(Statistical Information Courtesy of The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK TEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
The District 10 playoffs begin this weekend with three of the area's 10 playoff-bound teams in action. Grove City will face Central Tech in the Class 5A quarterfinals Friday night. Saturday night, Sharon and Slippery Rock will compete in the 3A quarterfinals Saturday night.
Hickory, West Middlesex and Farrell all have byes to next week's semifinals. Wilmington, Sharpsville, Greenville and Reynolds will compete in the Class 2A quarterfinals next weekend.
(Quotes are from interviews conducted by either Bob Greenburg or Professor Briggs.)
CLASS 5A QUARTERFINAL -- Friday, October 28
Central Tech (5-4) vs. Grove City (8-1), Slippery Rock University, Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, 7:00 p.m.
Grove City and Central Tech will meet for the first time in postseason play Friday night in the District 10 Class 5A quarterfinals. The winner advances to play either Fort LeBoeuf or Franklin in next week's semifinals.
Grove City won its first eight games before falling to visiting Meadville, 48-14, last Friday night in the de facto Region 5 championship game. Meadville jumped out to a 21-0 lead midway through the first quarter and held a 42-0 halftime lead. Grove City allowed 434 rushing yards
The setback snapped Grove City's 25-game winning streak in Region 5. The Eagles entered the game ranked fifth in Pennsylvania in Class 5A, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
"I think the boys are still confident and the coaches are confident," Grove City head coach Sam Mowrey said. "But I think the kids started to understand that you can't get caught up in state rankings and things like that. The only thing that matters is how well you play on Friday night. I think (the Meadville game) was a good learning experience for them."
Despite last week's loss, the 2016 season represents a 180-degree turnaround for the Eagles, who went 1-8 last year.
Central Tech enters the game having won four of its last five, with the lone setback being a 27-26 loss to Class 6A Erie McDowell. Central will have an extra day of preparation for the quarterfinal game as the Falcons downed host Maplewood last Thursday night, 41-14, in Guys Mills. Senior running back Keyshaan Husband ran for 148 yards and four touchdowns on just seven carries to help lead Central Tech to the win.
Husband has been the main ball carrier in Central Tech's unique Single Wing offense, having rushed for 1,398 yards and 19 touchdowns on 143 attempts this season. Freshman wingback Danny Blue has added 509 yards and seven touchdowns while quarterback Jason Williams has rushed for 362 yards and six touchdowns. Williams has also thrown for 459 yards and five scores.
This is the third season that Central Tech has utilized the Single Wing, which is the forefather of the Delaware Wing-T and the modern spread offense. Central also qualified for the 2015 District 10 playoffs in Class AAA.
"We felt that for what our personnel was, it was the best choice for us to go to," Central Tech head coach Rob Matz said. "Some people thought we were crazy when we went to it. But it's proven to work out very well."
Preparing for Central Tech's offense presents obstacles, according to Mowrey. "Their offense, the Single Wing, is going to make it a little tougher to prepare for. They have some dangerous athletes and I think they are a scrappy team. That's a good team that has been in some tight ball games. It's quite a challenge for us."
Central Tech opened the season with a 40-36 road victory over Region 5 kingpin Meadville. In addition to the McDowell loss, Central Tech also fell at home to Fort LeBoeuf in overtime September 17, 21-20.
While Central prefers the running game, Grove City features District 10's top passing game, in terms of yardage. Senior quarterback Kameron Patterson has thrown for 2,110 yards and needs nine yards to set a single-season program record for passing yardage. Patterson also has 27 touchdown passes this season. Sophomore Logan Lutz leads the team with 34 catches while senior A.J. Turner has 33 catches for a team-high 761 yards and 12 touchdowns. Turner is the team's leading scorer with 16 total touchdowns and 98 points.
Junior fullback Trey Adams leads Grove City's improved running game with 680 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Patterson has added 366 rushing yards and six scores while change-of-pace back Cordell Sanders has 290 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
"Grove City has a great scheme and a great quarterback," Matz said. "Their passing game is very scary. You can't make mistakes. Their run game is very solid too."
Grove City is in pursuit of its first District 10 title since winning the Class AAA title in 2011. Grove City also won the "AA" title in 2004. Central Tech is in pursuit of its first D-10 crown since 1994, when the Falcons won the second of two straight Class AAAA titles.
The winner will play Fort LeBoeuf or Franklin in next week's semifinal round.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC and Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
CLASS 3A QUARTERFINAL -- Saturday, October 29
Sharon (6-3) vs. Corry (6-3), Hickory High School, 7:00 p.m.
A pair of 6-3 teams meet Saturday night in the District 10 semifinals as Sharon faces Region 4 member Corry in the teams' fourth all-time playoff meeting. Corry returns to the District 10 playoffs for the first time since 2012 while Sharon makes its fourth straight playoff appearance.
