Central Columbia at South Williamsport
Central PPG–22.3, YPG–351.5; PPA–17.0, YPA–295.3
Central facts: The Blue Jays are a lot younger than last year, but remain a serious District 4 Class AAA title contender. Central proved that last week when it routed district heavyweight Danville, 41-7. Central held Danville to its lowest point total this season and forced four turnovers, intercepting 1,000-yard quarterback K.J. Riley three times. Eli Morrison intercepted two of those passes and Carter Crawford returned a fumble for a touchdown. Central has played outstanding defense this season. Take away the Southern Columbia game two weeks ago and the Blue Jays have allowed just 40 points in five games. Central has not let an opponent score more than seven points in a victory and has forced 13 turnovers. Quarterback Garrett McNelis is playing well in his first year starting and threw three touchdowns against Danville. He also threw for 219 yards and four touchdowns in a 26-0 win against Lehighton. The offensive line has played well and the running game has come along with Troy Johnson running for 133 yards and a touchdown last week. He ran for a career-high 193 yards and three touchdowns three weeks ago against Hughesville. Central went 9-3 last year and has made districts in each of the last two seasons.
Central player to watch–Xander Bradley: The senior wide receiver is a big-time playmaker on both sides of the ball and caught an 81-yard touchdown against Danville and is averaging 18.7 yards per catch. Bradley has intercepted two passes and caught three touchdowns against South in last year’s 48-27 win.
South PPG–32.8, YPG–307.7; PPA–27.5, YPA–331.2
South facts: Despite this tough stretch of games South is in the middle of, its District 4 Class A playoff prospects remain strong. South is third in the playoff standings and the top four teams qualify. This current four-game stretch that South is in will help its power ranking. The Mounties started the season 4-0 and scored at least 39 points in all four wins. Senior Luke Winner is fourth among area rushers with 687 yards and 10 touchdowns. He went over 100 yards in all four wins. Zack Miller and Lane Lusk also have run well and Lusk has provided good lead blocking at fullback. Miller has produced 303 yards and also has caught a touchdown. Quarterback Landon Lorson is playing well in his first year starting and attempted a career-high 28 passes in last week’s loss at Southern Columbia. Wide receiver Austin Nash caught six passes in that game and is among the area’s reception leaders with 22. Nash caught at least one touchdown in each of South’s four wins and also has intercepted two passes. The Mounties wreaked havoc at times defensively, forcing 17 turnovers and intercepting 11 passes. Sophomore Grant Bachman has intercepted four passes, tying him for the area lead. He, Lusk, Caleb Nelson and Clayton Swarthout all have returned turnovers for touchdowns. Nelson is a senior leader whose third-quarter pick-six against Montgomery helped South pull away for a season-opening win. South is seeking its eighth straight district playoff appearance. Following tonight’s game, South has just one more home game, coming in Week 10 against rival Loyalsock.
South player to watch–Dakota Hill: The senior two-way starting lineman is a force up front on both sides of the ball. A potential all-state candidate, Hill does an excellent job opening running lanes offensively and clogging those lanes defensively. Linemen often fly under the radar, but Hill certainly is one of the team’s most valuable players.
Outlook: South has its hands full again tonight as it continues its tour of playing some of the district’s top teams. South hung tough with Central a year ago and doing so again could provide a springboard moving forward.