During its 2016 run to a Division VII state semifinal, the Harvest Prep football team beat Waterford 29-15 for the Region 27 title behind 272 yards rushing by Daniel Bangura in his record-setting season.
The Warriors have been forced to use a committee approach to running the ball this season rather than handing it regularly to a player like Bangura, a 2018 graduate who rushed for a state-record 4,128 yards and 57 touchdowns in 2016.
Now on its fourth-string quarterback because of eligibility and injury issues, Harvest Prep has found enough answers on the ground to advance to a regional semifinal, where it will meet Waterford for the second time in the postseason on Saturday, Nov. 16, at Thornville Sheridan.
The top-seeded Warriors haven't lost since their season opener and are 10-1, including a 37-7 home win over eighth-seeded Fisher Catholic in the first round of the playoffs Nov. 9.
Waterford is the fourth seed and beat fifth-seeded Shenandoah 48-30 in its playoff opener Nov. 9 to improve to 9-2.
The semifinal winner plays second-seeded Newark Cath-olic or third-seeded Shadyside on Nov. 23 for the regional title.
Against Fisher Catholic, senior running back Javon Eggert rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries and Rashaun Goins added 70 yards rushing and two scores on six carries.
"Javon is a running back, and the last time I checked, they call them running backs for a reason," coach Milan Smith said. "You still want to have the ability to throw the ball, so we're trying to be real creative and trying to work with what we've got."
Harvest Prep recovered two first-quarter fumbles against Fisher Catholic and led 28-0 by the end of the period.
The Warriors' early lead took pressure off freshman quarterback Josiah Carroll, who completed all three of his pass attempts for 124 yards, including a 31-yard first-quarter touchdown to Desean Bonte. Carroll also ran for 54 yards on seven carries.
"Our running game has been solid because of blocking, discipline and execution," Eggert said. "Our guys up front make great holes for me and the other backs. Our perimeter blocks by the receivers also play a huge part in our successful offense."
Waterford has won five games in a row since falling 37-0 on Oct. 4 to Glouster Trimble, which beat Harvest Prep 7-0 in a regional semifinal last year on its way to a state runner-up finish but is now competing in Division VI.
The Warriors are in the postseason for the sixth year in a row, while the Wildcats are in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and have beaten all six of their Division VII opponents this year.
Senior quarterback Zane Heiss has combined to run and throw for more than 1,300 yards and sometimes lines up at running back, with sophomore Grant McCutcheon also seeing time behind center.
During the regular season for Waterford, senior wide receiver Nick Fouss had 19 receptions for 422 yards and five touchdowns, senior running back Joe Pantelidis rushed for 457 yards and five touchdowns on 62 carries and sophomore running back Holden Dailey had 670 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on 84 carries.
Harvest Prep senior two-way lineman Khelin Jackson is confident his team's defense can contain whatever it faces against the Wildcats, who have been coached by Eric McCutcheon since 2016.
"(Our) defense has been so solid because we pay attention to the details," Jackson said. "Also, the coaches always prepare us to be a great football team. They give us their all at all times. We also have great leadership on the team and that provides us with a lot."