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Cathedral Prep (10, 14-0)

Written by: on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Cathedral Prep (14-0) has advanced to its fourth PIAA championship game in school history, and first in AAA, and will take on District 12 and Philadelphia Catholic League champion Archbishop Wood (12-2) Friday night for the PIAA AAA championship, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium. Both the Ramblers and Vikings are each seeking their second PIAA championship in school history.

Four PIAA championship game appearances is the most for any District 10 program, and Cathedral Prep is one of only two programs from District 10 with multiple PIAA finals appearances. Sharon played in consecutive AAA finals in 1994 and 1995. Before anyone wonders why Wilmington and Farrell aren’t included, Farrell’s three PIAA finals appearances came as members of the WPIAL in 1990, 1995 and 1996. Wilmington’s 1988 PIAA finals berth was as a representative of the WPIAL; its 2008 berth was as a member of District 10.

With a victory Friday over Archbishop Wood, the Ramblers would become D10’s first ever two-time state football champion. Cathedral Prep is one of six programs who each own one PIAA title, joining Hickory, Strong Vincent, Sharpsville, General McLane and Wilmington. A Rambler victory would mark District 10’s third AAA state championship and improve the region to 7-7 overall in state championship football games.

The 38 points scored by the Ramblers in the PIAA semifinals against Bishop McDevitt etched the 2012 edition of Cathedral Prep as the new District 10 record holder for points scored in a single season (677). The Ramblers held the previous D10 record, with 667 points in 2000, and the 1999 team, which claimed a state runner-up finish to Central Bucks West, scored 610 points. Those three seasons mark three of the top four single-season team season scoring outputs in District 10 history. The lone exception is the Mercyhurst Prep Lakers’ 2010 team, which scored 612 points over its first 12 games before getting shut out in the District 10 A championship game.

Add in Cathedral Prep’s 2009 team, which scored 598 points, and the Ramblers solidly hold four of District 10’s top five team season scoring outputs in the region’s history. The Ramblers have six seasons of scoring 475 points or more, and all have come since 1991. Five of the six have come under head coach Mike Mischler.

Mischler is in his second stint as head coach at Cathedral Prep. He began coaching the Ramblers in 1998 and was on the sidelines when Prep ended CB West’s 59-game winning streak in the PIAA AAAA finals in 2000. He left Prep, went on to coach Iroquois, a small school in Erie County, before returning to the helm of the Rambler program in 2009. All told, Mischler owns an overall record of 121-52 entering Friday’s state title game, and his resume includes eight District 10 championships (five in AAAA, three in AAA) and five PIAA semifinals appearances (1998-2000, 2010, 2012).

The headlines and ink generally are inked for the Ramblers’ impressive spread offense which is averaging 48.4 points and exactly 400 yards (240.3 passing, 159.7 rushing) per game, yet the Cathedral Prep defense has really been a driving force behind the team’s latest state finals berth.

Consider: West Allegheny boasted an effective single-wing offense gave the WPIAL fits. But the Ramblers shut down the Indians’ backfield which featured four 650+-yard rushers to a combined 98 yards rushing in a 27-13 victory, where Prep scored 27 of the game’s final 30 points. Then, against two-time PIAA finalist Bishop McDevitt, Prep exorcised the demons of its 2010 semifinal loss by limiting the Crusaders to 143 yards of total offense, including a meager 107 yards passing on 31 attempts. McDevitt had been averaging better than 400 yards and 35 points per game entering the semifinals.

Between its first string and reserve defensive members, the Ramblers’ unit has held 11 of 14 opponents to 14 points or less, with three shutouts, and allows 9.9 points per game. Jake Plonski and Delton Williams generate a lot of attention on that side of the ball, but the Ramblers also have gotten contributions from players like Felix Manus-Schell, Marlon Tyree, Michael Parker, Erik Swanson, Joe Hampy, James Trucilla and Nicholas Dubowski.

Offensively, Prep has been a machine, and, a model of balance. Though the average yards per game differ in margin, the Ramblers have more rushing attempts (340) than passing attempts (329) entering Friday’s PIAA title game. But the passing game has generated a lot of headlines, and rightfully so.

Michigan State recruit Damion Terry is the Ramblers’ field general, and he’s had quite the senior season to remember. He’s thrown for a District 10 single-season record 3,282 yards and 48 touchdowns, completing completing 209-of-309 passes. For his career, Terry has thrown for 6,949 yards and 84 touchdowns, and both of those career marks are also District 10 records. Terry has a bevy of receivers to throw to, including Brendan Klemensic, Jake DeHart, Charles Fessler, Alex Greenwalt and Williams.

Williams, like Terry, is a Michigan State recruit and has proven quite the multi-purpose weapon for Prep. He’s rushed 80 times for 663 yards and caught 56 passes for 785 yards, scoring a combined 23 touchdowns rushing and receiving. Williams is the second Cathedral Prep player with at least 550 yards rushing and receiving in the same season in the last three years. Anthony Jordan turned the trick in 2010, finishing with 701 yards rushing and 693 yards receiving. Williams is also a weapon on defense and special teams as well.

Can Cathedral Prep become District 10’s first ever two-time PIAA champion in football? Will the Ramblers win a 15th game for the first time ever in school history? Or, will the orange and black have to settle for state silver for a third time?

Find out Friday night.

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