Word out of CD East camp is the Panthers want to be even better than last year. It’s always good to aim high, but there are a lot of things that will have go just right for CD East to match the success of last season’s playoff team. The Panthers will navigate this fall without nine all-conference players lost to graduation, including Mehki Flowers, now at Penn State. To stay afloat in the Commonwealth, CD East will need its remaining impact players to shoulder more of the load. The defense is led by wrestling standout and LB Thaddeus Krebs (5-9, 170), who earned First Team division honors after piling up 92 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Senior OL/DL Vincent Jackson Carroll (6-5, 270) will impact the game on both sides of the ball, while QB/WR Terrence Jackson-Copney will keep the chains moving with his playmaking abilities. The Panthers like their chances, but we’re going to have to see a few more parts to the machine before we declare it a contender.

One player to watch: Terrence Jackson-Copney. With most of CD East’s star power lost to graduation, Jackson-Copney will be the man providing a bulk of the highlights for the Panthers. A 6-1, 180-pound combination of speed, acceleration and athleticism, he played both QB and WR for the Panthers last year, accounting for more than 1,300 yards to go along with 15 TDs. As a QB, Jackson-Copney brings a strong arm to the table, coupled with an ability to extend plays with his legs, while the WR Jackson-Copney has sure hands and big ups to reel in passes. Already with an offer from Wheeling University, Jackson-Copney’s stock can rise even higher with a big campaign on the gridiron this fall.

Team: Chambersburg

Predicted finish position: 8th 

Coach: Mark Luther

Record last season: 2-8, 0-7 Commonwealth

Team outlook: Winless in the Commonwealth a season ago, there’s only one way for the Trojans to go this fall. There are no returning all-stars in Chambersburg’s lineup, but the Trojans are banking on improvements across the board from a large group of young players that was baptized under fire last year. The team has been united in offseason workouts, with seniors Bryce Folmar (slot receiver/safety), Shea Macosy (TE) and Carter Flory (RG/DE) providing leadership. The Commonwealth is a cruel and unforgiving division, but Chambersburg believes it has the pieces to move up a few rungs. 

One player to watch: Carter Flory. The road to improvement begins with the big men in the trenches, and luckily for the Trojans, they have a good one up front in the 6-3, 245-pound Flory. The OL can bulldoze defenders on the run block and provides a wall of protection on the pass block to keep the pocket clean. On the other side of the ball, once DE Flory wraps his arms around you, it’s all over. It’s going to take heart and intensity for the Trojans to move up the ranks, and if they’re successful, we believe Flory will be the man setting the tone.

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