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North Penn takes on underdog role vs. St. Joseph’s Prep

TOWAMENCIN >> The North Penn football team enters Saturday’s PIAA Class-6A state semifinal with a perfect 14-0 record this season, but the District 1 champs haven’t faced a test quite like this yet.

The Knights will do battle with perennial Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse St. Joe Prep at Northeast High School in Philadelphia at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

The Hawks also enter the game with a perfect record – 12-0 – and are widely considered the best team in Pennsylvania. North Penn is looked at as the second best.

“Every game we just want to go in and play our own game and do our best,” North Penn quarterback Reece Udinski said about being an underdog. “As long as we just stay true to that I think good things will happen.”

St. Joe’s cruised through the PCL – including a 43-24 win over Class-5A state semifinalist Archbishop Wood – and has wins against out-of-state opponents like the New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep.

North Penn could only play the teams on its schedule and they’ve come out on top every time – with no games decided by less than two possessions.

The closest was the season opener, a 33-24 win over La Salle. Since that game, the Knights have gone into every contest as the clear favorite with an ‘X’ painted on their backs. Saturday, they get to do the hunting.

“The first game against La Salle was one of the games we always circled and I guess you might call us an underdog then,” Udinski said. “After that we kind of had a target on our backs the whole year, especially being the No. 1 seed in districts.”

Unstoppable force vs immovable object

To go along with a prolific offense, the Hawks have a stout defense. They’ve given up more than 24 points just once this season and that came in a game where the defense could take its foot off the gas after the offense put up 63 points.

The Knights scored 40 or more points in eight of their 14 games this season.

Something has to give.

“We looked at them on tape,” Udinski said. “Obviously they are a very good team so we need to play at a high level come Saturday.

“They have a lot of good players. There’s no real weakness to their defense. With that, our offense just has to be prepared for everything and we just have to step up and have a good week of practice and come prepared on Saturday.”

The Knights offense will look to carry momentum from the District 1 championship game – a 48-38 win over Garnet Valley. Udinski threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns while wide receiver Ricky Johns piled up more than 230 all-purpose yards with scores through the air and on the ground.

“It was an awesome night, especially being at home,” Udinski said, reflecting on the title game three days later. “The year before that we kind of had a disappointment losing to Upper Dublin in the district championship. But being able to come back, have an undefeated season so far and win a district championship at home was just so special, especially for the group of seniors.”

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