Here's your way-too-early L-L League football Week 1 primer (2024)

The calendar says July 1.

But Week 1 of Lancaster-Lebanon League football action for the 2024 season is right around the corner. Let the countdown clock commence; there are just 53 days to go before the lid-lifters.

There’s a lot to do between now and then, of course.

Summer drills are ongoing, with camps and 7-on-7 competitions in full swing. Then there’s Media Day on Aug. 2 — smile for the camera — followed by a week of heat acclimatization practices, starting Aug. 5.

That’s heat week for short; typing the word acclimatization is always an adventure.

Scoreboards will light up on Aug. 17 for a full day of scrimmages — stay tuned for that schedule and those breakdowns — leading up to the Aug. 23-24 weekend, when the season gets started for keeps.

Seems kinda early, no? Last year’s first play date was Aug. 25. This year, every L-L League team will play two games before Sept. 1. The last regular-season games are scheduled for the Oct. 25-26 weekend.

There will be a new look around the L-L League this fall, after the first round of section realignment tweaks — via school size — with the Berks County teams on board. Most of the sections got some facelifts. More on that moving forward.

The first 2-year cycle — most folks in the know would agree — panned out pretty darn well. Heck, last fall, the Section 3 and Section 5 races both ended in a 3-way tie. And those Week 10 matchups were spectacular in every race. Tip of the cap for that, Mr. Long.

But 2022 and 2023 are now in the rear-view mirror. The 2024 season is on deck, and is quickly approaching. I’ll get a heck of a lot more in-depth with the openers in the coming weeks. But for now — to get your football juices going — here is my way-too-early Week 1 primer …

High School Football

Sending you out for the summer with a jam-packed L-L League football notebook

  • JEFF REINHART | Sports Writer

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 games on the schedule on the first weekend … 27 on Friday night — I can already see the steam coming out of our editors’ ears, trying to put that coverage plan together — and two on Saturday … Three trophy games in Week 1: Exeter at Daniel Boone (Pig Iron Bowl), Fleetwood at Kutztown (Hall of Fame game) and Lampeter-Strasburg at Solanco (Milk Jug).

GAME OF THE WEEK: Easy pick here. On Saturday, Aug. 24 at 1:30 p.m., 5-time reigning D3-3A champ Wyomissing — which will bump up to 4A this season because of the PIAA success formula — will host (wait for it) Southern Columbia, which has won seven state championships in a row (!) and 14 overall. Coach Jim Roth will bring his Tigers some 70 miles south from Catawissa to duke it out with the Spartans. Pack your sun screen. And talk about a terrific coaching matchup: Roth (499 career victories, most by any coach in PA history) against Wyo legend Bob Wolfrum (349 wins, sixth-most in the state) squaring off. Yes, Roth will be angling for his 500th dub in this showdown, which might just be the best overall Week 1 matchup in the state. Seriously. Be there.

The other Week 1 Saturday game, by the way, is McCaskey at John Bartram on 67th Street in Philadelphia. The Red Tornado and the Braves split their nonleague series the last two years; McCaskey won an OT thriller at Bartram in 2022. The Braves won 26-12 in Lancaster last year for some payback. No kick-off time to report just yet for this opener; it's marked as TBA on McCaskey’s official schedule. Bartram’s turf-surface facility — situated a couple of blocks down from the school — doesn’t have lights, so it will be an afternoon start in the City of Brotherly Love. Stay tuned.

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TROPHY MANIA: As mentioned, there will be a whopping three trophy games on Night 1 right out of the chute, so there should be plenty of frenzied crowds at those venues. … Pig Iron Bowl: Exeter decked Daniel Boone 42-7 last year for its 11th dub in a row in the series, which the Eagles now lead 39-18-1. They’ll renew pleasantries up on the hill in Birdsboro for their 59th meeting. … Hall of Fame game: All Tigers last year, when Fleetwood crunched Kutztown 48-6. … Milk Jug: L-S soared past Solanco 45-7 last year to snare a 10-4 lead in that very popular backyard trophy rivalry.

