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It can't be Week 9 already, can it? Didn't practice just start?

Ah, time flies when there is lots of football going on, so perhaps it's not surprising that we've reached this critical juncture of the high school gridiron season.

With that much of the schedule behind us, it stands to reason that the six Lebanon County football teams have each reached different levels of success to this point already.

Some are still in the hunt for district playoff berths, others are still pursuing the chance at section titles, and still others are reduced to playing out the string and playing for pride.

What follows then is a quick look at what's in store for Week 9 and what each of the local teams will be playing for.

Trinity at Palmyra, 7 p.m.

The Cougars' district playoff hopes took a hit last week in a 34-24 loss at East Pennsboro, dropping them to the 9th spot - the top 8 qualify - in the 5A power rankings with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

So it's imperative for Palmyra (6-2) to get back on track this week with 2-6 Trinity coming to town.

The Shamrocks can score at times, but figure on Palmyra's defense being pretty ornery this week after getting gashed for 34 points last week. A win would also set the Cougars up nicely for a huge regular season finale next week against Capital Division co-leader Milton Hershey.

Annville-Cleona at Pequea Valley, 7 p.m.

Despite a disheartening loss to Northern Lebanon two weeks back, Matt Gingrich's A-C club still finds it self very much in the thick of the Section 3 title race, trailing Donegal by a game ahead of their regular season finale showdown next Friday in Annville.

The Dutchmen are also tied for second place with Lancaster Catholic, which meets Donegal this week, so assuming a win this week - always a dangerous thing to do - they'll be playing for at least a share of the section title next week.

Pequea Valley is 4-4 but has been shut out the last two weeks by Donegal and Lancaster Catholic, while A-C is coming off a bye week and should be plenty rested and ready to attack the rest of the season.

Cedar Crest at Elizabethtown, 7 p.m.

The 4-4 Falcons have fallen on injury-riddled hard times since a 4-1 start and will look to halt a three-game losing skid this week at E-town, currently 5-3 overall and 2-3 in Section 2.

As noted, it's been rough sledding for Cedar Crest recently thanks in part to injuries to quarterbacks Logan Horn and Greg Munnion, but the chance to finish above .500 in its first season back in Section 2 is still there for the taking.

Won't be easy, but the Falcons knew that the competition was stiff going in. How they react to these last two games will say a lot about where they're headed as a program.

Columbia at Northern Lebanon, 7 p.m.

The Vikings (3-5) were knocked out of the running for a third straight Section 3 title by last week's 14-7 loss to Elco, but can still salvage a .500 season with wins at home against Columbia and Lancaster Catholic.

This week's task figures to be the easiest of the two, given that Columbia (0-7) is struggling to suit up enough able bodies. That, combined with probably being a little salty over the Elco loss, should put NL in fine shape to get back in the win column this week.

Elco at Muhlenberg, 7 p.m.

After some frustration earlier in the season, the Raiders appear to have found their best form, and enter Friday night's non-league contest sporting a two-game winning streak.

If Elco, hanging on the outskirts of the 3A district playoff chase with Annville-Cleona, can get two more big efforts from Tyler Horst, Kyle Knight and company, it could well end on a four-game win streak - it heads to Pequea Valley next week - and that would be no small accomplishment after those early struggles.

Lebanon at Manheim Township, 7 p.m.

It's been a rough go of it for the Cedars (1-7) in their first season in Section 1, and it doesn't figure to get any easier this week with the Blue Streaks (4-4) on the docket.

Township is smarting from narrow losses to Warwick and Wilson the last two weeks and figures to have too much firepower for Lebanon at this point.

Better days ahead for the Cedars, though, as evidenced by last week's 368-yard passing performance by sophomore quarterback Zakee Sailsman.

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