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Written by: Phil Myers on Thursday, November 26th, 2020
Well, sports fans today is Thanksgiving and tomorrow begins the Pennsylvania state championships. Thanksgiving has always been a time for being thankful in the Protime household, but it’s been a time for football too. There are the traditional turkey day high school games across these United States of America plus the college and pro games on the television too. But when Protime was a young lad he always went outside on the 4th Thursday of November for either the neighborhood football extravaganza or the Turkey Bowl with Brother Protime if things were slow in the hood that year.
Either way Protime’s stomach always was rewarded when he stepped onto the field of play. The neighborhood mothers would see kids out there on the sandlot and send over some cider, hot chocolate, or other drinks plus maybe a few cookies, sliced apples, and additional snacks. Sometimes there was a lack of playing time versus plenty of snacking time. The years go by and things change, but Protime was always thankful for turkey day memories.
Protime is thankful that he continues to bewilder the competition with his amazing prognostications. Last week he came within four points of going 12-0. He stands at 216-48 (.819) for the year. As the close of a strange year looms closer, Protime wants to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas. Protime will leave you all with this question, what is the turkey’s favorite black-tie event? Answer: The Butter Ball.
St. Joseph’s Prep 5-0 vs. Central York 10-0 – This is the Hawks’ fifth straight Hershey appearance and seventh overall. They’ve won five PIAA titles and are the defending 6A state champs. St. Joes is not only ranked #1 in PA, they are the #3 team in the country and they are loaded with talent. QB Kyle McCord and WR Marvin Harrison Jr. are Ohio State commits. LB Jeremiah Trotter is a Clemson commit. Other offensive phenomenons are Sahmir Hagans, Malik Cooper (Temple commit), and Blaine Bunch. Even their kicker is a special talent, Antonio Chadha. And there are more who will be playing in college in the years to come including Trotter’s younger brother, Josiah. Just a note: McCord threw for 6 touchdowns last week against undefeated Souderton (all in the first half).
This is the first time the Panthers of Central York have made it to the show. Central York is led by QB Beau Pribula, a Penn State commit. He’s pitched the pigskin for 1,885 yards and 31 scores. His dual threat ability has permitted him to tally 10 TDs on the ground also. Judah Tomb is his favorite receiver with 39 grabs for 733 yards and 12 touchdowns. RB Isaiah Sturgis has over 600 yards and 7 TDs. The defense is led by the tremendous tackling trio of Seth Griffiths, Jack Smith, and Carter Glassmyer. The Panthers are averaging 53 points a game while only giving up an average of 9. The Hawks average 45 points and their first team defense do not give up much at all.
Protime says it’ll be Tim Roken’s St. Joes Hawks 42 and Gerry Yonchiuk’s Central York Panthers 31. It’s Yonchiuk’s 1st year and it was memorable.
Erie Cathedral Prep 7-2 vs. Pine-Richland 10-0 – The Ramblers are making their 9th appearance in the state title game, having won 5 times. Coach Mike Mischler (220-63) has only seen his team actually play 7 games this year as 2 of those wins were playoff forfeits thanks to that cursed virus. Both losses were close games to Erie McDowell. Tamar Sample makes things happen for the Ramblers as the signal caller has accounted 1,020 yards passing and running combined. He is responsible for 14 TDs, 6 through the air and 8 rushing. RB Michael Parks III has 865 yards and 8 TDs via the ground game. Cole Constable gives Prep some added offense as he’s booted 4 field goals. Kelyn Blossey and John David Campbell are the top tacklers on defense. Another player to keep a keen eye on is Jaheim Williams who is a big impact player especially on defense from his linebacking position. The Ramblers only allow 9 points a game.
Pine-Richland is coached by Eric Kasperowicz (84-18) and for the school it’s their 4th championship game having won in 2017. Cole Spencer makes the offense go for the Rams, a team that averages 48 points a contest. He has tossed the agate for 2,448 yards and 32 touchdowns. He is a dangerous runner too as proved last week. Spencer, Caden Schweiger, and Brooks Eastburn have a combined 21 TDs running with the pigskin. Career receptions and yardage leader for PR, Eli Jochem, has 57 snags for 1,109 yards and 17 scores. Luke Miller and Charlie Mill have combined to catch 11 more TD tosses. Miller is the all-time leading tackler at PR and the team has 93 tackles for losses. Miguel Jackson has the most QB sacks with 13.
