3/17: Revenge Tour ’18 vs. the Rumble in the Jungle
285 days. That’s how long it’s been since the Hanover Rhinos took the field in a regular season game.
That day, the Rhinos lost for the first-ever time to the Franklin County Tigers.
A long-time laughingstock of the AFA, the Tigers broke through last season, beating the Rhinos in a winner-take-all showdown for the final Northern Conference playoff spot, leaving Hanover with unfinished business as this season starts.
There’s no place Snacktown’s warriors would rather be on kickoff weekend 2018.
WHEN & WHERE: Saturday, 12:30 PM, at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, 550 E 2nd St, Waynesboro, PA 17268.
ACCUWEATHER FORECAST AT KICKOFF: 39 degrees and partly sunny. Precipitation: 0%. Humidity: 50%. Wind: 5 MPH West.
POPULATION: Franklin County: 153,638. Hanover: 15,561.
REMEMBERING LEWELLING: Former Carroll County Cannons’ owner Danny Lewelling, Sr. passed away at the age of 56 on February 7, 2018. With former Cannons on the rosters of both teams for Saturday’s game, the Tigers will remember Lewelling before the contest.
RHINOS IN SEASON OPENERS: 2-4, including a 18-6 loss to Virginia Beach at CCBC Dundalk in 2017.
SERIES HISTORY: Hanover leads 5-1. The Rhinos have outscored the Tigers 194-86.
LAST MEETING: The Tigers scored 21 points in the final 4:29 at Manheim Adventure Park on 6/3/17 to blow open a close game and knock the Rhinos out of playoff contention with a 43-18 win. Franklin County’s 43 points equaled the total they had scored on the Rhinos in the previous five meetings, all losses. The Tigers offense was responsible for just one touchdown, while the defense scored three times, and special teams added one score. With the win, the Tigers locked up their first-ever AFA playoff berth.
RHINOS’ OUTLOOK: Starting the season off with as many wins as possible is a huge key for the Rhinos. Over the last two years, a string of early losses caused morale to sag greatly and precipitated disastrous finishes to both campaigns. In order to start fast, the Rhinos’ new defensive scheme must set the tone early. The Rhinos allowed 24.7 points per game in 2017, their best defensive effort since 2014.
Offense was a struggle for the Rhinos in ’17 as they were shutout 4 times, but their points per game average rose to 13.2, nearly doubling the total from 2016. It’s offensive mastermind Noah Sneeringer’s third year as the head coach, a year he views as the most important year during a coach’s tenure with a football team. Dual-threat Corbin Bailey gets the coveted spot as this offense’s maestro, drawing the opening day start at quarterback. He has a number of speedy weapons to get the ball to, led by Melvin Velines and Raydel Ragland, and a revamped offensive line that features a pair of 2017 AFA All-Stars in tackle Dustyn Lauver and center Brian Eckard.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS: In the 2017 season finale, Franklin County cornerback Isiah Keyes ran wild to the tune of 303 all-purpose yards and 3 non-offensive touchdowns against the bewildered Rhinos. Coming into this season, there are questions about whether or not Keyes will actually suit up for Franklin County. The Tigers’ offense netted just 176 yards without the help of Keyes in that game, but the Franklin County quarterback situation is still unsettled. The leading candidate for the job is former West Virginia Silverback Mark Cantu.
Several long-time defensive standouts return to Franklin County for another year. Leading the charge are linebackers D.J. Branche and Joshua Wheeler.
Brothers Jawaun and Nate Huff will suit up in the orange and blue and face-off against a number of their former Cannons’ teammates on Saturday. The Tigers also roster 5 players with college football experience.