When Garnet Valley and Lampeter-Strasburg square off tonight in the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA football playoffs at HersheyPark Stadium, the teams will be facing a mirror image of each other.
The Districts 1/12 subregion champion Garnet Valley Jaguars and the District 3 Pioneers are both run-first, pass-second when it comes to offense. Each has two big-play backs to run the ball and a reliable if not flashy quarterback to do the passing. And each plays a quick-to-the-ball swarming style of defense.
The winner will advance to the state championship game next Friday at HersheyPark against the winner of tonight's other semifinal between Erie's Strong Vincent and Thomas Jefferson. Strong Vincent is the District 10 winner, while Jefferson took first in District 7.
Here's a look at the teams:
For the record.
Lampeter-Strasburg enters the 7 p.m. game with a 12-2 mark. The losses to Cocalico and Lancaster Catholic were by a total of three points. For 12-1 Garnet Valley, the only loss was to Unionville, 13-7. The Jaguars got revenge for that by beating the Indians, 13-0, in the playoffs.
Lampeter-Strasburg had never gotten past the first round of the playoffs until this season. The Jaguars went 11-2 last year and made the final eight before losing to Pottsville.
On the ground.
The Pioneers will look to senior wing backs Justin Taylor and Rob Zimmerman. Taylor has rushed for more than 1,400 yards. He and Zimmerman have accounted for 40 touchdowns. Seniors Tim Keyser (1,113 yards) and Jared Bonacquisti (817) are Garnet Valley's top rushers.
In the air.
The Pioneers' senior quarterback, Brett Graeff, has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has only been intercepted five times. Eric Van Wyk has 1,342 yards and 12 TDs passing. He has been intercepted five times.
Whom to keep an eye on.
Lampeter-Strasburg's lightweight but quick-pulling guards, Blair Stevens and Andrew Krimmel, are key to its running game. Fullback Joe Good rushed for three TDs in the Pioneers win 35-21 win over Gettysburg last week. When he has the opportunity, the Jaguars' Van Wyk is very effective running the ball. He has rolled up more than 700 yards.
Both teams are in reasonably good shape for this late in the season.
The teams appear evenly matched. The game could easily come down to which team holds onto the football best.