EXPLAINING OUR PICKS: It’s the second week of the PIAA district football playoffs, and a week before the state tournaments begin. And the 4th Down Magazine team is here to tell you who will win the District 3, 4, 6 and 11 playoff games this weekend, most of which kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
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. Stick with us all the way through the PIAA state championships in December.
Watch: This weeks edition of 4th & Goal with Andy Shay and Jake Adams features Trinity star running back and Penn State recruit Messiah Mickens. Plus we break down what to expect in this week’s playoff battles.
* Records in parentheses after school name; District and seed in parentheses before school name.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 6A QUARTERFINALS
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 1 Manheim Township 44, No. 8 York 8
Andy Shay: Manheim Township 45, York 14: It has been easier than expected from start to finish for the Blue Streaks. That’s not an accident, either. Because the Township schedule had some solid meat on the bone. Complementary football has been an asset since the opening quarter of the season.
Andy Sandrik: Manheim Township 44, York 17: For being a high school team, Manheim Township has more of a grown-man roster than might seem fair. I expect the Blue Streaks to overwhelm the Bearcats this week.
Adam Kulikowski: Manheim Township 47, York 20: Blue Streaks quarterback Hayden Johnson has thrown a staggering 40 touchdowns without a single interception. His unmatched precision should position Manheim Township for a deep run throughout the postseason.
No. 4 Cumberland Valley 20, No. 5 Wilson 14
Andy Shay: Wilson 21, Cumberland Valley 17: This is just a hunch pick. Something just tells me that top to bottom the Bulldogs have a couple slight advantages that will tip the game in their favor.
Andy Sandrik: Wilson 28, Cumberland Valley 21: There’s a saying that you’re only as good as your last game, and if that adage is to be believed, then it’s really hard to pick against a Wilson team that in Week 10 played to within two scores of a Manheim Township team that just may end up winning a state title.
Adam Kulikowski: Cumberland Valley 27, Wilson 26: Can it be called an upset if the higher-seeded team wins? Probably not, but it will feel that way if the Eagles pull off this dub.
No. 3 Central York 42, No. 6 Central Dauphin 34
Andy Shay: Central York 27, Central Dauphin 24: Already played once this season, so they will know what to expect. Here’s the deal for me: the Panthers have an FBS recruit at running back who impacted the Week 1 contest greatly. CD does not have that type of weapon at its disposal.
Andy Sandrik: Central York 24, Central Dauphin 17: Defense always seems to factor in the most in November playoff games, and both of these teams possess solid defensive units. With that said, I think CY’s edge on offense will make the difference in this game.
Adam Kulikowski: Central York 35, Central Dauphin 21: The Rams are probably at least a year away from being able to go toe-to-toe with Central York and other top-tier teams with X-factor players.
SATURDAY, NOV. 11
No. 7 Cedar Crest at No. 2 Harrisburg, 1 p.m.
Andy Shay: Harrisburg 49, Cedar Crest 7: The Falcons earned their spot by winning eight games and just enough power rankings points to make the cutoff. The kicker to that is Cedar Crest beat exactly one team that finished with a winning record. That will show up Saturday at Severance Field.
Andy Sandrik: Harrisburg 52, Cedar Crest 14: I expect Harrisburg to be well-rested this week, and if the Cougars are also focused, I don’t expect this game to be close.
Adam Kulikowski: Harrisburg 49, Cedar Crest 14: The Cougars are playing their best football when it matters most. Good for the Harrisburg faithful, but a scary proposition for the Falcons.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 5A QUARTERFINALS
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 8 Hershey 34, No. 1 New Oxford 28
Andy Shay: New Oxford 31, Hershey 27: Took a lot for the Trojans to rally and get their first playoff victory in more than a decade with a furious fourth-quarter comeback. And No. 1-seed New Oxford was enjoying a bye week. See where am I going with this? That bye week matters a lot.
Andy Sandrik: New Oxford 32, Hershey 24: The Trojans are coming off a storybook-ending kind of victory that was generated by all hands on deck working double-time. Unconscious efforts like that are a spectacle to behold, but they can come at a cost. If New Oxford gets ahead early, I’m not entirely sure Hershey has enough in the tank to mount another big comeback.
Adam Kulikowski: New Oxford 34, Hershey 27: Many left Hershey for dead at halftime last week against Exeter Township, but the Trojans found answers at halftime and never lost their will to fight. Beating No. 1-seed New Oxford will take an epic effort for a full four quarters.
No. 5 Ephrata 31, No. 4 Garden Spot 10
Andy Shay: Garden Spot 42, Ephrata 14: Rematch alert. And the first meeting wasn’t close as Garden Spot claimed a three-touchdown victory. Plus, the No. 4 seed is coming off a bye and Ephrata had to grind out a tough win over Lower Dauphin.
Andy Sandrik: Garden Spot 42, Ephrata 28: Ephrata left a piece of itself on the field last week just to survive against Lower Dauphin, and now it faces an even taller mountain to scale in Garden Spot.
