Complete District 3 football coverage
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  • Last year, when Central York and Spring Grove met in their annual YAIAA Division I football clash, much of the pre-kickoff hype was paid not to the game itself, but to the programs' respective coaches. For Brad Livingston and Russ Stoner, it was the first time the friends and former colleagues had coached against each other.

    But Livingston's Panthers were on their way to a 10-win campaign and a District 3 playoff run.

    And the Rockets, in Stoner's first season after 16 years on Central's staff, were in reboot mode, en route to a 1-9 finish.

    The game, perhaps not surprisingly, resulted in a Central York blowout.

    A year later, however, the situation has changed.

    Now, as they head into tonight's 7 p.m. divisional opener at Papermakers Stadium, both Central York and Spring Grove believe they're positioned to contend in a Division I field with no clear-cut favorite. Both are 3-2. Both carry winning streaks into tonight's contest.

    So while the two coaches' friendship remains intact, the focus this week has been placed squarely on football.

    "It's just Central versus Spring Grove," said Livingston, Central's 31-year head coach. "Russ and Brad will still be friends when the game's over."

    The Rockets have inserted themselves into the division-title discussion in recent weeks, thanks to a physical, black-and-blue brand of football. Last week, Spring Grove's defense battered Northeastern during a 10-7 victory.

    Tailback Jeff Delaughter (454 rushing yards) and dual-threat quarterback Matt Runge (370 passing, 368 rushing) pace the Rockets' offense.

    "The kids have bought into our philosophies, and the coaches have and the school has," Stoner said. "Just like losing is a learned process, I think winning is a learned process. At Central, there would be times when I'd walk onto the field and I could tell our kids knew they couldn't be beat."

    Spring Grove's biggest challenge this week will be corralling Central's lineup of big-play threats. Senior Marquis Fells leads the Panthers in both rushing (234 yards, three touchdowns) and receiving (398, four), while quarterback Corey Hartz boasts an 11-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    Meanwhile, the Panthers' defense has allowed 20 combined points in its last three games -- encouraging progress for a group Livingston said is "going to be a project all year."

    "We're getting better, but we're doing it in tiny steps," Livingston said. "I guess the good news is it's a continual process. It's not the kind of thing where we're going two steps forward, one back. ... I think ultimately we'll be a pretty good defense team."

    Central York has dominated the teams' series in recent years: Spring Grove has not beaten the Panthers in a decade.

    More fuel for Stoner and his players, as the Rockets coach prepares to meet his mentor once again.

    "It's always going to be an emotional thing when we play against them," Stoner said. "But it's time for us to want to beat them."

    Tonight's games

    Delone Catholic (3-2, 3-1 Div. III) at Bermudian Springs (5-0, 4-0 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Bermudian Springs 22, Delone Catholic 15
       The skinny: So, Delone Catholic and Bermudian Springs are playing a big Division III game. No surprises here.
       Squires must: Not change much from last week's huge win vs. Biglerville. The Squires racked up 375 yards of offense against a very good team. They also beat an undefeated foe for the second consecutive week, after routing York Suburban in Week 4.
       Eagles must: See above. Speaking of great performances, Bermudian continued its smothering defense while blanking York Suburban. Meanwhile, the Eagles' suddenly balanced offense piled up 464 yards in the process.

    Biglerville (4-1, 3-1 Div. III) at York Catholic (3-2, 3-1 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Biglerville 49, York Catholic 35
       The skinny: Big division implications here, as both these contenders try to avoid a second loss in league play.
       Canners must: Figure out a way to slow down Irish QB James Dougherty. The southpaw threw for a career-high 427 yards against Biglerville last season, and he's coming off a lights-out performance against Littlestown (35-for-43, 355 yards, four TDs).
       Irish must: Rekindle last week's furious fourth-quarter rally, which saw York Catholic score 24 unanswered points in the final period to earn a critical 38-35 win at Littlestown. The Irish will be without their head coach, Eric Depew, who was ejected during last week's game and must serve a one-game suspension.

    South Western (3-2, 0-0 Div. I) at Dallastown (2-3, 0-0 Div. I)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: South Western 29, Dallastown 21
       The skinny: Two evenly matched squads enter this division opener on win streaks.
       Mustangs must: Ride Dillon Thomas. Sure, it's been said before, but the junior has eight touchdowns along with 657 yards rushing and an 8.53 per carry average. All this for the team that has outscored its last two opponents, 93-6.
       Wildcats must: Quit turning the ball over. Despite two straight wins, Dallastown is minus-6 in turnover margin this season, something that has helped keep the offense from jelling to its capacity. Giveaways tonight would be even more costly.

    Littlestown (3-2, 2-2 Div. III) at Eastern York (2-3, 2-2 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Littlestown 21, Eastern York 12
       The skinny: What will Alex Cooley do for an encore after last week's 500-yard, state record-setting performance?
       Thunderbolts must: Bounce back emotionally from last week's tough loss to the Irish. That defeat hurt, no doubt, but Littlestown still has half a season to play. Piecing together four solid quarters here would be a good start.
       Golden Knights must: Improve on defense -- and fast. Cooley is going to get his yards against almost anybody. But none of that will matter if Eastern cannot improve on the 39.6 points per game it has allowed.

