Five must-see H.S. football games to end 2016
With a couple exceptions every couple of years, section play brings us the same matchups, the same storylines and yet always the best of Lancaster-Lebanon League football.
Rivalries. Games with postseason stakes. Bragging rights on the line for a whole year.
While it's currently unclear which contests will carry the biggest stakes come October, there are nonetheless certain kickoffs to circle on your calendar. One week after revealing the five must-see games that will help open the 2016 L-L campaign, below are the five that will put a bow on the upcoming regular season.
Lebanon at Warwick, Sept. 30
The Cedars' first Section One trip comes on the heels of their first home game against Penn Manor, contests that each offer a strong chance to start off section play on the right foot. Like Lebanon, Warwick endured a similarly difficult 2015. The Warriors finished 2-8 and allowed at least 30 points in every game but one. So if there's a night you want to bet on the Cedars' Air Raid offense taking serious flight, this Friday down in Lititz could be it.
Northern Lebanon at Annville-Cleona, Oct. 14
Two weeks after hosting Elco in another rivalry showdown, the Little Dutchmen will hold another chance to make a statement in mid-October. The Vikings took control in the second quarter of last year's meeting and nearly ran up 60 points on A-C. But with key graduation losses on both sidelines, this matchup should carry a new dynamic. Will the scoreboard reflect that change or does NL roll again?
Manheim Central at Cedar Crest, Oct. 21
Two of the Falcons' final three games include home tests against 2015's Section Two tri-champions, the first visit coming from the Barons. Both programs will need replacements at the skill positions this fall, though this is a game Cedar Crest must first and foremost be able to compete inside the trenches. Playing ball control behind senior back Justice Belleman and forcing a couple turnovers should be the upset recipe the Falcons need.
Northern Lebanon at Elco, Oct. 21
The rematch of the season in Lebanon County.
The lead-up here figures to take similar shape to the Vikings' clash in Annville, as Elco will similarly run out a different roster from last fall. But if this game unfolds anything like the 44-41 thriller in Fredericksburg one October ago, we're in for a treat. Count on a couple big plays in key spots deciding this one.
Milton Hershey at Palmyra, Nov. 4
The Cougars' regular-season finale could carry the largest postseason implications of the season for any county team. The 2015 version of this Mid-Penn Capital brawl showcased two of the division's best, who yielded only seven completions in a defensive battle. The new Palmyra quarterback will have his hands full against a rugged Spartans unit.