Game of the Week: Shippensburg vs. Greencastle battle for the postseason
As the regular season comes to a close, small-town rivalries tend to intensify – especially when a playoff spot is on the line.
Shippensburg at Greencastle-Antrim is no exception as the two teams are tantalizingly close to making the District 3 Class AAA playoffs.
The Greyhounds travel to Greencastle on Friday to close out the regular season, and the winner will likely walk away with a postseason berth. A loss for either team may know it out of playoff contention.
"You look at the Franklin County teams, whenever any of us plays each other it's a rivalry," Blue Devil coach Chuck Tinninis said. "We haven't beaten them for a few years now, and the seeding for playoffs are important and there is a lot on the line."
The Blue Devils haven't beaten Ship in the regular season since 2011. That same season was Greencastle's most recent playoff appearance, when they were beaten by the Greyhounds. Heading into Week 10, Greencastle is 16th in the District 3 rankings, and the Hounds sat at 13th.
Shippensburg has won four of its last five contests, including a fifth-consecutive Little Brown Jug victory over Big Spring. Tyler Gustafson has an impressive 53.3 completion percentage for 1,546 yards this season, connecting with Cody Gustafson for 634 yards.
And if Ship's passing doesn't get going, it can always rely on the ground game. Zion Ware has racked up 775 yards this season, while Cole Friese has come on strong lately with at least 50 yards in each of his last five games.
"The kids are focused," Shippensburg coach Eric Faust said. "A lot of the kids have seen playoff football before and it's made them hungry. The seniors didn't make it last year, but it's really important to beat Greencastle before we think about playoffs."
Greencastle will be without one of its main offensive components. Starting quarterback Spencer Meyers had surgery to repair a broken left arm, which he sustained in the first eight minutes of the Blue Devils' 53-19 loss to Waynesboro last week.
"We are preparing for Greencastle as if it was the same Greencastle as the week before," Foust said.
Backup quarterback Cade McDowell has seen action under center in just two contests this season, and was thrown to the wolves last week after Meyers' injury. The sophomore had seven receptions on 21 attempts, throwing for 110 yards. He was picked off once and had threw for two touchdowns.
"I think the kids are rallying around (Cade) like a good team should," Tinninis said. "I think he has mobility and he has a good arm, he could do more things with his feet than Spencer can."
The Blue Devils defensive line will also play a big role in stopping the Greyhound offense, with Jeremy Anderson leading the line.
"Tyler Jeffreys has been the biggest surprise for me defensively," Tinninis said. "Jeremy Anderson is one of the best linemen I've seen all year. Also, Brae Peck and Tyler Graham, those three up front have been outstanding."
Defensive stands for Shippensburg include Nathaniel Sheffield and Cameron Tinner.
GREYHOUNDS-BLUE DEVILS AT A GLANCE
Game data: Shippensburg Greyhounds at Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils ... Friday, 7 p.m. at Kaley Field ... Mid Penn Colonial Division game.
Teams: Shippensburg (6-3, 3-2 MPC) is coming off a big victory over James Buchanan, while the Blue Devils (6-3, 3-2 MPC) lost to Waynesboro, 53-19.
Series: The Hounds lead 16-13-2 and have won the last four contests in a row.
P.O. pick: Shippensburg by 10.