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Monday, April 22, 2024

Sunday Morning QB: Breaking down the District 3 Playoffs plus a look at the Mid-Penn Division Champions

Another regular season in the books for the Mid-Penn Conference, and there was a fair bit of drama to go around as an unseasonably warm evening provided the backdrop to bring the curtain down on the 10-game slate.

We have plenty of playoff tidbits to break down, but first we want to give each Mid-Penn Conference division champion their moment in the spotlight. And thankfully no shared titles this season.

Harrisburg won all seven of its Commonwealth Division games to claim the outright title. It was powered by junior quarterback Sean Lee Jr. and a defense that can lock down an opponent. Harrisburg has higher championship aspirations of course, but take a moment to savor a job well done. Crazy part was the toughest test in the division came from CD East.

Nobody else was in the same area code to compete with Bishop McDevitt for the Keystone Division title. The defending PIAA Class 4A champion cruised through the Mid-Penn portion of its schedule to complete an undefeated regular season. The offense is big-play explosive, led by an FBS recruit at quarterback and bolstered by an FBS recruit at wide receiver and arguably the best corps of wideouts in the state. In seven division victories, McD’s defense surrendered six touchdowns. That group plays a vital role for this squad, too.

For the first time since 2015, East Pennsboro is the champion of the Colonial Division. This wasn’t an easy road for the Panthers to navigate, either. An upset loss to Northern in Week 7 opened up the door for a shared title or Susquehanna Township winning it outright. The grit and determination of this East Penn group came to a head last week with a fourth-quarter rally from the abyss to shock the ‘Hanna Tribe. And you have to love a team whose quarterback, Keith Oates III, set the school record for yards in a season and also leads them in tackles from his linebacker position.

Steel-High registered win No. 22 in a row Friday night in Elliottsburg to claim the Mid-Penn Capital Division crown in style by upending previously unbeaten and very confident West Perry. This wasn’t a given for the Rollers in 2023. The Mustangs and Trinity were both high-end title contenders, as well. And Steel-High had to beat those two squads in back-to-back weeks. The defending PIAA Class 1A champion is a legitimate threat to repeat as the best in the state. This title prepared the Rollers better than any other year for that run.

When the season kicked off you could have put three jars on a table, marked them Juniata, Line Mountain and Upper Dauphin and the tickets in each to win the Liberty Division title would have been fairly equal. Line Mountain’s 2023 squad always had the highest ceiling, and that was realized after a rugged 1-2 start. The Eagles never lost again and closed out a perfect Liberty run by scoring 75 points against previously mentioned Juniata and Line Mountain the last two weeks.

Some initial District 3 playoff thoughts

Before we provide a quick Mid-Penn Conference knee-jerk perspective on each of the classifications for the upcoming District 3 playoffs, there wasn’t a tough-luck squad at any level from the Mid-Penn. Big Spring was a serious bubble team but made the cut by a whisker.

Steel-High will be the Class 1A champion, and, despite three losses, Trinity is a heavy favorite in Class 2A as the No. 2 seed.

Wyomissing has barely been challenged in Class 3A the last few years. Will this year be more the same? The answer will be provided by either 9-1 Lancaster Catholic or 9-1 West Perry, the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds.

The top four seeds in Class 4A, Bishop McDevitt, Twin Valley, Manheim Central and East Pennsboro, have three combined losses with No. 1 McDevitt still unbeaten. The question here is can any of those three top seeds present a legitimate four-quarter challenge for the high-powered Crusaders?

Class 5A is going to be so much fun to watch unfold because you could make a case for four or maybe even five teams that could win the championship. Nobody enters unbeaten, and I’d be hard pressed to pick even a marginal favorite. Maybe 9-1 Cocalico as the No. 3 seed if I have to pick a winner? New Oxford is the No. 1 seed, but that’s just math in this bracket. Cedar Cliff, Garden Spot, Ephrata and even Conestoga Valley as the No. 6 seed will believe they have a shot. This one is going to be lots and lots of fun.

We start in Class 6A by recognizing Cumberland Valley for not only making the postseason after a brutal 0-3 start, but making a massive leap this week to the No. 4 seed to earn a home game. CV has the best opponents winning percentage in the district at a staggering .736. This classification comes down to Manheim Township, Harrisburg and Central York. Who ya got? Township and Central are unbeaten, and Harrisburg’s only loss is to Township.

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