On Friday night, Delone Catholic will travel to Mansion Park in Altoona and try to accomplish a feat that only one other Hanover-area team has been able to do -- advance to the second round of the PIAA playoffs.
The only other team to advance was Littlestown in 2004.
In their Class A matchup against Bellwood-Antis, the District 6 champion, Delone's Squires will face a team that is allowing a mere 11.5 points per game.
"The last six or seven weeks have been incredible for us defensively," Bellwood-Antis head coach John Hayes said.
"It has really come together. We have played well. Obviously, a lot of those kids play both ways and that momentum carries over. Offensively, we have been playing well, but defense has been the hallmark of our success."
In their past seven games, Hayes' Blue Devils have allowed 43 points.
The Blue Devils last made a trip to the state tournament in 2007, when they made it to the Eastern final. Last week, they dominated Bishop McCort to the tune of 54-3.
"We played extremely well and got off to a good start," Hayes said. "The defense played really well. We forced them into turnovers and stopped them, and we were able to capitalize on good field position and were able to turn that into points for us. The score was a little more than we anticipated."
One of the biggest weapons the Blue Devils have on their side is speed.
"It helps in every asset," Hayes said. "From a defensive standpoint, we are able to get to the ball pretty quick. On the offensive side, it is a great advantage. You can do things and be a step faster in most cases than the opposition. It makes things work a lot better."
Delone Catholic head coach Steve Wiles is well aware of Bellwood-Antis' speed.
"They have speed, and speed kills," he said.
"Defensively, they are mostly in zone," Delone quarterback Brett Smith added. "They try to keep everything in front of them and they fly to the ball. Against the run, they fly to the ball. They are very quick and they use their speed. They are a tough team on defense."
For the Squires, they are trying to do something no other Delone team has done -- advance in states.
"That has been huge motivation for us," Smith said. "To go down in Delone history to be the first team to win a state game, that is huge. It gives us a little more motivation to work harder at practice and win the game."
Delone and Bellwood-Antis are very similar in they both rely heavily on the ground game. The Squires average 252.3 yards per game and are led by Matt Giuffreda (814 yards and seven touchdowns), and Lance Reneker (624 yards and five touchdowns).
Bellwood-Antis averages 261.8 yards per game on the ground and are led by junior Casey Gray's 1,695 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Both teams have dual-threat quarterbacks that are efficient in the passing game and agile on their feet. Bellwood's Seth Worthing has accounted for 1,624 yards in total offense and 19 touchdowns. Delone's Brett Smith has totaled 1,503 and 24 touchdowns.
Both also play a huge role on the defensive side of the ball. They each had an interception return for touchdowns last week, though Worthing's touchdown was called back because of a penalty.
In a game pitting two similar teams, something has to give.
"I think we have to get some ball control offensively," Wiles said. "Get some first downs. Limit the number of plays they get. Grind it out a little bit. We did that in the first half against Steel-High and we dominated. They can't score if they don't have the ball. The less touches, the better.
"I think the big thing will be who cracks first as far as mistakes and turnovers," Hayes said. "Penalties kill a drive. Those are the things that create the momentum for one team one way or another. You want to avoid those, but it's part of the game.
"Whoever can keep their focus and emotions under control and executes will be successful."
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