The following are game capsules for the opening round of the District 3 high school football playoffs. All games are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday unless otherwise noted.
No. 5 Dallastown (8-2) at No. 4 Hempfield (7-3): Typically, No. 4-vs.-No. 5 match-ups are toss-ups, but this one might not be.
These teams met earlier in the year and the Black Knights rocked the Wildcats, 38-14, also at home. However, that was in Week 1 and Dallastown's star running back, junior Nyzair Smith, was only playing his first full varsity game as a running back. Since then, Smith has broken out and finished the regular season leading the Y-A League in rushing with 1,868 yards, helping the Wildcats grab a share of the Division I crown with York High.
What's more, Smith is coming off back-to-back five-touchdown games, so Dallastown's chances of advancing to the semifinals will hinge on, not only Smith's production, but what kind of support he has around him.
Hempfield finished third in Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1, which is loaded with district-champion favorites.
No. 6 Red Lion (8-2) at No. 3 Wilson (7-3): This is the second consecutive season the Lions are playing in the No. 3-vs.-6 game, but last year, they were the No. 3 seed and hosting the game.
Now, Red Lion must travel to face the Bulldogs, looking to pull off the upset against a traditional district power.
After winning 21 consecutive regular-season games dating back from Week 6 of 2015 through Week 7 of this year, the Lions lost two of their final three games to miss out on grabbing at least a share of the Division I crown.
Red Lion is still a team led by the quarterback, with Zach Throne totaling 37 touchdowns this year, 16 through the air and 19 on the ground. However, in the team's loss to Dallastown in Week 10, he was picked off for the first time all season, throwing two interceptions.
The Lions gave up a few big runs to Nyzair Smith, which cost them the game, so they could be in for a long night against Wilson's Iggy Reynoso. The all-time rushing leader for Berks County has run for 4,618 yards and 77 touchdowns in his career, with 5,000-plus yards a real possibility if the Bulldogs knock off Red Lion and make it to the semifinals.
No. 5 York High (9-1) at No. 4 Governor Mifflin (9-1): The Bearcats successfully completed a near-worst-to-first turnaround from 2016 to 2017.
After going 1-9 a season ago and finishing second-to-last in Division I, York High became Division I co-champions after losing just once this season in Week 4 to Red Lion.
Having won six consecutive games, the Bearcats are rolling and will surely be a tough out. They very well might be the most talented team in the Y-A League, with the majority of their team made up of underclassmen.
Khalid Dorsey is the feature back. He finished second in the league in rushing, but he's accompanied by Dayjure Stewart, Rob Rideout and Micah Anciso as guys who must be watched by opposing defenses.
After starting 2-1 on the season, the Mustangs have rattled off seven consecutive wins entering the postseason, making them slightly hotter than York High.
Unfortunately, the winner of this game will likely face powerhouse Harrisburg in the semifinals, which won the district title and finished as runner-up in the state in 2016, so the winner of this game should enjoy the victory while it can.
Of the games featuring Y-A League schools, this could be one of the better ones, with the Bearcats being a legit threat to pull off the upset.
Prediction: York High.
No. 5 East Pennsboro (8-2) at No. 4 Susquehannock (8-2): The Warriors are the only Y-A League playoff team to host a playoff game in the opening round.
Susquehannock is back in the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade and did so by winning the Division II crown outright in Week 10 of the season.
The Warriors aren't a flashy team and won't blow you out of the game, but they find ways to win and that's the most important thing. Susquehannock hasn't lost since Week 4, a string of six consecutive wins and is a perfect 5-0 at home this year.
The Panthers finished third in the Mid-Penn Capital Division this year, with its only defeats to Steel-High and Middletown, two teams rated No. 1 in their respective classes in District 3. Both of those defeats came in back-to-back weeks in Weeks 4 and 5, so East Penn has righted the ship to win its last five games. In that stretch, the Panthers have scored at least 40 points in their last four games, including a 66-point effort and 55-point performance in Weeks 7 and 8.
Prediction: East Pennsboro.
No. 8 Gettysburg (7-3) at No. 1 Berks Catholic (10-0): The Warriors flew under the radar in Division II for much of the year because they weren't in the two-team title conversation with Dover and Susquehannock.
