William Penn punter Jomar Dickerson escapes Northeastern’s Reggie Hyacinthe and runs for a first down on a fake punt during a recent game. The
William Penn punter Jomar Dickerson escapes Northeastern's Reggie Hyacinthe and runs for a first down on a fake punt during a recent game. The Bearcats, who started the season 0-3, face Dallastown tonight in a key Division I matchup. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- file)

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  • Three weeks ago, it was fair to wonder which direction the Dallastown football team's season would go.

    On one hand, the Wildcats had been victims of a season-opening gauntlet -- three games against teams who are a combined 16-2 this season. Dallastown stayed competitive in all three contests, most especially a gut-punch, last-second loss to West York.

    Still, after 12 quarters, all the Wildcats had to show was an 0-3 record.

    "I've been on and had teams that are 0-3 before, and (the attitude is) 'Just finish out the season,'" Dallastown coach Kevin Myers said.

    Instead, the last few weeks have bought about a U-turn for Myers' team. Dallastown (3-3, 1-0 YAIAA Div. I) has evened its record ahead of today's 7 p.m. visit to Division I foe William Penn (2-4, 1-0) at Small Athletic Field.

    It will be a matchup of two teams familiar with adversity. The Bearcats also started their season 0-3 -- and that came on the heels of an tumultuous summer that almost saw the program eliminated because of budget concerns.

    Now, both have a chance to solidify themselves as Division I contenders.

    "Our out-of-league schedule was very tough, and it's easy to get down," William Penn coach Shawn Heinold said. "We just kept reminding them 'It's going to get better eventually.'"

    The Bearcats have had to rely heavily on underclassmen during their recent run, which included a Week 4 upset of Northeastern and last week's home win against Red Lion. Five sophomores likely will start for William Penn tonight, Heinold said.

    Among them is quarterback James Way, who moved to the area from Virginia this summer. Way took over the starting job in Week 3 and ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions.

    "They just flat-out can play," Heinold said of his sophomores. "I think even if we had better numbers, those kids would still be playing."

    Dallastown, meanwhile, is coming off perhaps its most complete performance of the season -- a 31-7 win at home against South Western. The defense, which has allowed a total of 20 points during the last three weeks, turned in another solid performance. And the Wildcats offense did not commit a turnover for the first time all season.

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  • "We didn't hurt ourselves so much offensively. We didn't have any big penalties," Myers said. "We've made some personnel moves (on offense). We've just been focusing on it the last several weeks: If we want to be competitive, we have to avoid mistakes."

    Junior tailback Robert Catchings leads Dallastown in rushing (365 yards, four TDs), while junior quarterback Andrew Henry has completed 51.2 percent of his passes this season for 506 yards.

    "There's been a different feel to the air in practice the last two weeks," Myers said. "We're in the division now. We told them last week we're 0-0."

    * * *

    Friday's games

    Bermudian Springs (6-0, 5-0 Div. III) at Fairfield (0-6, 0-5 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Bermudian Springs 47, Fairfield 7
       The skinny: Two opposite streaks collide here -- the Eagles' 15-game divisional win streak versus the Green Knights' 35-game losing skid.
       Eagles must: Keep leaning on the defense, which has been downright dominant this season. Bermudian has allowed just two touchdowns to opposing offenses and is giving up 4.8 points per game overall.
       Green Knights must: Stay in it early. Fairfield fell behind 23-6 in the first quarter against York Suburban last week but actually matched the Trojans the rest of the way in a 37-20 loss. If the Knights get off to a similar start here, it could get ugly.
      

    Eastern York (2-4, 2-3 Div. III) at Biglerville (5-1, 4-1 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Eastern York 26, Biglerville 7
       The skinny: The Canners remain a game back of rival Bermudian Springs in Division III, but they need to keep winning.
       Golden Knights must: Be physical, something they did during last season's win against Biglerville. Alex Cooley ran for a then-school record 364 rushing yards in that one and will probably need to produce another huge night for Eastern this time.
       Canners must: Tackle, tackle, tackle. Cooley can be a nightmare for any defense, but Biglerville needs to keep him from breaking off big chunks of yards. The Canners did a solid job against the run last week, limiting York Catholic to 3.5 yards per carry.
      
    South Western (3-3, 0-1 Div. I) at Central York (3-3, 0-1 Div. I)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: South Western 26, Central York 20
       The skinny: Two familiar foes meet in a game with huge divisional and District 3 playoff implications.
       Mustangs must: Turn yards into points. South Western got 159 rushing yards from junior Dillon Thomas last week and actually outgained Dallastown during a 31-7 defeat. But none of that was reflected on the scoreboard.
       Panthers must: Turn it around on defense. That unit seemed to be making strides until last week's 41-point, 499-yard debacle against Spring Grove. A bounce-back performance will be needed here against the tough-running Thomas.
      
    York Catholic (3-3, 3-2 Div. III) at Delone Catholic (3-3, 3-2 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Delone Catholic 42, York Catholic 20
       The skinny: This potential District 3 Class A playoff preview comes with the spotlight on the quarterbacks and their teams' respective passing games.
       Irish must: Continue to match their dangerous offense with steady play on defense. The latter unit has kept York Catholic in the game during tough home losses to Division III leaders Bermudian Springs and Biglerville. A similar effort is needed on the road.
       Squires must: Limit turnovers and get the running game going to take pressure off QB Brett Smith. In division losses to Bermudian and Littlestown, most of the Squires' scoring came from special teams and defense.
      
