Time to shift the spotlight to the teams who are still undefeated after a month of the regular season, and caught us by surprise or have been a mild eye- popper.
There’s a quartet of unbeatens that make the grade (in alphabetical order): Cedar Cliff, East Pennsboro, Greencastle-Antrim and West Perry. The Mustangs are probably the least surprising of the quartet, but West Perry belongs and we’ll dive into those details in a bit.
Two other unbeatens, Bishop McDevitt and Steel-High, are defending PIAA champions who were expected to be 4-0. In fairness, neither side has enjoyed a show-up-and-win ride during the first month. The Rollers were tested once by West Catholic last week, and McDevitt has a pair of fourth-quarter come-from-behind wins to its credit. So it hasn’t been an easy street, but 4-0 for these two frontrunners ranks low on the surprise meter.
Let’s break down the four biggest surprises:
Greencastle-Antrim: The jaw dropper
Greencastle-Antrim is the jaw-dropping shocker with its unbeaten blitz heading into Week 5. Head coach Devin McCauley’s group was coming off a 5-7 season where it went 1-6 in the Colonial Division, and they lost Colonial Offensive Player of the Year Tavon Cooper.
Any success was going to be built around outstanding line play, where there was a wealth of experience, good defense and another level of progression by quarterback Logan Alvey. There’s simplicity to the Blue Devils’ plan, but the execution has been well above expectations. Two victories where the offense scored only 17 points says a lot. The start has been outstanding, the question is can the crew from Franklin County make some waves in the wide open Colonial?
Remember, 1-6 a year ago with some brutal one-score losses is still 1-6.
East Pennsboro: Powered by Oates & Co.
Just so happens the Blue Devils’ next game is against another 4-0 resident of the Colonial Division — the Panthers from East Pennsboro. The Panthers outscored Gettysburg Friday night to win the 1,000th game played in program history. Make no mistake, the Panthers are built on firepower and already have a come-from-behind win over Milton Hershey in Week 3.
Quarterback Keith Oates III is the ringleader on both sides of the ball, doubling as a linebacker and leading the team in tackles. There’s just something beautiful about a quarterback in the modern game also being your hammer on defense.
Oates has some partners in crime, and they are zippy and elusive receivers Trey Good and Breckin Swope, who combined already have 700 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Each is capable of turning a short, simple pass into a big play with little or no warning. Good had 187 yards and three touchdowns Friday night on five catches. Hello, impact.
The Panthers aren’t all flash. They can run the ball when needed, and all these points and yards don’t happen without at least above-average play up front. East Penn will give up some points on defense, and shoring that up week-to-week will serve them well. Are the Panthers the favorite in the Colonial? It’s a valid question.
Cedar Cliff: A solid unit
You know what to expect from a squad coached by Colin Gillen. When there’s more talent, it can be next-level good. But even solid football talent is pulled together to produce a solid product.
This team is about a defense that isn’t splashy but simply wears on you because they do a lot of little things really well. Only 49 points surrendered, but we know that will change next week against McDevitt. And nobody will care. The Colts will be competitive.
RB Erik Schriver is sneaky good. He averages nearly 6 yards a carry, 100-plus yards a game and has six touchdowns. He goes about his business quietly and efficiently without jumping out at you. The offense is super balanced and has three solid playmakers.
And you can see brick by brick this team gets better on a weekly basis. It’s not a stretch to say with the way this club has started, the Colts could be 9-1 at the end of the regular season.
West Perry: Respect this magical run
The Mustangs are state-ranked and coming off a down-to-the-wire victory over Trinity Friday night to keep their magical start going.
How the Mustangs outlasted Trinity is why West Perry is such a surprise.
Instead of trying to go up and down the field with the Shamrocks — and trust us, the Mustangs are comfortable playing home-run ball — West Perry pounded the ball on the ground and played rock-solid defense.
They went a little outside their own box to post a 19-16 victory. You have to respect that in a big game. And over the course of 48 minutes West Perry was the better team. Even when expectations are high — and they were rightfully sky high for this team heading into 2023 — validating it with a gritty road win that required the best you have speaks volumes.
The schedule lightens for a couple weeks, but the Capital Division features a ton of depth this season and Week 10 vs. Steel-High looks like a thriller that could decide the division.