FOOTBALL: Elco, Annville-Cleona set for Thursday Night Lights
ANNVILLE>> Your favorite sport may take place as far away as possible from a diamond, but there's no getting around the fact that life will inevitably throw the occasional curveball.
As the football teams at Elco and Annville-Cleona found out Wednesday, Mother Nature can snap off a big hook.
Due to forecasted downpours for Friday night, the cross-county section foes have moved their scheduled showdown this week to Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The decision was made midday Wednesday after multiple options, including relocating the homecoming game to Cedar Crest or LVC, had been considered. Little Dutchmen administration then proposed simply bumping kickoff up one night and keeping it at home. The Raiders obliged.
"With that weather coming Friday, they said we were going to have standing water on the field Friday," Annville-Cleona Matt Gingrich said. "So we've lost a day and a half of practice this week compared to the last three. But if they can't take adjustments, we're not teaching them the right things."
There were no signs of a changed practice week at Elco, where the Raiders (1-3, 1-0 Section Three) had already installed their defensive game plan and were practicing in full pads roughly 24 hours before kickoff. For while content with his team's showing against Pequea Valley last Friday, coach Bob Miller admitted his bunch has yet to grow into a good tackling team, hence the pads. And tackling will be more than critical against the Little Dutchmen's run-heavy option attack.
"They come off the ball in their four-point stances and hammer people," Miller said. "Their quarterback and running back, the way they ride that mesh (point), it's tough figuring out who has the ball. We've got to be as disciplined as they are."
Elco's backfield of quarterback Jeff Martin and tailback Tyler Horst have Gingrich's attention first and foremost, given the duo will likely be the starting point for the Raiders potentially starting a new win streak against his program.
Last season, Annville-Cleona doubled up Elco, 42-21, in Myerstown, paced by the efforts of quarterback Adam Fox. Fox is back on the scene now as a senior, having led the Little Dutchmen (3-1, 0-1) to a strong start that hit a 39-13 bump in the road at Donegal last week. The defeat hit particularly hard for their first-year coach.
"We played an absolutely horrible game effort-wise last week," Gingrich said. "We don't have a lot of time to correct mistakes, but on the other hand we get to get that taste out of mouths a little bit sooner. I'm happy because I was ready to play this game Friday night at 11."
While the headman didn't quite get his wish, kickoff will still arrive more quickly than anyone could've expected.
NORTHERN LEBANON AT PEQUEA VALLEY>> Still undefeated, the Vikings (4-0, 1-0 Section Three) roll down to Kinzers for a section battle with the Braves (2-2, 0-1), who dropped a fourth-quarter lead at Elco last week. Northern Lebanon has scored more than 50 points in three of its four contests to date, including last Friday's 57-26 pasting of Ephrata at home. Luke Funck and Dylan Weaver both scored three touchdowns for the Vikings, each with two rushing and one on special teams.
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Lapp and senior running back/linebacker Gabe Allgyer will be the players to watch for Pequea Valley, which fell 26-13 in Fredericksburg a year ago.
CEDAR CREST AT WILSON>> Tough sledding likely lies ahead for the Falcons (2-2, 1-0 Section One), who will pay a visit to league power Wilson (3-1, 1-0). Cedar Crest bounced back from a tough home loss two weeks ago against Manheim Central by knocking off Warwick, 34-10, in Week 4 behind junior running back Justise Belleman. Belleman's 213 yards and four touchdowns that earned him L-L Quarterback Club Section One Back of the Week honors.
Meanwhile, freshman quarterback Logan Horn connected on eight of 11 passes for 140 yards in his second start. He'll face a tall task trying to operate against a Bulldogs defense that has yielded only 10 points in its three victories. Wilson's only loss came back in Week 3, a 20-19 nail biter against Central Dauphin. Last week, the Bulldogs won at McCaskey, 38-7.
PALMYRA AT STEEL-HIGH>> Continuing to alternate home and away games, the Cougars (4-0, 1-0 Mid-Penn Capital) are scheduled to hit the road for a divisional matchup against the Steamrollers. Considering Steel-High's natural grass field, torrential rains could wash this game out, but should the teams kick off, Palmyra stands an excellent chance of remaining unbeaten halfway through its season.
The Cougars took care of business in last year's meeting, 22-14, and have clearly returned stronger in 2015. The Steamrollers (1-3, 0-1) dropped a 14-7 decision at Milton Hershey last week, while Palmyra's Alon Rhette and Mason Cooper each scored a pair of touchdowns during a home rout of Trinity.
LEBANON AT MANHEIM CENTRAL>> Bruised from their 50-6 home loss to Cocalico in Week 4, the Cedars (1-3, 0-1 Section Two) must make a quick turnaround against another strong running team in the Barons (3-1, 1-0). Manheim Central stampeded Elizabethtown, 49-0, for its section debut, as Dylan Nelson raced to three touchdowns. Nelson paced the Barons in their Week 3 victory over Cedar Crest, which managed to keep pace with strong performances from its offensive and defensive lines. As section competition continues, play in the trenches figures to similarly define how the rest of Lebanon's season will unfold.