Champions in Chocolate Town
By Joe Stokes
The stage is set, the teams are ready and we enter the final weekend of the 2008 high school football season. The eight teams remaining are just one sweet win from the great taste of a title. Hershey will once again roll out a red carpet welcome and provide a beautiful Christmas season background to this fun event, the finals of the PIAA football playoffs.
All four divisions staged great semi-final games last weekend and it will be tough to match those contests this weekend. If history is a guide these talented teams will not disappoint the fans in the stands or the statewide TV audience watching on the PCN network.
The last few weeks of every season is always tough to predict but this year the teams still in the running could easily be seen as a champion. Over the last two seasons this writer has compiled a 105-36 prediction record. While 2008 results show a 51-24 best guess prognostication level.
Last week’s predictions went pretty well at 4-1. Liberty, West Catholic, Archbishop Wood and Bethel Park all advanced with Schuylkill Haven coming up just short in a hard fought loss to Steel High as the only prediction blemish.
Let’s take a look at the final matchups starting with the AAAA showdown between Bethel Park and Bethlehem Liberty. Coach Tim Moncman brings his Liberty Hurricanes back to Hershey for the fourth time in the last five years. Although his teams have not yet come home victors in the final game, it is hard to match that kind of success. The problem is that 2008 offers no easy road to that elusive title. Bethel Park knocked off the pre playoff favorite Gateway and they have not looked back on their way to Hershey. Quarterback Erik Olson has been a brilliant leader and the passing game will be the key to this contest.
Prediction: Bethel Park 34 Bethlehem Liberty 21
The AAA final should be another great game to follow. Archbishop Wood from the Philadelphia Catholic League enters their first year of PIAA eligibility with an Eastern title under their belt. This week they must face Thomas Jefferson who under the steady hand of Coach Bill Cherpak has won the 2004 and 2007 Pa State Championships. This Jefferson team has a balanced attack and has faced a tough national schedule this year. Archbishop Wood will have to be satisfied with their fine accomplishments so far this year.
Prediction: Thomas Jefferson 35 Archbishop Wood 13
The West Catholic Burrs continue to run over their opponents with another impressive win over previously unbeaten Lancaster Catholic 37- 14 in the AA eastern final. It is often said that speed kills and this squad is full of speed. Similar to Archbishop Wood the Burrs enter their first year of PIAA playoff eligibility and now represent the east. Quarterback Curtis Drake and running backs Rob Hollomon and Raymond Maples are a threat to break any play wide open and you have to see this team to believe how dangerous this offense has become in playoff action. With total yards of 428 against a tough Lancaster Catholic defense that only begins to explain how tough their offense will be to stop. Wilmington brings loads of speed as well but they will be no match for the Burrs.
Prediction: West Catholic 46 Wilmington 20
Last but not least is the single A final between Steelton Highspire and Clairton. Both teams enter the championship game undefeated. Clairton features a stingy defense while Steelton has one of the best running attack offenses this season. This is the toughest call of the weekend and defense is always a good bet.
Prediction: Clairton 14 Steelton Highspire 6
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