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District 3 Football

District 3 Football: Big Spring continues to write its own story, eyes 1st postseason win in program history

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Big Spring quarterback Ethan Eisenberg said he developed the feeling during the offseason and through the first few weeks of camp.

Senior running back Dillon Wakefield said the feeling came to fruition in the Bulldogs’ opening-season scrimmage against Red Land Aug. 21.

Ask Big Spring head coach Joe Sinkovich, the feeling arose last fall when the Bulldogs erased a 13-point halftime deficit against Susquenita and won 28-21 in overtime to cap a season-ending three-game win streak.

That “feeling” they speak of — the moment they knew Big Spring had a special football team on its hands.

“All season, we had been talking about taking steps forward, moving forward, to get to where we want to be, and we talked a little bit at half how these were steps backwards and not where we want to be, and how we got to come out and just keep going forward,” Sinkovich said, recalling the Susquenita game. “So, I think that for the guys to be able to come back from the 20-7 deficit and win the game, that was something that we were able to build on and move to the future, and it showed that these guys have no quit.”

The Bulldogs (7-3) are District 3 postseason bound for just the second time in program history. Holding the No. 10 seed in the Class 4A bracket, Big Spring travels to No. 7 Conrad Weiser (7-3) in Robesonia, Berks County, Friday at 7 p.m. The winner advances to visit No. 2 seed Lampeter-Strasburg Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.

It’s one of six playoff openers featuring Sentinel-area teams.

Big Spring fell to Lampeter-Strasburg 41-13 in 2010 in the program’s lone trip to the district playoffs. To put this year’s playoff trip into perspective, the Big Spring football program began in 1956.

“I think it would mean a lot to the team,” Eisenberg said, “and, I mean, we’re definitely happy with getting in, but that wasn’t our only goal. We wanted to get in and win that playoff game, so now that we have that opportunity, I’m just excited, and I know the whole team is to just go out there and prove what we can do.”

Big Spring found its stride Week 1 in a 34-24 win over West Perry, using a steady mix of run and pass plays through its vaunted wing-t offense. The Bulldogs endured a setback Week 2 against undefeated Shippensburg but rattled off a trio of 60-plus point wins in weeks three through five. A 42-7 drubbing of Camp Hill extended Big Spring’s win streak to four.

When one part of the offense doesn’t generate success, whether it’s on the ground or through the air, Eisenberg and Wakefield know the other can handle the additional workload. The quarterback-tailback tandem combined for 39 touchdowns (Eisenberg 20, Wakefield 19) across the team’s 10-game schedule.

Netherlands native Dirk Godjin, 'The Flying Dutchman,' impresses as Carlisle's kicker in first year of football

Eisenberg has thrown for 1,370 yards with a 59.3% completion percentage and averages 20.4 yards per completion. Out of the backfield, Wakefield has rumbled for 1,081 yards on 145 carries — good for 7.5 yards per touch. Defensively, linebacker Connor Black has been the Bulldogs’ centerpiece, notching 118 tackles (76 solo), 13 for loss, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions.

“He makes my job a whole lot easier,” Eisenberg said, referencing Wakefield, “because teams have to sell out to stop him, and if they don’t, it’s gonna be a long night with what he can do.”

“I can say same thing for Ethan because they have also had to worry about our passing,” Wakefield said, “because, obviously, we can do that. But it’ll open up holes for me to run all night, and then once they stop that, Ethan’s able to open it back up again.”

Sinkovich credits the team leaders — which includes Eisenberg and Wakefield — for the run of success dating back to last season. He also credits the team for laying the framework to build long-term success in the program.

Coaching has also been a key cog this fall, but Sinkovich said the Bulldogs continue to write their own story.

Minus five graduated seniors — four with significant starting time — the Bulldogs returned their entire roster from last year’s campaign.

“The biggest thing is gaining experience, and then we always say to the guys, this program is what you make it,” Sinkovich said. “If you want us to be a good program, it comes down to the work you guys put in, the effort and the mindset that you guys come in here with, and this is what’s gonna make us who we are. And like I said, these guys have bought into it and put that work in.”

Continuing to write their chapter in the Big Spring record book, the first district playoff win in school history sits within a 48-minute reach Friday.

“It’s not only going to be special for us, but [for] the whole team and the community at Big Spring,” Wakefield said.

Here come the Herd

Game and time: No. 7 Carlisle at No. 2 Harrisburg, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Classification: 6A

Location: Severance Field, Harrisburg

Carlisle (7-3) clinched its first district playoff berth since 2015 Friday with a 28-20 upset over Central Dauphin East and locked itself in as the No. 7 seed in the 6A bracket. The win now pairs the Herd against a hard-nosed Harrisburg (9-1) squad, which holds the No. 2 seed, in a Saturday matchup at Severance Field. The Cougars defeated Carlisle 34-14 in a Week 5 brawl in the state’s capitol.