However, they quietly strung together big wins and, on the last week of the season, grabbed the eighth-and-final playoff spot in Class 4-A. Gettysburg won its final five regular-season games by an average margin of 27 points per game.
The Warriors will now be greeted by one of the best 4-A programs in the state. The Saints were perfect in the regular season and are ranked No. 3 in the state in 4-A according to Pennsylvania Football News. Berks Catholic played nine games and had one forfeit this year. In four of those wins, the Saints shut out their opponents, while they never allowed more than 16 points in a game and surrendered 52 the entire season.
Prediction: Berks Catholic.
No. 4 Bermudian Springs (7-3) at No. 1 Middletown (10-0): The Eagles had two slip ups in Division III play and it cost them a share, or possibly the outright, division title.
However, three overall losses didn't prevent them from making the district playoffs, so another strong season is bearing some fruits for the team's labors.
If there's any concern about how strong Bermudian is, it lies within its schedule. The Eagles have more wins over winless teams this season (three) than they do against teams that finished above .500 (one). That lone victory against a winning team came against Delone Catholic in overtime.
That doesn't bode well for a showdown against a Blue Raiders squad that won the District 3 3-A title a year ago and finished as state runner-up to Beaver Falls. Middletown enters this game averaging 42.2 points per game on offense, while allowing just 8.6. The Blue Raiders are ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 3-A by Pennsylvania Football News.
No. 3 Littlestown (9-1) at No. 2 Wyomissing (9-1) at Albright College: The Thunderbolts wrapped up their share of the Division III championship in Week 10 with a harder-than-expected 28-12 win over Fairfield.
Littlestown's only defeat was to York Catholic in Week 6. The Thunderbolts' schedule wasn't littered with playoff-bound teams, with only three of them on the schedule. But, Littlestown did go 2-1 in those games, with the lone loss coming against the Fighting Irish, while they defeated Bermudian Springs and Fairfield in the other two by a combined score of 48-29.
The Spartans were rolling through the regular season, winning their first nine games, before losing last week to unbeaten Berks Catholic. That loss shouldn't bother Wyomissing too much. At least not enough to prevent a rematch of the 2016 district championship game with Middletown. The Spartans enter as the seventh-ranked team in the state in Class 3-A by Pennsylvania Football News.
No. 2 Newport (9-1) vs. No. 1 York Catholic (8-2), at Boiling Springs High School, Saturday, 7 p.m.: This is a rematch of last year's District 3 2-A championship game, one that the Fighting Irish ran away with, 51-21.
It was the first district crown for the program in three decades and this is the fifth consecutive appearance in a district championship game for York Catholic.
After losing to Berks Catholic and Delone Catholic in Weeks 3 and 4, the Fighting Irish have strung together a six-game winning streak to close out the regular season. That allowed them to grab a share of the Division III title with Littlestown and not only leapfrog the Squires to get into the district championship game, but grab the top spot in the class.
The Buffaloes were winners of their first seven games this season, before a loss to Line Mountain snapped that winning streak. However, Newport went on to win its final two games to keep Delone from overtaking it in the district power ratings.
If the Buffaloes have any advantage on their side, it might be rest. Newport, by virtue of playing Week 0 to begin the season, didn't play a game last Friday, so it had a week off to rest and prepare to try its hand again at knocking off York Catholic.
Prediction: York Catholic.
No. 2 Fairfield (4-6) vs. No. 1 Steel-High (8-2), at Boiling Springs High School, Saturday, 1 p.m.: After crashing down the stretch last year, losing their final six games to miss out on this game all together, the Green Knights managed to qualify for it this season.
While the skid isn't nearly as long as last season's, Fairfield still limped to the finish of the regular season this year, losing its final three games. The loss of quarterback Darian Mort didn't make things any easier for the Green Knights, who finished with the same record this year as they did last year. Mort, however, returned last week vs. Littlestown.
Fairfield still has a shot to win a district crown and qualify for states, albeit a difficult task lies ahead. The Rollers have been the class of Class 1-A all season, finishing second in the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division. Steel-High was the only team to finish above .500 in the district's smallest classification, so it'll enter as the heavy favorite to win the district championship.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org