By Andy Shay:
This was the perfect storm of wins and losses, and it appears undefeated Bishop McDevitt will not qualify for the District 3 Class 4A playoffs this season. Is that the most 2020 thing you’ve ever heard as it relates to high school football?
The problem for the Crusaders, who are fifth in the still unofficial Class 4A power ratings behind Lampeter-Strasburg, ELCO, Northern and Conrad Weiser, is McDevitt’s opponents winning percentage is an abysmal .271. That’s about as low as it gets through five games.
And despite McDevitt thumping Red Land 42-3 and taking care of what it can control, the other four teams on their schedule — Mifflin County, Lower Dauphin, Cedar Cliff and Cumberland Valley — all lost Friday night. That was the perfect storm that swept Jeff Weachter’s talented squad from fairly comfortably inside the playoff bubble to on the outside looking in.
Cedar Cliff fell to Carlisle in a one-score game. Mifflin County fell to Palmyra 34-25 in a matchup of previously winless squads. Cumberland Valley was doubled up by Chambersburg 20-10 in a game of teams with identical 1-3 records. And winless Lower Dauphin put up a valiant fight but eventually fell to undefeated Hershey 20-3.
When you have more expanded playoff fields this is not a problem. Undefeated and one-loss teams in Class 4A are going to make the eight-team cut. In this crazy pandemic world of 2020, the shortened season brought about reduced playoff fields. It was the right decision. And the power ratings is the most fair and efficient way to measure the on-paper success of any team. The other problem for McDevitt is the four teams above them are all undefeated as well.
We’ve all learned there’s a lot we can’t control during this pandemic and a lot has changed. Add undefeated McDevitt missing the playoffs as something nobody can control. I will say this — and I know Lampeter-Strasburg beat McDevitt last year — none of those four teams were touching the Crusaders head-to-head.
Hershey appears to be on the outside looking in as well despite also being undefeated at 5-0. Trojans have the same problem as McDevitt — their opponents’ winning percentage is an abysmal .268. How does that impact the power rating number? Hershey finished in the No. 6 hole behind 4-2 Red Lion, a two-loss team with a better power rating. As I’ve always said, who you play matters. Quality helps more than it hurts.
I’m not even going to say whether Mechanicsburg is in or out. It APPEARS the Wildcats are the No. 4 team in Class 5A. A team on their schedule, Susquehanna Township, still plays Monday against Newport. That result will figure into the final equation. That’s all I have to say about that.
Harrisburg still needs one more game, and the clock is ticking. Oct. 26 is tomorrow, and the Cougars currently have only three of the required four games played to be playoff eligible. Seems nobody wants to play the Cougars. What happened to “let the kids play” chants? Well, now that the kids are playing it seems a few schools have become opponent selective. My word for those opponent selective schools is cowards.
UPDATE: Harrisburg and State College will play Monday at 4 p.m. in State College
Boiling Springs went 0-10 last year and will now participate in the District 3 Class 3A playoffs. Everybody else get in line behind the Bubblers when it comes to the feel-good story of 2020. Taking out Camp Hill 35-0 is a shock to me. The Bubblers winning isn’t a surprise at all. Posting a shutout against a good quarterback who has put points and yards up against everybody speaks volumes. I still need some Bubblers gear. Just saying!
The hidden key to Hershey being 5-0 has been its defense. I’ve said that enough that it should not be a hidden key anymore. It wasn’t easy to finally subdue winless Lower Dauphin Friday night because the Falcons put up a fight. Hershey posted a 20-3 victory on the strength of its defense. Lower Dauphin outgained Hershey 234-184 in terms of total yards. But the Trojans defense came up huge with two interceptions, a couple sacks and five tackles for a loss. And for the second consecutive game the D came up with a goal-line stand.
If this weird and wacky season was 10 games like every other year, the team from the Mid-Penn Conference Commonwealth Division that would be making more noise and be in the hunt for a District 3 Class 6A playoff berth would be the Carlisle Thundering Herd. In case you didn’t notice, that’s 12 consecutive quality quarters for the Herd and only one win. They played Central Dauphin tough before nature took over and the Rams pulled away. They were in the game at State College this past Monday every step of the way before falling late 38-29, and they just beat Cedar Cliff to push its record to 2-2. CD East, Cumberland Valley and Hershey are the Herd’s final three opponents. Nothing tells me this team won’t finish 5-2 overall.
My under-the-radar player of the week nod goes to Chambersburg running back Jayden Jones. In a game with Cumberland Valley where yards and points were always going to be hard to come by, Jones rushed for 120 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 20-10 victory over the Eagles. Neither offense lights it up, so a couple scores and 100-plus rushing yards is like football gold.