St. Joseph's Prep, in looking to capture its second consecutive PIAA Class AAAA state football title, is preparing for a major aerial assault.
Pine-Richland quarterback Ben DiNucci has connected on 246 of his 355 passes for 3,886 yards and 42 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior is 66 yards shy of breaking the state's single-season passing record.
"He's really fun to watch," St. Joseph's coach Gabe Infante said. "I love the way he throws the football. And he seems like a real cool customer under pressure."
The Hawks (10-3) and undefeated Rams (15-0) are set to meet for top honors at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
Pine-Richland, of suburban Pittsburgh, is averaging 44.9 points per game in a hurry-up, spread attack. The District 7 titlist is making its first appearance in the final since losing to District 3's Manheim Central in double overtime in 2003.
DiNucci, recently selected the state's Gatorade player of the year, has passed for 7,242 career yards. He is ticketed for Penn.
His primary targets are wideouts Mike Merhaut (96 receptions for 1,418 yards and 14 TDs), D'ondre Gastion (57 for 1,105, 14), and Anthony Battaglia (35 for 561, 6). H-back Luke Everett (28 for 474, 4) is another threat.
Rams coach Eric Kasperowicz, who quarterbacked North Hills to an AAAA championship in 1993, says one of the keys to knocking off the Prep is allowing DiNucci time in the pocket.
The Rams offensive line is anchored by center Jake Good (6-3, 240) and guards Matt Pickels (6-0, 250) and John Kohley (6-2, 275). Tackles James Willard (6-5, 270) and Matt Hampson (6-4, 220) round out the group.
"We're going to need a big game from them Saturday night if we're going to have a chance," Kasperowicz said.
Watch them run. When Archbishop Wood (13-1) and Central Valley (15-0) meet at 7 p.m. Friday in Hershey for the Class AAA crown, the running talents of Jarrett McClenton and Jordan Whitehead will be showcased.
For the Vikings, McClenton, a Villanova recruit, has carried 173 times for 1,956 yards and 33 TDs. Whitehead, who is projected to be a defensive back at Pittsburgh, has netted 1,899 yards and 22 scores on 135 attempts for the Warriors.
"He can do a lot," Wood coach Steve Devlin said of Whitehead. "When he gets outside, he's dangerous. They use him in a lot of different ways."
Central Valley, of District 7, is about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The school opened in 2010 and Mark Lyons has been its football coach since.
Lyons is concerned about Wood's imposing offensive line. The unit has helped the Vikings average 44.9 points.
"They play the offensive line like it should be played," Lyons said. "They're well-coached up there. It's not so much the scheme, but the execution."
Central Valley quarterback John George, who was slowed earlier this season by a high-ankle sprain, has hit on 66 of 105 passes for 1,329 yards and 15 TDs. "Once he got healthy again, he's been our go to-guy," Lyons said.
Of Wood's Ryan Bates a stalwart two-way lineman and Penn State recruit, Lyons said, "He really gets after it, he's always picking other guys up, and he seems like he's having fun out there."