No. 50 North Penn (13-0) vs. Ridley (12-1)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (12/4) at Coatesville High School, in the District 1 Class AAAA final
KEEP AN EYE ON: North Penn RB Craig Needhammer. The stellar running back surpassed 1,400 yards on the season during last week's drumming of Avon Grove with a 155-yard effort. Needhammer has scored nine touchdowns in the Knights' last two playoff games - five against Neshaminy in the District 1 quarterfinals, and four against Avon Grove in the semis.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: North Penn QB Todd Smolinsky has more than 2,000 total offensive yards this season, leading an offense that averages more than 35 points per game. Division I recruit J.D. Dzurko anchors what has been a dominant offensive line for the Knights as of late. North Penn TE Ralphie Reeves has proven himself effective as both a blocker and a receiver. Ridley's defensive line is anchored by DE Casey DePrinzio and LB Casey Decker. The Green Raiders also rely on two running backs - Shahaid Smith, who scored 2 touchdowns in last weekend's win over Downingtown East, and sophomore Jalen Randolph, who racked up 132 yards on just 11 carries in the same game. QB Colin Masterson has the ability to scramble around defenses as well.
KEY MATCHUP: The North Penn offensive line against Ridley's defense. While the North Penn offense, led by Needhammer, Smolinsky, and Reeves, has been prolific, it's the Knights' offensive line, anchored by Dzurko, that's been creating those opportunities. During last week's win over Avon Grove, the North Penn line didn't allow a sack the entire game and, according to reports, only had two plays go for negative yardage. The Ridley defense, however, has been described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "swarming." Anchored by DePrinzio and Decker, the Green Raiders' first-team defense hasn't allowed a single point in the postseason, and held Downingtown East last weekend to just one first down in the entire first half, and 115 yards of total offense in the game. During the regular season, Ridley pitched five shutouts and only allowed an average of 7.5 points per game.
PREDICTION: North Penn's offense has been nearly unstoppable this season, but if any team has the potential - on paper at least - to give that offense a run for its money, it's Ridley. North Penn, the defending district champion, is favored in this game, but Ridley is playing with a chip on its shoulder as very few seem to give them a chance to win. "We're not intimidated by anyone," Ridley's Casey Decker said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "It comes down to coaching, and I think we have the best coaching staff in the state." It'll be a definite battle, but look for North Penn to pull it out late in the fourth quarter. North Penn 28, Ridley 24.
Carla Swank, PaPreps.com Publisher
No. 34 Woodland Hills (12-1) vs. No. 83 State College (10-2)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (12/4), at Mansion Park Stadium, Altoona, in the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Woodland Hills upset the No.1 ranked team in Pennsylvania, Gateway, 10-0, in the WPIAL Final last Friday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. They have not lost a game since their season-opening loss to Steubenville, Ohio, in early September. State College defeated the McDowell Trojans in the District 6/8/9/10 Subregional Final for the second consecutive year, earning a decisive 16-7 victory last Saturday in DuBois.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Woodland Hills running back Dom Timbers represents the Wolverines' most dangerous offensive threat. The powerful running back is averaging 125 yards per game this season and is the team's leading scorer. Timbers, a Syracuse recruit, is very banged up however and will not be 100-percent come Friday. Outside linebacker and tight end Mike Lee (Purdue), is the Wolverines' most talented two-way player. For State College, the running game is the team's bread-and-butter. Speedster Alex Kenney, a Penn State recruit, serves as catalyst of the Little Lions offense. Kenney rushed for over 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns on just 123 carries during the regular season. Spelling Kenney at running back is Colby Way, a force in the backfield and as defensive tackle. Way (6-3, 235) was recently named to the Harrisburg Patriot-News All-Star defensive team for the state of Pennsylvania.
KEY MATCHUP: As usual, this playoff game will be won in the trenches. The State College offensive line will have its work cut out as they try to pave the way for Kenney to do damage in the open field. Anchoring the Little Lions offensive line is massive Jack DeBeof (6-8, 265) who like Kenney as attracted the attention of several Division I schools. Woodland Hills' defensive line, one of the best in the state, features run-stuffing defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith (6-1, 325) (Pitt) and stud defensive end Richard Gray.
PREDICTION: State College is the far healthier team, having enjoyed a relaxing bye week as Woodland Hills fought Gateway in the WPIAL Finals. Despite the extra rest and scouting opportunity, Woodland Hills is still the favorite to advance to the state semifinals next Friday in Hershey. Expect a closely fought contest that is decided by a defensive stop from Woodland Hills late in the game. Woodland Hills 17, State College 12.
Daniel Krieg, PaPreps.com Staff Writer