Playoff rematch takes top billing for Biglerville, Hanover
As his players huddled around him after suffering their first and only loss of the season two weeks ago, Hanover football coach Bill Reichart inadvertently predicted a rematch.
"It's better to lose to them in Week 9 than what it would be to lose to them in Week 11," he told his team after a 42-21 loss at Biglerville.
His point was that it was better to suffer the first loss when it would not end their season. The way the District 3 Class AA rankings stood at the time, Reichart and his players knew that a Biglerville rematch in the first round of the playoffs was entirely possible. Several Hanover players told their coach that evening that they hoped to get another shot at the Canners.
That wish came true over the weekend as Hanover and Biglerville both won their Week 10 games to earn a split of the YAIAA Division III title. The Nighthawks and Canners will meet, on Hanover's home field this time, as the No. 4 and 5 teams in the district in a do-or-die playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday.
"We all knew it was a possibility," Hanover senior center Nate Klunk said. "Everyone's definitely extremely focused. There's not as much joking around (at practice), everyone's quiet and trying to get everything the best they can."
It's a game the Nighthawks hoped for because it gives them a chance to avenge their only loss of the season. But it's also a game the Canners hoped for because it had to share the division title with the Nighthawks. After Biglerville's Week 10 win against Bermudian Springs, Canners coach Alex Ramos talked to his players and checked off their preseason goals.They cheered as Ramos checked off a league championship and cheered again as he checked off a district playoff spot. Then they cheered even louder when he told them it looked like their first-round opponent would likely be Hanover.
The Week 9 game remains fresh in the minds of coaches and players from both teams, and Reichart recalls how his players struggled to respond to their first deficit of the season when they fell behind 21-6 by halftime.
"With the success that we had been having, each and every week was new territory for us," Reichart said. "I honestly felt, trying to gauge the temperament and disposition of the team, it just seemed to me that the pressure may have gotten to us, particularly in the first half."
With that experience behind them, the Nighthawks expect to respond better to adversity in the rematch. They've also been working on tackling with the hopes that they can slow Biglerville running back Colton Sentz, who ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Hanover hadn't allowed a rushing touchdown up to that point but allowed all of the Biglerville scores to come on the ground.
The Nighthawks also hope to reap the benefits of playing at home, and their coach thinks the home-field advantage could sway the officiating more in his favor than it was when they played on the road.
"My personal belief is (Biglerville) won the football game, but it wasn't a three-touchdown difference," Reichart said, referring to the first meeting. "My experience is that things tend to tighten up score-wise in the postseason. That's what I'm expecting."
If you go
WHO >> Biglerville (7-3) at Hanover (9-1)
WHAT >> First-round, District 3 Class AA playoff game between teams that shared YAIAA Division III title.
WHERE >> Sheppard-Myers Field (400 McAllister Street, Hanover)
WHEN >> 7 p.m. Friday