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.
District 1 doings
Top seed Coatesville (12-0) plays host to Ches-Mont National Division rival Downingtown East (9-3) Friday in a District 1-AAAA semifinal. The Red Raiders held off the Cougars 15-9 in Week 6. … In the other 1-AAAA semi, Pennsbury (11-1) and star running back Charles Snorweah (2,116 yards, 32 TDs) play host to upstart Upper Dublin (11-1). … In the 1-AAA final Friday, Great Valley (11-1) faces Springfield-Delco (12-0) at Plymouth-Whitemarsh in a clash of contrasting styles. The second seed Eagles rank second in the district in scoring at 41.2 points per game, while the top seed Cougars rank first in the district in points allowed with 8.8 per game.
Last Saturday marked the end of an era as Manheim Central fell 35-10 to Bishop McDevitt in the District 3-AAA quarterfinals. It was the final game for legendary Barons coach Mike Williams, who retired with a 348-78-3 career mark over 34 seasons that included 20 Lancaster-Lebanon League titles, 16 District 3 championships, three trips to the PIAA final and a Class AAA state championship in 2003. … State College (which beat Spring-Ford 34-20 in Week 1) entered the District 6/9-AAAA playoffs with a 4-6 record, but the Little Lions are still playing after knocking off DuBois 29-7. Jordan Misher ran for 181 yards and three TDs for State College, which faces McDowell Saturday at 1 p.m. at Clarion University in a PIAA subregional. … Pine-Richland (12-0), led by quarterback Ben DiNucci (191-for-260, 3,295 yards, 34 TDs), faces Pittsburgh Central Catholic (11-0) in the WPIAL Class AAAA final Friday at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.
Chris Schwarz of River Ridge (Fla.) rushed for 398 yards and four touchdowns on a whopping 55 carries in a 29-28 win over Tarpon Springs. … Ignazio Tellez of United (Texas) went 36-for-43 for 601 yards and eight touchdowns in a 62-7 win over La Joya. … Chandler Belk of Reagan (N.C.) racked up 265 receiving yards and three TDs on 10 receptions in a 50-42 win over A.L. Brown.
District 3-AAA semifinal
DANIEL BOONE (8-4) AT COCALICO (9-3), 7 p.m.
Last week: No. 14 seed Daniel Boone defeated No. 11 seed Milton Hershey 28-16; No. 7 seed Cocalico beat No. 2 seed West York
Blazers facts/figures: Making first district semifinal appearance since 2010, when Blazers fell 14-0 to Red Lion. … Third-year coach Bill Parks (14-18) has overseen a breakout campaign in which squad has doubled its victory total from the previous year for the second straight season. … Will be without area leading rusher Paul Galanti (1,336 yards), who suffered a knee injury in fourth quarter of last week’s game. … Have gone 6-2 since 2-2 start, the lone losses to that span coming to Quad-A teams Governor Mifflin (42-19 in Week 7) and Exeter (30-13 in Week 10). … WR Jonathon Charles ranks second in area in receiving yards (793) and tied for first in receiving TDs (11). … Cinque Ramsey and Darius Hinton rank second and third in area with 10 and eight sacks, respectively. … Average 211.2 rushing yards per game and 134.4 passing yards per game. … Fell 32-14 at Cocalico in season opener. … Have lost all five meetings against Cocalico.
Eagles facts/figures: Second straight trip to 3-AAA semis; lost 42-20 to Manheim Central last year. … Finished second in Lancaser-Lebanon Section 2 with 5-2 mark, including a 28-26 win over Manheim Central in Week 8. … Ground-based Veer attack has racked up an average of 300.3 rushing yards per game, though leading rusher Matt Weinhold (848 yards, 8 TDs) is out with injury. Hunter High ran for 184 yards and two TDs last week. … Backup QB Brady Sawyer has won three of four starts since stepping in for injured Dante Haines (knee). … Devon DelPiano has a team-high 13 receptions for 251 yards and five TDs, has also rushed for 428 yards and six scores and leads the team with three interceptions. … LB Dennis Boyer (105 tackles), DL Abdul Saad (92 tackles, six fumble recoveries), DL Travis Haley (five sacks) and Jake Kiefer (five sacks) lead defense for 11th-year coach Dave Gingrich (85-42). … Losses were to Cedar Cliff (28-27 in Week 3), Lampeter-Strasburg (42-0 in Week 5) and Solanco (14-7 in Week 9).
Other semifinal: No. 5 seed Red Land (9-3) at No. 1 seed Bishop McDevitt (12-0), Saturday, 1 p.m.
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