Protime gazed into the crystal ball and sees Pine-Richland coming out on top, in this 5A contest, 35-24.
Thomas Jefferson 9-1 vs. Jersey Shore 10-0 – TJ is the defending 4A state champ. It’s their fifth championship tilt, having won the previous four. The Jaguars are very disciplined. They don’t take a lot of penalties and as a rule they do not turn the ball over much. That’s what Coach Bill Cherpak (283-47) demands of his teams because in the long run it’s what wins games. Jake Pugh has taken over the helm for the Jags on offense and has performed well. He’s thrown for 1,706 markers and 24 TDs. His top two receivers are Preston Zandier and Ian Hansen. Zandier has 40 receptions for 630 yards and 10 scores, while Hansen has 36 catches for 696 yards and 7 touchdowns. RB Conner Murga gives TJ some balance by rushing for 706 yards and scoring 12 times. The Jaguars’ defense is led by their number one ball carrier take down artist, Isaac Eckley.
For JS, it’s their first trip to the finals. The Shore brings a lot to the table under the tutelage of Tom Gravish, the head coach (70-40). Barking the signals for the Bulldogs is Branden Wheary and he’s aired out the ball for 1,843 yards and 23 TDs. Favorite targets are Cayden Hess and Owen Anderson. Hess has 62 snares for 848 yards and 9 TDs. Anderson has 34 snags for 651 yards and 9 scores too. A trio of running backs have scored a total of 25 touchdowns led by Cam Allison with 9 of them and 1,054 yards. Brady Jordan and Owen Anderson have 8 TDs apiece. Gabe and Hayden Packer lead a Jersey Shore defense that has yielded 79 points all year. The Bulldog ‘D’ has 33 sacks and that department is led by Dalton Dungan. Hess has 6 interceptions.
Protime is picking Thomas Jefferson in a close one, but don’t be surprised if the Shore wins or has a shot at the end. TJ 34 JS 28.
Wyomissing 9-0 vs. Central Valley 11-0 – Wyomissing is making their second final appearance, having beaten Aliquippa in 2012 by booting a long field goal. Coach Bob Wolfrum (322-84-1) brings a lot of experience and experienced coaches to the table. The Spartans, who average 47 points offensively, are quarterbacked by Zach Zechman. He’s thrown for 653 yards and 13 scores. Darren Brunner is the top receiver with 5 TD catches. The combination of Jordan Auman and Evan Niedrowski are a tough backfield tandem. Auman has 602 yards and 10 TDs and he averages 11.4 yards per tote. Niedrowski has 592 markers with 9 TDs. Their turnover ratio is one of the best in PA at +17 and their defense only allows 5 points/game.
Central Valley is making their third appearance and they are looking for their first title, losing a heartbreaker in the 3A final last year to Wyoming. Mark Lyons has been the Warriors’ only coach and is in his 11th season with them. His record is 171-94 overall and 109-29 with CV. The Warriors have a lot of college talent at the skill positions. QB Ameer Dudley (Harvard) had 1,207 yards passing and 15 TDs. Myles Walker (Akron) has caught 23 tosses for 359 yards. He has scored 17 touchdowns in a variety of ways including three on punt returns. Stephon Hall (Pitt) has scored a total of 17 TDs too including two on kickoffs. Landon Alexander has 18 touchdowns and 1,323 yards rushing for an average of 12 yards per carry. As a team they average almost 10 yards every time they run. Central Valley scores 51 points a game and gives up only 9. Defensively, it’s the Sean Fitzsimmons show as he has over 100 tackles and 17 sacks. Walker chimes in with 4 picks for the Warriors.
This is an intriguing match-up and Protime can’t make his mind up as to a winner. The crystal ball said to flip a coin. The coin came up for Central Valley in a real battle royale in the 3A championship, 36-31.
