Top 100 – 2018 PIAA 6A Championship Game Preview – No. 5 St. Joseph’s Prep vs. No. 96 Harrisburg

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HERSHEY – Last year in the state finals, St. Joseph’s Prep lost to Pine-Richland 42-21. In 2018, it was a different story. The Hawk’s quarterback, Kyle McCord, threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hawks in a 37-0 win in a PIAA Class 6A semifinal matchup. 

Related: High School Football America 100 

In the other PIAA Class 6A semifinal matchup, you had District 1 power Coatesville vs. District 3 power Harrisburg. This was a rematch from week one when Coatesville defeated Harrisburg 37-6. The Cougars shocked the Red Raiders last weekend with a final score of 27-24. They have won 13 straight games heading into the state finals.

The combination of quarterback Kane Everson and running back Jahmir Plant, led the offensive attack. Harrisburg’s defense grounded Coatesville’s high flying offense.

This sets up an All-Eastern matchup in chocolate town. Let’s take a look at both teams. 

Prep’s quarterback, Kyle McCord, hascompleted 175 of 265 passes for 2600 yards and 33 touchdowns.  

The running backs are led by Kolbe Burrell. He’s rushed for 774 yards on 140 carries and 11 touchdowns. Marques Mason added 463 yards rushing, nine touchdowns and he caught 35 passes for 504 yards with four scores.

Prep’s trio of receivers are among the best in Pennsylvania. Johnny Freeman caught 47 passes for 787 yards and 10 touchdowns. Marvin Harrison caught 42 passes for 648 yards and 8 touchdowns, and Jack Sutton caught 25 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns. 

Key thoughts on St. Joseph’s Prep:

Prep needs to be balanced on offense against a very good Cougar defense. If Harrisburg shuts don Prep’s strengths on offense, they will need to adjust. 

Harrisburg did a great job last week drawing penalties from Coatesville. Prep needs to be aware of that and minimize penalties by protecting the football and being balanced on offense.

The Cougars are fast on defense and run to the football. 

One of the big question marks going into the year was the Hawks’ defense. They graduated many good players from last year’s team. 

Everyone talks about the Hawks offense and rightly so, but I believe it’s the Hawks defense that stepped up and played strong throughout the playoffs. They are very young and don’t have a senior on the defensive line. They will graduate two linebackers and their strength on defense starts with the linebackers. The secondary has been consistent all year and has made big plays at times. 

A look at the Harrisburg Cougars:

Harrisburg Quarterback Kane Everson. completed 106 of 158 passes for 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He rushed for 827 yards on 95 carries and seven touchdowns. He is the heart and soul of the Cougar offense. 

Jahmir Plant had a big day running the ball last weekend and the Cougars are counting on another big game this weekend. Plant rushed for 651 yards on 98 carries with eight touchdowns. He caught 24 passes for 238 yards and two scores. Nicari Williams rushed for 435 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Against Prep’s defensive line, Plant needs to hit the hole quick and run north-south against a fast Hawks defense. 

The guys that will be opening the holes are LT Tony Patterson, LG Nate Bruce, C Jeff Chisholm, RG Tyshawn Black and RT Lane Brannon.

Everson has guys to move the chains. One of his targets is Wide Receiver Donte Kent. He caught 24 passes for 630 yards,  scored 10 touchdowns, and is a deep threat for the Cougars. Ryneel Gantt caught 19 passes for 434 yards and six touchdowns. Trevion Carey caught 11 passes for 203 yards and four scores. Lahmere Wigfall at tight end will be someone to watch. 

Having an experienced line should help Saturday night. The Cougars’ DE Brian Yates, DT Jeffrey Chisholm, DT Sa’Quan Carter-Barton and DE Dionte Nicholsneed to pressure Prep’s quarterback and slow down the running attack.

At linebacker watch out for ILB Jai Burney, ILB Andre’ White Jr., OLB Elijah Scott and Harold O’Neal. These are the guys that need to fly to the ball and prevent big plays.

It’s going to be a challenge to stop the Prep receivers. Harrisburg has the secondary to matchup with the Hawks’ receivers. Watch out for S Jahmir Plant, CB Donte Kent and CB Rynell Gantt Jr. in the secondary.

A thought about what Harrisburg needs to do: 

Look for the linebackers to attack the ball and defensive backs to pressure the receivers. Prep is big, physical and well coached. They can throw the ball well and run the ball equally as well. Harrisburg needs to find a way to slow down the Hawks offense and create turnovers.

The Hawks defense is extremely aggressive and they bring a lot of pressure. Harrisburg needs to block well and give Everson time to pass the ball or it’s going to be a long day for the Cougars.

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About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.