Adam Kulikowski: Garden Spot 27, Ephrata 21: This is already a historic season for Ephrata after reaching the postseason the first time since 1987. An upset of Garden Spot would be icing on the cake.
No. 2 Cedar Cliff 31, No. 7 South Western 7
Andy Shay: Cedar Cliff 34, South Western 21: I like everything about where this Colts team is right now. Only loss was to Bishop McDevitt, and they have more balance on offense than you might expect. Sneaky good is what I call them.
Andy Sandrik: Cedar Cliff 33, South Western 24: Colts vs. Mustangs isn’t just an equestrian fantasy matchup, it’s a high-powered district playoff game that could result in a whole lot of TDs being scored.
Adam Kulikowski: Cedar Cliff 42, South Western 14: In a wide open District 3 Class 5A bracket, the Colts have the right mix of firepower and steady defense needed to vie for a title.
No. 3 Cocalico 42, No. 6 Conestoga Valley 10
Andy Shay: Cocalico 42, Conestoga Valley 7: Only one team, Manheim Central, has scored more than two touchdowns in a game against the Eagles’ defense. And the Cocalico offense averages nearly 38 points a game. Too much for CV to handle.
Andy Sandrik: Cocalico 35, Conestoga Valley 14: Cocalico has a really nice two-way player in RB/DB Aaryn Longenecker, who is just one of many weapons that could make life hard for Conestoga Valley on Friday.
Adam Kulikowski: Cocalico 47, Conestoga Valley 20: Cocalico is riding a nine-game winning streak heading into its first playoff bout. Ride the hot hand.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 4A QUARTERFINALS
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 1 Bishop McDevitt 54, No. 8 Milton Hershey 14
Andy Shay: Bishop McDevitt 55, Milton Hershey 13: This starts the time of year when the Crusaders don’t ease off the gas quite so early. Did you know the Spartans are the only Keystone Division team to score two touchdowns against the Crusaders?
Andy Sandrik: Bishop McDevitt 55, Milton Hershey 7: It’s the playoffs now, so expect the Crusaders to strive to be even better than they were in a 55-14 win over Milton Hershey in Week 6.
Adam Kulikowski: Bishop McDevitt 49, Milton Hershey 14: The Crusaders are planning for a long journey through the playoffs. This is simply another step on the path to Cumberland Valley High School.
No. 5 Lampeter-Strasburg 23, No. 4 East Pennsboro 20 (2OT)
Andy Shay: Lampeter-Strasburg 42, East Pennsboro 14: This just feels like a bad matchup for the Panthers. Pioneers are run heavy with some pop in the passing game and have a defense that doesn’t have many weaknesses. Losses for L-S are to Wyomissing and Cocalico. East Pennsboro has to have a very special outing to pull off the upset.
Andy Sandrik: Lampeter-Strasburg 38, East Pennsboro 21: Over the years, I’ve seen so many Mid-Penn postseason dreams crushed by the Lampeter-Strasburg Pioneers. This is East Penn’s best team in several seasons, but even so, the Panthers seem like heavy underdogs here.
Adam Kulikowski: Lampeter-Strasburg 43, East Pennsboro 20: When you have two dynamic receivers and a QB who can throw it to both regularly, an upset is never off the table. Panthers will need their stars to be at their best and the supporting cast to play above their weights to have a say in this battle.
No. 2 Twin Valley 35, No. 7 Elco 7
Andy Shay: Twin Valley 29, Elco 27: Raiders have three wins by three or fewer points, so they know how to get across the finish line in a tight squeeze. And this game feels like a tight squeeze all the way. Twin Valley defense has to come up big for this win to be anything but a grinder.
Andy Sandrik: Twin Valley 30, Elco 21: I like Twin Valley’s overall résumé just a little more, but Elco certainly has the tools to make this a slugfest until the final whistle.
Adam Kulikowski: Twin Valley 45, Elco 30: Both teams have some firepower to put up points, but the difference to me is the chops Twin Valley has on defense.
No. 3 Manheim Central 49, No. 6 Susquehanna Township 19
Andy Shay: Manheim Central 34, Susquehanna Township 14: Not exactly the smoothest trip across the regular-season finish line for the ‘Hanna Tribe. Meanwhile, the Barons spent the last month finding their next level with a couple drubbings of playoff squads down the stretch.
Andy Sandrik: Manheim Central 39, Susquehanna Township 21: Manheim Central has done some bad things to some really good opponents. It’s going to take ‘Hanna’s most complete effort of the season to even keep this game within striking distance.
Adam Kulikowski: Manheim Central 42, Susquehanna Township 20: In high-pressure moments, can the Tribe keep focus and play through adversity? In a playoff battle, the answer to that question will determine how close this battle is in the final stanza.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 3 West Perry 49, No. 2 Lancaster Catholic 20
Andy Shay: West Perry 35, Lancaster Catholic 28: Time for the quality of what it took for the Mustangs to reach 10-1 to shine through. Lancaster Catholic will demand West Perry’s best, otherwise the Crusaders will have no trouble taking this one. West Perry has more high-end weapons but will need a better effort defensively than a week ago.
