Breakdown: Ethan Lee and Tim Siwy split time at QB last week, and the Bulldogs finally showed some life on offense, scoring 25 points. They’ll need more against the current Colonial leaders. Waynesboro has been a surprise this season atop the division, with three straight quality wins. Big Spring’s playoff aspirations are hanging on by a thread (11th in Class 4A, eight qualify), and every game is a must now. Can’t let this home game get away.
Key to the game: The Indians’ three-headed senior rushing attack of Mason Frampton (76-423, five TDs) Tom Drumsta (57-401, two TDs) and Isaiah Kershner (47-328, three TDs) has been a nightmare to slow down this season. Bulldogs allowing 4.8 yards a carry but have allowed 200-plus yards two of the past three games.
Breakdown: This is going to be one of the best chances the Bubblers get this season to finally get in the win column. Milton Hershey hasn’t scored more than 23 points over the past four weeks and boasts an offense that is one dimensional. The Spartans are not ones to be blown out, however, with a defense that also hasn’t allowed more than 22 points in four weeks. Bubbletown’s next three games are Middletown, at Steel-High and East Pennsboro.
Key to the game: Stats aren’t complete for the Spartans, but QB/athlete Naeem Cross is a pain in the butt to game-plan for regardless. The junior isn’t much of a passing threat, but he does a ton of damage on the ground, rushing for more than 400 yards and four TDs over the past two weeks.
Time/location: 2 p.m. Saturday, War Memorial Field, Middletown
Last time: 49-14, Middletown
Breakdown: Good for the Lions to get a home division win last week after a sluggish start to Capital play, but the mighty Blue Raiders are next. Camp Hill played flawlessly against a winless Boiling Springs squad last week and will need to do so again, but against a much, much better opponent. Not an easy task for an offense that at times has disappeared. With playoffs all but out of the question and 12 seniors, this game is about pride.
Key to the game: M-town back Jose Lopez (95-796, nine TDs) has emerged as the team’s new big threat, but Brady Fox (61-592, 12 TDs) is still dangerous. Blue Raiders’ defense has held teams to fewer than 11 points per game. Only Trinity (34 points) has recorded more than 10.
Time/location: 7 p.m. Friday, West Shore Stadium, Lower Allen Twp.
Last time: 34-7, Cedar Cliff
Breakdown: Donovon Ball has emerged in his junior year as a play destroyer on defense. The linebacker has nearly double the tackles (68) of his closest teammate, has five for a loss and has recorded three sacks, four pass defenses and has forced and recovered a fumble. The Colts will likely miss the District 3 Class 5A postseason, but there’s a core of juniors centered around Ball, Bobby Whalen and Chris Dare that are making valuable strides.
Key to the game: There’s not much headline material in his game, but senior RB Mike Dubas (123-592, seven TDs) has been about as steady as they come the past three weeks, averaging nearly 20 carries and more than 90 yards a game. It’s providing stability for an offense that has been hit or miss as a new line builds together.
Time/location: 7 p.m. Friday, George Saxton Memorial Stadium, Enola
Last time: 49-28, East Pennsboro
Breakdown: How the Shamrocks bounce back from a nail-biting loss to Steel-High last week will say a lot for Troy Jensen's squad. There's going to be a sense of urgency to come out fast in this one because of it, and that's important against a Panthers offense that can score in bunches. Trinity can play in a low-scoring game or a shootout, while the Panthers defense is just not quite as capable of slamming the door most weeks.
Key to the game: After three solid weeks to open the season, EP quarterback Payton Morris has struggled (24-53, 210 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT). He hasn't cracked 100 yards and the Panthers are 1-2 in that stretch. Not solely his fault, but getting the senior back into his rhythm would help immensely.
Time/location: 7 p.m. Friday, John H. Frederick Field, Mechanicsburg
Last time: 75-0, Bishop McDevitt
Breakdown: Billy Furman’s squad is gunning for its first division win under his reign, but it’s going to be extremely tough sledding this week against a Crusaders program that is building toward yet another Keystone title. There are simply too many athletes on the McDevitt side that the Wildcats will have to worry about.
Key to the game: A pass-happy team with a QB in Chase Diehl (74-110, 1,285, 11 TDs) who has completed 67 percent of his passes, McDevitt is going to challenge a Mechanicsburg defense that has been thinned out in recent weeks with injuries and other roster issues. The Wildcats are improved on defense this year, but not enough to stop the WR triumverate of Nazir Burnett, JuQuill Adams and T’nyis Becker, who each have more than 290 yards.
Time/location: 7 p.m. Friday, Robert Bostic Field, Dillsburg
Last time: 23-0, Northern
Breakdown: After a slow start that bottomed out with a nine-carry scoreless Week 2 performance against Middletown, sophomore RB Kyle Swartz has found a second wind over the past three games. The Northern bell cow is averaging 25 carries, 160 yards and 2.3 scores a game, while the P-Bears’ offense has upped its production from the first three games roughly 10 points per game over the last three contests. Like this offense off a bye as it tries to finish the season strong.
Key to the game: Mifflin County WR/LB Kross Todaro is a two-way menace, with three sacks on defense and playmaking abilities as a receiver (19-291, three TDs). But the Huskies’ run game has been non-existent all year, averaging 2.4 yards a carry and just 360 stripes for the season.
Breakdown: There have been signs of life from the Patriots this season, including a 17-14 loss to Carlisle and a 34-29 loss to Susquehanna Twp. that showed a lot of fight. But after a 49-9 loss at Lower Dauphin, last week’s bye couldn’t have come at a better time. Chad Weaver’s team hasn’t been healthy all season it seems, and ahead of a winnable game on the road this week, some rest might do wonders. Cedar Cliff, Central Dauphin and Mechanicsburg await.
Key to the game: Sam Carlson leads the Trojans in yards rushing and carries (season starts are incomplete), but QB Ryan Nerino has finished the job most often on the goal line. Neither team is particularly dangerous on offense, so it’s possible defense or special teams could play a big role in this one.
Time/location: 7 p.m. Friday, Memorial Field, Shippensburg
Last time: 27-0, Shippensburg
Breakdown: For as concerning as the Greyhounds’ season has seemed coming off last year’s explosive 9-1 regular season and District 3 run, they are not in bad shape. Ship is No. 3 in the Class 4A district power rankings, pretty squarely locked in on a home game in the first round. That’s good news for the perennial Colonial contenders. But the offense still hasn’t come together like many, including us, expected in the preseason. Still, with the division as topsy-turvy as it is, the ‘Hounds still have time to make up ground.
Key to the game: Ship’s defense will key in on RB Isaiah Peck and the multi-pronged rushing attack of the Blue Devils, one that needed 51 carries to reach 217 yards last week against Big Spring.
Breakdown: The last time these teams faced, the Mustangs snapped a 26-game losing streak in an emotional road win that led to a two-game win streak. JB was still a Mid-Penn member back then and was in the midst of a lengthy rough patch as well (the 25-game skid ended Sept. 29 against Clear Spring, Md.). A lot has changed in a year, including the Mustangs developing a dangerous offense and being tied atop the division for two weeks.
Key to the game: QB Dom Salinetro and company just need to keep on the same path. West Perry has more than enough offense to again rout the Rockets, who are one day hoping to have sustained success again. Terrance Quaker (27-452, four TDs) and Joey Reisinger (19-450, four TDs) are truly dangerous receivers who can spread defenses thin, though Reisinger missed last week with a knee injury.