Daniel Boone, Cocalico set for District 3-AAA semifinal

Twelve weeks ago, Daniel Boone opened the high school football season at Cocalico as somewhat of an unknown commodity.

Friday night, the Blazers will make a return trip to Denver knowing they have an opportunity to make program history.

Fourteenth seed Daniel Boone (8-4) faces seventh seed Cocalico (9-3) in a District 3-AAA semifinal, hoping to continue its productive postseason journey.

The Blazers, who took down third seed Lampeter-Strasburg 34-14 in the first round before turning back No. 11 seed Milton Hershey 28-16 in the quarterfinals, are one win shy of reaching their first district final in program history.

“Just kudos to our players,’ third-year Boone coach Bill Parks said. “They love running the system that we run — on offense, defense and on special teams. They just love playing the game of football. They learned a lot this year.’

According to Parks, Boone has also come a long way since Week 1, when the Blazers fell 32-14 to Cocalico.

“We actually watched our first game against Cocalico and last week’s game against Milton Hershey at practice (Monday),’ Parks said. “We saw some good things we did against Cocalico the first time, but also realized that in a lot of ways we weren’t even the same team by Week 12.’

Unfortunately for the Blazers, one important facet of their attack — the presence of two-way standout Paul Galanti — will be missing against the Eagles. The senior running back/cornerback, who leads the area with 1,336 rushing yards and has a team-high four interceptions, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter of last week’s game.

Galanti’s absence likely means that Cinque Ramsey (who ironically enough began the season as Boone’s top back) will see the bulk of the carries, with Jonathon Charles and Devyn Glenn seeing added time in the secondary.

In the first meeting, Boone fell into an 18-0 hole before rallying with a Ramsey 3-yard TD run and Nick Hughes-to-Shayne Bookwalter 16-yard TD connection to get within four points at the half. But the Eagles shut out Boone over the final two quarters and salted it away with two touchdowns.

“They’re still the same team we faced that first week,’ Parks said. “They look exactly like they did; they’re still running the ball and running their system very well.’

Despite suffering a couple of key season-ending injuries (to quarterback Dante Haines and leading rusher Matt Weinhold), Cocalico has hung tough down the stretch.

The Eagles opened districts with a 35-0 victory over East Pennsboro, then took out No. 2 seed West York 28-18 in the quarters thanks to 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Hunter High.

“They have very aggressive, physical football players,’ Parks said of the Eagles. “They get after it. They’re downright nasty in there on the interior. We know that kind of intensity they’re going to start with. We’ve faced it. We’ve felt it.

“We’ve faced several triple-option teams now, and our kids are well-versed in it. They understand what needs to happen. It’s just a matter of who’s ready to bring it Friday night.’

The Blazers will bring a balanced offensive attack that includes quarterback Nick Hughes (1,577 passing yards, 17 TDs), wideout Charles (793 receiving yards, 11 TDS) and running back Ramsey (489 yards, six TDs). On defense, middle linebacker Jon Passifione and defensive linemen Darius Hinton and Ramsey lead the charge.

“We’ve got to move the chains offensively, we have to be able to spread the ball around a little bit and we’ve got to be able to keep that triple option contained,’ Parks said.

Should the Blazers accomplish all of the above, they’ll have a chance to keep their dream season going.

“They’ve just made huge improvements, both on and off the field,’ Parks said. “Stuff that makes you feel good. The attitude change in the past several weeks has really sparked this run, I believe.

“They’re good kids off the field first. They work hard to be good family members and students. And all of that stuff off the field is just as important as football — being a better person, family member, student and teammate every day.’

Which has helped Boone blaze a gratifying district tourney trail.


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