With heat acclimatization practices set to begin Aug. 9, and with Week 1 games ready to go on Aug. 27, here is a pre-camp Lancaster-Lebanon League football primer for the Section 1 teams …
CEDAR CREST FALCONS
COACH: Rob Wildasin (8th season; 36-34).
LAST YEAR: 2-3 Section 1; 2-5 overall.
2021 SCHEDULE: 8-21 Bishop McDevitt (scrimmage); 8-27 Lebanon; 9-3 Gettysburg; 9-10 @ Governor Mifflin; 9-17 @ Carlisle; 9-24 Elizabethtown; 10-1 @ Manheim Township; 10-8 @ Hempfield; 10-15 Wilson; 10-22 @ Penn Manor; 10-29 McCaskey.
OFFENSIVE SCHEME: Spread Zone Read.
DEFENSIVE SCHEME: 4-3.
KEY PLAYERS LOST FROM 2020: WR Nate Brightbill, DT Zak Claman, QB Chris Danz, OL Cole Pennington.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FOR 2021: OT-DT Connor Daubert, WR-DE-P Nolan Groff, WR Ethan Heisey, QB Jay Huber, WR-DB Brayden Koehler, RB-LB Aadyn Richards, LB Trayvon Zerbe.
QUESTION MARK: Gone is Danz, who piloted the Falcons’ spread attack quite nicely the last couple of years. His heir apparent behind center, Huber, does have some varsity time under his belt; he was a nifty 12-for-15 for 107 yards with a couple of TD tosses in backup duty last fall, so we’re thinking his transition to the full-time QB gig should go pretty smoothly. Cedar Crest is set to return 15 total full-timers from a year ago — including nine of 11 on offense, which is a great start — so Wildasin doesn’t have a ton of holes to fill; just some random tweaking here and there.
THE SKINNY: Richards is poised for a monster senior season from his RB and LB spots; he’s one of the top athletes in the league, and his rushing-yard numbers and tackle numbers should go up. Keeping Richards healthy is a top priority. Huber will have Heisey, a sure-handed wideout, at his disposal, but he’ll have to jive with a retooled O-line in the early going. The Richards-Zerbe LB duo should do plenty of damage, and Koehler, another all-star, is back to man the secondary at safety, as the Falcons continue to push the usual suspects — Manheim Township and defending champ Wilson — in the section race.
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HEMPFIELD BLACK KNIGHTS
COACH: George Eager (2nd season; 4-4).
LAST YEAR: 3-2 Section 1; 4-4 overall.
2021 SCHEDULE: 8-21 @ Red Lion (scrimmage); 8-27 Dallastown; 9-3 @ Manheim Central; 9-10 @ Central York; 9-17 Exeter; 9-24 @ Warwick; 10-1 @ McCaskey; 10-8 Cedar Crest; 10-15 @ Manheim Township; 10-22 Wilson; 10-29 @ Penn Manor.
OFFENSIVE SCHEME: Pro Style/Multiple.
DEFENSIVE SCHEME: 3-4.
KEY PLAYERS LOST FROM 2020: OT Will Alexander, WR-DB David Almodovar, K Spencer Biscoe, RB-DB Tanner Hess, TE-DE Gordy Hoover, WR Jadin Jimenez, C-NG Aidan Power, LB Devon Shorter.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FOR 2021: WR-DB Adam Acker, OL-LB Kaleb Elslager, QB Cam Harbaugh, WR-DB Eli Hinton, OL Lucas Miller, WR-LB Tommy Minnich.
QUESTION MARK: With just six total full-time starters due back in camp — two on defense, four on offense — Eager has spent the summer putting fresh faces in important places, as he mixes and matches his lineup to find the right pieces. That includes kicker, where Biscoe graduated after booming 11 field goals — including a 50-yarder — and earning all-state honors last year. It looks like another Biscoe, Cannon, will handle the Knights’ kicking duties this fall.
THE SKINNY: Some good news in Landisville, as Harbaugh returns to the QB spot, after a bust-out season behind center last fall; he was an 1,100-yard passer and Harbaugh only threw one interception while completing 60 percent of his throws. He’ll have holdover wideouts Hinton, Minnich and Acker at his disposal — and Elslager and Miller returning up front to block — so Hempfield should be ahead of the game in the passing and pass-protecting department. But the Knights have some thumper O-linemen and skill kids to replace; that “key players lost” list features multiple all-star performers. Could be some growing pains here — and Hempfield is playing a pretty gnarly nonleague slate, including reigning 6A state runner-up Central York in Week 3 — but we gotta believe the Knights will make waves; Eager has his fingerprints all over this program now, and he has some big plans.
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MANHEIM TOWNSHIP BLUE STREAKS
COACH: Mark Evans (24th season, including Elco and Township; 147-100 overall, 73-31 for the Streaks).
LAST YEAR: 4-1 Section 1; 5-2 overall.
