For the three area teams still remaining in the District 1 football tournament — Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley — the game plans for Friday night's contests appear to be simple ones.
Stop the run.
Then again, that may be easier said than done.
When the Falcons (11-0) play host to Academy Park in a District 1-AAA semifinal, the Rams (9-2) travel to Neshaminy for a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal and the Vikings (9-2) visit Central Bucks West in a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal, they will all be facing squads with a marquee ground-gainer.
Academy Park (8-2), the fourth seed in the 1-AAA draw, features Jerry Lanier, who has rushed for 1,870 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. He is coming off a 253-yard outburst in last week's 35-22 quarterfinal win over Interboro.
Neshaminy has the District 1 rushing leader in D'Andre Pollard (2,193 yards), a 5-foot-7, 167-yard dynamo who ran for 230 yards and four scores to help the Redskins rout Unionville 41-7 in their district opener.
And C.B. West can trot out its own game-changer in Marvin Todd, who put up 230 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in the Bucks' 50-28 first-round win over Plymouth-Whitmarsh.
Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker, whose squad is making its seventh straight trip to the district semis, is expecting to see a lot of Lanier and quarterback Brian Ingram.
"He's good,' Pennypacker said of the 5-10, 180-pound Lanier, who became Academy Park's all-time leading rusher last week. "He'll probably carry the mail about 70 percent of the time, and we've got to stop him. I'd say they'll run the ball about 80 percent of the time. The quarterback was a wide receiver last year, but he's developed into a good QB. He's not a (Perkiomen Valley quarterback Rasaan) Stewart, but he's athletic and can give you fits. They try to spread you out and create lanes for the running back and quarterback.
Pottsgrove's offensive line has created plenty of lanes for senior tailback Marquis Barefield of late. The 5-8, 150-pound Barefield has amassed 721 rushing yards and 14 TDs over the past four weeks and ranks second in the area with 1,496 yards (and a 10.5 yards per carry average).
The Falcons' defense, led by senior linebackers Tyrone Parker and Jeff Adams, has allowed more than 200 total yards just three times this season.
And Pennypacker's squad is plenty motivated for their return to the district semifinal stage, where they fell to Henderson 31-28 last year. Henderson, incidentally, faces Glen Mills in tonight's other semifinal.
"The big thing is that our kids want this game,' Pennypacker said. "The (semifinal) game last year left a bad taste in their mouths. They want to get this one and hope they get another shot at Henderson.
"We have our work cut out for us. I think we can match up pretty well speed vs. speed, but if you make a mistake Lanier will run wild on you. On defense, they're a blitzing team and they're very quick. Their athleticism makes up for some of their size. We'll really have our hands full.'
As will the Rams and Vikings in their respective AAAA quarterfinals.
Fourth seed Neshaminy (10-1) opened the season 9-0 and was considered by more than a few to be the class of the district before being walloped 31-3 by Pennsbury in its regular season finale. Last week, the Redskins found themselves tied 7-7 with 13th seed Unionville before Pollard put on a second-half show.
"Pollard allows the play to develop in front of him, and he has an ability to break tackles in the secondary,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "He can go the distance at any time.'
Those traits also apply to the Rams' Jarred Jones, who ran for 231 yards in last week's 43-21 victory over No. 5 seed Downingtown West to surpass the 4,000-yard career rushing mark. Jones, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, is averaging a phenomenal 177 rushing yards per game and 10.8 yards per carry and ranks second in the area with 1,593 yards.
Since falling 14-7 to Pottsgrove in Week 5, Spring-Ford has won six straight and is averaging 43.8 points during that span. Quarterback Matt Daywalt went 10-for-13 with one touchdown and 136 yards in his first start last week, while wideout Gary Hopkins has caught a TD pass in five of the past six games.
An active defensive front keyed by Robby Varner and Mason Romano has set the tone for a defensive effort responsible for a plus-17 turnover margin for the year.
"We emphasize protecting the ball and practice stripping the ball, and stress it over and over in practice,' Brubaker said. "That was a big part of our run last year, and we have to win that are of the game Friday to be successful.'
The Vikings, who defeated No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin 26-6 in the first round for their first AAAA playoff win in program history, will need continued strong play from their defense — whose average of 6.4 points allowed per game ranks first in District 1 and fifth in the state.
That said, they'll be hard-pressed to limit the Bucks to that number. C.B. West (9-2) is averaging 32.2 points per game and has put up 95 points over the past two weeks.
The Bucks have gone 9-1 since losing in Week 1.
Todd, a 6-1, 192-pound senior who transferred from Harry S Truman prior to this season, has rushed for 1,275 yards and 20 TDs in nine games.
"It all starts and ends with him, no doubt about it,' Perkiomen Valley coach Scott Reed said. "Everything they do is based off him. You get too focused on him, and they'll get people behind you with play-action.'
Like PV, C.B. West runs a no-huddle offense, with quarterback John Fitz throwing for 1,350 yards and 14 TDs so far.
The Vikings counter with their own high-octane attack led by senior quarterback Rasaan Stewart, who threw for 225 yards and three TDs last week to break the 4,000-yard career barrier. Clay Domine had season-bests of nine receptions, 112 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Rustin, while fellow receiver Dakota Clanagan is expected to be OK after suffering an ankle injury in that game.
"It's going to be about getting defensive stops and scoring when we have the opportunity to score,' Reed said. "I think their offense is very good, so we're going to have to find ways to get them off the field. Rustin was more of a come-at-you team, these guys are more like us — lead option, throw the ball around. But if they can run (Todd), it's going to be as simple as that.'
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
Pottsgrove resident Henry Miller is the starting safety and also plays running back for Delco Christian, which takes on Bristol for the District 1/12-A championship Saturday at Plymouth-Whitemarsh at 1 p.m. ... In the District 1/12-AA final, Imhotep faces West Catholic Friday at Germantown High. ... In the two other District 1-AAAA quarterfinals Friday, top seed Garnet Valley (11-0) plays host to eighth seed Abington (9-2) and No. 3 seed Pennsbury (10-1) plays host to No. 11 seed North Penn (8-3).
AROUND THE STATE
Malvern Prep outlasted Springside Chestnut Hill 63-50 last Saturday in a wild one. Troy Gallen ran for 327 yards and six touchdowns for Malvern Prep, while Paul Dooley threw for 491 yards and seven touchdowns for SCH. ... In a District 3-AAAA quarterfinal Friday, Hempfield (8-3) — guided by former Boyertown head coach Ron Zeiber — visits second seed Cumberland Valley (9-2).
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.