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St. Joe's Prep set for state title showdown

For St. Joseph's Prep, the "process" that coach Gabe Infante always talks about included starting the season against four out-of-state powers.

For St. Joseph's Prep, the "process" that coach Gabe Infante always talks about included starting the season against four out-of-state powers.

The Hawks went a disappointing 1-3, but obviously, since they're back in Hershey, the rigorous nonleague slate paid dividends.

The Prep (10-3 overall) goes for its second straight PIAA Class AAAA championship against District 7's Pine-Richland (15-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

The undefeated Rams, of suburban Pittsburgh, are seeking their first state title.

"We have our work cut out for us," Infante said. "They're everything as advertised. Everything they do is sound, they execute well, and they play with great emotion."

Pine-Richland averages 44.9 points per game in a hurry-up, spread attack. "We kind of do what the defense allows us to do," coach Eric Kasperowicz said.

Rams quarterback Ben DiNucci has thrown for 3,886 yards and 42 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior, who has pledged to Penn, is 66 yards shy of breaking the state's single-season passing mark.

Here is a closer look at the final.

Twitter. Follow @ozoneinq for updates.

TV. Live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Projected starters. Go to

Weather. A clear, 34-degree night is forecast.

Coaches. Infante is 43-18 (.705 winning percentage) in five years. Kasperowicz is 20-5 (.800) in his second season.

Fast fact. Kasperowicz quarterbacked North Hills to a 15-14 win over Central Bucks West in the 1993 Class AAAA final. He went on to play defense at Pittsburgh.

Speedy. The Hawks have a fleet of running backs in Olamide Zaccheaus, D'Andre Swift, James Bell, and Benny Walls.

Main targets. DiNucci spreads the ball among wideouts Mike Merhaut (96 receptions for 1,418 yards and 14 TDs), D'ondre Gadson (57 for 1,105, 14), and Anthony Battaglia (35 for 561, 6).

Back in action. The Prep's Tom Johnson, a senior outside linebacker who had been sidelined by injury, saw time in last week's 37-7 win over Pennsbury.

Up front. 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).

Leader. QB Jack Clements has quietly done a nice job of managing the Hawks offense. He has thrown for 1,900 yards and 24 TDs.

Stalwarts. Pine-Richland's 4-3 defense is spearheaded by tackle Ben Zoeller, linebacker Joe Lieberman, and safeties Merhaut and Brendan Burnham.

Questionable. When asked if Prep handyman and Penn State recruit John Reid would return from an injury, Infante said, "All I can say is that he's doing well and in good spirits."

Pick. The bigger and quicker Hawks deny the pass-happy Rams their first crown. Prep, 35-20.