To add to the Herd’s return to the district postseason after a five-year absence, they aim to capture their first playoff win since 2004, which included 35-31 and 40-14 victories over Cumberland Valley and Wilson before falling to Bishop McDevitt 48-28 in the district 4A championship.

In Carlisle’s previous meeting with Harrisburg this fall, five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles) plagued the Herd. Jeremiah Hargrove, who’s eclipsed 100 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, led Carlisle with three receptions for 61 yards and a score in the Week 5 contest. Harrisburg’s Kyle Williams rushed for 163 yards on 17 carries in addition to eight catches for 82 yards in the game.

The ‘Hounds are rolling

Game and time: No. 14 New Oxford at No. 3 Shippensburg, Friday, 7 p.m.

Classification: 5A

Location: Veterans Memorial Park, Shippensburg

Shippensburg (10-0) enters its district bout Friday as owner of the best record in Class 5A. It’s also the Greyhounds’ second time in the last three years going unbeaten in their regular-season tilt.

No. 14-ranked New Oxford (6-4) visits Veterans Memorial Park Friday having lost two of its last three games. Shippensburg outscored its opposition 96-26 over the same three-game stretch to close out the regular season.

The connection between quarterback Tucker Chamberlin and wide receiver Erby Weller has remained consistent over the course of the season, as the pair struck for nine touchdowns and racked up 671 yards on 32 completions. University of Minnesota commit Anthony Smith continues to spearhead the Greyhound D with season totals of 67 tackles, 19 for loss and 14 sacks.

Can’t stop the Colts

Game and time: No. 11 Lower Dauphin at No. 6 Cedar Cliff, Friday, 7 p.m.

Classification: 5A

Location: West Shore Stadium, Camp Hill

Similar to 5A foe Shippensburg, Cedar Cliff (8-2) has home-field advantage Friday, hosting Mid-Penn Keystone Division rival and No. 11-seeded Lower Dauphin (6-3). The Falcons enter the district tussle having won four straight to close out their regular season. The Colts ride their own three-game win streak after suffering a 56-0 blowout at the hands of Bishop McDevitt in Week 7.

If there’s one thing the Colts can do, and do well, it’s run all over their opposition. And they’re not shy about throwing the pigskin, either. Tailback Jontae Morris has totaled 1,711 yards on the ground to complement his 22 touchdowns across 219 carries. Quarterback Ethan Dorrell boasts an impressive stat line as well, going to the air for 1,239 yards and 13 scores.

The Colts and Falcons met in Lower Dauphin territory during the regular season with Cedar Cliff coming out on top in a 48-20 decision Sept. 23. Morris sped his way to 180 yards and four touchdowns in the 28-point Week 5 landslide.

Don’t sleep on the Polar Bears

Game and time: No. 9 Octorara at No. 8 Northern, Friday, 7 p.m.

Classification: 4A

Location: Robert F. Bostic Field, Dillsburg

Defense, minus a 39-7 loss to Spring Grove in Week 3, has been Northern’s (6-3) bread and butter this fall, which includes a pair of shutouts against Dover and Susquehanna Township. Finding pay dirt has come easily as well, as the Polar bears eclipsed the 30-point threshold in four of their six wins.

No. 9 Octorara (8-2) heads to Robert F. Bostic Field Friday riding a four-game win streak, which includes a forfeit against Pequea Valley. Northern’s defense will be put to the test against the Braves, who average 41.5 points per game this season.

Talon Belluscio and Cole Bartram ran for a combined 1,146 yards and 12 touchdowns for Northern. Mason Yohn (five TDs) and Trenton Peach (three TDs) have been quarterback Timmy Bonin’s favorite targets.

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Bubblers bringing the heat

Game and time: No. 7 Lancaster Catholic at No. 2 Boiling Springs, Friday, 7 p.m.

Classification: 3A

Location: Ecker Field, Boiling Springs

Head coach Brad Zell’s crew has come full circle from two years ago, when it suffered a winless 0-10 season. Riding a 9-1 record and a six-game win streak into Friday’s quarterfinal tilt, the newly-appointed Capital Division champs host No. 7-seed Lancaster Catholic (4-6).

The Bubblers averaged 43.2 points per game this year, coupled with their defense holding opponents to 10 points or less five times, including a 35-0 blanking of Bermudian Springs.

A win in Friday’s quarterfinals would be the first district triumph for the Bubblers since 2006 when they slid past Bermudian Springs 28-26. It would also be just the second postseason win in program history.

Christian Eby is a sports reporter for The Sentinel and cumberlink.com. You can contact him at ceby@cumberlink.com and follow him on Twitter at: @eby_sports

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