Aug 31, 201207:00 AMDaily News
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Are you ready for some football?
There’s no denying it: Football is the biggest sport in America.
Whether it’s college or professional or for good or bad reasons, football is constantly in the news and in discussion. Whether it’s the latest on Tim Tebow or another classic commercial by Peyton Manning or even the fall of a once-proud college program, football is inescapable.
The success of the Emmy-winning TV show Friday Night Lights and best-selling book by the same name is more evidence that Americans can’t get enough football at any level. While the money is at the professional and college ranks, there’s no denying a passion locals have for their hometown heroes.
Football returns tonight under the Friday night lights of high school football stadiums around Pennsylvania, and with it the abundance of storylines.
Cumberland Valley’s beloved coach, Tim Rimpfel, currently at 299 wins, will try to reach a new plateau. Central Dauphin will try to defend its state title after a remarkable run last season. Bishop McDevitt will try to respond from a brutal performance in the state final. Cedar Cliff will try to recover from losing Penn State-bound Adam Breneman, one of the top tight ends in the nation, to a season-ending knee injury.
And that’s just the Mid-Penn Conference.
All across the midstate, teams are filled with hope and optimism amidst a backdrop of countless storylines for each program before hitting the field for the first time this evening.
For a die-hard fan or a spectator who doesn’t know the difference between a first down and a safety, high school football games are a great way to spend an autumn Friday night. The pageantry, excitement and, of course, the football make games worth the price of a ticket.
But what should you expect? What should you bring? What should you be ready for?
Unfortunately there is no set answer to any of these questions that works for every program. A school the size of Reading or CV is vastly different from a Camp Hill or Boiling Springs.
The following is a look at some of the best football programs in the area and suggestions for what fans should expect.
Chapman Field, 6746 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg
The Eagles fell in last year’s District 3 Class AAAA semifinals to Wilson in an uncharacteristically mistake-prone contest.
It was a heart-breaking home loss for CV as the Eagles expected to earn Rimpfel’s 300th victory and advance to the district final. CV will look to help their coach reach the milestone when it hosts Red Lion tonight at 7.
Cumberland County is full of strong football programs of all sizes (Red Land, Cedar Cliff, Camp Hill), but it’s CV that is consistently a threat to win the conference and district. Fans in the county can’t go wrong by heading to Chapman Field on a Friday night. CV’s marching band is one of the best in the state—the Eagles finished second in the 2011 Atlantic Coast Championship—and their football team is always top notch.
Landis Field, 4700 Locust Lane, Harrisburg
Last year’s season is a tough act to follow for the Rams of Central Dauphin.
CD won the Commonwealth Division, Mid-Penn Conference, District 3 and PIAA championships. So what can they do for an encore?
Try and be the first team since Central Bucks West in 1997-99 to repeat.
Obviously winning back-to-back titles is a very rare and challenging feat. But this Central Dauphin team has plenty of talent returning and most of its key players back. Among them is senior runningback and linebacker Zayd Issah along with senior quarterback Brandon LaVia, who will be starting for the third straight year.
With last year’s experience of winning state coupled with an abundance of returning talent, the Rams are the favorites to win District 3 again and challenge for another state title.
CD begins its state title defense with a trip to Manheim Township tonight at 7.
McDevitt Field, 2200 Market St., Harrisburg
The Crusaders of Bishop McDevitt bid farewell to their beloved McDevitt Field, their home for 77 years.
Next season Bishop McDevitt High School will move to a new location, and with the change will come a new football field. Aside from a brief time in the 70’s, all McDevitt home games have taken place at McDevitt Field.
The Crusaders will likely send off the field well as they’re poised for another strong season. While the defense has question marks, the offense returns a bevy of firepower. Rashad Lawson, Andre Robinson and Darnell Holland combined for 41 touchdowns last season from the backfield. Senior quarterback Alec Werner returns after throwing for more than 3,500 yards last season.
