By Andre Coles
The postseason kicks off this weekend for some teams while others are still jockeying for playoff position and conference championships while still striving for the ultimate goal -- a state title. This week’s regional preview focuses in on District's 12 and 7 in Pennsylvania, in addition to some of the bigger matchups in Ohio Division 1.
Game of the Week
Ridley Raiders (8-1, State PR: 84.00, Rank: 17) vs. Garnet Valley Jaguars (9-0, State PR: 93.69, Rank: 7): This matchup will determine the champion of highly-competitive Central League. If Garnet Valley wins, they will outright win the league championship, but if Ridley pulls out a victory, the championship will be shared by both teams and possibly a third depending on the outcome of other games. The undefeated Jaguars -- led by head coach Mike Ricci -- have been consistent on defense all year and have allowed more than 14 points just once. Meanwhile, Ridley looks to win its third-straight league title and will continue to ride the back of standout receiver Troy Foster. Will the air attack of the Raiders be enough to counter the ground game of the Jags?
Liberty Hurricanes (8-1, State PR: 89.99, Rank: 10) vs. Freedom Patriots (8-1, State PR: 87.59, Rank: 12): This is a rivalry game on three different levels. Not only do these teams share a city (Bethlehem), but they also compete in the same district and playoff class. Liberty brings more history into this matchup but Freedom is already creating its own. Liberty has run off seven-straight wins after dropping its first contest with the help of a very potent offense that is accustomed to putting points on the board fast. Meanwhile, Freedom hopes to make its mark in District 11 with a win this weekend, which would be considered an upset over a dominant Hurricanes team.
Hazleton Cougars (8-1, State PR: 80.60, Rank: 22) vs. Berwick Bulldogs (8-1, State PR: 81.28, Rank: 10): The Cougars enter the Dawg Pound in hopes of exiting with a win. Berwick sits atop the Wyoming Valley 3A standings and are closing in on another league title. The Bulldogs' only loss came to a very good Selinsgrove team in late September. Since that defeat, Berwick has reeled off four straight and look to stay hot. The Cougars have been equally impressive this season with their only loss coming against Wyoming Valley West. The Cougars barely escaped last week's contest against East Stroudsburg South and look to upset Berwick in order to roll into playoffs on a high note.
Kane Area Wolves (7-2, State PR: 72.28, Rank: 18) vs. Cameron County Raiders ( 9-0, 87.82, Rank: 6): This game decides the champion of the Allegheny Mountain League, as the Raiders represent the north champs and The Wolves represent the south. This game is going to feature two of the top offenses in District 9 this year. The Raiders have scored over 40 points in three of their last four outings, most recently blowing out Smethport, 40-0. The Wolves look to avenge an opening season loss to these same Raiders and bump its winning streak to five. They are also coming off a shutout win last week against Curwensville for the right to play in this week’s game.
Pennsbury Falcons (8-1, State PR: 81.42, Rank: 19) vs. Neshaminy Redskins (8-1, State PR: 84.18, Rank: 15): The Redskins could have easily entered into this contest undefeated as their only loss was by one point vs. Souderton on opening day. Since that defeat, the Redskins have swept through the schedule and look forward to this weekend's Suburban One matchup against Pennsbury. Neshaminy hopes to make it nine wins in a row and gather more power points in the process. The Falcons have been equally impressive this season, dropping their lone contest against a very tough Glen Mills team. Since then, the Falcons' offense has risen to new heights by averaging over 30 points a game while not allowing more than 21 a game.
Karns City Gremlins (8-1, State PR: 70.95, Rank: 35) vs. Wilmington Greyhounds (9-0, State PR: 91.18, Rank: 4): This is just a classic battle between two AA teams gearing up for the playoffs. The Greyhounds look to finish the regular season with an unblemished record, as they have yet to be challenged by any team on their schedule. The Greyhounds have scored over forty points in all but one contest this year while not allowing more than 13 points. Karns City reeled off seven-straight wins before dropping a one-point contest to Moniteau a few weeks back. The Gremlins are no strangers to putting up points either, but it will be interesting to see if they can score enough to slow down a formidable Wilmington squad.
