We see you, Hershey Trojans.
One week after an improbable and thrilling come-from-behind victory to open the Trojans’ 2023 playoff ledger, Hershey went out and took care of District 3 Class 5A No. 1-seed New Oxford 34-28.
Hershey is a win away from playing for a D3 championship.
The win over the Colonials was clearly not as dramatic as the opener, but the winning formula at its core was the exact same.
Give the ball to Angel Cabrera 30-plus times and see if the defense can hold up just enough to give that power-running game that features two fullbacks and pulling guard and tackles a chance to take over.
Against New Oxford, Cabrera, a vintage north-south runner who isn’t shy about taking on contact, had 38 carries for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He’s now carried the ball 30-plus times in three straight games and six times this season. That’s Hershey’s main ingredient in its formula for success — you know it, we know it, everybody knows it.
Can you stop them is the question they are going to ask the opponent each and every quarter.
Hey, it’s one thing to pull off a staggering victory for the memory bank. The Trojans, though, went to the next level by validating that triumph in style and in their likeness and image.
A road trip to 11-1 Ephrata in the semifinal awaits.
We see you, too, Cumberland Valley
Tip of the cap to the Cumberland Valley Eagles. If you saw this coming from the 2023 squad, you are lying.
The Mid-Penn Conference Coach of the Year award has to go to Josh Oswalt and his staff. Sure, it was a tough three-game opening stretch to the season that was expected. But after 12 quarters CV wasn’t in shambles, it was ashes. Some good defense in spots was the only small sign of hope.
This convocation of Eagles stuck together and didn’t hang their heads, and that fueled their leaders to keep pushing buttons and pulling strings. And now this squad, a shocking No. 4 seed, has a feather in its cap after powering past Wilson 20-14.
As expected, the CV offense was in full grind mode, led by 138 yards on a whopping 33 carries and two touchdowns from running back Bryce Staretz and 11 short completions to wideout Caiden Pines.
Remember that defense we mentioned as the early foothold for the Eagles? It took over this game, limiting the Bulldogs to 40 rushing yards and fewer than 125 yards of total offense.
Undefeated Manheim Township is up next. The Eagles already know the drill, having played the Blue Streaks in that early stretch. All I know is one team is very different now.
Defense, Camp Hill’s defense, wins championship
That final drive by Camp Hill quarterback Drew Branstetter was next level. Every single snap mattered as the Lions marched 56 yards in 81 seconds to cement the District 3 Class 2A championship over rival Trinity.
You can read more about the Lions’ triumph in my Making The Grade recap.
The offense grabbed the moment, but overall it was the Lions’ defense that earned the No. 4 seed a district crown. One touchdown was surrendered to Trinity Friday night. In eight quarters against the Shamrocks, the total was three touchdowns.
We’ve all heard the saying defense wins championships. Now you know exactly what that looks like.
West Perry back in the saddle again
For the second year in a row West Perry will play for the District 3 Class 3A championship. And it will be powerhouse Wyomissing on the other side of the ball again.
This was different for the Mustangs, though. This was kind of what the expectation was for this team since the season began, unlike last year when they were a surprise championship contender. And as the regular season trudged along, it became more and more difficult for the Mustangs.
Even last week was a real grind for West Perry. The win over Bermudian Springs was well short of its own expectations.
That was not the case in taking out No. 2-seed Lancaster Catholic on the road this week. West Perry was explosive and dominant in a commanding 49-20 victory. This team is now in the perfect spot to play the Spartans for a title again.
Quarterback Marcus Quaker and running back Brad Hockenberry combined for more than 300 total yards and were part of all seven West Perry touchdowns.
This Cedar Cliff team is quite good
Honestly, I have to keep reminding myself Cedar Cliff is a one-loss team.
This team has sort of quietly put together a killer 10-win campaign that might lack some high-end sheen, but the bones are rock solid.
Cedar Cliff simply overpowered South Western in the Colts’ Class 5A opener 31-7. That 31 isn’t unexpected. What stands out is the 7 for the Mustangs. This screams complementary football all the way.
Quarterback Bennett Secrest had a splendid dual-threat outing, totaling 175 yards through the air, 79 on the ground and threw a pair of touchdown passes. Nathan Lusk hauled in seven catches for 75 yards and a TD, and RB Erik Schriver again went over 100 yards with his efficient and sneaky good running style.
Winning in the trenches is what is driving this train, and that will get a next-level test against Cocalico. Remember, both teams are 10-1.
Bishop McDevitt: Same as it ever was
Bishop McDevitt could not avoid another member of the Keystone Division for its 2023 playoff opener. Milton Hershey earned its second bite of the Crusaders apple, and as expected the result was almost the same.
Quarterback Stone Saunders threw six touchdown passes, three to fellow FBS recruit Rico Scott, and McDevitt posted a 54-14 victory to stay unbeaten. Saunders threw for nearly 400 yards, and Scott averaged 27.9 yards per catch on seven grabs. Crazy, but again, not unexpected numbers for McDevitt.
Both Milton Hershey touchdowns came in the fourth quarter after the Crusaders built a 54-0 cushion. Lampeter-Strasburg is up next, and I’m sure McDevitt is looking forward to facing somebody outside of the Keystone Division.