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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sunday Morning QB: Northern’s Cole Bartram runs wild; CV’s turnaround continues; East Penn stakes claim as Colonial’s best; Line Mountain flexes its muscle and a look at the playoff picture

What a wild and crazy Week 9 in the Mid-Penn Conference, just what you want as the stakes in the chase for division crowns and postseason berths gets more intense.

A few of the clutch results include Line Mountain coming on like gangbusters in the second half to stake a claim to the Liberty Division crown by overpowering Juniata, East Pennsboro climbing off the deck to shock Susquehanna Township and Cumberland Valley holding off State College in the dying seconds to stun the Little Lions.

But the most wild showing Friday night was Northern running back Cole Bartram and his stunning performance against Gettysburg. The Polar Bears’ battering ram set the Mid-Penn Conference record for rushing yards in a single game with 500 stripes and nine touchdowns. His record performance came on 48 carries.

The 500 yards stands out because it’s a record, but I’m not sure the nine touchdowns and 48 carries aren’t more impressive. I remember former Cedar Cliff running back Coy Wire once notching 40-plus carries in a playoff game back in 1996. In more than three decades I can’t remember a running back approaching 50 carries, and I’ve never heard of one dude getting nine rushing touchdowns.

Bartram eclipsed the great LeSean McCoy from Bishop McDevitt, who had 404 yards against Red Land in 2003, as the No. 1 rushing performance by a Mid-Penn Conference RB. “Shady” needed only 31 carries and scored five touchdowns that day in a 48-27 victory. For those who saw Shady play in the early 2000s, his record performance felt like just another day at the office.

Bartram’s 500-yard performance places him tied for third in state history with Eastern York’s Alex Cooley (2012), a full 222 yards behind former Penn State standout Journey Brown’s 722 yards for Meadville in 2015.

Cumberland Valley’s turnaround nothing short of impressive

At the midway point of the season, Cumberland Valley was 1-4 and its 2023 rebuild was in shambles. Offensive challenges were going to front and center, and the Eagles still had Central Dauphin and State College on the schedule.

Today, the surging Eagles have stacked four consecutive victories to get to 5-4, and they’re on the cusp of making the District 3 Class 6A playoffs after a stunning goal-line stand by the CV defense preserved a 17-10 victory in a game where the Eagles never trailed.

It’s fitting the CV defense put this one away because the second half of this season has been carried by that unit. It only surrendered four touchdowns the last three games, and two of those opponents were Central Dauphin and State College. That’s next-level stuff.

State College was poised to forge a tie in this one late when the Little Lions cobbled together a drive and had first-and-goal at the CV 4-yard-line. CV stuffed the first two plays, and star linebacker Alex Sauve recovered a fumble on third down for the decisive nail in the coffin.

Cumberland Valley scored 19 points against Central Dauphin and 17 against State College, and the Eagles claimed victory on both those occasions. That’s all you really need to know.

Line Mountain takes Liberty driver’s seat

Congratulations to Line Mountain for rallying from behind to beat Juniata in a wild chase for the Liberty Division title. The Eagles are 5-0 in division play with a 40-30 victory that was nip-and-tuck all the way.

The 40 points scored by Line Mountain was its most this season and came at exactly the right time. LM needs to replicate that next week, though. Hey, winning division crowns isn’t always easy, right?

Four touchdown passes from QB Kaiden Maurer was much needed for this team. Toss in 185 rushing yards from RB Nolan Baumert, including a 55-yard TD scamper in the final minute to ice the victory, and the one-two punch was simply too much for the Juniata defense.

They still have to play 4-1 Upper Dauphin in Week 10 to make the title their own. Juniata is 4-1 and is still part of a three-way tie scenario should UDA bounce Line Mountain in the regular-season finale.

Upper Dauphin still has a say in this championship chase, but the upper hand clearly belongs to Line Mountain.

East Penn shows they’re Colonial’s best

As I sat in the press box at Roscoe Warner Field just off Progress Avenue Friday night, as the key Colonial Division showdown between East Pennsboro and Susquehanna Township trickled into the fourth quarter, I had this sense the Panthers were going to do it again.

I’m not often right — see my picks this season for example — but on this occasion the deja vu I sensed was spot on.

In early September the Panthers trailed Milton Hershey on the road by a touchdown with less than seven minutes to play. There was no panic by the Panthers, they simply found another gear and scored twice down the stretch to subdue the Spartans 34-28 after trailing at halftime.

A similar scenario played out Friday night (READ MAKING THE GRADE HERE), only this time it was clear the Panthers needed some help to rally from two scores down.

The Indians provided the assistance by going silent offensively thanks to a bushel basket of penalties. Once East Pennsboro seized momentum, it was clear they would win. The Panthers scored twice in the final six minutes to seize a 31-28 victory.

Here’s the kicker: East Pennsboro could have easily scored a third touchdown during the onslaught but had a pass picked off in the end zone to end a drive.

When it mattered most, the potential Colonial Division champions believed they were the better team and went out and did the hard part — they showed it.

The Panthers can go 6-1 in the Colonial with a win over Waynesboro in Week 10.

Playoff picture analysis

Heading into Week 10, I always look for teams on the playoff bubble and see how much control they have of their own destiny. That’s how I define “fun” when it comes to the District 3 Power Rankings.

Let’s start in Class 2A where Camp Hill sits in the fourth and final spot. There’s really no drama here, as the 4-5 Lions will be No. 4 whether they win or lose. Moving to Class 4A, Big Spring is on the wrong side of the cutoff line at No. 11 and has some serious ground to make up to make the dance. It’s possible, but they are way behind No. 10 Susquehannock.

In Class 5A there’s 12 spots open for the taking and Hershey, Lower Dauphin, Greencastle-Antrim and Gettysburg are currently in the Nos. 9, 10, 12 and 13 spots, respectively. That’s going to be worth following as Week 10 plays out.There’s no real drama in Class 6A, to be honest. Cumberland Valley currently sits in the No. 8 spot and isn’t threatened by anyone below them. I’m just wondering if the Eagles can keep the train rolling and beat Altoona in Week 10 can they move up a spot to No. 7 or even No. 6 and somehow avoid playing either Manheim Township or Harrisburg in the first round — two squads they have already locked horns with and lost.

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