Big Game Hunting for State Finals

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 | 4:45 PM

And then there were four. Four WPIAL teams still alive as we head to the final weekend of the 2016 high school football season in the state of Pennsylvania. That final week takes place here in 2016 in week 15, as opposed to week 16 in years past. Doesn’t feel any different to me, the weather is still going to be frigid, and despite the number of teams in Hershey, I am willing to bet attendance won’t be very different with games being played on school or work days and school or work nights. The teams that are in Hershey are very familiar as well. So one year in, the staff at Big Game Hunting, after a secret ballot, has officially declared its hatred for six classifications. Nonetheless, watching, calling, reading, writing and being around the WPIAL teams, and the MSA Sports team this year has been a pleasure. Have a great winter season and we will see you back here before you know it to go Big Game Hunting.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings (14-1) vs St. Joseph’s Prep Hawks (13-0) Saturday December 10th @ 8:00 PM at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Kyle Dawson and Rob Longo  

The Vikes rolled Wilson 63-21 in the semis J.J. Younger led the way with 133 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Prep overcame a fourth quarter deficit to beat North Penn 35-25. D’Andre Swift rushed for 171 yards and three scores in the fourth quarter of that win, he totaled 272 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

 The Vikings are healthy and ready for what Terry Totten thinks will be the best high school football game in the state of Pennsylvania this year. Troy Fisher has now completed 78 of 135 passes for 1754 yards and 22 touchdowns on the year.

Justice Evans leads the Vikings with 33 catches for 809 yards and he has scored 19 touchdowns on the season in a variety of ways.

On the ground Younger has now rushed 141 times for 1694 yards and he has scored a team-high 34 touchdowns on the season.

Temperature at kickoff should be hovering in the mid-to-high twenties for this game with a forecasted wind of 11 miles per hour, it is always extra windy at Hersheypark Stadium. If you are going dress super-warm. The weather should keep both of these teams focused on their running games, and if it was 72 degrees and sunny I don’t think that would have changed. The battle in the trenches and the battle between two fantastic rushers of the football in Younger and Swift, will be the deciding factor in this game.

Swift was courted by some pretty impressive names, Alabama, PSU, LSU, FSU, and Clemson all had offers on the table. But he is committed to the University of Georgia, in has become a pretty famous, or infamous commitment video. You’ve probably seen it but if you have not, here it is.

Swift has rushed for well over a thousand yards on the season. The Hawks do have a passing attack as well Quarterback Marquez McCray, a junior has completed 114 of 197 passes for 1703 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year.

I still say this game comes down to who can stop the run, and who can run the ball.

Beaver Falls Tigers (12-1) vs Middletown Blue Raiders (14-0) Saturday December 10th @ 3:30 PM at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on WBVP-AM 1230 and WMBA-AM 1460 and the MSA Sports Network by Bob Barrickman, Tom Hays and Bruce Frey

Middletown just crushed Notre Dame-Green Pond in their semi-final Jaelen Thompson rushed for 150 yards and scored three touchdowns. Beaver Falls came from behind to win a hard-fought defensive battle over Central Martinsburg 14-7.

The Blue Raiders feature a senior laden offensive line, four of their 5 starters are seniors the other a junior. They have paved the way to their perfect season so far opening holes for Thompson and Brady Fox. Thompson for the season has 1595 yards and has scored 19 touchdowns, Fox has added 1427 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.

The Blue Raiders do have some balance as well as quarterback Chase Snavely has thrown for 2112 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season.

Tyreer Mills has 27 catches for 716 yards and a dozen touchdowns.

Mills also has 2 of the teams eight interceptions for the year, the Blue Raiders have a dozen takeaways in 2016. They are the District 3 Champions an d they are playing for the PIAA title for the first time in school history.

The Tigers are the District 7 Champions and they too will be playing for the PIAA title for the first time in school history.

Austin French has thrown for 956 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season.

The Tigers want to ground and pound you though, it’s just in their nature. They have four players that have rushed for over 600 yards and six players that have rushed for over 100 yards on the season.

Malik Shepherd has rushed for 1016 yards, has 10 catches for 218 yards and has scored 12 touchdowns. Derrell Carter has rushed for 859 yards, has 16 catches for 229 yards and has scored 10 touchdowns on the season. Torian Leak has 602 yards rushing and a dozen scores as well.

