Over the past two weeks, Central Dauphin and State College have shown a pathway for how to keep the explosive offense of Harrisburg under wraps.
This week, it’s up to the Chambersburg ‘D’ to find a way to do the same thing.
“The bottom line is you have to tackle them,” Trojan coach Mark Luther said. “You can’t put your head down and you can’t lunge. State College and CD made good tackles in space.”
Chambersburg (5-2, 3-1 MPC) will take on that challenge Saturday at 1 p.m. at Severance Field when the Cougars host the Trojans in a key Mid Penn Commonwealth football game.
Two weeks ago, CD edged Harrisburg 15-14, in a game that had an extremely controversial ending, with the Cougars on the Rams’ 1 when the clock read 0:00, even though in reality there should have been several seconds remaining.
Last week, the Little Lions did not allow a Cougar offensive score in a 21-6 victory. The only points came on a kickoff return by Trevion Carey.
Luther said, “State College mixed up a lot of their defensive pressures and the defensive ends made some good plays. Several times, the quarterback stepped up and had a lot of space to run, but was tackled for a sack instead.”
In both weeks, Cougar turnovers hurt them — five interceptions vs. CD and two against the Little Lions.
Chambersburg’s defense is playing well, allowing only 16.1 points per game. Last week vs. CD East, of the Panthers’ 16 points, six came on a defensive TD and six vs. the second team defense.
“Our defense is playing well,” Luther said. “They’ve gotten a good feel for our scheme. And our front three — Wyatt Hull (nose), Tyrion Hodges and Garner Funk (ends) and sometimes Carmen Pompeii at end — are doing a great job getting off the ball. That allows the linebackers to play downhill and make plays.
“Hull really got off the ball last week — there were so many times he pushed their center two or three yards into the backfield and re-established the line of scrimmage. He’s had a good season.”
Harrisburg has, as always, plenty of weapons. Nicari Williams and John McNeil will split time at quarterback and Jahmir Plant is the top running back. Kamere Day and Carey are threats at wide receiver (no stats available). Jack-of-all trades Donte Kent has missed the last three games with an injury.
The Chambersburg offense will also have its hands full dealing with the Cougars’ fast defense, which already has 62 tackles for loss.
Linebacker Harold O’Neal (63 tackles, 5 for loss) and defensive ends Tymek Evans (42, 13) and Sa’Quan Carter-Barrett (42, 10) are the leading tacklers.
Luther said, “There’s no question what we have to do (on offense): We need to complete some passes down the field. That should keep them honest so we can run inside.”
The rare Saturday game is a change for Chambersburg, which hasn’t played on Saturday since 2016.
“Well, it does change the practice routine,” Luther said. “We’ll have an extra practice Friday night just to review stuff. It’ll be interesting to see how the kids respond. Hopefully, they’ll be excited about it.”
The District 3 playoffs are becoming more of a factor as the season gets later. The Trojans are currently No. 7 and only the top eight teams get in. Should Chambersburg lose the next two weeks to favorites Harrisburg and CD, and beat Carlisle, there is no guarantee that 6-4 record would be good enough to qualify.
Luther said, “We’re sitting a little different than last year (when they were 6-1). Every game is important and there is a little more pressure, but if we could get wins in all three games left, it would put us in a great situation.”
NOTES: The Cougars are 4-3 (2-2 MPC) … Harrisburg fell earlier in the season to nationally-ranked Archbishop Hoban of Ohio, and that game does not count in the district power rankings … The Cougars are No. 6 in the rankings and CD is No. 3.
TROJAN STATS: Chambersburg averages 339 yards of offense and gives up 251 … The Trojans have averaged 35.1 points per game … Chambersburg has a positive turnover ration of plus-6.
TROJAN LEADERS: Passing — Brady Stumbaugh 59-113 (52%), 847 yards, 10 TDs, 5 int. … Rushing — Keyshawn Jones 98-724 (7.4 avg.), 9 TDs; Stumbaugh 62-352 (5.7), 2 TDs; Jayden Jones 28-275 (9.8), 6 TDs … Receiving — Tyler Luther 20-255 (12.8), 4 TDs; Terell Williams 10-185 (18.5), 5 TDs; Sam Vessah 9-124 (13.8); K.Jones 9-49 (5.4) … Kicking — Tyler Luther 25-for-25 extra points, 5-for-7 field goals.