And then there were four. To Hersheypark Stadium we go for the final week of the 2017 high school football season in the state of Pennsylvania. Four WPIAL teams remain alive with a chance at the state title in their classification. A shout-out to the Washington Prexies who lost a tough semi-final to Wilmington. Kudos to Mike Bosnic and Wash High for their 2017 campaign which included their first WPIAL Title since 2001. Off we go Big Game Hunting one final time. We’ll get some chocolate this time so that will make it even better.
6-A PIAA Championship:
Pine-Richland Rams (15-0) vs Saint Joseph’s Prep Hawks (13-0) Saturday December 9th @ 6:00 PM at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on the TribLiveHSSN by Josh Rowntree and Sean Meyers
Saint Joe’s seeks their second straight title and their fourth since 2013, the team they beat in 2014 was the Pine-Richland Rams. St’ Joes has won 27 straight games. Pine-Richland searches for their first ever title having lost the state championship game in 2003 and 2014.
St. Joes quarterback Marquez McCray threw for two scores and rushed for four more as the District XII Champs won a thriller over Coatesville in the semi-finals 53-49. Pine-Richland despite battling a flu-bug that was running rampant through their entire roster defeated Manheim Township 28-7. Phil Jurkovec one of the ill Rams, threw for 243 yards and a pair of scores while rushing for another in the win.
McCray is, like his counterpart for the Rams a dual threat quarterback who can hurt you with his arm or his legs for the defending champs.
St. Joe’s is big and experienced up front and great at creating lanes for McCray or star running back Kolbe Burrell. Burrell went for 122 including a 44 yard score in the semis, on the ground.
A great receiving duo for the Hawks has been Brandon Sanders along with James Cherry. Cherry was banged-up in last week’s win and missed the end of the game. His status for the title game is unknown.
The Rams are hoping to get healthy, more from the flu than any particular injuries.
Jurkovec for the season now has completed 230 of 310 passes for 3769 yards and 38 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1136 yards and another 17 scores.
On the receiving front Ray Falcone needs 33 yards to join teammate Jason DeFrancisis with a thousand or more receiving yards for the season. DeFrancisis has 70 catches for 1131 yards and 10 scores.
On the ground Jordan Crawford has 1206 yards in 130 carries, he also has 30 catches for 478 yards and a combined 29 touchdowns.
Some numbers to watch for, Jurkovec needs 231 yards to reach 4,000 for the season. If Falcone gets the 33 receiving yards he needs to reach 1000, the Rams have a chance to end up with a 4000 yard passer, two 1000 yard receivers and two thousand yard rushers for the season. That would be very remarkable.
5-A PIAA Championship:
Gateway Gators (14-1) vs Archbishop Wood Vikings (11-2) Friday December 8th @ 7:00 PM at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on the TribLiveHSSN by Don Rebel and Sean Meyers
Archbishop Wood looks for their 2nd straight state title and their 5th since 2011. Gateway is looking for their first ever state championship. The Vikings strolled through a semifinal win over Unionville 49-28 with Nasir Peoples rushing for 145 yards and three scores in the win. Gateway needed a 23 yard gield goal from freshman kicker Jayson Jenkins to beat Manheim Central 31-28 in their semifinal. Brady Walker threw for 465 yards and three scores in the win.
The Vikings losses were to Paramus Catholic in New Jersey and St. Joes Prep, a PIAA 6 A defending champion and finalist. Quarterback Jack Colyar has completed 72 of 138 passes for 1152 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ryan Loughlin has 23 catches for 572 yards for the Vikes and Kyle Pitts 20 catches for 371 yards, the duo has caught all 10 of Colyar’s touchdown passes.
Peoples has led the Vikings in rushing all season with 207 carries for 1571 yards and 26 touchdowns.
The Archbishop Wood defense has come up with 16 interceptions on the season lead by Loughlin’s four.
They haven’t seen a passing game like Gateway’s. In fact unless you’ve played Gateway this season nobody has seen a passing game like Gateway’s in the history of Pennsylvania prep football, because there has never been one like it.
Brady Walker, the Gateway quarterback now holds the record for passing yards in a single season in the history of Pennsylvania high school football with 4396.
Walker has completed 287 of 444 passes to accumulate those yards along with 43 touchdowns.
Courtney Jackson needs 129 yards receiving to move into sole possession of 2nd place in the state for receiving yards in a single season. Jackson for the year has 94 catches for 1903 yards, he has also rushed for 230 yards and scored a team-high 27 touchdowns.
