William Penn and Salesianum will still be ranked first and second after Saturday’s football game (maybe in a different order). And both teams will still be heading to the DIAA playoffs in three weeks.
But don’t try to convince Bill DiNardo and Marvin Dooley that this 1 p.m. kickoff at William Penn’s Bill Cole Stadium isn’t a big deal. There is no guarantee they will meet again, that this is just a preview of the Division I championship game at Delaware Stadium on Dec. 5.
“There’s a great deal of pressure,” said DiNardo, the Salesianum coach. “As this week goes on, good golly, I’ll be sick. I’ll be extremely anxious.
“But this is what we do. This is what you live for. You live for big games. You live for rivalries. You live for that Friday night, or that Saturday afternoon in this case, where it’s 1 vs. 2. Who can ask for anything better than this?”
It has all the makings of a classic. The No. 1 Colonials are 7-0 and riding a 19-game winning streak. The No. 2 Sals are 6-1, their only stumble a 14-7 loss to Father Judge in Philadelphia.
“It’s a fan game. This is what people want to see,” said Dooley, the William Penn coach. “Also, you want a test to see where you’re at.”
Both teams will know where they stand after this one. And they know surprises will be hard to come by.
“We know what they’re gonna do, and they know what we’re gonna do,” Dooley said. “It’s just a matter of who can stop the other, and I still think the game will be won in the trenches on both sides. Who can get the push up front? Our line is good, their line is good.”
The Colonials will be out to contain Colby Reeder, Sallies’ 6-foot-4, 225-pound wrecking ball of a running back. If they don’t, they won’t see a lot of other things all day.
“I don’t think you stop Reeder. You slow him down,” Dooley said. “He’s going to get his yardage. You just hope you bottle him up where he doesn’t get the big run. He’s too good of a running back to say you’re going to shut him down.”
But DiNardo insists the Sals are much more than Reeder. Quarterback Garrett Cannon is having a solid senior season, and the play-action pass has been very effective to wideouts Jeremy Ryan and Griffin Salvo.
“Yes, we’ve got Reeder, and he’s an All-State caliber back,” DiNardo said. “But we’ve got other people, and we do other things. We are very capable and very comfortable throwing the ball. I think we’ve shown that.”
The Colonials have shown the ability to be balanced, pounding away with 250-pound Titus Nelson and Joe Greenwood up the middle, testing the edges with speedy Kamau Floyd on sweeps and cranking up the passing game with quarterback D.J. Johnson throwing to tight end Frank Burton Jr. over the middle and 6-4 Chichi Amachi on the outside.
“I think you have two very similar teams, and I say that as a compliment, both to them and to us,” DiNardo said. “They have the ability to just smash you in the mouth running the ball. They can gash you running inside, outside. And they can also throw the ball very well. They are very comfortable throwing the ball.”
So if these teams are a lot alike, what will make the difference?
“I think quarterback play will be crucial,” Dooley said. “In a game like this, three or four big plays could be the difference.”
Maybe it will be a playoff preview, maybe it won’t. Either way, the winner will certainly be happier on Saturday.
Contact Brad Myers at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