For the West York football team, Friday's District 3 Class AAA championship showdown with Bishop McDevitt could come down to a rather delicate balancing act.
On one hand, the Bulldogs' defense must harass Crusaders senior quarterback Alec Werner -- the pilot of a big-strike passing game which has produced nearly 3,000 yards this season.
The question for West York: How to accomplish that goal without leaving its secondary exposed.
"If we get after Werner, and it means we're in man-to-man coverage, that's not good," West York coach Ron Miller said at his team's practice Tuesday. "And if we let him sit back there all day and he's going to pick our zones apart, then that's not good.
"So we need to pick and choose a little bit."
Such is the challenge that will face second-seeded West York (13-0) when it arrives at Hersheypark for Friday's 7 p.m. kickoff. Top-seeded Bishop McDevitt (13-0) has soared to its third straight district championship appearance behind an offense that is averaging 39 points and 437.1 yards per game.
And while the Crusaders rushing attack is nothing to sniff at -- running backs Andre Robinson and Rashad Lawson have both piled up more than 900 yards -- it's likely that passing attack that will occupy much of West York's pregame planning.
Werner's numbers would be the envy of most college quarterbacks: He has completed 70 percent of his passes for
His favorite target is senior receiver Brian Lemelle, a Division I prospect who Miller called "maybe the best I've ever seen." Lemelle has plucked 81 catches for 1,444 catches and 10 touchdowns this season.
That pair will certainly test West York's secondary. But grounding Werner and co. will likely require a collaborative effort.
"There's obviously a lot of pressure on the d-backs to stop the pass and everything," said West York senior lineman Janssen Nelson, who leads the Bulldogs with seven sacks. "But I think it's more so on the defensive line, because we have to put pressure on the quarterback so the passes don't get to the receiver."
Added safety Justin Warfel: "I think we have one of the best defensive lines that West York has seen, if not the best. Coverage-wise, we're always sound and we always get to where we need to be."
Then again, West York's uber-aggressive defense has plenty of reasons to be confident heading into Friday's matchup. The Bulldogs have forced 33 turnovers this season, seven during the last three games. In each of their last two contests, West York has returned an interception for a touchdown.
"We have a pretty good beat on when we want to go and when we don't want to go," Miller said of blitzing McDevitt.
"We're not going to change completely what we've done. Nobody is going to dictate that. We're a pretty good team, too."
Drawing the line: One area where Miller believes West York could have an advantage is along the offensive and defensive lines.
That's where the Bulldogs have been able to assert their will in recent weeks -- and with good reason. West York's five offensive lineman are all seniors. It's defensive line is also loaded with experience.
"That's the matchup we like the most -- our front four on defense and our front five on offense," Miller said. "That's where we feel like we can win."
Added Nelson: "I think it kind of rests on our shoulders, honestly, the offensive and defensive lines."
West York has averaged 273.3 rushing yards during its three playoff victories. Bishop McDevitt's defense, meanwhile, is allowing 16.7 points and 116.7 rushing yards per game this season.
Answering the Bell: Speaking of challenges, Delone Catholic's defense will get one of its own when the Squires meet Bellwood-Antis (12-1) in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal at Altoona's Mansion Park Stadium on Friday. The Blue Devils have run for more than 3,000 yards this season, led by junior running back Casey Gray (1,695 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns).
In the District 6 title game last week, Bellwood hammered Bishop McCort, 54-3.
Squires coach Steve Wiles said the Blue Devils run a base Wing-T system, but added, "This is probably the most formations I've seen out of a team. These guys, you name it, they pretty much run it.
"It's been more preparation this week for our defense," the coach added.
Delone (9-3) allowed 143 yards and forced three turnovers in last week's win over Steel-High in the District 3 title game.
Injury update: Wiles said that his two halfbacks -- Lance Reneker and Zach Smith -- have yet to practice this week. Reneker is nursing a thigh bruise, while Smith has a lower-back bruise.
The coach is hopeful, however, that both will be able to play Friday.
"We gotta have them," Wiles said. "There's no way we can win the game without those two."
Targeting Smith: With the effectiveness of West York's running game the last two weeks, the Bulldogs passing attack has taken a backseat recently.
That means fewer targets for standout receiver Zack Smith. The senior had just two catches in West York's district quarterfinal victory, and was held without a catch during last week's win over Susquehanna Township.
For the season, Smith has 60 catches for 1,085 -- both single-season program records. He also has 15 of West York's 20 touchdown receptions.
Teams have certainly devoted more resources to Smith in recent weeks. But there's no doubt the Bulldogs could use a big play or two from him on Friday.
"If we have the numbers game with our kids up front, we're going to take advantage of it," Miller said. "But if McDevitt feels like they can lock us up, then Zack's going to have to make some plays until we can get them out of the box."
Giuffreda steps up: One of the big keys to Delone Catholic late-season run -- six wins in a row and counting -- has been the emergence of fullback Matt Giuffreda.
The junior has become the workhorse of the Squires' Wing-T scheme. After logging 26 total carries during the first six games of the season, Giuffreda has cracked the 100-yard rushing plateau four times in the last six weeks. He had 160 yards during last week's district title victory.
On the season, Giuffreda leads Delone with 832 rushing yards.
"We thought Matt could be this kind of player," Wiles said. "I don't think we'd be where we are this season without him."
John Clayton is a prep sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2045 or email@example.com.