MUST-SEE MATCHUPS: If Southern Columbia at Wyomissing is the main event, there are plenty of other be-there scraps on the Week 1 list. A sampling … Lower Dauphin at Cedar Crest: Nick Lambros makes his debut in the coaching seat for Cedar Crest, when a pair of D3 playoff qualifiers in 2023 clash in Lebanon to get the 2024 party started. LD dropped a 14-13 squeaker at eventual runner-up Ephrata in a D3-5A opener last fall; Cedar Crest fell at eventual champ Harrisburg in a D3-6A opener. Tone-setter game here for sure. … Manheim Township at Cumberland Valley: Yes, please. Rematch of last year’s D3-6A semifinals, when the Blue Streaks ousted the Eagles by a 37-27 count in Neffsville. These two have met often over the last couple of years — glad to see this game pitting a pair of D3-6A heavy hitters remain on the nonleague schedule — so there is plenty of familiarity in these programs. Life after the Hayden Johnson/Landon Kennel wildly successful pitch-and-catch combo era begins here for Manheim Township; Streaks are going to look a tad different at the outset. … Elizabethtown at Cocalico: The host Eagles will open defense of back-to-back D3-5A championships in this old-school matchup between former longtime L-L League section foes. FYI: No Lancaster County team has won back-to-back-to-back D3 titles since Manheim Central captured 3A gold in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Can Cocalico join the Barons on that list? We’re anxious to find out.

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QUIRKY GAMES: This is a fresh 2-year scheduling cycle, and there are plenty of new nonleague matchups on the slate, with some L-L League squads getting a look at some teams they don’t see very often. A Week 1 sampling: Reading at Phoenixville. We love P-ville’s nickname: Phantoms. … Pleasant Valley (out of District 2 in Brodheadsville in Monroe County) at Governor Mifflin, as Nick Morrissey makes his skippering debut for the Mustangs. That’s a 75-mile bus ride to Shillington for PV, by the way. … Abington (the Galloping Ghosts out of District 1; another cool nickname) at Conrad Weiser. Abington went 1-9 last fall, dropping its final eight games in a row; the Scouts would love a hot start here. … Garden Spot at Notre Dame—Green Pond in Easton. ND-GP is coming off an 8-win season; the Crusaders fell to eventual PIAA runner-up Northwestern Lehigh (which later ousted Wyomissing in states) in the District 11 playoffs. New QB in Sparty Nation; Garden Spot must replace dual-threat wiz Kye Harting, who had back-to-back 1,000-rush/1,000-pass seasons. Huge cleats to fill there. FYI: At last check, Garden Spot still has a Week 8 open date. … West Philadelphia (the Speedboys, which is easily on the top-10 list of best nicknames in the state) at Manheim Central. Life after the record-smashing Hahn/Armold/Enterline era begins for the Barons, who inked a 2-year nonleague deal with West Philly, which will come to Manheim in 2024 and again in 2025. The Speedboys wanted to get out of the big city, so they’ll make a couple of bus rides to Lancaster County in this series. Manheim Central gets another Philly outfit — Martin Luther King — in Week 4. And yes, it will be weird not seeing the Barons in Section 2 this year; Manheim Central is now parked in Section 3, after spending the last 52 years (since the inception of the league in 1972) in Section 2. … Warwick at Avon Grove, as the Warriors will make a 40-mile trek to Chester County to take on the host Red Devils. New QB for Warwick. … Donegal at Middletown, as the Indians will make a quick 18-mile jaunt just over the Dauphin County line to square off against the Blue Raiders, who are now two years removed from having their football program shut down because of a hazing incident. New QB for Donegal. … And last but certainly not least, how about Pequea Valley at Renaissance Academy Charter, which is situated in Phoenixville (home of the Phantoms, if you’ve been paying attention). RAC’s program was hatched in 2021, so the Knights are still in the infancy, first-floor stages. In fact, after a quick Google search, and doing some math in my head (which is always dangerous) RAC appears to be 0-18 since the program launched. They’ll host PV in Week 1. By the way, I’m still flabbergasted that the Brave Bowl — Pequea Valley vs. neighboring rival Octorara — is off the schedule for this cycle. Whatever happened there, well, happened. Hopefully everyone can kiss and makeup and get that game back on the docket for 2026-27. For the kids.

