HANOVER, Pa.- The Hanover Rhinos have been charging toward the 2018 season since tryouts were held in September.
Now, that charge finally has some direction.
As the calendar flipped to the new year, the Atlantic Football Association released the 2018 regular season schedules for all 14 of its member teams.
The Rhinos’ slate is blessed with a mix of incredible local rivalries and new opponents.
Hanover is coming off a 3-7 season which saw them eliminated from the playoffs at home in the final game of the season. It will get a chance to put 2017 in the rearview mirror right away with a trip to Chambersburg, Pa, to play the Franklin County Tigers on 3/17/18.
On 6/3/17, the Tigers not only delivered the stake to the Rhinos’ hearts with a 43-18 win in Hanover, they changed the culture of the head-to-head series between the two teams by earning their first ever win against the Rhinos in 6 meetings.
Hanover will have a chance to restore order with a home-and-home series with the Tigers. The return matchup will be in Hanover on 5/12/18 at 1 PM.
“Most looking forward to Franklin County to open the season,” Rhinos head coach Noah Sneeringer said. “They kept us out of the playoffs, and to get a chance for redemption first game of the season is huge.”
“I’m excited to get revenge on the Tigers from last season’s finale that I’m still hobbling around from,” said Rhinos quarterback Jake Orner.
Orner threw for a career-high 165 yards against the Tigers last year before leaving with an injury in the third quarter.
“It’ll be nice to start the year on a good note knowing we won a game we didn’t last year,” Orner added.
The Rhinos don’t have long to dwell on the performance of that game, however, as they turn around and host their long-time rivals, the York Silver Bullets a week later. As with every Rhinos’ home game in 2018, kickoff is slated for 1 PM.
Start time has yet to be determined for any of the Rhinos’ away games.
After a league-wide bye week for Easter weekend, the Rhinos dip into the pool of new opponents for 2018.
Hanover will travel to the Lancaster Outlaws on 4/7 for the first of two meetings. The Outlaws’ visit to Manheim Adventure Park takes place on 6/2/18, the final weekend of the regular season.
“York Silver Bullets always have been a fun game,” team leader Dustyn Lauver said, “But the Outlaws are definitely up there just because I am going to know a lot of people there from playing with the Central Penn Piranha.”
Speaking of York, the Rhinos will complete their home-and-home series with the Silver Bullets with a trip to York on 5/19/18.
“I’ve never liked (York),” said Rhino newcomer Bryan Hammond. “It would be nice to get a win or two on them this season.”
Another Rhino newcomer, running back Raydel Ragland has an extra interest in the games against York as well. “I really excited to play the York Silver Bullets. Everyone keeps saying they are good and previous players went there. I’m just ready to see what’s all the hype about.”
There has been no announcement from the league on whether or not they plan to split the Northern Conference into two divisions. The schedule would seem to support the Rhinos being in a division with York, Lancaster, and Franklin County, due to all those teams playing each other twice.
Hanover sees the other four teams in the Northern Conference once each- 4/14 at the Washington Bulldawgs, 4/21 vs. the Central Maryland Bills, 4/28 at the Maryland Phantoms, and 5/5 vs. the Metro Phoenix.
The Phantoms are the defending Northern Conference Champions, and that game has a high likelihood of being played under the lights once again, like it was in 2017.
Metro Phoenix return to the league after folding midway through the 2016 season.