Pittsburgh Central Catholic is 15-0, has outscored foes by a combined 664-82, has a defensive front seven allowing about 60 yards rushing per game, and has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.
The Vikings are indeed imposing. But St. Joseph's Prep coach Gabe Infante says he has no plan of using a David vs. Goliath approach to motivate his players for the PIAA Class AAAA state championship game.
"We don't look it at that way," said Infante, taking a break Sunday from watching film of Central Catholic. "That kind of thinking will not sustain you for four quarters. It's more about who we are as a team and us playing to our strengths."
The Hawks, who advanced Saturday with a 37-21 win over District 1 titlist Neshaminy, and Vikings, of District 7, will clash at 6 p.m. Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium.
Central Catholic moved closer to its fourth state crown with Saturday's 45-0 pounding of District 3's Lower Dauphin. Terry Totten's squad held the Falcons to 21 yards of offense (15 rushing) and one first down.
"That's a tough unit," Infante said. "They play fast, come off the ball very well, and they're very physical."
The Vikings' defense, which has posted seven shutouts, is headed by 5-foot-11, 220-pound linebacker Niko Thorpe and linemen Zack DeLuca, Rich Ryan, and Angelo Natter.
On the other side, the one-two rushing punch of Luigi Lista-Brinza and Riley Redman has combined for more than 2,700 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Of Lista-Brinza, Infante said the 5-10, 190-pounder reminds him of St. Joe's Prep running back Vince Moffett. "He has elusive speed, and he's always moving forward. There's not a lot of lost motion there."
Though it prefers to keep the ball on the ground, Central Catholic, averaging 44.3 points a game, has a strong-armed passer in J.J. Cosentino. The 6-4, 220-pound senior has committed to Florida State.
The Vikings have a deep-ball threat in senior wideout Shafer Swann. He is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann.
Said Infante: "You can see some of his father in him. He's physical, doesn't take any plays off."
In their win over Neshaminy, the Hawks (11-3) allowed 248 rushing yards on 40 attempts. Used mostly out of a Wildcat formation, the Redskins' D'Andre Pollard and Denny Lord combined for 235 yards and three scores.
Prep senior Chris Martin hit on 12 of 20 throws for 243 yards and two TDs. "When they loaded the box, we took advantage of it," Infante said.
Extra points. Pollard, a junior, carried 28 times for 131 yards and a score against the Prep. For the season, he rushed 328 times for 2,929 yards and 39 TDs. . . . The Prep's Tom Johnson (nine stops, seven solos), Ryan McNulty (eight, five), and Dillon DeIuliis (seven, five) combined for 24 tackles. Also active for the Hawks were Moffett (seven, three) at free safety and John Reid (six, five) at cornerback. Rob Finegan made a pair of special-teams tackles. . . . Neshaminy lost senior defensive end Dorian Arthur to an apparent knee injury in the first quarter. . . . Redskins tackle Dan Johnson and nose guard Alex Nicolas notched sacks. . . . An intriguing one-on-one battle was Prep offensive tackle Jon Daniel Runyon (6-4, 255) vs. Neshaminy defensive end Luke Carrezola (6-3, 245). . . . Cardinal O'Hara will host a College Night on Monday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the school's cafeteria. The event, which is free, is open to senior and junior football players from the Greater Philadelphia region. About 30 schools, mostly from the Division II and III level, will be represented.
PIAA Class AAA Championship
Archbishop Wood (12-2) vs. Bishop McDevitt (14-1), 7 p.m.
PIAA Class AA Championship
Imhotep Charter (12-2) vs. South Fayette (15-0), noon.
PIAA Class AAAA Championship
St. Joseph's Prep (11-3) vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (15-0), 6 p.m.
The Inquirer TOP 25
Last week's rankings in parentheses.
Rk. Team Rec.
1. St. Joe's Prep (4) 11-3
In a 37-21 triumph over Neshaminy, Chris Martin passed for 243 yards. Next: Saturday vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
2. Imhotep (1) 12-2
Deandre Scott had a 75-yard TD run in a 20-0 blanking of Berks Catholic. Next: Saturday vs. South Fayette.
3. Arch. Wood (3) 12-2
Jarrett McClenton rushed for two scores in a 42-14 romp over Berwick. Next: Friday vs. Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt.
4. Neshaminy (2) 13-2
In the loss to St. Joe's Prep, the Redskins totaled 248 yards on the ground. Next: Season complete.
5. La Salle (5) 8-3
Strong safety Ryan Brady was one of the Explorers' defensive leaders. Next: Season complete.
6. North Penn (6) 10-4
Sophomore Nyfease West rushed for 1,579 yards and 12 touchdowns. Next: Season complete.
7. Pennsbury (7) 10-2
The Falcons will return several headliners, including QB Breon Clark. Next: Season complete.
8. Arch. Ryan (8) 8-3
Samir Bullock rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 21 scores. Next: Season complete.
9. Malvern Prep (9) 8-2
The Friars tied Haverford School for top Inter-Ac League honors. Next: Season complete.
10. Abington (10) 10-4
As a two-way lineman, Jake Clark was a stalwart for the Ghosts. Next: Season complete.
11. Garnet Valley (11) 11-1
12. Perk. Valley (12) 10-3
13. Acad. Park (13) 10-3
14. Glen Mills (14) 9-4
15. Pottsgrove (15) 11-1
16. Spring-Ford (16) 10-3
17. Frankford (17) 8-4
18. Down. West (18) 8-3
19. Coatesville (19) 9-2
20. W.C. Rustin (20) 10-1
21. Father Judge (21) 7-4
22. C.B. West (22) 9-3
23. West Catholic (23) 9-3
24. Unionville (24) 8-3
25. P-Whitemarsh (25) 8-3
Under consideration (listed alphabetically): C.R. North (7-4), Episcopal (8-3), Haverford School (6-5), Pennridge (8-4), Upper Dublin (9-2).
- Rick O'Brien