No one said it was going to be easy to qualify for the District 3 playoffs.
Chambersburg is finding that out.
With two Mid Penn Commonwealth games left on the schedule, including Friday night at Landis Field against a tough Central Dauphin squad (6-2, 5-0 MPC), the Trojans (5-3, 3-2 MPC) are in a fight for their playoff lives (more on that later in this story).
“To make ourselves comfortable, we really need to win Friday night,” Chambersburg coach Mark Luther said.
That will take the Trojans’ best game of the season.
Luther said, “We need to show up Friday mentally and physically ready. They’re a different style of team than Harrisburg last week. They’re not as fast, but they’re stronger and well-coached. They play a physical brand of football, almost on the border of being nasty.”
The Rams boast a rough and tough defense that will be difficult to score against, and a balanced offense. CD has won five straight, including handing State College its first loss of the season last week, 34-13.
CD’s defense is its calling card. Last week’s game was tied 13-13, but State College lost a fumble and the Rams recovered it in the end zone and on the next possession, an interception was returned for another score.
The top players on defense are ends Marques Holton (38 tackles, 10 for loss, 5 sacks) and Amir Walton (53, 10.5, 6), linebackers Paul Clark (79 tackles) and Elijah Vargas (55) and cornerback Malachi Bowman (3 interceptions).
“They play the same defense as we do, but they do a lot of moving with their linebackers,” Luther said. “They’ll send guys from different places. Scheme-wise, it’s the most complicated we’ve seen all season and it will present an issue for us.”
On offense, Central Dauphin has a large offensive line that paves the way for running back Timmy Smith (86 carries, 530 yards, 6.2 avg., 5 TDs).
Max Mosey is a sophomore quarterback who has impressed with his composure. And, he’s completed 63% of his passes (80 of 128) for 1,124 yards, 9 TDs and only one pick.
The Rams’ best athlete may be wide receiver Nick Chimienti, who has 31 catches for 599 yards (19.3 avg.) and 4 scores. Tyrese Fuller (13-144) and Smith (11-155) are also frequent targets.
Luther said, “They’ve got a good offensive line and they’ll run if they can. But the quarterback has done a real nice job and he throws a good ball. They have good balance.”
The Chambersburg defense played well against Harrisburg last week … except for a leaky second period in which the Cougars scored all of their 27 points.
The Trojan offense had two nearly-perfect drives to begin the game — both ending with Keyshawn Jones runs for touchdowns — but did not move the ball well after that.
“We have to be able to complete passes downfield,” Luther said. “We’re working on a few things that will help (QB) Brady (Stumbaugh) stand in there against the rush. He did fine early last week, but he needs to believe in his protection.”
Now, about those playoffs.
Chambersburg currently stands at No. 8 in the District 3 Class 6A power rankings, and only eight teams qualify for the postseason. The Trojans are even looking up at No. 7 Cumberland Valley (4-4), which they beat 30-0.
The Eagles have moved past the Trojans because of a better schedule — Chambersburg’s three non-league foes have only eight wins between them.
Cedar Crest (6-2) is right ahead of CV at No. 6 and Red Lion (4-4) is right behind the Trojans, who host Carlisle in their final game.
If all of the favorites win over the next two weeks, Cedar Crest (7-3) and CV (5-5) will almost certainly be in. Red Lion plays a pair of 2-6 teams to finish the season, so it’s likely to be 6-4, and if Chambersburg splits, it will also be 6-4.
As of now, the Trojans have a .647 rating to the Lions’ .593, but there are no guarantees that will still be there if both teams are 6-4. That’s why a win this week would be huge.
NOTES: Chambersburg has a plus-6 turnover ratio, but CD has a very impressive plus-15 (20-5), which includes 12 interceptions … The Rams have two Division I recruits in offensive linemen Bryce Thoman (6-5, 266, to Temple), and Chad Layton (6-2, 279, to Air Force) … Chimienti is also getting D-1 looks.
TROJAN LEADERS: Rushing — Keyshawn Jones 122-783 (6.4 avg.), 11 TDs; Brady Stumbaugh 73-385 (5.3), 3 TDs; Jayden Jones 29-295 (10.2), 6 TDs … Passing — Stumbaugh 67-131 (51%), 940 yards, 10 TDs, 6 int. … Receiving — Tyler Luther 25-319 (12.8), 4 TDs; Terell Williams 10-185 (18.5), 5 TDs; Sam Vessah 10-148 (14.8); K.Jones 10-50 (5.0) … Kicking — Ty.Luther 27-for-27 extra points, 6-for-8 field goals (longest 45) … Interceptions — J.Jones 3 … Fumble recoveries — Carter Sollenberger 3 … Sacks — Tyrion Hodges 6.