In the bid for its first PIAA Class AAAA football championship since 2003, North Penn (13-2) will try to avoid a down-to-the-wire contest against Central Dauphin (14-1).

That's because the Rams, from District 3, have made the close-shave victory their trademark in the state playoffs. They have won their last four games by a combined 16 points.

Last Saturday, in a 23-20 triumph over defending champion North Allegheny, of District 7, the difference was Evan Brandes' 21-yard field goal in the closing seconds.

Following a 1-2 start, including a second-half collapse against St. Joseph's Prep in Week 3, North Penn has been shredding opponents. Last Saturday's 21-14 win over La Salle was the squad's 12th in a row.

Here is a closer look at Saturday's final, set for 6 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium:

States. North Penn is the last team from District 1 to claim a Class AAAA title. Central Dauphin is looking to become the first Class AAAA champ from District 3 since Cumberland Valley won in 1992.

Standout rusher. Central Dauphin's Zayd Issah, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior, has carried 217 times for 1,281 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Other rushing threats for the Rams are junior flanker Drew Scales (123 for 843, eight TDs) and senior halfback Adam Hollinger (83 for 621, four).

Aerial attack. Central Dauphin's Brandon LaVia, a 6-foot, 205-pound junior, has completed 93 of 164 passes for 1,421 yards and 14 scores. His No. 1 target is Issah, with 29 receptions for 674 yards and 10 scores.

Good to go. North Penn coach Dick Beck said Thursday that junior tailback Kyle Mayfield, who had only three touches against La Salle after suffering a shoulder injury in Week 14, is "100 percent."

Two-way star. Issah is also a rock-solid outside linebacker for a defense that has yielded 14.4 points per game.

Short-yardage man. Against La Salle, the Knights turned to rugged fullback Ralph Reeves near paydirt. Three of his four carries went for scores.

Much improved. North Penn's defense, allowing an average of 11.8 points in five playoffs, is headed by Reeves, an inside linebacker, end Shayne Watson, tackle Derek Brandt and outside linebackers Matt Smith and Danny Wynne.

Quotable. McNamee on the Knights: "They're big, physical and play relentless for 48 minutes. We're going to have to be prepared for it."

Analysis. We expect the Knights' defensive toughness, especially when it comes to stopping Issah in the late stages, to be the difference.

Pick: North Penn, 26-17.