How does the defensive front for the Tigers, consisting of Donovan Jeter, Matt Gandy and Rayquan Crowder deal with that Blue Raider offensive line, or maybe rather how does that Blue Raider offensive line deal with those Tigers up front, is a better way to ask it? Either way the winner there is likely to be the winner on the scoreboard as well.

Steel Valley Ironmen (14-0) vs Southern Columbia Tigers (15-0) Saturday December 10th @ 11:00 AM at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Rob Longo and Brandon Showers

The Ironmen continued their unprecedented run through 2016 with yet another mercy-rule victory in the PIAA Semis rolling Wilmington 49-13 behind yet another three touchdown runs from DeWayne Murray. Southern Columbia knocked off Ligonier Valley 31-27 rushing for 366 yards as a team in the wing-t to advance to their 15th PIAA Championship tilt. The Ironmen play in their first ever title game.

For the Tigers quarterback Stone Hollenbach has completed 100 of 162 passes for the year for 2022 yards and 23 touchdowns. His top targets are Cam Young and Julian Fleming who have combined for 60 catches for 1334 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season.

Freshman running back Gaige Garcia has rushed for a team-high 1938 yards and scored 31 touchdowns on the year. He is complimented by senior Hunter Thomas who has 1467 yards rushing and 22 scores for the season.

How about a pair of freshmen in the Tigers defense who have combined for 255 tackles and 16 tackles for loss on the year in Teagan WIlk and Cal Haladay. The Tiger defense has 26 sacks and 18 interceptions on the year.

For Steel Valley Ryan Harper is quickly approaching a 2000 season throwing the football, having now completed 97 of 155 passes for 1977 yards and 33 touchdowns.

DeWayne Murray is over 2K rushing the football already with 2008 yards and 46 touchdowns on the season.

Paris Ford continues to be unstoppable catching the football for the Ironmen, complemented by both Najhier West and ZaiQuan Henderson. West also rushed for over 100 yards in the semis win over Wilmington.

Ford has scored 20 touchdowns and Henderson 14. The Ironmen are outscoring opponents by an average margin of 46 points per game on the year.

Clairton Bears (14-0) vs Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders (14-0) Friday December 9th @ 1:00 PM at Hesheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Sean Meyers and Sean Saputo

The Bears knocked off their sometimes rivals, Farrell in the semis behind 243 rushing yards for Lamont Wade, who eclipsed the 7000 yard mark for his career in the 24-6 win. Meanwhile BG crushed Steelton-Highspire 48-6, Andrew Irwin rushed for four touchdowns in the first half of the win.

The Marauders have won 46 straight games one of those was a wing in the PIAA Championship game over the Bears 19-8 in December of 2014, a lot of kids remain on both teams that were there for that game. It ended on a controversial call as James Hines caught what he thought was a game-winning touchdown for the Bears but was ruled beyond the end line. Lamont Wade was a big part of that game for the Bears and he will be a huge part of this game for the Bears.

The Marauders have senior quarterback Josh Trybus who has completed 80 of 126 passes for 1448 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season. Luke Frederick and Mark Conrad have combined for 54 catches and 991 yards and 13 touchdowns in the receiving game. Conrad has 607 of those yards, he is a big play threat.

Senior running back Andrew Irwin has rushed for 1577 yards and 33 scores on the year. Mike Berish has chipped in with 442 yards and three scores on the ground.

Irwin’s numbers on the defensive side of the ball are eye-popping, the linebacker has 147 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, an interception, has caused 6 fumbles, recovered two fumbles and blocked a field goal.

Noah Hamlin returned at quarterback for the Bears in the semi-finals, and while he may have been a little rusty it is still good news for Bears fans.

For the season Hamlin is 42 of 82 for 981 yards and 10 touchdowns. Him being back at quarterback frees up Lamont Wade to be even more Lamont Wade than normal, and that is a LOT of Lamont Wade my friends.

Wade is a difficult task when you know he is coming, having another wrinkle to look out for makes it even more difficult to stop Wade. Wade has 163 carries for 2298 yards and has scored 32 touchdowns on the year.

Tre Howard and Devlin Clifford will be the key pass catchers for the Bears as they try to avenge the 2014 loss to the Maruaders.

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