From the first day of heat acclimatization practice on Aug. 31, until the last Lancaster-Lebanon League football team is standing later this fall, we’ll bring you three fun L-L League pigskin facts on a daily basis to keep you updated about what’s going on around the league …
Putting a bow on the scrimmage previews:
1. Penn Manor at Elco, Saturday: Can’t help but wonder how often the Comets and the Raiders get together in any sport — let alone a football game? Totally digging these scrimmage matchups this fall. Great stuff. … Priority No. 1 for Penn Manor is finding a mean streak defensively, and that starts here. Coach John Brubaker is a D guru, but his Comets haven’t had much luck stopping people lately. They’ll certainly get a good tester here chasing around Elco QB Braden Bohannon in the Raiders’ Veer attack. Keep an eye on PM LB Colt Barley and DE Ben Weaver to set the tone on the defensive side for the Comets, who would love to start lowering boom against opposing offenses; with Warwick’s high-powered O coming to Millersville for the season opener on Sept. 18, it would behoove Brubaker’s bunch to start getting defensive — stat. … Priority No. 2 for Penn Manor is keeping the chains moving. There’s a nice offensive nucleus in Comets’ camp, including 1,200-yard passer Luke Braas and his merry band of receivers, like Erik Hinkle, Isaac Hostetter, Max Jesberger and Kyle Murr. If the Comets’ passing game clicks, watch out. … Priority No. 3 for Penn Manor is also having a strong ground game, and with OG Peyton Suydam and OT Pedro Gomez back to anchor the O-line, that’s a great start. Yes, Braas can really wing it around. But if RB Isaiah Stoltzfus can get the tough yards and keep Penn Manor’s offense balanced, that’ll be a big plus. … Priority No. 1 for Elco is keeping this good mojo going. Coach Bob Miller and his crew have made back-to-back D3-4A playoff trips — albeit both were first-round setbacks against Lampeter-Strasburg — and they have the goods to make another postseason run this time around. A good showing against a 6A outfit here would certainly give Elco plenty of mo moving forward. … Priority No. 2 for Elco is finding a couple of new O-line protectors for Bohannon; OG Logan Tice and OT Ben Wargo, a couple of all-star performers, are due back. But Miller must plug in three new guys up front to flank them. Bohannon is coming off a whopper of a junior season, when he rushed for 1,600 yards and earned all-state honors. Elco absolutely, positively must keep him healthy in the pocket. … Priority No. 3 for Elco is replacing some defensive stalwarts. But here are four names to remember: Free-flowing linebackers Cameron Martin, Cole Thomas, Jake Williams and Luke Williams should do plenty of ball-hawking in the coming weeks — and Bohannon is one of the top safety-men in the area.
2. Octorara at Solanco, Saturday: A couple of schools situated in the southern end of the county will knock heads in Quarryville for this tussle. … Priority No. 1 for Octorara is picking a QB; coach Jed King was overseeing a snap-taking battle between Weston Stoltzfus and Paul Murray this summer. King has already revealed that his Braves are going to tinker with some Wing-T looks this season, and either Stoltzfus or Murray will be calling the signals. Stay tuned. … Priority No. 2 for Octorara is winding up Mike Trainor and letting him go. A two-way terror, Trainor should get more touches out of the backfield this time around, and he’s ticketed to be one of the top safeties/hit-men in Section 4. He’ll stick you. You’ve been warned. Remember his name. … Priority No. 3 for Octorara is thinking big. This is the Braves’ third year in the L-L League, so they know their way around by now. And they’ll see a lot of familiar faces in the new-look Section 4 format. With a lot of key pieces back in tow, Octorara has the weapons to make some serious noise, and this group should definitely be angling for a winning season in Atglen. … Priority No. 1 for Solanco is getting newbie QB Mason St. Clair as many reps as possible, as he learns the intricacies of operating the Golden Mules’ triple-option attack as a full-time starter. He’s wiry and athletic, and with a monster O-line in front of him, St. Clair’s job is to manage the game and not turn the ball over. … Priority No. 2 for Solanco is to ride said rugged O-line; trench stalwarts like Jesse Balderston, Jake Frampton, Cole Gladfelter, Connor Smith and Connor Sprout are all due back, and that’s a gigantic advantage up front, especially with that daunting Section 2 slate up ahead. Those guys will also help open holes for backs like Ronnie Fulton and Zach Turpen, who have to pick up the slack for two-time 1,000-yard bulldozer rusher Nick Yannutz. … Priority No. 3 for Solanco is keeping its eyes on the prize. Section 2 will be its usual meat-grinder, with Cocalico, Manheim Central and Warwick getting plenty of pub. But the bar has been raised in Mule Country, and coach Tony Cox’s crew expects to make the postseason. They’ll need a quick start to make that happen this time around, but Solanco has the mules — pun intended, I suppose — to make a playoff push.
