NO. 4 MIDDLETOWN VS. NO. 1 SALESIANUM
WHEN, WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Baynard Stadium, Wilmington
LAST WEEK: Defeated Sussex Tech 42-7 in first round of playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: Frankie Datillo rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win, as the Cavaliers built a 21-0 lead three minutes into the second quarter. Kedrick Whitehead, who recovered a fumble to set up the first TD, also has emerged as a rushing threat and scored on a 26-yard run. The defense held Sussex Tech RB Patrick Griffin, who rushed for 1,622 yards during the regular season, to less than 20 yards.
KEY WINS: Smyrna 76-56, Middletown 20-6, William Penn 30-13, Sussex Tech 42-7.
KEY LOSS: Father Judge (Pa.) 14-7.
KEY PLAYERS: TB-S Colby Reeder (1,783 yards, 28 TDs; 56 tackles), QB Garrett Cannon (64-112 passing, 950 yards, 8 TDs), WR Jeremy Ryan (27 catches, 402 yards), WR Griffin Salvo (18 catches, 236 yards), FB Zach Jarome (356 yards, 2 TDs), DE Kyle Cathers (62 tackles, 8 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries), LB William Stradley (56 tackles, 3 sacks), DT Marek Easton (58 tackles, 14 sacks).
ANALYSIS: Rematch of Oct. 9 meeting at Baynard, when Salesianum scored on drives of 31, 2 and 25 yards after Middletown turnovers and won 20-6. Cavaliers’ only touchdown came on a 74-yard run by Whitehead, with their other 23 carries going for minus-2 yards. But Datillo has returned from injury, which could give Middletown a boost. Reeder rushed 30 times for 181 yards in the first meeting. Cavaliers playing for their sixth consecutive trip to the Division I championship game. Middletown has seven state titles (three in Division I, four in Division II); Salesianum has seven Division I crowns. Sals are 4-0 against D-I playoff teams this year, winning by an average of 21.5 points. But Middletown’s turnovers made all the difference the first time, so if the Cavaliers can hold on to the ball the state’s best D-I scoring defense (8.6 points per game) should keep them close. Reeder has blocked five kicks this season, so he could block a Middletown extra point to win it.
PREDICTION: Salesianum 14, Middletown 13.
NO. 3 SMYRNA AT NO. 2 WILLIAM PENN
WHEN, WHERE: 1 p.m. Saturday, Bill Cole Stadium, New Castle.
LAST WEEK: Defeated Mount Pleasant 56-32 in first round of playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Nolan Henderson completed 13 of 24 passes for 276 yards and five touchdowns last week, with four of the scores going to WR Donte Ritchie (6 catches, 164 yards). RB Will Knight rushed 25 times for 245 yards and a TD. Knight also scored on six two-point runs, giving him 47 for the season. LB Jake Kaiser returned an interception 6 yards for a TD. But the Eagles were susceptible to the pass, as two Mount Pleasant QBs completed 20 of 39 throws for 321 yards and two TDs.
WILLIAM PENN (9-1)
KEY WINS: St. Georges 33-12, Middletown 13-7, Mount Pleasant 31-13.
KEY LOSS: Salesianum 30-13.
KEY PLAYERS: QB D.J. Johnson (1,057 yards, 16 TDs passing), RB Titus Nelson (918 yards, 12 TDs), RB Kamau Floyd (634 yards, 8 TDs), RB Joe Greenwood (485 yards, 5 TDs), WR-DB Chichi Amachi (27 catches, 547 yards, 8 TDs; 21 tackles, 5 INT), TE-DE Frank Burton (17 catches, 269 yards, 5 TDs; 65 tackles, 14 for loss, 7 sacks), DB Zach Burton (36 tackles, 4 INT), DL Elijah Lewis (62 tackles, 19 for loss, 6 sacks).
