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November 26, 2009

District 1: Knights look to advance to final again

No. 5 Avon Grove (11-1) at No. 1 North Penn (12-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday, 11/27 at Crawford Stadium, North Penn High School

KEEP AN EYE ON: North Penn RB Craig Needhammer, who has rushed for 1,318 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season, including a five touchdown effort during last week's 35-22 win over Neshaminy in the District 1 quarterfinals.

STAR POWER: North Penn QB Todd Smolinsky was 11-of-13 for 120 yards last week against Neshaminy. Avon Grove sports a trio of running backs, including two that have surpassed 1,000 yards on the season. RB Brendan McLaughlin has rushed for 1,220 yards to lead the team and has notched 13 TDs, while RB Brandon Monk has 1,131 yards and 17 touchdowns. RB Jordan Harris needs just 56 yards to surpass 1,000 yards on the year and has scored 15 touchdowns.

BEST MATCHUP: North Penn's defensive line against the Avon Grove offense. Anchored by tackle JD Dzurko, the Knights' defense has stood tough throughout North Penn's playoff run. Defensive backs Ralphie Reeves and TJ Gill each notched interceptions during last week's win over Neshaminy, while the defense forced multiple fumbles. Avon Grove runs the Wing-T offense and relies strongly on its trio of ground attackers in McLaughlin, Monk and Harris. Can the North Penn defense stand strong against the multiple back running threat?

PREDICTION: It's been a Cinderella run for Avon Grove to say the least, as the team had three consecutive 4-6 seasons before this year's 11-1 campaign. But it's tough to bet against the North Penn defense, which has allowed an average of just 9.16 points per game this season. North Penn 28, Avon Grove 14.

No. 11 Downingtown East (10-2) at No. 7 Ridley (11-1)
7:00 p.m. Friday, 11/27 at Phil Marion Memorial Field, Ridley High School

KEEP AN EYE ON: Ridley QB Colin Masterson, who threw for 260 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns as Ridley shutout Unionville 37-0 in the District 1 quarterfinals.

STAR POWER: Ridley CB Alex Nicolino had six catches and a touchdown in last week's win. Downingtown East RB Drew Harris rushed 39 times for 209 yards and 5 touchdowns as DTE knocked out Penncrest in a 49-48 shootout thriller. DTE QB Trey Lauletta was 14-of-21 for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win.

BEST MATCHUP: Ridley's defense against Downingtown East's offense. DTE showed last week that it's fully capable of striking quickly offensively, scoring the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Ridley's defense, however, has been stellar all season, led by Nicolino.

PREDICTION: This game should be a good battle in the first half, but expect Ridley's defense to make its statement in the second half. It's been a good run for Downingtown East, but it will come to an end at Ridley. Ridley 30, Downingtown East 17.

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