2021 SCHEDULE: 8-21 @ Manheim Central (scrimmage); 8-27 Central Dauphin East; 9-3 @ Dallastown; 9-11 @ Central Dauphin; 9-17 Spring-Ford; 9-24 @ Cocalico; 10-1 Cedar Crest; 10-8 Penn Manor; 10-15 Hempfield; 10-22 @ McCaskey; 10-29 @ Wilson.
OFFENSIVE SCHEME: Spread.
DEFENSIVE SCHEME: 3-5.
KEY PLAYERS LOST FROM 2020: RB-LB Shamir Alberto, RB-LB Cade Clancy, QB-DB Evan Clark, DE Zeke Concepcion-Mena, DE Luke Kelley, LB Jose Duran-Perez, WR-DB Dan Engel, WR-DB Eddie McDevitt, OT-DT Charlie Newman, LB Aaron Paul.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FOR 2021: WR-DB Elijah Fonseca, WR-DB Mike Heckman, OT-DT Wes Hoffman, WR-DB Anthony Ivey, RB-DB Isaiah Jones, OG Quinn Kavannaugh, TE-LB-K-P Matt O’Gorman, C Mike O’Hara, LB Jesus Perez, OG-DT Brady Rager, DT Jack Roache, OT-DT Alex Romano, OT-DT Carter Rusnak, RB Matt Torres, LB Ty Washington.
QUESTION MARK: How do you replace a QB — Clark, an electrifying dual-threat — who played in the Big 33 game and took his talents to Penn State? With a sophomore who earned rave reviews coming up through Township’s pipeline. Say hello to Hayden Johnson. It sounds like he’ll have the keys to the Streaks’ spread O attack for the foreseeable future. We’re anxious to see what he brings to the table for Township, which will return 10 total full-time starters this fall. There should also be plenty of mo in Streaks’ camp, after Township won its final five games in a row last fall.
THE SKINNY: It will start up front for Evans and his Streaks, who will welcome back all-star O-line people-movers O’Hara, Rusnak and Hoffman. Now would also be a good time to mention that Ivey is back for his fourth year on the flanks, and the athletic Penn State recruit gives newbie QB Johnson one of the top targets in the state. Fonseca — a special teams wiz along with Ivey and Jones — is another vet receiver, and Jones and Torres have ample varsity carries under their belts. More great news: Washington was an all-star LB last year, and he’ll have a new face to help him defensively in soph Eli Rodriguez, who was an all-star safety for McCaskey last fall, before transferring into Township for this school year. O’Gorman, yet another all-star, returns to handle the kicking and punting duties, so the Streaks should be solid there. Tons to like in Neffsville. When’s that Wilson game?
McCASKEY RED TORNADO
COACH: Vacant. Third-year skipper Sam London resigned his post last week to take a coordinator and recruiting position at Waynesburg State.
LAST YEAR: 0-5 Section 1; 0-9 overall.
2021 SCHEDULE: 8-21 Bishop Shanahan (scrimmage); 8-27 @ Reading; 9-3 York; 9-10 Lebanon; 9-17 @ Elizabethtown; 9-24 Conestoga Valley; 10-1 Hempfield; 10-8 @ Wilson; 10-15 Penn Manor; 10-22 Manheim Township; 10-29 @ Cedar Crest.
OFFENSIVE SCHEME: Multiple.
DEFENSIVE SCHEME: 4-3.
KEY PLAYERS LOST FROM 2020: WR-DE Jayon Burnside, RB-LB Michael DeJesus, K-P Sam Hershey, RB-LB Cameron Hiller, OT-DT Ethan Lane, RB-DB Donovan McAlister, OG-DT Raul Ramos, WR-DB Davion Scarborough, DB Jah’Ciere Williams.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FOR 2021: OG-DT Ja-Hid Brown, WR-DB Isaac Burks, WR-DB Zaire Corteguera, RB Shymere Covington, RB-DE Jose Garcia, WR-DB Josiah Gray, OT-DT Bobby Lischner, QB Matt Remash.
QUESTION MARK: Quite the conundrum in Tornado Alley, as McCaskey heads into heat acclimatization practices minus a head coach, after London stepped down less that three weeks before the season opener. Whoever gets the interim gig has some returning talent to work with, including 15 total full-time starters due back. Yes, McCaskey is riding a 26-game losing streak. But under London, things were definitely getting turned around. The quicker the new coach can transition, the better.
THE SKINNY: After finding a new skipper, McCaskey’s top priority is snapping this maddening 26-game losing skid. It appears the weapons are in tow to make that happen, with Remash returning to the QB spot, Burks, Gray and Corteguera on the flanks to make plays up top, and Covington back to anchor the backfield. Brown and Lischner up front know their way around a line of scrimmage, which is also a good thing, and Garcia will spearhead the D off the edge. He’s a playmaker. The Tornado must replace Hershey, an all-state and Big 33 kicker. Keep an eye on that, won’t you. Chins up, Tornado. Not the greatest timing of all-time with this coaching carousel. But there is certainly enough talent in the room to snap this L skid once and for all.
