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This will be a first
It was only a matter of time.
In the storied football histories of District Three powers Manheim Central and Bishop McDevitt, they have never played each other.
This Friday night, they will.
And the stakes will be high.
When the 2nd-seeded Barons (13-0) and top-seeded Crusaders (12-1) meet this Friday at 7 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium, it will be for all the District Three Triple-A marbles.
Bishop McDevitt is looking to claim its fourth straight District championship, while Manheim Central is aiming for its 17th District title in program history &tstr; and first since 2009.
The winner will also earn a trip to the PIAA State semi-finals.
Barons’ coach Mike Williams knows that knocking off the three-time reigning champion Crusaders will not be an easy task. McDevitt advanced to the finals by defeating Conrad Weiser 49-21 in the semi-finals.
“They don’t have any weaknesses,” he said. “Even their back-ups are good. They’ve got a lot of depth and a lot of those back-ups could be starting with other schools if they weren’t there. They just have a lot of good players and a lot of speed. Really, they’ve got 22 positions that are all pretty good players.”
Not the least of those is running back Andre Robinson, who has rushed for 1,809 yards and 24 TD’s on 204 carries (8.9 avg.) this season.
Quarterback Nick Marsilio (137-for-225, 2078 yards, 26 TD’s, 8 INT’s) leads the aerial attack for the Crusaders, who average 418.4 yards and 43.4 points per game as a team.
Marsilio’s favorite targets are Kobay White (44 catches, 854 yards, 14 TD’s), Tyrone Gibson (32-441 receiving, 4 TD’s) and Bryce Hall (19-312 receiving, 4 TD’s).
“How do we stop (Robinson and Marsilio)? Not too many coaches have found the answer to that,” Williams said. “I hope to tell (Bishop McDevitt) coach (Jeff) Weachter not to run them so much, that’s how you stop them. Those guys are good. You just have to play great defense. Just like the kids from Cocalico, you can stop them two or three times, but they just have that ability to break. We’ll have to have some good fortune here. But if they run (Robinson), he’s going to break tackles. He’s that good of a runner. We hope we can play great defense.”
Junior linebacker Justin Moreno’s 143 tackle points lead a Barons’ defense which has allowed an average of 9.8 points per game.
But while Manheim Central’s defense is sure to get a test from McDevitt, the Crusaders also figure to have their hands full with the offensive weapons that the Barons have.
Senior running back Marc Royer eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark last Friday in Central’s 42-20 win over Cocalico, rushing for 250 yards and his 22nd and 23rd TD’s of the season, while senior Ian Hanselman has 1,180 yards on the ground with 20 TD’s.
Unfortunately for Manheim Central, senior starting quarterback Colin Fry (78-for-134 passing, 1273 yards, 15 TD’s, 2 INT’s; 74 rushes, 397 yards, 9 TD’s) injured his shoulder last Friday and is doubtful to play against Bishop McDevitt.
But the Barons have confidence in junior backup Tony Staffieri (8-of-13 passing, 123 yards, 3 TD’s; 26-for-218 yards, 5 TD’s).
“We feel pretty good about Tony,” Williams said. “It will be a great experience for him for his future. You hate to throw him into a game of this magnitude against a great football team, but it be an awesome learning experience for him.”
Gaining most of their yardage on the ground, the Barons’ offense has averaged 425.7 yards and 48.3 points per game this fall.
Asked if Friday’s game could be high-scoring affair, Williams said, “It could be. They give up some points, but they also score a lot of points. I’m hoping that it won’t be too high scoring because they might have more than we have. But I think it’s one of those games that both teams should be able to move the ball and I think their offense has proven that. Even in their (49-41) loss to Cedar Cliff they scored 40-some points, so they can score a lot of points.”
The Barons will no doubt be studying that game tape from Oct. 25, when Cedar Cliff rallied from an early 13-0 deficit by throwing for six touchdowns to hand Bishop McDevitt its only loss of the season.
“I know (Cedar Cliff coach) Jim (Cantafio) said they feel fortunate to win and wouldn’t want to play them again,” Williams said.
For the Barons to win this Friday, Williams is well aware that they will have to keep the mistakes to a minimum.
“We have to play almost a perfect game,” he said. “(McDevitt is) quite talented. We have to play that perfect game and just hope we get some breaks &tstr; some fumbles. We’ve had some good fortune in some games in the past in the District finals where maybe the teams were a little better and we won. And we just have to hope that maybe they don’t play their best game and we do.”
It wouldn’t be the first time the Barons have done that.