When the District 3 football playoffs roll around each year, there are certain teams you always expect to be there.
The Wilson Bulldogs have reached that elite status.
And they are the team that Chambersburg must get past if it wants to extend its season.
The No. 8 seed Trojans (6-4) and No. 1 Bulldogs (9-1) face off in a District 3 Class 6A first-round playoff game Friday night at 7 p.m. at Wilson’s John Gurski Stadium in West Lawn.
Wilson is playing in its 28th district tournament in football. Only two teams — Cumberland Valley and Manheim Central — have qualified for the playoff more times. The Bulldogs won the title in 2016 and reached the semifinals in each of the last two years.
This is Chambersburg’s ninth entry in the playoffs, and it has a 1-9 record.
So, yeah, it’ll be a tough task for the Trojans. But even Wilson coach Doug Dahms said on the radio that he believes six of the eight teams in the bracket are capable of winning the title, and that included Chambersburg.
“You look back, and there have been a lot of teams in many different sports that have not had the best of seasons, but play their best in the playoffs,” Trojan coach Mark Luther said. “This is a new season — everybody is 0-0.”
It will take Chambersburg’s best game of the year to beat the Bulldogs. Wilson’s only loss was to Manheim Township (30-14), but it took the No. 1 seed over the unbeaten Blue Streaks because of a loaded non-league schedule.
All four of the Bulldogs’ non-league opponents (Central Dauphin, Gov. Mifflin, Spring-Ford and Manheim Central) won their respective leagues with unbeaten league records.
Luther said, “They are very solid across the board, at every position. They are fundamentally sound, and well-coached, and that’s what puts them in this position every year. There’s a tradition — their kids expect to be here.”
The Trojans nearly upset Manheim Township in the first round last year, and nearly everybody is back from that game.
“There’s a different confidence factor this year,” Luther said. “Last year, we hadn’t been there before, but this year, it’s just another football game. The kids are a year more mature.”
Chambersburg’s defense will need to try to control a balanced attack.
Bulldog quarterback Kaleb Brown is dangerous throwing and running. He’s hit on 85 of 138 passes (62%) for 1,133 yards, 19 touchdowns and has been intercepted five times. He’s also run for 598 yards on 89 carries (6.7 avg.) and 3 scores.
Luther said, “Their quarterback isn’t big, but he’s athletic and mobile and can get out of a bad situation by using his feet. He’ll put the ball up and hope his receivers can make a play on it.”
The top receivers include Troy Corson (24-266, 4 TDs), Brady Gibble (15-434, 7) and Matt Fry (15-152, 3). Gibble is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and can come down with a jump ball.
On the ground, an experienced line is a help for big back Avanti Lockhart (6-2, 210), who has 121 carries for 771 yards (6.4 avg.) and 16 TDs, and the quicker Mason Lenart (5-9, 165), who has 634 yards on 45 carries (14.1 avg.) and 5 scores.
Luther said, “They’re not usually breaking off big runs, but they can methodically move the ball down the field. If we can stay sound and make tackles, we should be OK.”
Wilson kicker Jack Wagner has been perfect on 48 extra points, and is 1-for-3 in field goals. Chambersburg has not missed an extra point either — Tyler Luther is 35-for-35, plus 7-for-9 in field goals.
On defense, the Bulldogs may come out in a 3-5, or a 4-3, which could mean adjustments for the Trojans.
“We’re not sure how they’ll decide to play us,” Luther said. “We have some ideas for either way. They do play a lot of man-to-man coverage, so the potential for big plays is there.”
Wilson has allowed only 71 yards per game on the ground, and Chambersburg averages 183, so that area will be an important battleground.
Last week against Carlisle, Trojan left guard Brock Harmon played one of his better games.
“He really gave those guys fits,” Luther said. “Both of their defensive tackles had long nights — Brock had several pancake blocks.
“We think we have a pretty good rushing attack, and we’ve been able to move the ball against the good teams we’ve played. And lately, we’ve been able to throw the ball downfield and complete some passes.”
What the Trojans can’t do is make costly mistakes.
“The penalties and missed snaps we had last week — we can’t do that against these guys,” Luther said. “We need a clean game.”
NOTES: Wilson and Chambersburg have never met in football … CD is the only common opponent — the Bulldogs won that game 21-13 in the season’s first week … Friday’s game will be broadcast on MidPennBroadcasting.com and TheSportsPage.blog, but will be audio-only due to the high fees for live stream.
TROJAN LEADERS: Rushing — Keyshawn Jones 155-1,019 (6.6 avg.), 14 TDs; Brady Stumbaugh 92-415 (4.5), 3 TDs; Jayden Jones 38-313 (8.2), 6 TDs … Passing — Stumbaugh 93-for-167 (56%), 1,311 yards, 15 TDs, 6 int. … Receiving — Tyler Luther 32-372 (11.6), 4 TDs; Terell Williams 15-238 (15.9), 9 TDs; Sam Vessah 14-238 (17.0), 1 TD; Kevin Lee 12-189 (15.8); K.Jones 11-81 (7.4) … Interceptions — J.Jones and Lee 3 … Fumble recoveries — Carter Sollenberger 4 … Sacks — Tyrion Hodges 6.
Record 6-4 9-1
Points scored per game 34.3 37.8
Points allowed per game 17.5 16.5
Rush yds gained per game 183 267
Pass yds gained per game 132 127
Rush yds allowed per game 126 71
Pass yds allowed per game 135 171
Total yds gained per game 325 394
Total yds allowed per game 271 242
Turnover ratio +5 -3