PENN MANOR COMETS
COACH: John Brubaker (7th season; 11-47).
LAST YEAR: 1-4 Section 1; 2-6 overall.
2021 SCHEDULE: 8-21 Governor Mifflin (scrimmage); 8-27 Conestoga Valley; 9-3 @ Lampeter-Strasburg; 9-10 Northeastern York; 9-17 @ Warwick; 9-24 @ Solanco; 10-1 Wilson; 10-8 @ Manheim Township; 10-15 Penn Manor; 10-22 Cedar Crest; 10-29 Hempfield.
OFFENSIVE SCHEME: Spread Option.
DEFENSIVE SCHEME: Odd Stack.
KEY PLAYERS LOST FROM 2020: DE Colt Barley, QB Luke Braas, WR-LB Hunter Hoffman, WR-LB Isaac Hopstetter, WR-DB Isaac Hostetter, TE-LB Max Jesberger, WR-DB Kyle Murr, DT Matt Ruiz, RB-LB Isaiah Stoltzfus, OG-LB Peyton Suydam, DE Ben Weaver.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FOR 2021: OT Pedro Gomez, WR-LB Q.J. Hanna, DB Erik Hinkle, OG Jordan Martin, C Peyton Witmer.
QUESTION MARK: So who replaces gunslinger Braas behind center for the Comets? Sitting atop the depth chart heading into camp is a familiar name: McCabe Kreider, son of former Manheim Central and Pittsburgh Steelers standout Dan Kreider, who is coaching in Penn Manor’s program. Eli Warfel, Caleb Noden and Tyler Glessner are also on Brubaker’s preseason QB depth chart, so keep an eye on that spot.
THE SKINNY: Two things right out of the chute. First, Gomez, Martin and Witmer are experienced trench blockers, and they’ll return to anchor the O-line for the new QB. That’s a very good thing. Second, Hinkle returns to quarterback the secondary from his trusty safety spot. He’s a good one. After that, there will be a lot of fresh faces in Penn Manor’s attack, as Brubaker tweaks and retools after graduation night claimed a lot of skill-kid and defensive talent. Keep an eye on the D-end spot; the Comets must replace all-star stalwarts Weaver and Barley there. Penn Manor is really, really close to turning the corner under Brubaker. Expect the Comets to keep inching up around the bend again this fall.
COACH: Doug Dahms (16th season; 161-31).
LAST YEAR: 5-0 Section 1 (champs); 6-1 overall.
2021 SCHEDULE: 8-21 Coatesville (scrimmage); 8-27 Central Dauphin; 9-3 @ Governor Mifflin; 9-10 @ Exeter; 9-17 Martin Luther King; 9-24 Manheim Central; 10-1 @ Penn Manor; 10-8 McCaskey; 10-15 @ Cedar Crest; 10-22 at Hempfield; 10-29 Manheim Township.
OFFENSIVE SCHEME: Spread Zone Read.
DEFENSIVE SCHEME: Multiple.
KEY PLAYERS LOST FROM 2020: OG Ethan Ashcroft, QB-DB Kaleb Brown, DE Ethan Capitano, DT Jeff Colacin, WR-DB Troy Corson, WR Jabari Diaby, RB-DB Mason Lenart, C Greg Maus, TE-LB Cory Powers, OT-DE Matt Schrufer, K Jack Wagner, OT Chase Walters.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING FOR 2021: DB Josh Drake, WR-LB T.J. Flite, RB-LB Gavin Lenart, DB Erick Jackson, DB Cam Jones, RB-LB Jadyn Jones, DT Elian Rodriguez, WR-DB Spencer Thenga.
QUESTION MARK: Two pressing questions for sure. First, the Bulldogs must revamp their O-line, after losing some heavy duty trench guys to graduation. Second, the QB spot is up for grabs after the multi-purpose Brown took his talents to Penn State. Gannon Brubaker, who took some snaps last season, and Brad Hoffman are on Dahms’ preseason QB depth chart. Wilson lost — gulp — 10 full-time starters on offense. So some work definitely needs to be done on that side of the ball before the Bulldogs tackle their tricky schedule.
THE SKINNY: Jones is an absolute stud at RB, and he’s poised for a big senior season in West Lawn. True, he’ll be running behind a retooled O-line, and taking hand-offs from a new QB. But he’s a special talent, and is arguably the preseason favorite to win the L-L League rushing title. Don’t miss him in your travels in the coming months. It sounds like a broken record, but things are going to look a little different in Bulldogs’ camp at the outset; Dahms has to replace all-star starters on pretty much a yearly basis, but Wilson — like clockwork — is always there at the finish line. Can the Bulldogs defend their section crown and go back to districts after falling just short of a postseason bid last fall? You bet. They just might have to take a longer journey to the finish line this time around.
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