North Penn gets slight edge in district final

Posted: November 30, 2013

It is smashmouth football at its best, with both teams taking a run-the-ball-down-your-throat approach and with bone-rattling hits the norm.

In what figures to be another backyard brawl, North Penn and Neshaminy are set to clash in the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years.

The Knights (10-3) and Redskins (12-1) will vie for the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA championship - and a berth in the state semifinals - at 7 p.m. Friday at Souderton.

Combined, the teams have won eight of the last 12 district titles. North Penn triumphed in 2002, '03, '05, '08, '10, and '11; Neshaminy prevailed in 2001 and '04.

In the head-to-head series between the former Suburban One League National Conference rivals, the Knights have won four straight contests.

"The last couple of games against North Penn have been very one-sided in their favor," Redskins coach Mark Schmidt said. "This time, we really need to be ready to get after it."

The Knights beat Neshaminy in the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2011, and won in the final in 2008 and 2010. The Redskins last came out on top in a 2007 quarterfinal.

North Penn, the No. 11 seed, enters the latest showdown riding a 10-game winning streak; No. 4 Neshaminy righted itself after a 31-3, Week 10 drubbing at the hands of Pennsbury.

For the Knights, who have averaged 35.9 points since their 0-3 start, Austin Shearer has thrown for 1,370 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The other key figures for Dick Beck's squad are tailback Nyfease West and fullback Luke Berry, who have combined for 2,383 rushing yards and 23 TDs. Nick Wright is a threat as a wingback.

The Redskins are fueled by junior tailback D'Andre Pollard, who has rushed 275 times for an area-high 2,563 yards and 32 TDs, and fullback Denny Lord.

This should be a taut, down-to-the-wire contest. We're giving a slight lean to the Knights, with a Matt Ammendola field goal being the difference.

Pick: North Penn, 24-21.

Other Friday games

PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal

Academy Park (10-2) vs. Archbishop Wood (10-2), at Northeast, 7. Since the Catholic League joined the PIAA in 2008, Wood has advanced to at least the semifinals each year. The Vikings claimed gold in 2011.

The Knights accept their underdog status.

"That's usually how we go into most games," coach Jason Vosheski said. "When we play [Del-Val League rivals] Glen Mills and Interboro, that's how we see ourselves."

Academy Park will try for the upset without quarterback Brian Ingram, who suffered a broken collarbone in last week's 22-14 win over Glen Mills. His place will be taken by wideout Jeff Devaughn or backup Allon Ruffin, or a combination of the two.

Pick: The Vikings' vaunted ground game has continued success. Wood, 41-7.


PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal

St. Joseph's Prep (9-3) vs. Parkland (12-1), at Bethlehem Liberty, 1. The Prep has struggled in recent weeks, barely escaping Frankford in the District 12 final and bowing to Malvern Prep in a nonleague tilt.

There's a good chance QB Chris Martin will return for the Prep after sitting out the last two games because of a knee injury.

Parkland has an explosive tailback in Kareem Williams, who ran for 309 yards and four TDs in last week's 42-0 pounding of Easton. Handyman Eli Redmond is likewise dangerous.

Pick: Boosted by speedy rusher Olamide Zaccheaus and an inspired defense, the Prep advances, 21-14.

PIAA Class AA quarterfinal

Catasauqua (13-1) vs. Imhotep Charter (11-1), at Germantown, 1. The high-octane Panthers, thriving on the ground and via the air, are averaging 54 points in the playoffs.

The Rough Riders, of District 11, have a strong pass-catch duo in Zach Bradley (2,896 passing yards, 43 TDs) and Paryss Marshall (1,374 receiving yards, 20 TDs).

Pick: D.J. Moore and Co. send overmatched Catty packing. Imhotep, 49-14.