Thursday, December 15, 2011
Pennsylvania Preps Pick'em: championship edition
By Christopher Parish
Each week we'll take some intriguing matchups and put our knowledge to the test with some predictions. If you think your team's game is one of the best on the schedule, let us know in the comments or on Twitter @CParishESPNHS and we'll put it up for debate.
After a long season — one of the longest in the nation — the championship games are finally here. Let's pick them all.
North Penn (13-2) vs. Central Dauphin (14-1)
Each of these teams escaped their semifinal matchups with one-possession victories — North Penn won by seven, while Central Dauphin won on a last-second field goal over heavily favored North Allegheny. North Penn has been an outstanding team all season long, using a balance of excellent defense and a strong offense. This team's calling card has been making timely stops when it matters most. But Central Dauphin's calling card? Sacks. Lots of them. In all, 15 players on C-D's defense have recorded a sack. Getting that kind of pressure up the middle and in the backfield causes turnovers, puts teams in long-yardage situations and helps teams win the field position battle. North Penn will need to avoid making those kinds of mistakes if it wants to win. PREDICTION: Central Dauphin 27, North Penn 17
Archbishop Wood (13-1) vs. Bishop McDevitt (13-2)
Between Central Dauphin and Bishop McDevitt, we've learned one thing — don't sleep on the middle of the state. McDevitt has the distinction of being the only team to beat Central Dauphin this year. After starting the year 1-2 and then facing off against what is now a Class AAAA finalist, this season could have spiraled out of control quickly. Instead, players like junior Alec Werner (3,279 yards, 30 TDs) put the team on their back and turned everything around. But this will be the team's toughest test. Archbishop Wood has only gotten better as the season has gone on, and the Vikings dropped 70 (!) in the semifinals. Check out our ESPNHS story on senior RB Desmon Peoples, and then get ready for a big-time showdown between these two schools. I think Wood pulls away late. PREDICTION: Archbishop Wood 37, Bishop McDevitt 20
Lancaster Catholic (15-0) vs. Tyrone Area (14-1)
Gotta first issue an apology to the Tyrone Area supporters out there. If I'm going to take credit for getting things right (and am I ever), I'm going to admit that I didn't give your team enough love last week. I guessed you'd get blown out by 21; instead, the Golden Eagles pulled of an improbable upset, beating Aliquippa in a one-point thriller. It doesn't get any easier from here, though. Lancaster Catholic's perfect season is on the line, which means it's going to take every player on that stellar defensive unit of Tyrone to slow down the Crusaders. But you know what? I'm a believer now. Any team that can hang with the Quips is good enough to win a state title. PREDICTION: Tyrone Area 23, Lancaster Catholic 21
Southern Columbia (14-1) vs. Clairton (15-0)
Here's an interesting note: Clairton's 46th win last week put the bears into a tie with Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) — the nation's No. 1 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 — and Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) for the nation's longest current win streak, at 46 games. Bosco and Pahranagat both have completed their seasons, which means a win this weekend puts the Bears ahead until at least next year. The Bears slowed down a bit last week — only 30 points, the lowest point total since November of last year — and will need to not take Southern Columbia lightly, as the Tigers average nearly 43 points a game. But at this point in the season, I'm not sure anyone in the state can hang with Clairton. PREDICTION: Clairton 34, Southern Columbia 14