Jamal Pickett
Jamal Pickett
It's not unusual for 8 and 9 seeds entering a playoff bracket to be that different from each other.

That's definitely the case in Friday night's District 3 Class AAAA opening round game between the Chambersburg Trojans and the Central York Panthers.

No. 9 seed Chambersburg (6-4) is on a high after completing its first winning season in 14 years with a convincing victory over Mifflin County, 41-14, in Week 10.

Likewise, No. 8 seed Central York (7-3) finished out the season on a four-game winning streak, culminating in two dominating defeats of Red Lion (56-14) and William Penn (44-7).

"I don't necessarily want to say when we look in the mirror, we see them, but in a lot of ways we are very similar," Chambersburg coach Mark Saunders said.

Both teams are led by phenomenal quarterbacks. Trojan junior Ryan Martin has a .571 completion percentage, has thrown for 1,377 yards and 16 touchdowns and allowed just five interceptions on 133 attempts. Panther senior Corey Hartz is approaching 2,000 passing yards. He has 1,862 entering tonight's game. His completion percentage is similar to Martin's (.588), and Hartz has 24 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

The Trojans have become known as a big-play team with Jordan Brown (68 carries, 550 yards, 17 catches, 243 yards, 8 TDs); Jamal Pickett (137 carries, 920 yards, 12 catches, 392 yards, 22 TDs); and Kellen Williams (26 catches, 643 yards, 10 TDs) always posing a threat to opposing teams.


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The Panthers, though, have a similar makeup in terms of having a very balanced offense. Central York's biggest threats are Marquis Felis (107 carries, 727 yards, 13 TDs) and Darian Hampton (43 catches, 838 yards, 13 TDs).

"We try to be a balanced football team, but every game kind of is its own situation," Central York coach Brad Livingston said. "What will happen offensively is we'll do the things that we have to do to win the football game.

Tay Charles
Tay Charles
If part of that is to throw the ball more, then that's fine, and if we need to run the ball more, that's fine too."

The biggest question mark of tonight's offense for the Trojans is the availability of Pickett, who sprained his ankle during the final week of the regular season.

"It's about 75 percent chance I can play Friday," Pickett said. "I just want to make sure it's comfortable for me to cut on it and take my strides and stuff like that. I'm not going to go out there if I don't feel comfortable. If I do, though, I'm going to go out there and play my hardest."

Pickett, being the competitor that he is, said he will do everything he can to get on the field tonight. But if he is unable to do so, Saunders said he is not worried. There are plenty of people who will be able to step up in his absence.

One in particular is senior Tay Charles, who had his best game of the season against Mifflin County after Pickett went down. Charles caught two passes for 43 yards and added 21 yards on the ground.

"Tay's gotten better in the latter part of the year, and I think that's what you want," Saunders said. "I don't think you want everybody to be playing on the same level or drop off midway through. He's kind of hitting his stride a little bit."

One thing that may work in Chambersburg's favor is Central York's defense. Although the Panthers are strong, they aren't what they used to be, according to Livingston.

"I think we've improved a lot from the beginning of the season, though," Livingston said. "Again, we have some speed on defense. We're not a real big football team, but we're working really, really hard to get better. We had a tremendous defense a year ago, and this group has had to learn on the run, but I'm happy with the progress they've made."

If Chambersburg wants to win this contest, it's going to have to keep the turnovers to a minimum. The Trojans are averaging nearly two turnovers per game - with as many as four in two separate games - and Saunders said that is going to be a key to getting a "W" tonight.

"I think it's really going to come down to not making mistakes and who can cash in on other team's mistakes," Saunders said. "Here we are with another chance to write another chapter in what we do. Every time we step on the field, we're met with some interesting obstacles. I kind of like that, and I think the kids like that."

Chambersburg's theme this year has been re-writing history. Saunders is determined to change this program for the better, and he thinks it can start tonight.

The Trojans have not won a playoff game in nearly two decades. Their last victory came in 1993 with a 28-6 rout of Red Lion. Last year, they lost a heartbreaker, 21-20 to Daniel Boone, in the waning minutes of the game. Although Saunders said the Trojans are taking it one game at a time, some of the players might have a different feeling.

"Our goal is to win the first game since we took a pretty bad loss in the first round last year," Pickett said. "This year, we plan on winning the first game so we can keep moving. Central York - they like to play ball. We have to go out there with the same attitude, and we're just going to stick to our same strategy."

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Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or larbogast@publicopinionnews.com.

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Trojans-Panthers at a glance

Game data: Chambersburg Trojans at Central York Panthers ... Today, 7 p.m., Central York High School ... District 3 Class AAAA opening-round playoff game.

Teams: Chambersburg is 6-4 after beating its final opponent, Mifflin County, 41-14 ... Central York is 7-3 after beating William Penn, 44-7, in Week 10.

Series: First meeting.

Media: Join a live chat hosted by GameTimePA.com during the game. Follow @liziarbogast and @EdGotwalsPO for live tweets from the game Webcast - www.midpennbroadcasting.com.

P.O. pick: Central York by 12.