Upper Dublin looks to slay another giant

FRANCONIA >> They are truly a David among Goliaths.

The football-playing Cardinals of Upper Dublin High have gone through, in order, the second largest school in District One (Upper Darby), the third largest (Pennsbury) and the largest (North Penn) en route to Saturday afternoon’s PIAA Class AAAA Eastern Final at Souderton Area High School (1 p.m.).

And now, there is one more gargantuan task — Parkland, by population, the largest school in the Lehigh Valley — on the menu for a weekend showdown for the right to go to the PIAA Class AAAA state final.

But, just as they have approached the last few weekends, there’s no panic, no woe-is-me or no pre-game excuses coming out of Upper Dublin.

In fact, you could call it business as usual.

“If you came to one of our practices, you’d see it’s no different around here than it would be if we were playing Upper Moreland or Plymouth Whitemarsh,” said Cardinals head coach Bret Stover. “We’re taking the same approach and doing the same things we would be doing if we were playing in October.

“We’ve been going light all week, doing what we need to do. We did all of our game planning on Sunday, and we’ve been fine-tuning things since then.”

Stover has been quick to add that everyone, from coaches to players, has a say in the final game plan.

“There are things that we see as coaches, but there are also the things the players see that can help us once the game has started,” Stover said. “We go over all of our checks, and everybody is involved, which tells you how good our players are.”

Some of those things came to light in last week’s 46-21 win over North Penn, a game the Cardinals trailed in the first half.

The problem, which was addressed at halftime, was the Cardinals defense was running upfield too quickly, allowing North Penn to make easy kick-out blocks and gain substantial yardage.

“We just made a defensive line adjustment,” Stover said. “Offensively, we had everything going pretty well, we just were committing too many penalties.”

Stover and his coaching staff have dissected Parkland, and have seen another scary football team with more than enough speed and size to give any team fits.

“They’re good, they’re big and they’re physical,” Stover said. “They’re very athletic and they really get after you, defensively, with their front seven.”

The two biggest targets for the Cardinals defense are Trojans quarterback Devante Cross (a Boston College recruit for defense) and 6-foot-5 wideout Kenny Yeboah, a Temple recruit.

Stover compared Cross, who is dangerous as both a runner and passer, favorably to Council Rock North quarterback Brandon McIlwain.

“He’s somebody you have to try and keep contained,” Stover said. “And (Yeboah) is a physical player we’re going to have to cover by committee.

“He reminds me of Binjimen Victor, the receiver we saw when we played Coconut Creek (in Upper Dublin’s 2014 season opener in Florida), who’s going to Alabama.”

When asked if he were surprised his small squad is still around, Stover hesitated, then said no.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “But it is surreal to be walking up to practice on December 9.”

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