Southern Columbia 11-0 vs. Wilmington 10-0 – Jim Roth can become Pennsylvania’s winningest coach with a win. His career mark is 455-63-2. At last look he was the 7th winningest coach in the U.S. His Tigers average 46 points offensively and the defense gives up less than 10. Gavin Garcia is the man on offense as he has 1,679 yards on 100 totes. Yes, that’s almost 17 yards a carry! He has crossed the goal line 25 times running the ball. Running out of the Wing-T, Wes Barnes and Braedon Wisloski have 650 yards and 526 yards respectively. Wisloski has 13 TDs to his credit. QB Liam Klebon hasn’t been asked to pass much, but has been efficient with 500 yards and 8 TD tosses. Freshman Garrett Garcia leads the team in tackles followed by Wade Kerstetter, and Jake Davis can break the Tiger career interception mark of 17 with one more pick. Southern is making their PA record 19th title game appearance and have won a PA record of 10 titles. They also are on a 59-game win streak.
Wilmington is coached by the brilliant young mind of Brandon Phillian who is 35-3 in his short tenure so far, losing only to teams that made it to the state championship. In 2018 he lost to Southern Columbia in the finals. Wilmington has played in a total of 4 championship games winning in 2008. The Greyhound offensive line is huge and definitely will present a problem for Southern. They average 6’2” and weigh 283 pounds. They are Connor Vass-Gal, Weston Phanco, Brayden Penwell, Morgan Whiting, and Jake Chimiak. Ethan Susen is the beneficiary of that line’s blocking as he has galloped for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. Darren Miller has also benefitted with 1,037 yards and 14 scores. Susen is the top receiver also with 14 catches for 326 yards and 4 TDs. He also has 4 picks for the defense. QB Caelin Bender has 530 yards passing and 7 TDs. By the way, the Greyhounds run the Wing-T just like Southern. Miller and Bender are the top tacklers for Wilmington.
Protime cannot go against history. Roth becomes the all-time winningest coach in PA history when his Tigers bump the Greyhounds 31-24 in the 2A title tilt.
Steelton-Highspire 9-0 vs. Jeannette 10-1 – This contest features the #4 team in PA in wins, Steelton with 781 and the #5 team all-time, Jeannette with 776. Steamroller coach Andrew Erby (49-30) has a team loaded with talent especially at skill positions. Steelton is 2 for 2 in state championship games. Mekhi Flowers is a 4-star recruit and has made a difference offensively and defensively in a few games this year. He has 940 yards receiving and 14 TDs. Throwing the ball this year is freshman standout, Alex Erby. He has tossed 31 TD passes and accounted for 2,307 yards through the air. WR Damein Hammonds has 677 yards and 10 TDs. Lest you think the ‘Rollers pass all the time, think again. Odell Greene has 1,491 yards rushing and 14 scores. Steelton averages 44 points a game.
The Jeannette Jayhawks are coached by Roy Hall (115-26). They have been here 3 times before winning twice. The Jayhawks have a freshman at quarterback too by the name of Brad Birch. He’s pitched the pigskin for 1,676 yards and 28 TDs. He got banged up a couple weeks ago and if he doesn’t play, Roberto Smith will step in. All he did was throw for 277 yards and a score last week plus run for 3 more TDs. Brett Birch has 40 receptions for 571 yards and 10 touchdowns. Toby Cline has hauled in 33 passes for 513 yards and 10 scores. James Sanders has 29 grabs for 590 yards and 10 TDs. Smith is the regular half back and has 21 touchdowns and 780 yards. The Jeannette defense and special teams are to be reckoned with because they have recorded 13 TDs in 2020, a phenomenal total.
Protime is favoring Jeannette just because Steelton has won nail-biters the past 3 weeks and he senses their good fortune running out. Jayhawks 40 Steamrollers 34 in a good one to open the weekend with.
NOTE: Some of the best young minds in coaching are in Hershey this year along with some legends. It’s an interesting mix and should be fascinating to watch. In fact, Protime has interviewed four of the twelve for his ‘Conversation with Coach’ column. Good luck to all teams. Enjoy the day.
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