Mitch Rodkey is close to 100 percent healthy, just in time for the Little Dutchmen to make a late run at a .500 season - or even more.
Mitch Rodkey is close to 100 percent healthy, just in time for the Little Dutchmen to make a late run at a .500 season - or even more. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Three weeks into the season, the Annville-Cleona and Pequea Valley football teams were at completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

The Braves opened with three victories and seemed poised to possibly shed their perennial doormat status in Section Three. Meanwhile, the Little Dutchmen lost their first three games -- actually their first five -- and looked like they were headed to another disappointing season.

Fast forward to the third week in October and Pequea Valley and A-C are again on different ends of the seesaw. The Braves have lost four in a row -- all to section competition -- while the Dutchmen are feeling pretty good about themselves after knocking off defending section champ Garden Spot for win No. 1 and then throttling Columbia on Monday.

"Our preseason and their preseason were totally different," A-C head coach Terry Lehman said. "We played some tough teams. Our kids paid the price and hopefully now is when we're refocusing."

True that: The Dutchmen's four non-league opponents -- if you include the week 5 contest at Tamaqua -- all have winning records, while the Braves' wins came against teams that are a combined 2-19.

Annville-Cleona (2-5, 2-1) is also getting healthy, as quarterback Mitch Rodkey, who was hobbled in week 3 and missed the Tamaqua game with a bum ankle, came to life Monday by accounting for four touchdowns -- two through the air, two on the ground -- in Monday's 42-14 pasting of the Crimson Tide in which he threw for 194 yards and also ran for another 105.

"Mitch is back close to 100 percent," Lehman said. "He helps us when we need to go. But Zach Southall stepped in and did a great job."

A healthy Rodkey isn't the only difference of late for the Dutchmen. Things are just starting to go their way.

"Pretty much the story is we're making plays now that used to go against us," Lehman said. "It was Murphy's Law there; anything that could go wrong, did."

A lot can happen in the final three weeks of the season, but a victory Saturday -- the game was moved back a day and will kick off at 2 p.m. partly due to Homecoming in Kinzers and the fact that both teams played Monday night -- would also greatly help A-C's postseason hopes. The Dutchmen are currently ranked ninth in Class AA, one spot behind Pequea Valley (3-4, 0-4), which is holding down the eighth and final playoff spot.

But Lehman and Co. aren't concerned with playoff talk just yet.

"We're thinking about the next game," the coach said. "We think about the next thing and don't worry about what's down the road. ... It's one game at a time and what ever happens at the end, so be it."

Also this weekend:

Lebanon at Conestoga Valley, 7 p.m. >> The last time the Cedars were blown out they responded with a back-on-track victory that kept them in the district playoff conversation in Class AAAA.

They'll need to do that again this week after being routed by Cocalico, 48-0, on Saturday. Now 4-3 overall, Lebanon could also clinch a .500 season with a win over the 2-5 Buckskins.

Not bad for a team that was a non-competitive 0-10 last season.

CV should provide some resistance, though. It's coming off a 23-13 win against winless Solanco on Monday, so Lebanon will need to have its Air Raid offense flying high to notch another win

Cedar Crest at McCaskey, 7 p.m. >> It all went very wrong for the Falcons in a rain-soaked 47-7 loss at Hempfield last Friday. That's the bad news.

The good news is it could start to go right again with a trip to the 0-7 Red Tornado on the docket. McCaskey remained winless with a 27-7 loss on Friday to a Warwick team that Crest beat earlier in the season.

This is an important one for the 2-5 Falcons, who got off to a promising start but seemed to lose their mojo in a come-from-ahead 28-26 loss to Manheim Township two weeks ago.

Elco at Columbia, 7 p.m. >> This is probably not the best time to be facing Elco. The Raiders took out some anger and frustration by hanging 59 points on Northern Lebanon on Monday, and now head to Columbia to face a Crimson Tide squad that just got rolled by Annville-Cleona, 42-14, on Monday.

Although Elco is still only 2-5, it would be a surprise if Cameron Strause and Jeff Martin don't roll up some huge offensive numbers again on Friday.

Garden Spot at Northern Lebanon, 7 p.m. >> The Vikings began the week entertaining at least faint Section Three title hopes, but Elco took care of that with the aforementioned demolition on Monday.

Now Roy Wall's club must face the defending Section Three champs, who improved to 5-2 with a 20-13 non-league victory over Pius X. This will be a real gut-check for the Vikes to see if they can bounce back in a short week and be competitive against a formidable opponent.

Providing some hope for Northern Lebanon (2-5) is the fact that one of its wins came over the same Annville-Cleona team that upset Garden Spot two weeks back. So there's that.

Mechanicsburg at Palmyra, 7 p.m. >> The Cougars got off to a good start Monday against Red Land, but things went south quickly in a 49-20 loss.

Now 1-6, Palmyra could use another strong start Friday, given that Mechanicsburg (3-4) is in the midst of a four-game losing skid after opening the season 3-0.

The Wildcats have surrendered 40 points a game during that stretch, so win No. 2 is not out of the question for the Cougars here. But Palmyra's been surrendering points at an alarming rate as well, so a shootout could be in the works at the Buck on Friday.

Sports writer Pat Huggins compiled the capsules for this preview.