PIAA Catholic League Review:There are six different class distinctions of PIAA state football quarterfinals going on this weekend. Four of them include a representative from the Catholic League.
Might the quad actually run the table and place the esteemed CL in unprecedented territory? Could happen.
At 1 PM Saturday at Northeast High School, Class 6A St. Joseph’s Prep faces District 11 champ Bethlehem Freedom. The Hawks have won three of the past five state titles and enter with a 10-0 record. The Prep has scored 48 or more points on six occasions and yielded an average of 11 points over its past eight games.
“Every week is a new challenge that can help our team both offensively and defensively,” said All-Catholic senior defensive lineman Cooper Kim. “When we play any game we can discover what we’re good at or what we need to improve on, and what we need to keep the same or what we need to fix.”
The Hawks’ only struggle occurred in the Class 6A final, a 23-13 comeback win against La Salle. An angry Prep team then smashed Northeast in the district final, 49-14.
Last year’s lopsided loss to Pine-Richland in the state final still annoys the returning players.
“Yes, that’s in the back of our minds,” said All-Catholic senior defensive back Mike Alexander, “but we’re trying to focus on one game at a time.”
Prediction: Red Division Most Valuable Player sophomore quarterback Kyle McCord has completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,140 yards and 27 touchdowns.
His main targets are senior Johnny Freeman (39 catches for 647 yards and eight touchdowns) and sophomore Marvin Harrison (36-565-8), two of three first-team All-Catholic wideouts. When Bethlehem throws, it will have to watch out for All-Catholic senior defensive back Zach Bouggess (team-leading three interceptions). Bottom line, thanks in part to the La Salle scare, the Prep is laser-focused. Encompassed by 11 first-team All-Catholics, the Hawks will prevail, 41-14.
At 2 PM Friday at Milton Hershey High School, Archbishop Wood meets District 6 champ Hollidaysburg in a Class 5A clash. Since losing their first two, the Vikings have captured eight of their last nine, including a 57-6 romp over Simon Gratz in the city championship.
“We’ve been able to improve ourselves each week by keeping the main goal in mind – to get to Hershey in December,” said All-Catholic senior offensive lineman Brett Gross. “We treat each game like it’s the most important one. We never look past it and work very hard each day in practice to get better. My teammates and I are extremely determined, and Coach (Kyle)Adkins keeps us focused and on track.”
Prediction: Previously injured senior Jack Colyar has been back at quarterback for the past three games and is coming off a four-touchdown effort against Gratz. When you add in All-Catholic senior running back Tom Santiago’s 1,548 yards and 14 touchdowns, and a defense that lists four combined All-Catholics, there is no way the Vikings are going to get beat as they attempt to eventually seize their fifth state title in six years and sixth in eight. The Vikings will advance to the semifinals thanks to a 35-10 victory.
Also at 2 PM Friday, Class 2A West Catholic takes on District 6 champion Richland at Central York High School. The Burrs are 11-2 overall and have overcome several close battles with clutch play both late in the game and in overtime.
“Our league prepares us for what we see throughout life as a football player,” said All-Catholic senior linebacker Kha’Jey Frazier. “All the adversity and in-game adjustments that took place just gave us another chapter to learn from.
“From the close game with Paramus Catholic to losing in the Catholic league championship to winning in overtime against Bishop McDevitt, we just know how to pick ourselves back up to get the job done and we will remember that while we travel to states. One game at a time.”
Prediction: The Burrs present nightmares for opponent defensive coordinators. Focus on the running back tandem of All-Catholic junior Zahir Booker(898 yards, 11 touchdowns, and an average of eight yards per carry) and senior Jacir Savoy(779 yards and six touchdowns)? Then that allows junior quarterback Zaire Hart-Hawkins(1,928 yards and 20 touchdowns) to find receivers like All-Catholic senior Seth Degree (35 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns). Throwing the ball is dangerous for West foes partly because of junior Shakur Smalls and his four interceptions. That’s too much for Richland, as the Burrs win again by a score of 27-20.
At 7 PM Friday, undefeated Class 3A Conwell-Egan takes its perfect 13-0 record to Milton Hershey High School and competes with Middletown. Yes – that Middletown, the one that upended the Eagles, 49-7, in last year’s semifinals.
Can you say “payback”?
“We lost to them last year, so yes, it is a revenge game,” said All-Catholic senior multiple performer Terome Mitchell. “Now we are at full strength, because me and Andrew Garwo did not play.”
Added senior star Patrick Garwo: “We’re gonna take it like every other game we prepared for this year. We remember what they did to us last year, and that also adds extra motivation.”
Prediction:The Eagles have arguably the best runner in the state in the person of senior Patrick Garwo.
The Blue Division MVP eclipsed the 2,000-yard plateau last week and his mind-boggling statistics stand at 2,024 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns – 30 of them via runs. All-Catholic senior quarterback Alex Goldsby has thrown for 13 touchdowns and on the ground compiled 591 yards rushing and 13 scores. On defense, Mitchell (four) and Garwo have combined for seven interceptions. In the last seven games, the Eagles have surrendered an average of 10 points per game. Because of last year’s disappointment, Conwell-Egan’s 37-20 win will feel that much sweeter.