Who: Maple Grove Red Dragons (10-1) vs. Tioga Tigers (9-1)
When: 4 p.m. Friday
Where: Ty Cobb Stadium at Union-Endicott High School
Web cast: myspectrumsports.com
Rankings: Maple Grove is ranked No. 8 in the News Small Schools Poll and No. 2 in the New York State Sportswriters Class D poll. Tioga is ranked third in the state.
NYSPHSAA semifinal records: This is Maple Grove's fourth appearance as a solo outfit. The Red Dragons are 3-0, posting triumphs in 2016 over IV-Sidney (56-20), in 2008 over IV-Walton (49-14) and in 1998 against III-Dolgeville (20-19). As a merged outfit with Chautauqua Lake, Maple Grove lost in the 2014 semifinal to eventual state champion IV-Chenango Forks (27-0).
Tioga is 1-4 in the semifinals, winning in 2015 en route to the state title.
Coaches: Maple Grove, Curt Fischer, 27th season (221-46); Tioga, Nick Aiello, eighth season (71-17).
Maple Grove key players and statistics: Sr. RB/DB Nick Fabrizio (181-1158 rushing-18 TDs; 9-117-2 receiving; 62 tackles), Jr. QB/DB Easton Tanner (47-77-601-12 TDs passing; 98-629-8 TDs rushing; 36 tackles), Sr. RB/DB Nash Nelson (78-625-6 rushing; 49 tackles), Jr. WR/DB Zach Fischer (17-245-8 TDs receiving; 43 tackles, 2 INT), Jr. DB Zach Hendrick (55 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery).
Tioga key players and statistics: Sr. QB Connor Hutchinson (34-59-623-11 TDs passing; 47-272-7 rushing), Sr. RB Justin Rockwell (108-794-9 TDs), Sr. RB Max Johnson (90-694-4 TDs), Sr. RB Trey Floyd (76-589-16 TDs rushing; 8-167-4 TDs receiving), Sr. WR Nick Klossner (22-394-5 TDs).
How they got here: Maple Grove handled state No. 1 and Section V champion Clyde-Savannah, 61-28, in the regional round last Friday. The Red Dragons had three players rush for at least 136 yards – led by Nelson's 175-yard day on 18 rushes. Nelson had two rushing touchdowns and also caught a TD. Tanner rushed 13 times for 139 yards and a score, while Nick Fabrizio rushed for 136 yards and four scores as Maple Grove rushed for 462 of its 495 total yards.
Tioga advanced by beating Section III champion Dolgeville, 46-16, behind Central Regional MVP Trey Floyd's five touchdowns.
Pre-snap read: This game looks like it'll be the battle of wills as both teams love to matriculate the ball offensively via the rush.
Maple Grove ran on all but three of its 63 plays last Friday in frigid conditions at SUNY Brockport and plowed over Clyde.
It's no secret the Red Dragons will look to do it again with their version of misdirection ground and pound with Fabrizio handling the bulk of the workload. But he's not alone as Nelson's hard running and three-TD first half enabled the Dragons to seize control of last week's quarterfinal. Although he hasn't been called upon much to make plays with his arm, Tanner has shown the past two weeks when it's time to take to the air to move ball he'll find the open receiver.
Floyd earned the postgame accolades for Tioga last week but four have handled the bulk of the carries for the Tigers.
While they didn't cross paths last year, both are no strangers to this round. Tioga will have the benefit of needing to travel roughly 30 minutes while Maple Grove's trek is about 3 hours longer than that.
What’s next: Winner advances to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship game, where it will face either defending state champion II-Cambridge or IX-Millbrook at noon Nov. 24 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.