PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal

No. 1 La Salle (12-1) vs. No. 2 Ridley (13-1),

1 p.m. Saturday at Northeast.

Coaches. Dennis Decker is in his first year at Ridley. In four seasons at La Salle, Drew Gordon has compiled a 36-14 record. Both were standout quarterbacks back in their day.

Similar offenses. The Green Raiders and Explorers both use spread sets, with Colin Masterson and Drew Loughery, respectively, operating a lot from the shotgun formation.

Top-notch throwers. Masterson, a first-year starter, has thrown for nearly 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns. Loughery has passed for nearly 2,200 yards and 23 TDs.

Diminutive rusher. Ridley's Shahaid Smith, an elusive 5-foot-6, 150-pound junior tailback, carried 21 times for 83 yards and a touchdown in last week's 19-10 quarterfinal upset of North Penn. Rushing support comes from sophomore Jalen Randolph.

One-two punch. In its rushing attack, La Salle relies on 1,000-yard junior tailback Jamal Abdur-Rahman, also a receiving threat, and sophomore fullback Tim Wade.

Speedy bunch. Gordon said the Green Raiders, with their overall speed, remind him a bit of Catholic League rivals St. Joseph's Prep and Cardinal O'Hara. "Ridley is extremely fast and quick," he said. "We're going to have to play better than our best to beat these guys."

Mutual respect. Said Decker: "It's going to be a challenge for us. It's not like they do just one thing well. They pretty much do everything well."

Special teams. With placekicker/punter Mike Bennett, the Explorers have the special-teams advantage. But the Green Raiders are not far behind. Against North Penn, Tom Bongiorno's punts pinned the Knights at the 3, 11 and 14.

Analysis. This is probably the biggest toss-up game of the year. La Salle has a vaunted passing attack, Ridley the better overall speed. Both defenses are aggressive and physical. The Explorers have more senior leadership. Call it a hunch, but we're going, largely due to their defensive quickness and potential to pressure Loughery, with the Green Raiders.

Pick: Ridley, 21-17.

   - Rick O'Brien