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December 7, 2012

Trips to Hershey at stake this weekend

One more step is all that's left. Eight games kickoff this weekend, with just sixteen teams left playing high school football in Pennsylvania. Welcome to semifinal weekend, where nothing is on the line except a chance to play for a state title.

Bellwood-Antis vs. Dunmore
Buzz: Bellwood-Antis romped through the District 6 playoffs, but they needed an absolute thriller of a win over Delone Catholic to make it to the semifinals. The double overtime victory was an emotional rollercoaster for Bellwood, which can be both good and bad in the playoffs. Dunmore has had some white knuckle moments, beating Old Forge 7-6 in the District 2 playoffs and then slipping by Southern Columbia 35-29. The Bucks are a little less explosive on offense, opting to pound the ball behind two 1,000-yard backs. Bellwood is more balanced, with a 1,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher. With the two defenses yielding a fairly equal number of points this year, this might be all about which offense clicks into gear more.
Port Allegany vs. Clairton
Buzz: History versus the underdog, explosive speed versus clinically efficient passing. Which one will reign this weekend? Clairton needs no introduction at this point, though they won't have star WR/DB Titus Howard after he fractured his elbow. No matter. Clairton still has Tyler Boyd, Terrish Webb and QB Armani Ford. The Bears are mercy ruling teams left and right and haven't been challenged in weeks, if not months. The opposite is true for Port Allegany. They're coming off a last second win over Sharpsville, and while quarterback Matt Bodamer is the newly crowned all-time leading passer in the state, the Gators have been susceptible to good offenses in the soft District 9. If it turns into a shootout, it could get interesting. If Clairton's defense puts its collective foot down, it could be over quick.
Wyomissing vs. Imhotep Charter
Buzz: Behind two 1,000-yard rushers, including stud David Williams, and a 1,000-yard passer, Imhotep's offense has made mincemeat out of the opposition so far. No one has come close to stopping the District 12 champs. Wyomissing easily stands as their stiffest test. Thanks to their own brutal running game and a defense led by linebacker Alex Anzalone, Wyomissing has had one close game all year. None have happened in the playoffs. Two prolific offenses. Two outstanding defenses. This is one of those games that people get gut feelings about but struggle to vocalize why. Will Imhotep's soft D-12 schedule prove to mask some issues? Or are the Panthers really this dominant? Has Wyomissing come remotely close to seeing anyone as athletic and versatile as Imhotep, and how will they handle that across at all 22 positions? At least it gets settled on the football field.
Richland vs. Aliquippa
Buzz: Like Imhotep, Aliquippa has steamrolled opponents. In 14 games, the Quips have posted six shutouts. Karns City was down 31-0 at the start of the second quarter last week and the mercy rule went into effect at the half. No team scores more points per game than the Quips (50.64) and no team gives up fewer points (4.57). Richland has also been good, relying on a turnover-happy defense and a balanced offense. Like Wyomissing, though, few - if any - of Richland's opponents can match Aliquippa's speed and athleticism. The Quips were stunned at this stage last year and have been motivated all season to move past it.
Allentown Central Catholic vs. Archbishop Wood
Buzz: Who would have thought these two teams would meet here once again? Odds are if you took a poll of Pa. football gurus prior to the season and asked them which of these two semifinalists from last year would make it back to this point, all would have good with Wood, even after losing a half dozen Division I prospects. Allentown Central Catholic took a while to get going, but behind an improving defense and the fantastic running of Colin McDermott, the Vikings are back. But so are the other Vikings. With less fanfare and a few more hiccups, Archbishop Wood is still pounding the ball behind a sizable line. And as the season has gone on, the young Vikings are getting better. These two have split the last two semifinals. Who will win the tiebreaker?
Cathedral Prep vs. Bishop McDevitt
Buzz: This was the match-up some people anticipated last year, only for Prep to surprisingly fall in the District 10 championship game. Now we get the contest, as Prep's only challenge came from West Allegheny, which ultimately couldn't compete with the duo of Damion Terry and Delton Williams. Bishop McDevitt's had a few close calls, but they've also had stronger competition all year long. McDevitt might be more willing to rely on its ground game than Prep, and odds are ball control is going to play a huge factor in deciding what could be one of the weekend's best games.
La Salle College vs. Coatesville
Buzz: La Salle has hung around all year long, occasionally looking less than impressive but finding a way to win. As many coaches have said, sometimes the measure of a good team isn't by style points, it's that they still find a way to win. Coatesville, meanwhile, wasn't on the radar much of the year. They raised some eyebrows with a close loss at Downingtown East, but most had them pegged as early round playoff fodder. Oops. As the playoffs have gone on, Coatesville's offense has somehow gotten better, scoring 38, 42, 63, and 59 points in the last four games. La Salle's defense is the key to this one, as they'll be the best unit Coatesville has faced all year. If it gets into a track meet, Coatesville might be bound for Hershey
Wilson West Lawn vs. North Allegheny
Buzz: Quietly among the best defenses all year, Wilson's physical play has worn down even the most accomplished opponents. Last week, Wilson used seven sacks and a great run defense to slow down Harrisburg. They were one of the few teams to slow down Roman Clay and Lancaster Catholic. But now they'll get the efficient machine known as North Allegheny. The Tigers are just as physical up front, and Mack Leftwich has a dangerous group of receivers to throw to. And if that doesn't work, North Allegheny can always run. If Wilson's offense can get some early traction, that might be the best show the West Lawn school has of pulling what would be considered an upset.

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