ARMEN WARE has grown accustomed to rising before the sun during football season.

That's a really good thing because traffic on the commute from Middletown, Del. to St. Joseph's Prep leaves little room for error.

"If we leave at 6:30, the traffic is OK," Ware said, "but if we leave at 6:45 or 6:50 it gets really bad because we get caught up in it."

No matter what, the 6-1, 206-pound senior defensive tackle sits in his mom's all-black Nissan Armada for at least 90 minutes, en route to Prep's Girard Avenue campus.

Perhaps you can lop off 30 minutes on the back end after his mother, Jacqueline, picks him up after practice around 7:30 p.m.

However, his day isn't over yet. The B-plus student must still manage dinner, books and game film. It's routine now, but the early transition was difficult.

"It was really brutal actually," Ware said of freshman struggles. "I thought about actually just attending another school in Delaware . . . but I really wanted to stick it out at the Prep."

Fortunately for the Hawks, Ware, a second-team Catholic League coaches' selection this season, hung around to help a now injury-depleted group into the Class AAAA state semifinals.

The defending PIAA champs play District 1 Pennsbury tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Northeast High's Charles Martin Memorial Field.

For Ware, that's the fun part.

"This is my last year and I want to go out with a bang," he said. "All the work that I've done, I really want to show it. I think it would be a waste if I didn't."

After growing in Philly, Ware and his mother moved to Delaware where he attended Caravel Academy, and played tackle football for the first time in eighth grade.

From there, he moved on to the Prep and experienced its stringent academic and athletic standards.

"Freshmen year was tough," he said. "I definitely spent a lot more time with football than anything else . . . and that was only freshman football! When I got to sophomore year and I started to play varsity and JV that was by far the most time consuming thing I've ever done in my life."

Now, Ware is one of Prep's major defensive disrupters, even racking up three sacks against Ben Franklin in the AAA city title game (Prep won, 47-22). Division I-AA as well as Division II and III schools have taken notice.

He's also a 1,000-pounder - one of several Hawks whose bench press, squat and hang clean totals max out over 1,000 pounds.

For the record, Ware reports three reps apiece with 255, 500 and 260 pounds, respectively (1,015 total).

Among other 1000-pound members, according to Ware, are Jake Strain, Jon Daniel Runyan, Dillon DeIuliis and John Reid, who missed last week's quarterfinal against Parkland with a knee injury (SJP won, 34-30).

"It would definitely be great to have John and Tom Johnson [also injured] in there," Ware said. "They're great leaders on the team, but with the young guys it's just a great learning experience for them that will definitely improve them for next year."

In junior year, an ankle injury scuttled Ware's postseason play after he had started through the PCL title game against La Salle.

"I think I'm very lucky to not be hurt [again]," he said. "A lot of our star players have been, or are hurt, right now. I'm really happy that I'm still healthy, trying to stay healthy."

Besides, who has time for injuries?

"Just come home and try not to feel tired and still have time to watch film and do my homework," he said. "It's just really hard sometimes. I do want to sleep really badly, but I still have a lot of work to do."

The tentative tally is 20 minutes a night for film and schoolwork until midnight, "that seems like a good time to sleep," Ware says.

However, in the end Ware sees the benefits.

"If I went to any other school, I don't think I would have been as prepared because it's a college preparatory school. Plus, in college I think it might be easier because everything will be near me. It will be a weird commute because classes will be [close] and I'll be near a football field."

And with Prep's mother-son dinner taking place last night, Ware didn't need long to explain how he stays motivated on those longest of nights.

"It just comes from my mother because I really want to make her proud," he said. "I know she's up there in the stands. She's driven me back and forth to practice and I want to show her my work is paying off. It's not a waste of time or money."

She knows.

"It's been me and him for a long time," Jacqueline Ware said. "The more I think about it, it makes me want to cry because he's been such a great kid . . . We're a team. We might be a small team, but we're a team."

PIAA Agenda

Who:  St. Joseph's Prep vs. Pennsbury

What:  Class AAAA semifinal

When:  Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where:  Northeast High

Who:  Archbishop Wood vs. Somerset

What:  Class AAA semifinal

When:  Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where:  Chambersburg High

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN