Springfield (Delco) went undefeated in 10 regular-season games and captured its third Central League title in four seasons. Now, standout running back Ja'Den McKenzie and company turn their attention to the PIAA District 1 Class 5A tournament.
The top-seeded Cougars, who have outscored foes by 343-101, begin that quest when they host No. 16 Penncrest at 7 p.m. Friday.
Springfield fell just short of collecting the first-place hardware last year, losing to Academy Park, 24-18, in the final.
McKenzie has rushed 132 times for 1,029 yards (an average of 7.8 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder is supported on offense by fellow running back Phil Shovlin, receivers Kyle Long, Frank Durham Jr. and Jack Spence, and tight end Chris Finizio.
No. 2 seed Upper Moreland (9-0), No. 3 Unionville (9-1), and No. 4 Academy Park (6-3) are other strong contenders for the championship.
No. 6 Bishop Shanahan (7-3) has been toughened by playing Ches-Mont National Division powers Coatesville and Downingtown East.
And don't count out No. 7 Marple Newtown. With gunslinger Anthony Paoletti at the controls, the Tigers (6-4) could play the role of Cinderella. Paoletti, who is ticketed for Delaware, has completed 149 of 276 passes for 2,059 yards and 18 TDs.
Marple Newtown's first-round opponent, No. 10 Oxford (6-4), also has a strong-armed QB. Chandler England has converted 128 of 216 passes for 2,089 yards and 18 TDs.
No. 9 West Chester Rustin (6-4) travels to No. 8 Great Valley (7-3) for the second time in three weeks. Great Valley edged its Ches-Mont League American Division rival, 31-28, on Oct. 21.
A possible must-see quarterfinal would be Marple Newtown at Upper Moreland. While Paoletti showcases his talents, the Tigers would need to slow halfback Sterlen Barr (1,275 yards, 17 TDs) and Caleb Mead (1,127, 13) to advance.
We expect Springfield, Academy Park, Upper Moreland, and Unionville to reach the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Springfield gains payback against Academy Park and Upper Moreland, playing on its new turf field, squeaks past Unionville.
Our projected champion? Springfield gains its first district title with a 31-14 triumph over Upper Moreland.
The District 1 Class 4A playoff field is made up of No. 1 seed and defending champion Pottsgrove (9-1), No. 2 Pope John Paul II (7-3), No. 3 Upper Perkiomen (6-4), and No. 4 Interboro (5-5).
Rahsul Faison, a quick and shifty tailback for the Falcons, has carried 254 times for an area-best 2,437 yards and 36 TDs.
In a Pottsgrove-Upper Perkiomen final, Faison runs for 200-plus yards and the Falcons ease to a 44-18 victory.
Martin Luther King (7-3) at No. 19-ranked Northeast (5-2), 3 p.m. The run-happy Vikings oust the Cougars in a Public League Class 6A semifinal. Pick: Northeast, 36-12.
Quakertown (7-2) at No. 12 Pennridge (8-2), 7 p.m. The Panthers and Rams are Route 309 neighbors and Thanksgiving Day rivals. Pick: Pennridge, 30-14.
Central Bucks West (6-4) at No. 9 Garnet Valley (9-1), 7 p.m. The Jaguars' Matt Lassik and Danny Guy have combined to rush for 1,849 yards and 19 TDs. Pick: Garnet Valley, 28-7.
West Chester Rustin (6-4) at Great Valley (7-3), 7 p.m. The Patriots eke out another victory against the Golden Knights. Pick: Great Valley, 21-20.
No. 25 Episcopal Academy (5-3) at No. 24 Penn Charter (7-1), 2:30 p.m. Milton Mamula (15 1/2 sacks) and the Churchmen manage a taut win at Maguire Field. Pick. Episcopal, 20-17.