    Big Spring (1-5, 1-2 Mid-Penn Colonial) at Gettysburg (1-5, 1-2 Mid-Penn Colonial
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Big Spring 33, Gettysburg 27
       The skinny: The winner of this game pulls to .500 in league play. Gettysburg returns home, where it earned its lone win two weeks ago.
       Bulldogs must: Build on the momentum gained after last week's 28-6 victory against winless James Buchanan. Some of Big Spring's success in that game could be attributed to holding the opposition to 3-of-17 passing.
       Warriors must: Rebound from a tough, 41-0 loss to Northern York while avoiding any distractions that come with homecoming week. Gettysburg has been outscored 238-24 in its five losses. A quick start could make all the difference this week.
      
    York Suburban (4-2, 3-2 Div. III) at Hanover (0-5, 0-6 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: York Suburban 59, Hanover 18
       The skinny: The Trojans head back on the road after beating Fairfield, another winless team, last week.
       Trojans must: Stay balanced on offense. Suburban's running game has been a constant positive with Isaiah Randall's 625 yards leading the way. QB Marquese Dillon's running ability adds a wrinkle, but this would be a perfect time to further develop the passing game.
       Nighthawks must: Utilize their passing, which has provided a bright spot for this Hanover team. Jose Gonzalez (20 catches) and Ian Brown (18) are among the top 11 in the YAIAA in receptions.
      
    Dover (3-3, 1-0 Div. II) at West York (6-0, 1-0 Div. II)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Dover 30, West York 27
       The skinny: Two of last year's Division II tri-champs meet in this rivalry game.
       Eagles must: Get another effort on defense like they did last week, during a 20-14 win at Kennard-Dale. The Eagles didn't allow a first down in the second half, although West York's versatile offense should present more of a challenge.
       Bulldogs must: Keep opposing defenses guessing. Every week a new West York player seems to step up on offense -- last Friday, senior James Johnson racked up 97 running yards and a score. That type of balance makes the Bulldogs tough to prepare for.
      
    Kennard-Dale (0-6, 0-1 Div. II) at New Oxford (1-5, 0-1 Div. II)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: New Oxford 26, Kennard-Dale 22
       The skinny: Two struggling teams try to even their division records and build momentum for the home stretch.
       Rams must: Open it up a bit on offense. Something needs to change for a unit that has produced seven touchdowns and eight completed passes all season. Trick plays? Throw it more? Time pull out all the stops.
       Colonials must: Avoid lapses in concentration, like the one that cost them during a 28-14 loss to Northeastern last week. The Bobcats scored 16 points in a nine-second span in the second quarter, sandwiching two TDs around a botched kickoff return.
      
    York County Tech (2-4, 2-3 Div. III) at Littlestown (4-2, 3-2 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Littlestown 35, York County Tech 7
       The skinny: Could the passing game be a forgotten element in this matchup? York Tech relies heavily on Calvin Savary and QB Dalmar Dickson to run the football, but the balanced Thunderbolts also have had a tendency to go run-heavy this year.
       Spartans must: Control the football with Savary and Dickson, who have combined for 1,465 yards on the ground.
       Bolts must: Create turnovers on defense. York Tech struggled with giveaways early in the season, and Littlestown has proved it can strike by land or air. Last week it was by land -- to the tune of 393 yards rushing.
      
    Susquehannock (0-6, 0-1 Div. II) at Northeastern (4-2, 1-0 Div. II)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Northeastern 39, Susquehannock 12
       The skinny: Susquehannock's tough opening to the Division II schedule does not get any easier this week against Northeastern.
       Warriors must: Get healthy. The Warriors were without leading rusher Sammy Miller, receiver Steven Nalls and fullback/linebacker Steven Martinez last week against West York.
       Bobcats must: Play a complete game. Coach Brendan Brown said last week he was not happy with his team's effort for all 48 minutes. Improving on that will help a Bobcats squad that ended its two-game skid last week against New Oxford.
      
    Northern York (5-1, 3-0 Mid-Penn Colonial) at Waynesboro (2-4, 1-2 Mid-Penn Colonial)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Waynesboro 36, Northern York 27
       The skinny: The Polar Bears can solidify their place atop the Mid-Penn Colonial standings with a road win against the Indians.
       Polar Bears must: Not look ahead to next week's looming showdown with fellow division unbeaten Shippensburg. Now would be a bad time to slip up, although Northern seems to be playing solid football following last week's 41-0 win at Gettysburg.
       Indians must: Not let Northern pull away early, like it did during last week's rout of the Warriors. Waynesboro has fallen behind early in each of its last two losses to Gettysburg and Shippensburg and needs to avoid the same fate here.
      
    Palmyra (0-6, 0-3 Mid-Penn Keystone) at Red Land (5-1, 2-1 Mid-Penn Keystone)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Red Land 56, Palmyra 28 (District 3 Class AAA quarterfinals)
       The skinny: These two programs have traveled in opposite directions since their playoff meeting last year.
       Cougars must: Pick up the pieces after allowing 55 unanswered points during a 69-14 loss to Cedar Cliff. Palmyra suffered a similar breakdown two weeks ago against Hershey after tying the score in the fourth quarter.
       Patriots must: Keep up the strategy that has gotten them this far, which is running the football with junior tailback John Ford. His steady play allowed Red Land to overcome a shoulder injury to starting quarterback Kyle Biddle two weeks ago against Cedar Cliff.
      
    Spring Grove (4-2, 1-0 Div. I) at Red Lion (1-5, 0-1 Div. I)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Red Lion 49, Spring Grove 7
       The skinny: This is a matchup of two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum compared to last season, as Spring Grove finds itself in a title-contending position in Division I.
       Rockets must: Continue the momentum they gathered during back-to-back home wins against Northeastern and Division I-rival Central York. After winning last week's shootout versus the Panthers, Spring Grove must face another strong passing game.
       Lions must: Get more stellar play from that Blake Cahill-to-Seth Haight connection. Haight's 32 receptions are second in the YAIAA.
      
    @johnsclayton; 771-2045; @mgoul; 771-2076