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MORE MATCHUPS: Quick hitters on all the other Week 1 games — Hempfield at Dallastown, as a couple of D3-6A big boys knock heads. New QB for the Black Knights, who want to quickly flush 2023, hit the re-set button, and move forward. … Penn Manor at Conestoga Valley, as the Comets — who made some waves with a solid stretch last fall — visit Witmer. The Buckskins are coming off a D3-5A playoff win, and 1,000-yard multi-purpose back/track sprinter du jour Jayden Johnson is set to return. Here’s another name to know: The Bucks are super excited about newbie QB Sawyer Esbenshade. Nice “local” game here, as PM and CV will continue their nonleague series. … Wilson at Cheltenham. Both of these teams needed a Week 3 game on the fly last year when Martin Luther King bowed out of its battle vs. the Bulldogs because of weather concerns. Cheltenham came in late, filled the scheduling void, and ended up falling in West Lawn. Now, they’re on the schedule for this 2-year cycle. Funny how things work out sometimes. New QB for Wilson, which also has Plymouth-Whitemarsh, Nazareth and backyard rival Governor Mifflin (for the coveted Gurski-Linn trophy) on its nonleague slate. P-dub and Naz are new, as the Bulldogs shook some things up while putting together their non-cons. Odd not seeing Central Dauphin on there. … Ephrata at Red Lion, as the Mountaineers tee it up after raising the bar last fall, when they went all the way to the D3-5A finale for the first time in program history. More eyeballs on Ephrata this time around, with a new QB at the controls. And this: Manheim Central at Ephrata in a must-see nonleague scrap in Week 2 — circle that one; the War should be hopping that night — so the Mounts could use a strong start over in Red Lion to go into that meeting with the Barons with some mo. Props to Ephrata for scheduling Manheim Central, by the way. … Lebanon at Palmyra in a backyard scrap, as Tyler Pritchett makes his coaching debut for the Cedars, who are out to snap a 32-game losing streak. Looks like Pritchett has hit the ground running in Cedar Country, with a lot of summer drills and team bonding activities. If there is one program in the L-L League that needs a shot of adrenaline, it’s Lebanon. … Schuylkill Valley at Muhlenberg, as Rob Flowers makes his coaching debut for the Muhls. SV might be your Section 5 favorite — it’s a little too early to make those predictions just yet — so a fast start would behoove the Panthers here. … Elco at West York, as the Raiders and the Bulldogs will continue their nonleague series; Elco put up 40-plus points in victories the last two years. Life after 2,000-yard rusher Jake Williams starts here for the Raiders. … Pine Grove at Northern Lebanon. These schools are separated by just 10 miles of blacktop. And this has been an annual Week 1 clash over the years. How about somebody pony-up for a trophy? Just saying. … Octorara at Hamburg is an intriguing matchup. Can Hawks’ QB Tyler Shuey make it back-to-back 2,000-yard passing seasons? … Twin Valley at Berks Catholic is a juicy Berks County clash. TV went to the D3-4A semifinals last year, and is bringing back a boatload of talent — including a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, some road-graders in the trenches, and a heady QB — while BC will have a new coach (hello, Dave Stahler) and a new QB calling the shots. … Annville-Cleona at Biglerville, as the Dutchmen — fresh off a couple of D3 runs — get a 65-mile bus ride to take on the Canners. New QB for A-C. … Eastern York at Columbia. It’s the River Rivalry/Battle of the Bridge battle royale. ‘Nuff said. … Camp Hill at Lancaster Catholic. The Lions open defense of their D3-2A crown; Camp Hill ousted Annville-Cleona in the semifinals last fall.

I think that’s it. Week 1 should be a real doozy. Stay tuned for more coverage leading up to the start of the season, including the daily 3 Facts posts, which begin bright and early on Aug. 5.

High School Football

Here's your first look at the 2024 L-L League football schedules

  • JEFF REINHART | Sports Writer

TWITTER-X: @JeffReinhart77

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