Littlestown circles in on playoffs amid turnaround season
There weren't a whole lot of down times during the first 11 years of Mike Lippy's tenure at the helm of Littlestown's football program.
He piloted the Thunderbolts to a District 3 Class 2A championship in 2004 and led them back to the title game in 2005 and 2013. In all, the team made the district playoffs 10 times between 2003 and 2013, missing only in 2008.
But then came 2014 and 2015, when Littlestown won a combined five games.
While those teams played well at times, they struggled to sustain a high enough level of play throughout the game, often losing because they were outplayed in the second half.
This season, though, the Bolts are back and looking to qualify for the postseason once again. And with a record of 7-1 entering the final two weeks of the regular season, the Bolts have positioned themselves well.
Littlestown currently sits in second place in the Class 3A power rankings, where the top four teams qualify for the postseason. In a key matchup Friday, the Bolts take on Bermudian Springs, which enters the game in third place in the power rankings at 6-2.
A YAIAA Division III title is likely out of reach for both teams — unless Fairfield or York County Tech upsets division-leading York Catholic.
But for the Thunderbolts and the Eagles, there is still plenty to play for.
"We've got to prepare well for Bermudian," Lippy said. "That's going to be a very tough game and the winner probably gets a home game in the playoffs."
Always known for a strong aerial attack, the Bolts have turned to the 1-2 running back punch of seniors Wes Storey (728 yards, 10 TDs) and Drew Matthews (550 yards, 5 TDs). Behind that tandem, the team averages 229 yards per game on the ground.
"Wes Storey and Drew Matthews are both having excellent seasons for us, there's no doubt about that," Lippy said. "But the way that we've played defense is what has gotten us to where we are this season."
The Bolts' defense is allowing 13 points and 188 yards per game and has forced 15 turnovers.
Amid the turnaround, Lippy celebrated the 100th win of his career, coming in Week 3 against Eastern York.
"You've got to keep believing in yourself, your staff and the players and keep doing the things that made you successful," he said. "We've also tried to adjust to the talents of our team and try to play to them. The biggest difference, and I mean nothing bad about last year's team, because they worked hard in practice and tried hard every game, but we definitely have more talent this year and that makes a huge difference."
While Littlestown has switched to a more ground-based attack, the Bolts can still throw the ball. Senior quarterback Tanner Noble has completed 54 percent of his pass attempts for 806 yards and six touchdowns. His top target has been senior wideout Tyler Barthel who has brought in a conference-leading 37 balls for 511 yards.
Littlestown defeated Biglerville, 33-14, on Friday and Canners head coach Alex Ramos came away impressed with the way the Bolts have improved this season.
"The biggest difference for them this season is their execution. It is much better than it was last season," Ramos said. "Mike and I are great friends, we talk often and our coaching staffs have a lot of respect for each other."