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By Brandon Stoneburg and Zach Miller

With four weeks left to the start of the high school football season, The Evening Sun’s Countdown to Kickoff continues with a look at the Gettysburg Warriors. Brandon Stoneburg and Zach Miller will continue highlighting one team from the Hanover-Adams area every Friday leading up to the start of the season.

Gettysburg Warriors

Last year: 8-3, tied for second in Division II

Coach: Matt Heiser (fourth season)

Key players lost: QB Jake Myers (1,327 passing yards, 15 TDs-6 INTs, 115 rushing yards, 3 TDs), RB Lane Sherman (757 rushing yards, 6.9 yards per carry, 12 TDs), RB Wade Laudeman (358 rushing yards, 5 TDs), WR/RB/DB Tyler Lampe (633 all-purpose yards, 5 TDs), RB Nathan Sharrah (175 rushing yards, 8.3 yards per carry, 2 TDs), WR Kobe Wansel (406 receiving yards, 31 yards per catch, 8 TDs), WR Jordan Turner (203 receiving yards, 3 TDs), FB/DL Mitchell Hoffman, DL Giovanni Almanza-Alvarado, K Michael Heeschen, S Dalton Lyons

Key players returning: RB Elijah Jackson (269 rushing yards, 9 yards per carry, 5 TDs), RB Oakley Marsh (136 rushing yards, 12 yards per carry, 2 TDs), QB Tyler Wilt (one pass completion)

Key stretch: Oct. 23-Nov. 6 (at Conrad Weiser, vs. York Suburban, at West York)

At this point last season, the Warriors were coming off an 85-12 win over Kennard-Dale and sitting pretty at 6-1, but no one was completely sold on them as a top-tier team since their schedule wasn’t exactly daunting. Then Gettysburg pulled off a dramatic win over Conrad Weiser thanks to a Michael Heeschen field goal with 13 seconds left, then crushed York Suburban, establishing themselves as West York’s main competition for the division crown. The two teams met in the season finale, and Gettysburg crumbled late.

It was a key stretch of games that set up their postseason appearance, and they could be in the same situation this season. It seems crazy since we’re talking about weeks 8-10, but we still may not know how good the Warriors are by that point. After their season opener against South Western, the schedule is relatively soft (other than Dover and Eastern York) until this stretch.

Circle this game on the schedule: Sept. 5 vs. South Western

We mentioned this during South Western’s preview, but last year’s matchup was one of the best games we saw all season. Sixty-two combined first-half points, five touchdowns of more than 30 yards, and a dramatic finish when a 45-yard, Jake Myers-to-Kobe Wansel connection gave the Warriors a 44-41 lead, then the defense forced a turnover on downs at midfield with less than a minute left. It shouldn’t be too hard to top that, right?

Storyline to follow: Who are the Warriors?

Many of the Warriors who walked off the field in November after their emotional playoff loss to Milton Hershey are no longer on the team. The Warriors graduated 19 seniors, the majority of whom played key roles last season, from a team that finished third in the league in defense and sixth in offense. This year’s senior class coming up is even bigger (22), but there’s just one player on the roster who has completed a varsity pass (Tyler Wilt) and he completed just one in a blowout win. Same thing goes for the receivers – just one player on the roster (Patrick Heidecker) caught a pass last season and he had one … a 28-yard catch on Wilt’s only pass completion. The Warriors’ sixth-ranked offense was led by a stable of tailbacks in 2014, but the majority of those guys have graduated. Five-foot-nine, 156-pound Elijah Jackson is the top returning running back.

The Warriors will also have to replace Michael Heeschen, who was arguably the best kicker in the division. Many of the heavy lifters on the defensive side of the ball are gone, too. There could be new starters at so many key positions that we might not know how good or bad the Warriors are until after their season opener against South Western.

2015 ScheduleSept. 4: South Western

Sept. 11: at New Oxford

Sept. 18: Waynesboro

Sept. 25: Dover

Oct. 2: at Susquehannock

Oct. 9: at Eastern York

Oct. 16: Kennard-Dale

Oct. 23: at Conrad Weiser

Oct. 30: York Suburban

Nov. 6: at West York

Countdown to kickoff scheduleJune 12: New Oxford

June 19: Hanover

June 26: Littlestown

July 3: Spring Grove

July 10: Biglerville

July 17: Fairfield

July 24: South Western

July 31: Delone Catholic

Aug. 7: Gettysburg

Aug. 14: Bermudian Springs

Aug. 21: Over/Unders

Aug. 28: Top returning units

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