    Fairfield (0-5, 0-4 Div. III) at York Suburban (3-2, 2-2 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: York Suburban 35, Fairfield 12
       The skinny: Even with the Trojans' recent struggles, York Suburban will be a tough place for Fairfield to earn its first win.
       Green Knights must: Continue building the offense, which is much better than previous seasons. But improvements are needed on the defense -- which was shredded by York Tech's Calvin Savary (263 yards, five TDs) last week.
       Trojans must: Recover from the last two weeks, during which they suffered a pair of losses by a combined score of 84-12. The offense, limited to 64 total yards last week, needs to get back on track.

    Gettysburg (1-4, 1-1 Mid-Penn Colonial) at Northern York (4-1, 2-0 Mid-Penn Colonial)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Northern 29, Gettysburg 22
       The skinny: Fresh of their first win of the season, Gettysburg faces a stiff challenge in one of the division's early leaders.
       Warriors must: Continue the defensive improvement they displayed last week. After allowing 49.3 points per game in their first four contests, Gettysburg held Waynesboro to 179 total yards during a 19-14 win.
       Polar Bears must: Keep feeding Elijah Locke, who churned out his fourth 100-yard game of the season last week in a 21-7 win over Greencastle-Antrim. Between its steady running game and stout defense, Northern seems to have found a strong combination.

    Northeastern (3-2, 0-0 Div. II) at New Oxford (1-4, 0-0 Div. II)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Northeastern 18, New Oxford 7
       The skinny: A pair teams trying to find their offense clash in this Division II opener.
       Bobcats must: Get back to the offense that helped produce three straight wins to open the season. That group is suddenly sputtering over the past two weeks, scoring just 20 points over that span.
       Colonials must: Find the offense shown in Week 2 against James Buchanan. Take away that 56-point performance, and the Ox has managed seven total points in four losses, including being shut out three times.

    Red Land (4-1, 1-1 Mid-Penn Keystone) at Mechanicsburg (3-2, 0-2 Mid-Penn Keystone)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Red Land 21, Mechanicsburg 7
       The skinny: It's a big midseason clash for these Mid-Penn Keystone Division squads.
       Patriots must: Forget the high provided by last week's huge double-overtime win against rival Cedar Cliff. Yes, it was a great win. But Mechanicsburg is the type of team that will take someone by surprise and take advantage of any hangover effect.
       Wildcats must: Rebound after dropping the last two games. Besides, those contests were against two highly ranked, unbeaten District 3 teams in Mid-Penn Keystone foes Bishop McDevitt and Lower Dauphin.

    Red Lion (1-4, 0-0 Div. I) at William Penn (1-4, 0-0 Div. I)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: Red Lion 31, William Penn 14
       The skinny: Two teams with identical non-league marks hope to open division play with a win.
       Lions must: Improve their kick coverage. While the Lions earned their first win of the season last week, Kennard-Dale's Dan Hare returned two punts for touchdowns in that game. A speedy team such as William Penn could do the same.
       Bearcats must: Continue to grow up -- something the Bearcats, who play five sophomores much of the time, have done steadily this season. The youngsters do have a senior leader in Kelvin Nieves (487 yards rushing, two kick return TDs) to learn from.

    West York (5-0, 0-0 Div. II) at Susquehannock (0-5, 0-0 Div. II)
       Kickoff: 7 p.m.
       Last year: West York 47, Susquehannock 14
       The skinny: The Bulldogs begin their quest for a sixth straight Division II title with a trip to Glen Rock.
       Bulldogs must: Keep winning with defense. The 12 points per game West York has allowed so far doesn't quite do that unit justice. For example: Of the 21 points the Bulldogs allowed last week against William Penn, only seven came through an offensive touchdown.
       Warriors must: Rediscover some of the momentum they seemed to be building earlier in the season, during a pair of close losses to York Suburban and Spring Grove. Since then, Susquehannock has lost three games by a combined 125-16.

    Saturday's games

    Dover (2-3, 0-0 Div. II) at Kennard-Dale (0-5, 0-0 Div. II)
       Kickoff: 2 p.m.
       Last year: Dover 41, Kennard-Dale 12
       The skinny: After three straight losses, the Eagles head to Fawn Grove hoping to get back to .500.
       Eagles must: Establish the trademark ground game that helped them start the season with two wins. Dover has scored two touchdowns in its last 10 quarters, but has two more-than-capable ball carriers in junior Logan Ambrose and sophomore Isaiah Green.
       Rams must: Find an offensive source to complement Dan Hare. The senior notched 214 rushing yards and two return TDs in last week's near-miss against Red Lion. But he needs help.

    Hanover (0-5, 0-4, Div. III) at York County Tech (1-4, 1-3 Div. III)
       Kickoff: 2 p.m.
       Last year: York Tech 32, Hanover 15
       The skinny: The Spartans can make it two in a row with a win against the struggling Nighthawks.
       Nighthawks must: Keep working the passing game, something they did with success during last week's 62-37 loss to Eastern York. Hanover racked up 309 yards through the air in that one.
       Spartans must: Continue to lean on Calvin Savary. The workhorse fullback ran for 263 yards and five TDs in last week's win at Fairfield, and getting him going early will once again be a priority here.