North Penn (12-2) is trying to take the next step toward its first PIAA Class AAAA state football championship since 2003. La Salle (12-1) is bidding for its third straight appearance in Hershey and second title.
The semifinal rematch between the Southeastern Pennsylvania powers is set for noon Saturday at Northeast. Last year, in a back-and-forth thriller at Plymouth Whitemarsh, La Salle prevailed, 38-35.
Here is a closer look at the playoff:
Coaches. North Penn's Dick Beck is 119-20 (.856 winning percentage) in 10 seasons. For La Salle, Drew Gordon is 63-17 (.788) in six years.
At stake. A berth in the state final against the survivor of Saturday's semifinal between District 7's North Allegheny (14-0) and District 3's Central Dauphin (13-1).
History. La Salle leads the series, 3-0. The Explorers won in Week 1, 44-27, and took last season's opener, 27-14.
Round 1. On Sept. 3 at PW, the Knights led, 21-10, at intermission. Coming back from a second-quarter benching, the Explorers' Matt Magarity threw for 177 yards and four touchdowns over the last 20 minutes to spark a come-from-behind victory.
Injury update I. La Salle's Sean Coleman, a speedy wideout and safety, is doubtful because of a right-foot injury suffered early in Saturday's 41-33 win over District 11's Nazareth.
"He still can't walk without pain," Gordon said Thursday. "It's not looking good. But you never know."
Injury update II. North Penn tailback Kyle Mayfield (191 carries for 1,408 yards, 10 TDs) is questionable after leaving in the third quarter of last Friday's 34-14 victory over Council Rock South with a shoulder injury.
Catalysts. For La Salle, averaging 31.9 points, Tim Wade has rushed for 1,458 yards and 20 TDs. Magarity has thrown for 1,677 yards and 24 scores.
The spark plugs for North Penn, averaging 33.4 points, have been Mayfield, QB Corey Ernst (1,997 yards passing, 25 TDs), rugged fullback Ralph Reeves, and handyman Dan Gevirtz.
Analysis. In addition to slowing Wade, the Knights will have to put consistent pressure on Magarity and avoid getting burned on big pass plays. The Explorers will need to keep Mayfield and/or Gevirtz from getting outside.
Pick. This time, with better pass defense and the aid of at least two turnovers, North Penn triumphs, 31-24.