The old adage that defense wins championships has been given some merit this football season with the success of Susquenita and its District 3 first-round playoff opponent, Bermudian Springs.
Entering Friday's 7 p.m. matchup, the two defenses were the definition of stingy all season long.
Susquenita held opponents to a mere 13.7 points per game. In their seven wins, the Blackhawks allowed an average of 6.7 points. The host Eagles were the top defense in the YAIAA, allowing only 6.5 points per game. The Eagles held opponents to an average 141.9 total yards of offense while racking up 373.7 of their own.
Bermudian Springs secured its second consecutive undefeated regular season with a 37-21 win over rival Biglerville last week. On the other side of the field, Susquenita backed into the playoffs, suffering back-to-back losses to end the regular season.
The Blackhawks headed into the season returning just about every starter on both sides of the ball. After a 4-7 season in 2011, Susquenita was a vastly improved 7-3 team in 2012. Led by senior running back Todd Mullen, the offense is averaging 304.4 yards per game. Mullen has rushed for 1,097 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"They are big up front," Bermudian head coach Jon Defoe said. "They do not do a lot of pulling and trapping. They just utilize their size in a power-run style. They pound off tackle a lot."
Bermudian's defense has been up to the task all season, holding opponents to 63.5 yards per game. To the Eagles' credit, last week's game against Biglerville was the first time all season the Eagles' defense had allowed two touchdowns in a game.
"I am really pleased with the way our guys responded last week," Defoe said. "They didn't back down, they pulled together and played strong defense the rest of the game."
"We get contributions from everyone," Defoe said. "The guys play well together, play their assignments, and don't make mistakes. It is good, sound, defensive football."
On the other side of the ball, the Blackhawks also have a stingy defense, one that Defoe knows well.
"They are very good up front," he said. "They have five guys up front. They hold the line of scrimmage and don't get fooled. Even in their three losses, they kept themselves in every game."
A key to success for Bermudian Friday will be the execution of a well-balanced offense. The Eagles can run the Wing-T almost to perfection, yet quarterback Michael Moore's passing ability makes defenses respect the threat of a pass, not allowing them to stack the box and stop the run.
"We need to stand up to their physical style," Defoe said. "We have to find something in the passing game that will help keep the defense on their toes."
On the season, Moore has completed just under 50 percent of his passes (50-for 104) and has thrown for 955 yards and seven touchdowns.
It is the ground game of Bermudian that gives defensive coordinators sleepless nights. Senior running back Zach Stroup has 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns, while junior running back Tristan Sponseller has 950 yards and 14 touchdowns.
A win Friday night will send the Eagles back to the District 3 Class AA semifinals where they lost last season to Wyomissing.
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