5 burning questions entering the 2016 L-L football season
Who could knock Wilson off their Section One throne?
This has become a question that is asked every year and normally has the same consensus answer; no. The Bulldogs haven’t lost a section game since Oct. 2007, which equals an astonishing 57-game winning streak.
So, who could knock Wilson off their seemingly-cemented throne?
Look again to Hempfield and Manheim Township as the lead candidates.
With Luke Emge transferring from Fleetwood to Township, the Blue Streaks have an experienced quarterback to step in for Erik Benjamin, who is now at Bloomsburg University.
Emge is quite the dual-threat, passing for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns, while adding another 800 and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Hempfield, meanwhile, gave Wilson its biggest scare in 2015, actually holding a small lead on the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter until Alex Twiford scored a game-winning touchdown with 2:13 remaining.
The Black Knights have lost some playmakers to graduation but have a number of new faces eager to prove themselves. Taking snaps in 2016 could be David Martin, who previously acted as Hempfield’s playmaking receiver. Senior Brendan Flores could also acted as the workhorse in the backfield this season.
Other than Township and Hempfield, it’s hard to imagine anyone else knocking off Wilson in 2016.
Which team claims the Section Two crown?
It’s only appropriate the L-L section that is most like a demolition derby has three returning champions. Lampeter-Strasburg, Manheim Central and Solanco all enter 2016 with a share of the section title to defend and it wouldn’t be surprising if there is a co-champion situation again this year.
All three teams have some reloading to do but only Central is bringing back their starting quarterback. Kody Kegarise is coming off a 1,400-yard passing season, while rushing for 833.
L-S brings back a pair of playmakers in the backfield in Chad Gaudino and Shane Lawler, but will have to fill in the void left by the graduation on quarterback Collin “Bear” Shank.
Meanwhile, Solanco will have to re-tool most of their offense this year after losing its three top rushers as well as quarterback Noah McCardell. But if you have ever talked to Mules head coach Anthony Cox, you’ll soon find out that he isn’t into the business of making excuses.
While all three will have a crack at repeating, don’t count out the fourth nominee - Cocalico.
After a disappointing 5-5 performance in 2015, the Eagles will be more experienced on the offensive line and will look to senior quarterback Brady Sawyer to run their veer offense. Sawyer helped lead Cocalico to the District 3 Class AAA championship game as a sophomore in 2014.
While some section races could be called a coin flip, Section Two is more like roulette table.
What program benefits most from changing sections?
It's tough to go in any other direction than Lancaster Catholic here, but there's another program to consider.
While Lebanon and Ephrata will face taller climbs after moving up, Cedar Crest should face equally difficult competition in Section Two from its Section One days. And despite its losses, repeating a 5-5 record isn't far from out of the question considering the team's non-league schedule and dates with Ephrata, E-town and Garden Spot. The biggest strides, however, should be in 2017 when the Falcons will be more accustomed to and better prepared for their new section mates. That season, the Falcons will also get Manheim Central and Solanco at home, arguably the section's top teams from a year ago.
Will the best quarterback please stand up?
The exits of graduated quarterbacks Erik Benjamin and Collin "Bear" Shank leave big shoes to fill under center in the L-L and the title for best signal caller in the league up fro grabs.
Conestoga Valley's Grant Stoltzfus and Kody Kegarise, of Manheim Central, are undoubtedly the place to start when seeking replacements. And Emge's arrival at Township should certainly garner some attention.
At this stage, it's fair to stay Emge and Stoltzfus step into the best situations with respect to returning weapons around them. How well any quarterback performs is contingent on his teammates. But if it's a sleeper candidate you're looking for, Cedar Crest sophomore Logan Horn is another top returner after he took over the offense's reins a year ago. He's joined by senior running back Justice Belleman, one of the most powerful runners in the L-L.
Is Lancaster Catholic ready to thrive in Section Three?
After playing musical chairs for the past couple cycles, Lancaster Catholic finds themselves settled back into Section Three entering the 2016 season.
With the move, the Crusaders are bringing with them some players with experience, starting with senior quarterback Bryan Downey, who rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards in 2016.
Downey will have a lot of his weapons back as well, including tailback Quincy Clark and receivers Jordan Scott and Ricky Poillon.
Catholic is entering Section Three with a team that has clashed with the likes of Manheim Central, Lampeter-Strasburg and Solanco for the past two seasons and could be poised to become the section bully once again.