Upper Dublin looks to defy the skeptics again and continue an unprecedented run. Imhotep Charter tries to punch its second ticket to Hershey. And West Catholic seeks to move closer to its first crown since 2010.
The upstart Cardinals, talent-filled Panthers, and streaking Burrs are set for PIAA state semifinal playoff games.
Upper Dublin, fresh off winning its first District 1 Class AAAA title, takes on District 11's Parkland at 1 p.m. Saturday at Souderton.
In Class AAA, Imhotep, which advanced to the AA final in 2013, meets fellow unbeaten Saucon Valley, of District 4, at 7 p.m. Friday at Bethlehem's Frank Banko Field.
After a 1-3 start to the season, West Catholic arrives for its Class AA clash with District 4's Southern Columbia, set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Northern Lehigh in Slatington, with a five-game winning streak.
Here is a closer look at the state semis involving area squads.
Parkland (13-1) vs. Upper Dublin (14-0). With his players huddled around him following last Saturday's 46-21 romp over North Penn, Cardinals coach Bret Stover said, "The only people who need to believe in us are in this circle."
Since Parkland has considerable size up front, speed, and three Division I football commits, Upper Dublin remains an underdog. And the Cardinals relish that role. "As long as I've been playing here, that's usually been the case," said senior quarterback Ryan Stover, the coach's son.
The Trojans' senior headliners are dual-threat QB Devante Cross, who is projected to play defensive back at Boston College, 6-foot-4 wideout Kenny Yeboah (Temple), and 6-5, 275-pound lineman Noah Brouse (Syracuse).
The 6-2, 185-pound Cross has completed 170 of 276 passes for 2,424 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has carried 209 times for 1,352 yards and 19 scores.
Yeboah has 62 catches for 974 yards and 12 TDs. Halfback Erik[CQ] DiGirolamo is another threat, with 164 carries for 1,078 yards and 20 scores.
Upper Dublin's quick defensive front has to find a way to make plays against a Parkland line made up of Brouse and fellow tackle Steven Feher (6-4, 260), guards Pat Ferry (6-3, 315) and Drew Parry (5-11, 230), and center Alex VanWoert (5-10, 210).
Pick. The Cardinals, spurred by Ryan Stover's poise and aided by a few turnovers, surprise again. Upper Dublin, 28-23.
Imhotep (13-0) vs. Saucon Valley (14-0). Imhotep, which has outscored foes by 588-74, is focused on slowing a run-heavy attack.
Evan Culver, a 5-10, 190-pound senior halfback, has carried 273 times for 2,861 yards and a jaw-dropping 45 TDs. QB Zach Thatcher has rushed for 1,121 yards and passed for 1,110.
"He's got really good vision, he's patient, and he can hit the hole and go," Imhotep coach Albie Crosby said.
Since Imhotep lost Tyliek Raynor to a broken ankle in its win over Academy Park, it will lean heavily on fellow halfback Mike Waters. Waters has rushed for 1,468 yards and 35 TDs.
Pick. It's a considerable step up in competition for Culver and company. Imhotep, 48-21.
West Catholic (10-4) vs. Southern Columbia (14-0). Southern Columbia is a six-time state champ at the Class A level, including five straight from 2002 to 2006.
The Tigers' wing-T attack is powered by halfbacks Hunter Thomas (1,423 rushing yards, 22 TDs) and Blake Marks (936, 15), and 5-11, 230-pound fullback Jared Torres (931, 13).
West QB Joshua Evans (2,504 yards passing, 26 TDs) has fleet targets in Craig Jones, Jameer Bryson, and Amadou Barry. The three have combined for 93 catches for 2,128 yards and 20 scores.
Pick. The Burrs' overall speed paves the way for a taut win. West, 26-19.