Dunmore Bucks (9-0, State PR: 89.10, Rank: 7) vs. Riverside Vikings ( 9-0, State PR: 91.38, Rank: 1): The Vikings, who are ranked No. 1 in the Sports Power Ratings for District 7 and Class A, look to knock off last season's AA representative in the state title game. The Vikings have been dominant all year long, clobbering opponents by a margin of 402-105. On the other hand, if one takes a look at Riverside’s schedule, they will find that this week's game will be the squad's first real test. As I stated before Dunmore made it to Hersey last year only to run into a tough Jeannette team, but the Bucks are right back to business and are determined to finish where they left off last year.
Pennsylvania Playoffs Matchups
Public League AA Final
Ben Franklin Electrons (6-2) vs. Bok Wildcats (9-0): Bok looks to repeat as the champion of AA in District 12 even though they previously turned down an invitation to compete in the state tournament to win the Public League title. Bok has been fearless and unbeatable all year, but its toughest game of the year came against this week’s opponent. Bok barely escaped the Electrons, 16-14, a few weeks back. That contest was Bok’s closest game of the year and this weekend's clash should be just as exciting. The Wildcats will be led by RB Ray Tucker, who has 830 yards rushing on the season. Ben Franklin could very well be undefeated this season, with the team's two losses coming by a combined four points. Bok will have its hands full with RB Marquis White, who at any moment can break for a big gain.
Public AAA semifinals
Mastbaum Panthers (5-3) vs. Roxborough Indians (6-2): The Panthers are led by their ground game, which is spearheaded by standout running back Rasheen Tookes, who has amassed 988 yards on 154 carries this season in only seven games. The Panthers look to avenge an earlier season loss to the Indians, 24-6. Roxborough has been steady since two early season losses against Franklin and Lincoln. The Indians also have a standout running back in Akmed Greene, who has already rushed for 1,085 yards on the season. The winner of this game will win the right to face the winner of the second semifinal matchup between Dobbins/William Penn.
Dobbins Mustangs (5-3) vs. William Penn Lions (3-4): Dobbins heads into this game on the coattails of its elite rushing attack, which is manned by Ralston Thomas and Karon James, both of which have put up equally similar numbers on the season. Thomas has accounted for 590 yards on 85 carries, while James has 596 yards on 82 carries. Dobbins looks to avenge an earlier season loss to these same Lions, 20-14 in overtime. The Lions hope to bring some prominence to a fairly new program with a win this weekend. Can the Lions top offensive threats -- RB Kenny White, QB Braheim Dixon and WR Emmanuel Pittman -- once again hold off Dobbins?
Public AAAA Semifinals
Overbrook Panthers (3-5) vs. Washington Eagles (7-1): Public League power Washington looks to attain to this season's title game on the wings of its potent offense. The ground game is led by the two-man attack of Omar Hunter and Kesson Christopher, who have combined to rush for 835 yards. The passing game is led by Aaron Wilmer, who has passed for 781 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. His favorite target has been James Fowler, who has hauled in 16 catches for 235 yards. Washington’s only loss came against a tough Central Bucks East squad. Meanwhile, Overbrook is riding high after last week's quarterfinal win against Central and look to ride that wave into this matchup. Overbrook will turn its playoff fortune over to its passing game, which has come alive compared with past seasons. QB Rasheed Oberton has passed for 639 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Let’s see if the upstart Panthers can challenge the mighty Eagles.
Northeast Vikings (4-4) vs. Frankford Pioneers (6-2): The Vikings look to knock off regional power Frankford by way of the Stokes Brothers Je’Ron and Malik. Je’Ron has already committed to the University of Tennessee to play at wideout next fall. His brother Malik has quickly become one of the top quarterbacks in the city of Philadelphia and is gaining plenty of interest from schools himself. The two have hooked up 28 times this season for 376 yards. Northeast will have to play a perfect game and make very few mistakes against this tougher Pioneer squad. The Pioneers are the definition of a team. The ground attack has seen four players receive more than fifty carries. The two premier backs out of the group are Kalif Walker and Hakeem Watson. Frankford wants this game badly for the chance to avenge its earlier season loss against Washington. Let’s see if the Vikings can catch the Pioneers looking ahead.
