WHO: Quaker Valley Quakers (13-1) vs. Middletown Blue Raiders (13-0)
WHEN: Saturday, noon
WHERE: Hersheypark Stadium
ABOUT THE QUAKERS: This is a complete football team. Quaker Valley can run you over and score 50 or battle to the bitter end in one of thin defensive games where every play is magnified to claim victory. They are a physical team, but not necessarily a big team size-wise. Priority No. 1 is figuring out a way to slow down QB Ricky Guss. The senior is one of those rare 2,000-yard passing and 1,000-yard rushing combinations. He can run through you or throw over you. Being disciplined on defense is the key. And he has plenty of help around him, too. RB J.T. Taylor is approaching 1,000 yards and also has 27 catches. Isaiah McNair is the big threat outside with 48 grabs and averages nearly 19 yards per reception. The QV linebackers, a ridiculously good quartet, are the hidden strength of this team. They fly to the football and get you to the ground with a purpose. The Quakers only loss was to Aliquippa during the regular season and they avenged that with a 2-0 victory in the WPIAL title game.
ABOUT THE BLUE RAIDERS: To lose as many seniors as Middletown absorbed after a historical first run to the Class 3A state championship game a year ago and make a return visit to the Concrete Palace is enough to make this a successful season. Thinking winning a state championship is the measuring stick for success is short-changing the work it took just to get here. This was not expected from this Blue Raiders squad. RB Brady Fox has flashed better the last two weeks than at any point in his career. Seems like he’s playing like he has nothing to lose and that’s dangerous. The all-time leading rusher in Middletown history with more than 4,000 yards could use his mate Jose Lopez back in the lineup for this match-up, though. The strength of Quaker Valley is its defense. And that group is no joke. For the first time in a couple week, Middletown will not be at a huge size disadvantage ... not that it really has mattered. Why do I think the passing game will have a say in this game if Middletown wins a state title. Just a hunch. And like their opponent, the Blue Raiders defense is no joke.
KEY STAT: Quaker Valley has won its games this season by an average margin of 25 points. Middletown’s number is 36 points. Something has to give, here. Which offense is going to have the better day against what we all agree are two very good defensive units.
THE PICK: Middletown 20, Quaker Valley 13: And something tells me picking the winning team with 20 points might be a stretch. My two questions evolve around two players. Is Ricky Guss able to be a dual threat or can the Blue Raiders limit him to one or the other? And when Fox gets a crease does he run for 14-16 yards or take it to the house? To me the answers to those questions determine the outcome.