After overcoming a highly explosive Coatesville offense in a state semifinal, St. Joseph's Prep's defense will try to slow one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in the championship game.
The 13-0 Hawks, who are seeking their fourth title in the last five seasons, will battle Phil Jurkovec and District 7's Pine-Richland (15-0) for the PIAA Class 6A crown at 6 p.m. Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium.
Jurkovec, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder and Notre Dame recruit, is the No. 8-ranked QB in the country according to ESPN. In directing the Rams to a 15-0 record, Jurkovec has completed 230 of 310 passes for 3,769 yards and 38 touchdowns, with only five interceptions.
"What strikes me the most is his effortless delivery," St. Joe's Prep coach Gabe Infante said. "He can really sling the ball."
Jurkovec has also rushed 115 times for 1,136 yards (9.9 average) and 20 scores.
"He's a very good runner," Infante said. "You're so worried about him throwing the ball, and the next thing you know, he's running for an 80-yard touchdown."
Jurkovec was sick for most of the week leading up to last week's 28-7 semifinal triumph over District 3's Manheim Township. At less than full strength, the savvy QB still managed to convert 20 of 43 passes for 243 yards and rush 13 times for 85 yards.
Pine-Richland, about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh, averages 49.4 points. The Rams scored at least 41 points in each of their victories before last week's win.
"They spread you out, make you defend every inch of the turf," Infante said. "They're not as fast as Coatesville, but they make plays and execute."
Pine-Richland has a strong one-two rushing punch in Jordan Crawford (130 carries for 1,206 yards and five TDs) and Kenny White (89 for 703 and two). Jurkovec's main targets are wideouts Jason DeFrancisis (70 catches for 1,131 yards and 10 scores) and Ray Falcone (52 for 967 and 11).
The Rams' 4-3 defense is headed by linemen Andrew Kristofic (6-6, 255) and Mike Katic (6-3, 280), linebackers Tyler King, Anthony Cerminara and Jared Marfisi, and backs Crawford and White.
"I think their defense is a lot better than it has been in the past," said Infante, whose squad is riding a 27-game win streak. "They have a bend-but-don't-break philosophy."
St. Joe's Prep is spurred on offense by QB Marquez McCray, halfbacks Marques Mason and Kolbe Burrell, and wideouts Brandon Sanders, James Cherry and Johnny Freeman.
McCray has hit on 115 of 198 throws for 1,414 yards and 13 TDs; McCray, Mason and Burrell have combined to rush for 1,909 yards and 34 scores; and Sanders, Cherry and Freeman have combined to make 78 catches for 1,028 yards.
St. Joseph's Prep (13-0) vs. Pine-Richland (15-0).
Saturday, 6 p.m., at HersheyPark Stadium.
Twitter. Follow @ozoneinq for updates.
TV. Live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
National attention. St. Joe's Prep is ranked No. 7 in the country in USA Today's Super 25.
Title rematch. The Hawks staved off a furious comeback to beat Pine-Richland, 49-41, for the Class 4A crown in 2014.
Possible breakthrough. The Rams are trying to capture their first title in three tries. They were nipped by District 3's Manheim Central, 39-38, in overtime in a snowy Class 4A final in 2003.
Stalwarts. The St. Joe's Prep defense is anchored by tackle Ryan Bryce, ends Rayshad Wallace (16 1/2 sacks) and Jake Ferry, linebackers Phil O'Connor and Bradley Cobaugh, cornerback Zach Bougess, and strong safety Dawson DeIuliis.