A Closer Look: No. 2 Neshaminy vs. No. 4 St. Joe's Prep
The PIAA Class AAAA state football semifinal between Neshaminy and St. Joseph's Prep is a contrast of offensive styles.
Neshaminy employs a run-happy scheme centered around junior tailback D'Andre Pollard. The Prep uses a hurry-up, spread attack with up to seven skill-position players in the mix.
In their first meeting since 2006, the Redskins (13-1) and Hawks (10-3) will battle at 3 p.m. Saturday at Northeast's Charles Martin Memorial Stadium. The survivor will vie for top state honors a week later in Hershey.
The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Pollard has carried 300 times for an area-best 2,798 yards (an average of 9.3 yards per carry) and 38 touchdowns.
"He has a low center of gravity, does not go down easily, and it's hard to get a good shot on him," Prep coach Gabe Infante said. "He keeps moving his feet."
The Hawks can turn to a number of ballcarriers, including a trio of speedsters: Olamide Zaccheaus, John Reid, and D'Andre Swift.
In the Prep's 21-10 win over District 11's Parkland last week, Chris Martin, in his return from a left-knee injury, converted 12 of 22 passes for 236 yards and two first half-scores.
"Which guy do you cover?" Neshaminy coach Mark Schmidt rhetorically asked. "If you pay attention to the outside, they hit you with the inside stuff."
Here's a closer look at Saturday's semifinal.
Twitter. Follow @ozoneinq for updates.
Projected starters. Go to www.philly.com/philly/blogs/rick-obrien/234695682.html
Audio. For a live broadcast, go to www.blogtalkradio.com/wsjp/2013/12/07/prep-football-in-piaa-semifinals
Rankings. Neshaminy is ranked No. 2 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer; the Prep is No. 4.
Solid. The Redskins' stout offensive line is made up center John Koch, guards Matt Wynne and Dan Johnson, tackles Mike Palmer and Hunter Kelly, and tight ends Luke Carrezola and Billy Ritchey.
Area of concern. Against Parkland, the Hawks were held to 56 yards rushing on 28 attempts. "We have to do a better job of establishing the run," Infante said.
Question mark. If the Hawks consistently thwart the run, can Neshaminy enjoy some success with the pass? It went to the air just once - and it resulted in an interception - in last week's 42-7 romp over North Penn.
"I don't think you can just pack the box on them," Infante said. "They're able to hurt you in other ways, including with the play-action pass."
Big challenge. The Prep needs a strong showing from a defensive line that features ends Jake Strain and Joe DuMond and tackles Steve Robinson and Erich Hartman.
Mainstays. The Redskins' 4-4 defense is headed by ends Carrezola and Arthur, tackle[CQ Dan, mentioned earlier] Johnson, nose guard Alex Nicolas, and linebackers Denny Lord and Cole Creighton.
Analysis. We think the Prep gains an early lead, forces Neshaminy's offense out of its comfort zone, and, boosted by a pair of Martin TD throws, earns a spot in Chocolate Town.
Pick. Prep, 24-14.