McDevitt opens its season tomorrow at Harrisburg at 1 p.m. for the final Battle on Market Street. After meeting at McDevitt, students, bands and the teams are walking down Market Street to the stadium for the final clash between the two as neighbors.
The Crusaders first official home game this season will be against Mechanicsburg on Sept. 22 at the traditional time of 10:30 a.m. McDevitt’s home contests have been always at 10:30 on Saturday’s since 1979.
Its final home game will be Nov. 3 against Palmyra.
Lancaster Catholic Rossmere Stadium, Clearview Avenue, Lancaster
Winners of two of the last three Class AA state titles, Lancaster Catholic is taking it up a notch.
The Crusaders are moving up to Class AAA, and to make things even more challenging they will face solely AAAA teams throughout the regular season as they join Section 1 of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. They’ve simply dominated Section 3 and winning three of the past four District 3 titles, the jump up in class and division should make things much more fun in Lancaster.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, they lost a ton of talent from last year’s undefeated squad and will have to step it up early with a pair of tough games against Dallastown and Governor Mifflin to open things up. Their entire schedule is very difficult, so there should be less blowouts compared to last year which saw scores like 60-0 (against Trinity) and 61-7 (against Boiling Springs).
Senior runningback Roman Clay returns as the star in the backfield for the Crusaders following a season in which he set the school record in rushing yards (1,899) and touchdowns (32).
The Crusaders host Dallastown on Aug. 31 at 7.
1800 Bannister St, York
While Cumberland, Dauphin and Lancaster counties are stacked with football talent, York isn’t as strong as its neighbors.
One of the county’s more consistent team has been the West York Bulldogs.
West York fell in last season’s District 3 Class AAA semifinals to Lampeter-Strasburg. The Bulldogs scored an average of 31.3 points per game before the loss to the Pioneers.
Senior runningback Brock Snellbaker is one of the few returning offensive standouts for West York. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns prior to playing L-S.
West York opens at Central York Aug. 31 at 7.
Whether you’re going to watch Red Land or Northern York, Wilson or Donegal, here are some tips that stand true for every game:
- Prepare for the weather: Check the forecast and figure out if you’ll need a blanket (or more) or rain gear. The weather can ruin an otherwise great experience if you’re not ready for it. Dress very warmly in October and November.
- Be safe on the bleachers: Some bleachers are more secure than others, but be sure to watch for any spaces that cell phones, bags or worse, children, could fall through.
- Get there early: I’m not saying go tailgate from 4 until kickoff at 7, but no matter where you’re going you can bet on big crowds. Arrive to the game early to be sure to get the seats you want and find parking near the stadium.
- Drive carefully: The parking lots before and especially after football games are very dangerous with young children and older fans weaving in and out of cars as they try to find their ride. Watch out for them.
- Ticket prices: Prices vary by school, but are generally between $5-7 for adults. Students usually get a discounted rate with a student ID. Some schools, especially the bigger programs, have season ticket packages.
- Buy food, support the clubs: Always bring some cash along to buy food from the concession stand or various vendors you may see. The money often goes to support the football, cheerleading or band boosters, or some other deserving group or team.
- Respect the band and cheerleaders: Most people hit the bathroom or get food at halftime, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But no matter what you do, give the bands—home or visiting—some love and be sure to cheer for them no matter how good or bad they are. Same with the cheerleaders. No matter how pointless you may think their role is, they’re working hard, so give them a break.
- Respect the athletes, coaches, officials and opponents: This should go without saying, but at every sporting event there are those fans that will never stop whining or yelling. Few things are more frustrating than fans up in the stands far from the action whining about officiating or a referee’s “bias.” The teams and officials are giving it their best, and fans should do the same.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web for Central Penn Parent and a former sports reporter of five years. He never got into school spirit at either of the high schools he attended, but he does bleed blue and white since attending Penn State. As for the NFL, Kurt is a die-hard fan of the Carolina Panthers and expects a great season this fall.