The scholastic football season began Aug. 23. It ends this weekend.
Three Southeastern Pennsylvania teams will vie for state championships at Hersheypark Stadium, with Archbishop Wood and Cheltenham squaring off for the PIAA Class 5 A title Friday night.
St. Joseph’s Prep will meet Central Dauphin for the Class 6A crown Saturday night.
Here’s a closer look at the matchups:
Archbishop Wood (10-3) vs. Cheltenham (14-1), Friday at 7 p.m.: This is a classic clash of an established power against an upstart program.
Archbishop Wood is seeking its sixth state title since 2011. The Vikings, who won this crown in 2017, are coming off a 24-21 victory over District 7 champion Gateway in the state semifinals, courtesy of senior Rob Meyer’s 25-yard field goal with 0:03 on the clock.
Junior running back Kaelin Costello has been on fire for the Vikings, running for 670 yards in the last five games. Costello gained 272 yards with scoring runs of 73 and 95 yards in the victory over Gateway.
Junior Cardel Pigford is a dynamic dual threat. He has rushed for 797 yards and eight touchdowns and generated 241 receiving yards with another five scores. Junior quarterback Max Keller has passed for 1,195 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Senior Ryan DiVergilis paces the Wood defense, while senior Charley Mininger is a top two-way lineman.
Cheltenham is seeking the school’s first state championship in football. The Panthers already have set a school record for victories in a season and also captured the program’s first District 1 title.
Cheltenham is a big-play team led by seniors such as quarterback Adonis Hunter, running back Jamir Barnes, and all-purpose standouts Nate Edwards and T.J. Harris.
Hunter has set a school record with 2,129 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. Barnes has run for 1,236 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Edwards has scored 20 touchdowns in a variety of ways. He has run for five, caught passes for nine, returned kickoffs for four, and returned interceptions for two.
Harris is just as dynamic and versatile. He has caught 10 touchdown passes and also leads the team with nine interceptions.
Senior Jon-Marc Foreman and junior Zach Gaffin have made 136 tackles each. Junior Sam Sykes has made 112 tackles and also has run for five touchdowns.
St. Joseph’s Prep (11-2) vs. Central Dauphin (12-2), Saturday at 6 p.m.: The District 12 champion Hawks are seeking their second straight state title and third in the last four seasons.
St. Joseph’s Prep is coming off a dramatic 31-24 overtime victory over Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic in the state semifinals. The Hawks tied the game on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Malik Cooper to Marvin Harrison with 15 seconds left in regulation.
Cooper, who ran for the winning touchdown in overtime, was 22-for-25 passing for 271 yards. In three starts since taking over for injured star quarterback Kyle McCord, Cooper is 33-for-44 passing for 346 yards.
Harrison, an Ohio State recruit, has 45 catches for 987 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior Kolbe Burrell is the Hawks’ rushing leader with 1,137 yards and 14 touchdowns, running behind a line featuring senior Matt Lombardi.
Senior linebacker Liam Johnson, senior linemen Anthony Leneghan and Blake Romano, and junior safety Julian Talley lead the St. Joseph’s defense. The team also has a top kicker in sophomore Antonio Chadha, who has made 59 extra points and eight field goals.
Central Dauphin won the program’s lone state title in 2011. The District 3 champion Rams are coming off a 65-44 win over District 1 winner Downingtown West in the state semifinals.
Central Dauphin is a sturdy, ground-oriented team led by a powerful front line. The Rams ran the ball with authority against Downingtown West, scoring on nine consecutive possessions.
Senior offensive lineman Bryce Thoman, a Temple recruit, and Chad Layton, an Air Force recruit, lead the way. Junior Timmy Smith has run for 1,257 yards and 16 touchdowns. He ran for 263 yards and scored four touchdowns against Downingtown West.