WPIAL AA First round Playoffs
Beaver Area Bobcats (7-2, State PR: 72.72, Rank: 31) vs. Sto-Rox Vikings (8-1, State PR: 77.79, Rank :23): This is going to be an epic battle between two excellent teams who have hit some bumps throughout the season. Sto-Rox looks to be back on track after last week's 39-8 win against Northgate while Beaver looks to get a playoff win after losing last week to Center Area.
Center Area Trojans (7-2, State PR: 73.60, Rank: 29) vs. Seton LaSalle Rebels (8-1, State PR: 78.14, Rank: 21): The Rebels fended off a really tough Keystone Oaks squad last week by a score of 20-0. The Rebels' stingy defense looks to keep up its good play versus a shaky Trojan squad that has split their last four contests. This game will likely come down to which Trojan squad shows up this weekend.
Keystone Oaks Eagles (8-1, State PR: 80.16, Rank 16) vs. Ford City Sabers (7-2, State PR: 71.59, Rank 33): Keystone comes into this matchup fresh off of its first loss of the season and looks to get back into form this weekend against the Sabers. The Eagles will try to use last weekend's game as motivation to perform up to par, while Ford City is riding high off of last week's 42-7 win against Kittanning. The Sabers have been shutout twice all season, but in almost all other games, have sported a very effective offense. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles get back into midseason form.
Division I Playoffs -- First Round
Mentor Cardinals (8-2, State PR: 82.35, Rank: 13) vs. South Rebels (7-2, State PR 75.31, Rank: 23): Plain and simple, if Mentor wants to return to the title game for the third straight year, they will have to first go through a tough Rebels team that has won seven straight. The Rebels posses a high-octane offense and could very well keep up with a battle-tested Mentor team. Mentor is currently in the midst of a winning streak having won its last six contests. This game is sure to have a lot of fireworks as both of these offenses can put up big points.
Strongsville Mustangs (9-1, State PR: 88.37, Rank: 7) vs. Euclid Panthers (7-3, State PR: 69.68, Rank: 24): The Mustangs have arguably been one of Ohio’s hottest teams this season after reeling off nine-straight wins since their opening loss, 37-36, to St. Edward. Can the Panthers muster enough offense to outscore the Mustangs? Only time will tell. The Panthers are looking for the upset this week and need to get back on track if they want any shot at beating the Mustangs after last week’s loss to Shaw.
Upper Arlington Golden Bears (9-1, State PR: 87.54, Rank 10) vs. Marysville Monarchs (7-3, State PR: 68.54, Rank: 26): The Golden Bears haven't lost since August and are looking to keep it that way this weekend against a Marysville team that can be dangerous. The Golden Bears barely squeaked by Dublin Coffman last week with a 7-6 win. Can they bounce back to form against the Monarchs, who have won four of their last five?
Hilliard Davidson Wildcats (9-1, State PR: 87.56, Rank: 9) vs. Grove City Greyhounds (6-4, State PR: 60.99, Rank: 42): The Wildcats look to use their No. 1 seed to their advantage this weekend in their matchup versus Grove City. Davidson has been consistent all year while Grove City is continually recovering after opening the season with three-straight losses. The Greyhounds are lucky to be in the playoffs, but let’s see if they take advantage of it.
Colerain Cardinals (9-1, State PR: 90.11, Rank: 5) vs. Archbishop Moeller Fighting Crusaders (6-4, State PR: 66.87, Rank: 30): Colerain started the season 6-0 before a slight hiccup against Middletown in the first week of October. Since that loss, the Cardinals have gotten right back on track with three-straight wins and are looking forward to this week's tough opponent. Archbishop Moeller is representing the Greater Catholic League and might be a better team than its record would lead one to believe. All four of Moeller’s losses have come against one or two-loss teams. The Crusaders also play one of the toughest schedules each season, so let’s see if the in-season battles have prepared them for this first round matchup.
Check for Andre's regional breakdowns every Thursday right here at FootballPower.