Andy Sandrik: West Perry 33, Lancaster Catholic 28: It feels like we in the media have been speculating about a potential West Perry-Wyomissing district title rematch since midseason, but if the Mustangs are thinking about anything other than the Crusaders this week, they could end up watching the championship game from home.
Adam Kulikowski: West Perry 37, Lancaster Catholic 34: Time for the Mustangs to cash in on the mettle they have built through a challenging Mid-Penn Conference schedule. The leg of Ian Goodling could be an X-factor in what our crew believes will be a high-scoring affair.
SATURDAY, NOV. 11
No. 4 Schuylkill Valley at No. 1 Wyomissing, 7 p.m.
Andy Shay: Wyomissing 49, Schuylkill Valley 7: Spartans are simply too big, too strong and too fast for SV. Of course that’s the case most weeks.
Andy Sandrik: Wyomissing 42, Schuylkill Valley 17: No offense to the nine-win Panthers, but some games are just easier to pick than others. I expect the Spartans to roll.
Adam Kulikowski: Wyomissing 45, Schuylkill Valley 14: Visiting Wyomissing on a Saturday afternoon in postseason play should strike fear in just about any team. Wyo handles its work in a business-man like fashion.
DISTRICT 3 CLASS 2A CHAMPIONSHIP
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 4 Camp Hill 20, No. 2 Trinity 13:
Andy Shay: Trinity 34, Camp Hill 21: Nobody posted a more impressive Week 1 playoff victory than the Lions. The reward is a rematch with their neighbor/rival whose school is just 1.9 miles away. The FBS recruit at running back will play this time. That’s a game changer.
Andy Sandrik: Camp Hill 24, Trinity 21: I remember last week we were all writing Camp Hill’s obituary in anticipation of their matchup against the feared Annville-Cleona rushing attack. And then the Lions won a blowout. Camp Hill has to like its chances this week, even if Messiah Mickens is in the Trinity backfield.
Adam Kulikowski: Trinity 45, Camp Hill 31: Camp Hill pulled off the Cinderella upset last week, and frankly they’ve shown plenty of fight all season. If the Lions win this week, it would be the biggest upset of them all.
DISTRICT 4 CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 1 Troy 44, No. 4 Line Mountain 0
Andy Shay: Troy 28, Line Mountain 7: Defense travels, and Troy has a defense that travels better than most. Eagles’ offense has to have a special outing to pull off the upset.
Andy Sandrik: Troy 21, Line Mountain 7: I’d love to pick the Eagles because they’ve had an excellent season and have found their offensive groove in recent weeks. But then I look at this Troy team that has overpowered opponents on both ends of the ball with frightening consistency, and it’s obvious that Line Mountain is going to need a superhuman effort to overcome the Trojan machine.
Adam Kulikowski: Troy 24, Line Mountain 7: The 11-0 Troy Trojans have surrendered just 37 points since Sept. 15 and 68 points this season. To say reaching paydirt will be difficult for the Eagles is a serious understatement.
DISTRICT 6 CLASS 6A CHAMPIONSHIP
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
No. 1 State College 16, No. 3 Altoona 6
Andy Shay: State College 28, Altoona 14: Rough last month for the Little Lions in the Commonwealth Division. Mountain Lions are better, but they aren’t five touchdowns better — State College’s margin of victory in the first meeting. State College will be looking to rekindle some fire on offense because it was MIA the final three games.
Andy Sandrik: State College 24, Altoona 13: After an offensively challenged October, something tells me State College will need to rely on its defense to scrape past Altoona.
Adam Kulikowski: State College 34, Altoona 17: The Little Lions certainly would have liked to come into postseason play with more momentum, but a week off might be just what this squad needed.
DISTRICT 11 CLASS 2A CHAMPIONSHIP
SATURDAY, NOV. 11
No. 2 Williams Valley at No. 1 Schuylkill Haven, 6 p.m.
Andy Shay: Schuylkill Haven 28, Williams Valley 26: Was a crazy game the first meeting back in early September, and I expect more of the same even with the stakes being higher. Hurricanes’ defense came up huge the first time around. Counting on that to be the case again.
Andy Sandrik: Williams Valley 33, Schuylkill Haven 28: No better time for the Vikings to avenge a Week 3 loss than in the district title game. Can’t say it’s going to be easy, though, as these Hurricanes have been the only team that has been able to keep Alex Achenbach under 150 yards this season.Adam Kulikowski:
Williams Valley 34, Schuylkill Haven 27: Do teams that play Williams Valley even need to watch film? The key to beating the Vikings is about as simple as it comes: limit the damage Alex Achenbach can cause. However, most teams have struggled mightily to even come close to executing that plan.