ANALYSIS: Smyrna offense is averaging 55 points per game. William Penn defense is allowing 12.3 points per game. So something has to give. Smyrna hasn’t reached a championship game since 1975, falling to Glasgow in the first Division II title game. William Penn won its ninth Division I championship last year, and the Colonials have won 21 of their last 22 games. Henderson has passed for 3,036 yards and 34 TDs, but William Penn coach Marvin Dooley believes the key to beating the Eagles is controlling Knight. That won’t be easy, as he has rushed for 1,678 yards and 27 scores. The Colonials hope to run it right up the middle, control the clock and keep the Smyrna offense idling on the sideline. It’s hard to imagine anyone shutting down the Eagles, but the defending champs may be able to outscore Smyrna either way.
PREDICTION: William Penn 49, Smyrna 48.
NO. 5 HOWARD VS. NO. 3 WILMINGTON FRIENDS
WHEN, WHERE: 1 p.m. Friday, DeGroat Field, Wilmington.
LAST WEEK: Defeated Tower Hill 30-16 in first round of playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Earnest Austin ran for three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ playoff opener. RB Gerald Wiggins and WR Korey Kent can take it all the way on any play, combining for 21 scores. Two-way linemen Amod John and Darin Matthews are tough up front, and DB Na’Quan Watson has 10 interceptions.
WILMINGTON FRIENDS (9-1)
LAST WEEK: Defeated Lake Forest 34-14 in first round of playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: The Quakers have remarkable balance, averaging 35.1 points per game despite not having a single player with 600 yards passing, rushing or receiving. QB Justin Beneck rushed for three TDs last week, HB Henry Gise scored twice and FB Stephen Maguire had 61 yards on 22 carries. Two-way end Tom Cover leads a defense that held Lake Forest to 122 total yards, and DT Ikechukwu Adebi recovered a key fumble last week.
ANALYSIS: Both teams have only reached the D-II championship game once, Howard falling to Delmar in 2002 and Friends defeating Claymont in 1984. The Quakers have the state’s all-time winningest coach in Bob Tattersall (292-148-7) and have won 23 of their last 26 games. Friends minimizes penalties and turnovers and does a lot of things right, but Howard’s speed advantage may be too much to overcome. Look for the Wildcats to win a tight game with a two-point conversion.
PREDICTION: Howard 22, Friends 21.
NO. 7 WOODBRIDGE AT NO. 1 ST. GEORGES
WHEN, WHERE: 1 p.m. Saturday, St. Georges Stadium, Middletown.
LAST WEEK: Defeated Delaware Military Academy 12-7 in first round of playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: Halfback tandem of Ju’Wan Massey (21 carries, 125 yards) and Terrique Riddick (18 carries, 56 yards) controlled the clock, and freshman QB Troy Haynes’ only completion was a 20-yard TD to Bragg Davis for the winning points with 7:32 left last week. LB Leah Styles and DL Shymere Vessels lead a defense that held DMA to 94 total yards.
ST. GEORGES (10-1)
LAST WEEK: Defeated Hodgson 39-14 in first round of playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Gary Brightwell rushed for 178 yards and two TDs and caught a 25-yard scoring pass from Tordell Kemp last week. The Hawks intercepted four passes – two by Nyree Williamson, one each by Robert Shorts and Brian Benson. LB Shaquan Brittingham and DL Stefon Woodruff also shine.
ANALYSIS: Matchup of D-II’s two best scoring defenses – Woodbridge (8.6) and St. Georges (9.7). Both teams have four shutouts. The Blue Raiders are playing for their first championship game appearance, while the Hawks knocked off Woodbridge 37-21 in the 2013 semifinals en route to their only trip to the finals. Woodbridge has won its last six games, as a roster dotted with freshmen and sophomores has matured quickly. St. Georges has won 10 straight after putting up a good fight in a 33-12 loss to defending Division I champ William Penn in the season opener. The Hawks’ advantages in size and depth should make the difference.
PREDICTION: St. Georges 27, Woodbridge 14.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