Jeremiah Josephs (51 catches for 556 yards), Derrick Davis (32 catches 451 yards) and Isaiah Cameron (23 catches 433 yards0 round out a solid receiving corps, the trio has scored 31 touchdowns.
Walker is the leading rusher for the Gators as well with 745 yards and six touchdowns on 118 carries.
3-A PIAA Championship:
Quaker Valley Quakers (13-1) vs Middletown Blue Raiders (14-0) Saturday December 9th @ 12:00 PM at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on WBVP-AM 1230 and also on WMBA-AM 1460 by Bob Barrickman and Tom Hays
Both of these teams seek their first ever state championship. Middletown though has experience as they have been here as recently as last year when they lost to Beaver Falls 30-13. The Blue Raiders got 161 yards and four rushing touchdowns from senior running back Brady Fox in their semifinal win over Conwell-Egan. Ricky Guss threw for four scores and rushed for two more as Quaker Valley advanced to their first ever title game with a 42-23 win over Sharon.
The Blue Raiders signal caller is Scott Ash and they will throw almost as an afterthought, Ash has thrown for 1132 yards and nine touchdowns. As a team they have only attempted 131 passes for the year.
What they prefer to do is run the football. The Blue Raiders have a pair of 1000 yard rushers for the season. Sophomore Jose Lopez has rushed for 1749 yards and 28 scores, Brady Fox, a senior has 1402 yards rushing and 26 scores.
Middletown is averaging over eight yards per rush on the year, as a team they need 33 yards rushing to reach 4000 for the season.
The Blue Raider defense has 14 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries on the year, the Quakers will need to take good care of the football.
More often than not the person taking care of the football for Quaker Valley will be Ricky Guss. Guss has completed 127 of 259 passes for 2142 yards and 28 touchdowns. Guss is also the leading rusher of the ball for the Quakers with 190 carries for 1144 yards and 28 touchdowns for the season.
Isaiah McNair is the top-target for Guss with 48 catches for 886 yards, he has also rushed 314 yards and scored a combined 16 touchdowns.
J.T. Taylor is another dual threat kid with 1340 combined rushing and receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on the year.
1-A PIAA Championship:
Jeannette Jayhawks (14-1) vs Homer-Center Wildcats (13-1) Thursday December 7th @ 1:00 PM at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on WHJB-FM 107.1 by Mike Zappone and Jimmy Lee Santorella and also on WCCS-AM 1160 and FM 101.1 by Mark Bertig and Ward Hilliard
Homer-City seeks their first ever title PIAA Championship, in fact they are the first school ever from Indiana County to have the opportunity to play for a championship. The get that opportunity by knocking off Steelton-Highspire in the semi-finals 20-14. Jesse Lee ran for a pair of touchdowns in the victory.
Jeannette meanwhile won a tough defensive battle with Farrell 17-6, Robert Kennedy rushed for 125 yards, scored two touchdowns and came up with two interceptions in the win for the Hawks who seek their second PIAA title the other coming in 2007.
The Wildcats have a freshman quarterback in Ben Schmidt who has completed 74 of 133 passes for 1099 yards and eight touchdowns, he has also tossed nine interceptions.
A pair of seniors will be the go-to guys for the Wildcat rushing attack, Jesse Lee has 205 carries for 1376 yards and 21 scores, while Mike McCracken has 166 carries for 1099 yards and another 13 touchdowns.
Nick Schmidt has 16 catches for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Homer-Center.
Senior defensive back Dakota Sunday has 109 total tackles to lead the Wildcats defense. That defense has 14 sacks led by Eric Shirley’s four, and 19 interceptions with both Sunday and Tim Alcon having five picks on the season.
For the Hawks Robert Kennedy and Seth Howard have shared the quarterbacking duties for the entire 2nd half of this season, the duo has combined for 1919 yards passing and 30 touchdown passes. It seems in crunch time, Jennette will try to make sure that the ball lends up in the hands of Kennedy as much as possible. He has rushed for 1242 yards to lead the team, many of those out of the wildcat. He has also scored a team-high 27 touchdowns.
Tre Cunningham (27 catches 417 yards) and Marcus Barnes (31 catches 521 yards) are the go-to targets for either Howard or Kennedy when it is time to pass the football. The duo has combined for 16 touchdowns on the season.
Jeannette’s defense has allowed less than 14 points per game led by Anthony Johnson up front.