Red Lion-Cumberland Valley: An early look
We'll have plenty of breakdowns and analysis in the coming days, leading up to Red Lion's District 3-AAAA final showdown with Cumberland Valley. To get started, here are a few initial thoughts about Saturday's 6 p.m. showdown. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments section. Take two: Perhaps the most talked-about storyline leading into this game will be these team's first meeting. In Week 1 this season, Red Lion traveled up to Cumberland Valley and absorbed a 45-6 beating. Certainly, it wouldn't make sense to completely disregards that matchup. At the same time, we have to look at that contest for what it is: A game that took play three months ago. A lot can change in that time -- and a lot has for Red Lion. Few, if any, would have predicted this Lions run early in the season. Perhaps the more interesting point of comparison may be Spring Grove's first-round playoff loss to the Eagles. The Rockets had some success throwing the ball in that game, and pulled to within a score in the fourth quarter before faltering. Perhaps the Lions can learn something from that game. Which brings me to my next point... Power vs. power: Perhaps the most striking aspect of Red Lion's last few games has been the Lions' ability to simply outmuscle opponents. Red Lion's offensive line is huge -- it averages 250 pounds per player -- and over the last three weeks has been able to wear down its opponents. The Lions didn't even have to pass in their win against Daniel Boone last week -- they only threw twice in the second half. Expect there's one slight problem: Cumberland Valley specializes in the sort of physical, grind-it-out style that Red Lion has leaned on these last three games. The Eagles average 263.4 rushing yards per game, and typically divvy the carries among a corps of running backs. Three different players have at least 800 rushing yards this season for CV, led by Jeremy Dipetro's 1,173. In other words, Red Lion might not be able to simply lean on its ground game to churn out yards and chew down the clock against CV. In their first meeting, the Lions had 48 rushing yards on 25 carries. Once again, take what you will from that first game. Perhaps Red Lion will have to follow Spring Grove's lead and throw the football. One other related thought: In three playoff games, Red Lion has allowed a grand total of 99 rushing yards. CV is averaging nearly around 260 yards per game on the ground this season. Looks like something has to give in that department. Fast start: If Red Lion hopes to pull the upset here, one thing seems obvious -- the Lions need to start quickly. Suffice to say, falling behind CV is not exactly a good idea, given the Eagles' ability to grind out games. But get ahead on CV, and the Lions may have a chance. The Eagles started slow in both their losses -- they fell behind 21-0 early against Harrisburg, and trailed at halftime against Bishop McDevitt. Perhaps more importantly, a fast start would do wonders for Red Lion's confidence. An early score or two may help erase the memories of that Week 1 beatdown. It would also free up the Lions offense, and allow them to work either the pass and the run.