Who: Dunkirk Marauders (9-2) vs. IV-Chenango Forks Blue Devils (11-0).
When: 3 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
Television: Time Warner Cable Sportsnet.
Rankings: Dunkirk is ranked fourth among News small schools and sixth in the state. Chenango Forks is ranked No. 1 in the state sportswriters’ poll.
State final four history: This is Dunkirk’s first appearance. Three-time defending state champion Chenango Forks is making its 13th state semifinal appearance and has posted victories in the West Region final nine times (2001-05, 2007, 2013-15). The Blue Devils defeated Bath of Section V (44-22) in last year’s semifinal.
Coaches: Dunkirk, Mike Sarratori, third season (20-8). Chenango Forks, Dave Hogan, ninth season (92-11)
Dunkirk key players and statistics: Sr. RB/LB Alton Ingram, 6-0/182 (178-1,407, 20 TDs; 58.5 tackles); Jr. RB Isiah Velez, 5-8/158 (51-526, 8 TDs), Jr. FL/DB Juan Damas, 5-9/154 (58 rushes, 508 yards, 10 TDs; 16 catches, 298 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. DL/OL Chauval Black, 6-3/225 (40.5 tackles, 13 TFL), Sr. QB Evon Hernandez, 5-10/180 (33-68, 653, 8 TDs; 136 rushes, 414 yards, 9 TDs).
Chenango Forks key players and statistics: Sr. RB/DB L.J. Watson, 6-0, 195 (163-1,872, 29 TDs), Sr. C/DL Ryan Ehrets, 6-3/270 (45 tackles), Sr. HB/LB Tim McDonald, 5-8/200 (146-743, 15 TDs), Jr. OL/DL Tiernen Joseph, 6-1/250 (56 tackles), Sr. RB/DB Seth Bush, 5-10/172.
How they got here: Dunkirk advanced with a thrilling 50-48 overtime win over Section V champion Batavia. Alton Ingram rushed for the last of his four touchdowns during the first overtime and his two-point conversion run wound up providing the winning points. He ran 33 times for 240 yards as he thrived with the extra workload. The Marauders were without the injured Damas and lost Velez to an undisclosed injury during last week’s game. The Marauders rushed for most of their 501 yards in offense, but quarterback Hernandez completed 5-of-7 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Chenango Forks steam rolled Section III’s Cazenovia, 35-13, to win the battle between 2015 state champions. The Lakers won Class B last year, the Blue Devils Class C. Forks seized control with four touchdowns over a span of 3 minutes, 28 seconds bridging the end of first and start of second quarters. Watson rushed 19 times for 140 yards. He also had a pick-six that covered 65 yards.
Pre-snap read: For fans of power football, consider this semifinal as an early Christmas present from the football gods. Both teams like to exert their will via the run.
Forks is a little bigger, which might tip the scales in its favor. Dunkirk feels it’s the faster of the two teams.
Whichever team stops the run and can get its ground game going will win this one. Making plays in the passing game will be paramount.
Dunkirk showed it can take to the air with success early during the quarterfinals, which made it easier for Ingram to run wild. The Marauders need to do that again and remain relaxed and seize the moment in order to take down the defending champions.
What’s next: The winner faces either I-Pleasantville or II-Glens Falls in the state final at noon on Nov. 26 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.