Who: Maple Grove Red Dragons (11-0) vs. IV-Sidney Warriors (8-3).
When: 5 p.m. Friday.
Where: Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
Television: Time Warner Cable Sportsnet.
Rankings: Maple Grove is ranked No. 2 in the News Small Schools Poll and No. 1 in the state poll. Sidney is ranked third in the state.
State final four records: Maple Grove as a solo outfit is 2-0, posting wins in 1998 against III-Dolgeville (20-19) and 2008 versus IV-Walton (49-14) en route to state titles each of those seasons. Maple Grove is 0-1 as merged outfit with Chautauqua Lake, losing in 2014 to eventual state champion, IV-Chenango Forks (27-0).
Sidney is 1-0, defeating V-Marcus Whitman (28-22) in 2005 en route to the state title in Class C.
Coaches: Maple Grove, Curt Fischer, 26th season (210-44); Sidney, Jeff Matthews, 21st season (108-90).
Maple Grove key players and statistics: Sr. RB Bradley Benson, 5-8/175 (173-1,417, 27 TDs), Sr. QB Dalton Dubois, 5-10/150 (30-55, 568 yards, 13 TDs; 44 rushes, 346, 2 TDs), Sr. WR/DB Mitch Padilla, 6-2/165 (13-139, 4 TDs; 5 INTs, 1 TD), Sr. RB/LB Trevor Micek, 5-10/185 (58-532, 8 TDs; 139 tackles), Jr. WR/DB Nick Fabrizio, 6-2/205 (13-164, 6 TDs), So. QB/DB Easton Tanner, 5-10/150 (6-16, 41 yards, 1 TD).
Sidney key players and statistics: So. QB Darren Smith, 6-2/205 (183-309, 2,878, 30 TDs, 6 INTs), Sr. RB/DB Dawson Backus, 6-0/175 (142-1,105, 17 TDs; 22 catches, 429 yards, 6 TDs), Sr. WR/DB Alex Hoskins, 6-2/180 (84-1,340, 12 TDs), Sr. WR Nate Vibbard, 5-9/155 (34-512, 6 TDs), Sr. DE/FB Will Moore, 5-11/190 (113 tackles, 3 sacks).
How they got here: Maple Grove advanced with a 28-0 win over previously unbeaten Alexander of Section V in Far West Regionals. Bradley Benson rushed for two touchdowns and 171 yards on 26 carries and picked off a pass. Trevor Micek made 12 tackles and also had an interception as the Red Dragons forced four turnovers in shutting down an offense that averaged roughly 40 points per game.
Section IV champion Sidney rallied from a 14-point deficit during the final 140 seconds of regulation to defeat Section III champion Onondaga, 42-36, in overtime. The stunning comeback included a defensive stand inside its own 10 in which the Warriors forced a turnover to keep hope alive. They scored nine plays later and then recovered an onside kick with 44.3 seconds left. Sidney tied the game 36-36 on a successful hook-and-ladder play with Dawson Backus’ scoring from 28 yards out with 28.2 seconds left after a 9-yard completion to Alex Hoskins. Backus’ 1-yard TD in overtime provided the decisive points.
Pre-snap read: For the second straight week, Maple Grove faces another team with a strong passing game. That said, Sidney may be perhaps slightly better at matriculating the ball down field via the air than Alexander. Warriors quarterback Darren Smith is a solid pocket passer with great height. Maple Grove must disrupt the sophomore's timing either with pressure or by getting a good jam on receivers at the line.
Still, Sidney runs a balanced attack out of its spread formation. Worrying too much about Smith could open things up for Backus, who showed last week how dangerous he can be when he carries the ball.
Maple Grove’s offense will be without starting quarterback Dalton Dubois (ankle) for the second straight week. Sophomore Easton Tanner gets the nod but will also be needed to play defensive back as a way of slowing down the Warriors.
The best way for the Red Dragons to slow down Sidney: Run the ball effectively – something they’ve done all season with Bradley Benson and Trevor Micek – and keep the Warriors’ offense off the field.
What’s next: The winner advances to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship game at noon Nov. 25 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse where it will play either I-Haldane or II-Cambridge.