State High Faces Toughest Foe Yet in Undefeated Pine-Richland
November 28, 2014 1:10 PM
by Centre County Gazette, Pat Rothdeutsch
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A combined 1,000 yards of offense and close to 80 points, every game, not to mention two of the most highly-touted and statistically dominant quarterbacks in the state — that's what the State College Little Lions had to deal with in the first two rounds of the PIAA state football championships.

Yet for all those yards and all those points, all that DuBois and Erie McDowell could come up with against the State College defense were two touchdowns and 14 points. Total.

And the touchdown McDowell scored at the end of the game was way too little and way too late.

To say that the Little Lion defense has been good is an understatement in the same league as the Englishman who described World War II as "a little bit of local difficulty."

Now, playing in the Western Semifinal, the State High defense will be severely challenged again — this time by 13-0, District 7 No. 1 seed Pine-Richland.

The Rams have zipped through their tough WPIAL schedule, beating teams like Shaler, Fox Chapel, North Hills, Kiski, Butler, Pittsburgh Central Catholic and North Allegheny.

Only two teams have really challenged Pine-Richland -- North Allegheny, a 28-24 Rams' win on Sept. 5, and Central Catholic, a 21-13 win on Nov. 22 in the West second round.

Since the first week in October, only one team has gotten to within 20 points of the Rams. Pine-Richland has scored over 60 points three times this season.

Pine-Richland's offense starts with 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior quarterback Ben DiNucci. DiNucci so far this season has completed 207 of 288 passes (72 percent) for 3,470 yards and 35 touchdowns. His best game came in Week 6 against Seneca Valley, a 64-35 win, in which he completed 15 of 15 passes (no misprint, that's 100 percent) for 334 yards and four touchdowns.

On the ground, the Rams total 166 yards per game, with 6-1, 220-pound senior Connor Slomka leading the way. Slomka has rushed 194 times for 1,285 yards and 32 touchdowns. His best effort was a 178-yard, five-touchdown game against McKeesport on Nov. 14.

Two senior receivers — D'ondre Gastion and Mike Merhaut — have combined for 130 catches, 2,337 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.
Defensively, the Rams intercepted eight passes, have 17 sacks and recorded 44 tackles for loss.

Seneca Valley's 35 points was the most scored against Pine-Richland this season, and only three other teams managed to score more than 20.

The mantra for State College in the post season has been the other team can't win if it doesn't score. More of the same will be needed against the Rams, who have statistics at least equal to McDowell and DuBois and who are as battle-tested as State College after playing the WPIAL schedule.

Mistakes, turnovers and field position could determine the winner of this one.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Mansion Park in Altoona.

 

IF YOU GO

What: State College (6-6) vs. Pine-Richland (13-0), PIAA West Semifinal

Where: Mansion Park, Altoona

When: Saturday, Nov. 29, 1 p.m.

Radio: 1390 WRSC-AM

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