By PETER DiGIOVANNI
Thansgiving Day football games are getting rare, but one area team, Malvern Prep, has a tasty date with one of the best teams in Pennsylvania in St. Joseph’s Prep. A day after that, two locals continue their playoff drives as Coatesville hosts Neshaminy in a District 1 Class AAAA seimifinal, and West Chester Henderson battles Interboro for the Class AAA championship.
Malvern Prep (6-4) head coach Kevin Pellegrini said his team is excited to be playing a team the caliber of the Hawks.
“We are excited to be playing the Prep because they ranked in national polls and are a great team,” Pellegrini said. “We did not win our league (Inter-Ac), so we are looking forward to getting together one more time and playing a great team on Thanksgiving Day and seeing what we can do.”
Malvern’s defense rose up two weeks against Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and delivered a 24-7 victory. The Friars held Chestnut Hill to 89 yards of total offense, while Troy Gallen rushed for two touchdowns.
The major question is how will the Prep (9-1) respond from last week’s tough 28-27 loss to La Salle in the PCL Class AAAA final. The Malvern offense will have to crack a defense that has given up double-digit points only four times this year. Vince Moffit, Olamide Zaccheaus and quaterback Chris Martin are keys to the Hawks ground game.
Pick: St. Joseph’s is one of the top two or three teams in the state, look for the Hawks to win this one, 28-14.
District 1 Class AAAA Semifinal
Neshaminy (10-2) at Coatesville (10-2), 7 p.m.
The Redskins come to Coatesville fresh off two road playoff wins, against Plymouth Whitemarsh and the No. 2 Central Bucks South, so head coach Matt Ortega knows his team is in for a tough fight even though they are playing at home.
“I mean, Neshaminy is a typical Suburban One team in that they are big, tough, physical and they have a lot of weapons,” Ortega said. “They have a good fullback (Blake Sullivan), the tailback (Nate Hall) is very quick and they really get after you on defense.
“We have been working since the summer to beat a Suburban One team in the playoffs. You have to be physical, tough up front and be able to run the football to beat them. In our two playoff losses to Suburban One teams the last two years we still scored points, we just could not defend them. We think we can do that this year.
The defense is playing with a lot of confidence and Tyler Burke has really come on. He has been dominating on defense and playing great at tight end. He is a great blocker and he caught a touchdown pass against Wissahickon. He is a real special player.
“We will have to play well because Mark Schmidt is a great coach and it will be a challenge to go up against him because he is one of the best.”
Hall has run for 1,646 yards on the season, 283 last week against C.B. South. The Redskins don’t throw the ball very much, only 70 completions as a team, but look out for for Justin Andrews, who has 30 catches for 454 yards and six TDs.
On offense, the Emmett Hunt-Chris Jones combination is one of the most exciting around. Coatesville hopes Daquan Worley’s running will help soften up the Redskins’ defense.
Pick: The Redskins defend the run well, Coatesville should get some long pass completions to Jones and Worley will be hard to hold down all game. It all adds up to a trip to the District 1 final, Coatesville 34, Neshaminy 14.
District 1 Class AAA Championship
West Chester Henderson (9-3) vs. Interboro (10-2) at Plymouth Whitemarsh, 7 p.m.
Both teams come into the title game off heart-stopping wins. Henderson pulled off a 31-28 upset over top-seeded Pottsgrove, while Interboro roared back for a 22-21 win over No. 2 Academy Park.
Henderson head coach Steve Mitten has a lot of respect for Interboro and Steve Lennox and knows his team will have to be at their best again Friday night.
“Interboro has a great head coach in Steve Lennox who has been winning games for a long time,” Mitten said. “Interboro is one of the premier teams of Delaware Coutny and they have been a consistently good program for a long time.
“They are big and tough up front and they run the football well. They are a bunch of tough kids and we will have our work cut out for us aainst them. But, the chance to win a district title for the first time in Henderson history is a big thrill.
“I can’t say enough about this senior class. They have won a Ches-Mont League title, knocked off two top seeded teams in the playoffs and are the only Henderson class to win 25 games. They are a special class and they are a very dedicated group.”
The angst fans may have over the ability of Spencer Rymiszewski may be tampered by the emergence of sopomore Tre Green, who exploded for 160 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Pottsgrove. Adam Weaver headlines a defense that held firm when they needed to last week.
The Bucs held Academy Park to 89 yards on the ground last week, but will be tested again against Henderson. Linebacker Sonny Armstrong is the main player to keep an eye on.
Pick: Henderson is definitely battle tested, having played two close playoff games on top of its Ches-Mont schedule. The Bucs are very tough and have a good receiver in tight end Rashon Fentress, who has 27 catches, and a good quarterback in Nick Rentos. But cannot see the Warriors losing this game. Henderson 28, Interboro 14.
Follow Peter DiGiovanni at twitter.com/dlnsports.