Wilson West-Lawn vs Harrisburg
UCONN recruit Junior Joseph
Last night, I ventured out to Hershey to see the PIAA District 3 AAAA final between the
Harrisburg Cougars and the Bulldogs of Wilson West-Lawn. Both schools have several talented
players who are being either being courted college programs or soon will be.
Harrisburg plays out of the traditionally strong Mid Penn Commonwealth league that has
produced the likes of Hank Poteat, Kenny Watson, and Kevin Mitchell. It is not uncommon to
see Harrisburg line up with multiple athletes who garner the interest of Division 1 schools. The
Cougars are known for having size and speed all over the field. Where they sometimes lack in
fundamentals they almost always make up in athleticism. For all of the talent they’ve produced,
they only have one District 3 championship in 27 years. Wilson hails out of the Lancaster
Lebanon League. They are one of the most consistently strong teams not only in District 3, but
in the PIAA. The last coach who had a losing record got fired, that was in 1963. It’s fair to say
that they take their football serious in Berks County. Wilson has produced the likes of Kerry
Collins, Chad Henne, and John Gilmore. Wilson has produced five District 3 championships in
27 years and has appeared multiple more. Wilson is traditionally known as a physical brand of
football based on basic fundamentals. On paper, tonight was going to be a clash of styles.
Harrisburg came into this game with one of the most powerful ground and pound games in
the PIAA. In their previous three playoff games they have rushed for 1,598 yards. Their
potent ground game is led by Robert Martin III, a junior who is already getting attention from
D1 programs. On the other hand, Wilson was touting one of the top defenses in the state of
Pennsylvania led by senior DL/LB recuit Junior Joseph and University of Connecticut commit.
From the get go, Wilson didn’t give Harrisburg a chance to breathe. They were outsized along
the line of scrimmage but they consistently played with great leverage and discipline and made
last evening a nightmare for Harrisburg. It was very hard to evaluate Robert Martin III due to
not having many opportunities to get a clean lane to run through.
I particularly paid attention to Joseph. He is a classic tweener (6’1 245lbs), playing both along
the DL and LB. He is very strong at the point of attack. He maintains excellent leverage when
engaged with blockers. Coach Doug Dahms had Joseph lined up at DE and NT based on the
personnel package and down and distance. Lined up inside, he was virtually impossible to move
and he gets off blocks with ease. When rushing the QB from the outside, he shows a variety of
moves including a very good bull rush and a very nice club and rip. On more than one occasion
he had Harrisburg’s tackles fearing his speed rush and he was countering with a nice spin move.
He shows a strong propensity to stay on his feet. This was illustrated by Harrisburg trying to
cut him on several jet sweeps and he was able to keep his balance and make the tackle. By my
count, he had two sacks and according to the press report he now has 27 on the season. At the
next level, I’m not really sure where Joseph fits in. Right now he is built like a 5th year senior
linebacker. But, his forte is getting after the passer and being a react and chase defender. In
all honesty, I could see Joseph bulking up and being an undersized three technique in the mold
of Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald and Mick Williams. He seems to fit the mold of the recent type
of defender that Connecticut has recruited in recent years with regards to being a high motor,
physical football player.
One of the surprises tonight was the play of RB/KR/PR – Jimmy Brooks. Brooks, an undersized
skill player was the most explosive player on the field. He accounted for four touchdowns and
three hundred all-purpose yards. He showed excellent acceleration and the ability to make
defenders miss in the open field. He understands how to set up his blockers and get up field in
a hurry. One thing that stood out for Brooks was that despite his size (5’7 155lbs), he rarely
went down on first contact. Part of this was the result of poor tackling but it he also showed a
willingness to not shy away from contact. He looks to have legit track speed on a football field.
He would probably be a great addition at possibly as a KR/PR at FCS level and maybe the FBS
level. You can’t teach speed and fearlessness, and Brooks has both.
With the efforts of Joseph and Brooks, Wilson rolled over Harrisburg 39-14. It will be very
interesting next week to see how Wilson matches up with the perennial state favorites North
Allegheny. I am particularly interested in seeing how Joseph matches up with Michigan commit
Patrick Kugler. Kugler is an outstanding offensive lineman with good size and technique.
This will be by far Joseph’s best competition to date. However, Joseph might be Kugler’s best
competition to date as well. Wilson’s defense will have its hands full due to the balance of North
Allegheny’s attack. I’m not really sure how Wilson will be able to move the ball consistently
against North Allegheny without the heroics of Brooks making something out of nothing. Both
schools are very similar with their demographics and style of football. The casual fan should
enjoy a hard hitting game by two quality programs.
Brian Hanson is a Staff Writer for Panther247.com