3. Cocalico at Wilson, Saturday: Eagles and Bulldogs, oh my. What a fun matchup this is, right? Cocalico gets back on the field — with a new head coach, after winning the D3-5A crown last fall — to duke it out with Wilson, one of the league’s perennial powerhouses. Couldn’t tell you the last time the Eagles and Bulldogs met in a football game — if ever? … Priority No. 1 for Cocalico is making sure there’s a smooth transition in the coaching department, where longtime assistant Bryan Strohl has succeeded Dave Gingrich. Strohl certainly knows his way around the Eagles’ locker room, and the kids know his voice. And it’s not like he’s going to blow up everything and start from scratch. Will it be a little different? Sure. But here’s thinking that transition will go quite well. … Priority No. 2 for Cocalico is moving on from Noah Palm, Brock Gingrich and Ronald Zahm — last year’s Big Three, and heart-and-soul leaders of the Eagles’ run to the district championship. Palm was named PA Class 5A Player of the Year by pretty much every media outlet out there last year, and he and Gingrich made the Big 33 roster. Those guys will be missed. But life must go on in Denver. … Priority No. 3 for Cocalico is to pick up right where it left off, even with some new personnel — like QB Carson Nash, who steps in for Palm. No pressure there, eh? The great news for Cocalico is that there’s a fantastic nucleus returning, with trench vets and defensive gang-tacklers aplenty back in the fold. The only other big switcheroo for this crew is that the Eagles dip down to Class 4A this season, so if they earn a playoff ticket, it’ll be a whole new bracket for Cocalico. … Priority No. 1 for Wilson, without a doubt, is putting together an offensive line, after all five starters from last year’s district semifinalist unit graduated. Plenty of candidates to go around, so coach Doug Dahms will have his eyes on the trenches during this dust-up with Cocalico to see who is carrying their weight up front. … Priority No. 2 for Wilson is taking advantage of some vet skill kids, like QB Kaleb Brown, speedy backs Mason Lenart and Jadyn Jones, and pass-catcher du jour Troy Corson. They’ve all been through a slew of Section 1 wars — but they’ll need those new O-line guys up front to figure things out quickly to keep on keeping on. … Priority No. 3 for Wilson is leaning on what should be another strong defensive group. They always play great D in West Lawn, and with heavy hitters like D-end Ethan Capitano, D-tackle Jeff Colacin and LB Adrian Santana all returning, that’s a heck of a start; Bulldogs might have to lean on their D a little more until the new O-line guys get caught up to speed.
3A. Columbia at Garden Spot, Saturday: Another fun matchup between a pair of teams that don’t see each other everyday. … Priority No. 1 for Columbia is making new QB Robert Footman as cozy as possible in the pocket. He’s stepping in for 2,000-yard passer Matt McCleary, and even with some trench vets and a flock of returning flank talent at his disposal, Footman will be making his first extended Friday-night, under-the-lights varsity action, so he’s bound to have some jitters. If he can stay upright and get the ball out quickly, the Tide will light up some scoreboards. … Priority No. 2 for Columbia is taking advantage of those returning wideouts: Demetrius Diaz-Ellis, Michael Poole, Darnell Tucker and Keegan Zink combined for 97 receptions for 1,517 yards with 16 TD grabs last season. The more they can get the ball in open spaces, the better. … Priority No. 3 for Columbia is to play airtight defense. That’s been a bugaboo with coach Bud Kyle’s group, but with 10 returning starters on D, the Tide has plenty of experienced tacklers back in tow. That’ll definitely help. … Priority No. 1 for Garden Spot is to get into win-mode from the get-go, including this scrimmage. The Spartans will drag a 24-game losing streak into their opener at Cocalico on Sept. 18 — no easy task there — so they’d love to get some good vibes going early because there is a lot of returning talent here. If Garden Spot’s D can rise to the occasion and keep tabs on Columbia’s wideouts, that should help set the tone moving forward — because skipper Matt Zamperini and his guys are itching to snap this skid. … Priority No. 2 for Garden Spot is giving QB Jesse Martin enough time to do his thing; he’s a whirling dervish dual-threat who can make plays on this feet. Keep an eye on the O-line guys up front to give Martin a couple of extra seconds to go up top, to get the ball to multi-purpose back John Dykie, or to take off. It says here that the streak will be snapped soon, especially with Martin making plays. … Priority No. 3 for Garden Spot is to stop people. Simple as that. During this skid, they’ve lost in some wildly weird and wacky ways. The Spartans, who will shift down to Section 3 this fall, have to dig deep, finish the job, and get back to their winning ways. There’s way too much pride in this program for this streak to continue much longer.