Two Philadelphia Public League teams head full throttle into the PIAA state quarterfinals this weekend. Here is a look at the matchups:
Class 4A quarterfinal: Imhotep (11-0) vs North Pocono (10-3), Friday at Northern Lehigh, 7 p.m.
The Imhotep Panthers their win streak to 27 games with a 36-6 toppling of Cardinal O'Hara last week in the District 12 championship game.
Imhotep's last loss came in 2014 against Archbishop Wood in the Class 3A district title game. This week, the Panthers face District 2 top dog North Pocono, which ran for 201 yards in the first half of last week's 21-6 bulldozing of Berwick.
A major problem for the Trojans offense, however, will be an Imhotep defense that has allowed only 33 points all season.
Last week, Imhotep held the Lions to less than 100 rushing yards for just the second time all season. In a 36-0 Week 1 win against Dobbins, O'Hara finished with 92 rushing yards, which included two players who totaled minus-8 yards.
The Panthers have also yet to allow more than eight points in a game. Senior linebacker Amin Black, 5-11, 230 pounds, and senior nose guard Jalen Denby, 6-foot, 345 pounds, are among the key run-stuffers on Imhotep's stifling defense.
North Pocono is in the PIAA playoffs for the first time in program history, according to the Times-Tribune in Scranton.
Matt Craig, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior running back, finished with 188 yards and two scores against Berwick last week.
Defensively, 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker Tyler Musgrave had 10 tackles last week and also added 88 rushing yards as a fullback.
Keys for the Panthers: Imhotep won't likely be overmatched in talent by any team in the state, so the key for the Panthers is to not beat themselves with penalties, turnovers, or other lapses.
Class 3A quarterfinal: Del-Val Charter (8-4) vs. Notre Dame-Green Pond (11-2), Saturday at Bethlehem Liberty, 1 p.m.
The teams' opposing styles should make for an interesting fight. The Public League Warriors, who avenged a loss to District 12 champion Conwell-Egan by beating the Eagles in first-round action last week, find their offensive success primarily on the ground.
The District 11 champion Crusaders run a spread offense that has averaged 38 points per game by utilizing strong passing and rushing attacks.
The Warriors rely on an offensive line that averages 298 pounds and comprises four seniors and a junior.
Kyree Wade-McLeod, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound senior, is the biggest of the bunch. Ryan Ford is a 6-1, 283-pound junior. Ari Long, Del-Val's center, is a 6-2, 315-pound senior. Seniors Stephon Dowling, 6-1, 286 pounds, and Fritz-Kelly Edmond, 6-5, 285 pounds, round out a line that helped the Warriors average 232 rushing yards per game this season.
Last week, junior running back Azyear Sutton-Walker led Del-Val with 114 yards and a score on just 11 carries (10 yards per carry). Sophomores Syree Groce (548) and Charles Britt (426) also figure prominently in the Warriors' ground game.
In a 28-7 revenge victory against Pen Argyl last week, Notre Dame-Green Pond held Logan Sterner, who led the Colonial League in rushing during the regular season, to just 41 yards on 20 carries, according to the Allentown Morning Call.
Sterner, a junior, rushed for 270 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries in an October win against the Crusaders.
On defense, the Warriors' opportunistic and aggressive unit must deal with multiple fronts.
Led by sophomore quarterback Cole Defranco and senior running back Mitch Daniel, the Crusaders have averaged 207 passing yards and 170 rushing yards per game this season.
Defranco, a 5-foot-9, 170-pounder, has thrown for 2,693 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes and throwing 12 interceptions. He has also added 551 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Daniel, a 5-8, 170-pounder, has 991 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished with 105 yards and two ground tallies in last week's triumph.
Senior wideouts Jalen Simpson and Jon Moran are the major threats on the outside.
Keys for the Warriors: Del-Val's defense will likely need to pressure Defranco to disrupt the passing game. Against the run, look for senior linebackers Asadiq Dejesus, 6-2, 222 pounds, and Maurice McCray, 6-2, 228 pounds, to be possible difference makers against the Crusaders' rushing attack. On offense, no matter how much rushing success they find, the Warriors might still need to make one or two plays in the passing game.