Corry closed the regular season by winning five of its final six games. The Beavers' three losses this season came to fellow 3A playoff qualifiers Titusville and Mercyhurst Prep, along with top 5A seed Fort LeBoeuf.
Last week, the Beavers led host Harbor Creek 27-6 before holding on for a 27-19 victory. Quarterback Bryce Xander threw two touchdown passes and running back Tyler Burlew ran for two touchdowns. Xander finished the game 10 of 19 for 163 yards while Burlew chewed up 157 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.
Corry has been one of the most balanced teams offensively in District 10 this season, averaging 172.7 passing yards and 163.7 rushing yards per game. Xander has thrown for 1,555 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has also been intercepted 13 times. Xander has completed 98 of 219 (44.7 percent) of his attempts.
Corry also features two receivers with over 30 catches this season. Brady Davis has 38 catches for 640 yards and 10 touchdowns. Bookend Jared Fisher has 32 receptions for 526 yards. Burlew leads the ground game with 872 yards while Zack Czech has chipped in with 434 rushing yards.
"Most teams we play are bigger than us up front and Corry is too," Sharon head coach Jim Wildman said. "I think they'll be as excited as we are to get into it. I'm sure it will be a formidable test for us."
Sharon's four-game win streak ended last Saturday night with a 42-35 setback at Sharpsville in the regular season finale. Sharon yielded 464 rushing yards. In the previous four weeks, the Tigers had allowed as many touchdowns (4) as they had scored.
"We didn't play well last weekend. Sharpsville played better than we did," Wildman said. "But that kind of game, you can learn from it. I think it will be a good thing in the long run."
While the Sharon defense will be tested by Corry's balanced offense, the Sharon offense will provide an equally rigorous challenge for Corry's defense. Sharon features a 1,000-yard rusher in sophomore tailback Jordan Wilson, who has 1,079 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Tigers also have Mercer County's all-time leading pass-catcher in junior wide receiver Ziyon Strickland. Strickland leads District 10 with 52 catches and 897 receiving yards.
Senior quarterback J.P. McComb has engineering the Sharon attack in his first year as the starter. The 6-foot-3 McComb has thrown for 1,715 yards and 22 touchdowns, which are second only to Grove City's Patterson in District 10.
"He worked in the offseason," Wildman said of McComb. "He has a good relationship with his offensive line and his receivers. He's done a great job for us."
Sharon and Corry faced each other in each program's first District 10 playoff game. Sharon blanked Corry, 14-0, in the 1985 Division I semifinals. The Tigers then defeated Greenville for the inaugural Division I title the next week, 53-7. Sharon defeated Corry in the 1992 Class AAA title game, 22-0. In 1993, Sharon downed Corry in the 'AAA' semifinals, 40-6.
Corry has three all-time wins in the District 10 playoffs. The last two victories have come in overtime. In the 2010 Class AAA semifinals, Corry downed Meadville in double overtime, 34-31. Twenty years ago, Corry downed Oil City in the Class AAA semifinals in overtime, 12-6, in a blizzard.
The Sharon-Corry winner will play Titusville in next week's 3A semifinals.
Sharon is tied for first in the area with 10 District 10 titles. Wilmington has also won 10 D-10 crowns.
The game can be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
CLASS 3A QUARTERFINAL -- Saturday, October 29
Slippery Rock (3-6) vs. Mercyhurst Prep (6-3), General McLane High School, 7:00 p.m.
Slippery Rock makes its sixth consecutive appearance in the District 10 playoffs Saturday night when the Rockets face Region 4 squad Mercyhurst Prep at Linden Field, just outside of Edinboro. A win would give Slippery Rock a rematch against Region 2 champion Hickory in next week's semifinals. Mercyhurst, meanwhile, is in pursuit of its first playoff win since 2010.
First-year head coach Larry Wendereusz guided Slippery Rock to a pair of wins over the regular season's final three weeks, including a 42-21 upset of visiting Sharpsville in Week Eight.
"I think our kids are looking forward to (the playoffs)," Wendereusz said. "It gives us a chance to fulfill one of the statements that we said when we started this journey, and that is to be better at the end of the season than we are at the beginning of the year."
Last week in a 48-7 setback against Wilmington, Kaleb Kamerer led Slippery Rock with 70 rushing yards. Quarterback Bailey Mertens threw for 69 yards and added 42 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Rockets committed just one penalty but finished the game minus-two in turnover margin. Slippery Rock is 2-1 this year when winning the turnover battle.
During the regular season, Slippery Rock faced seven playoff teams, including 9-0 Hickory, 8-1 Grove City and 8-1 Wilmington.
"Every week, we had something positive, for the most part, happen in those games," Wendereusz said. "Sometimes, when it's 'meat grinders' like it is, you have to take that little bit of positive and run with it."
Running with it is something that Mercyhurst Prep has done 366 times this season in nine games. The Lakers have amassed 2,262 rushing yards, led a 1,351-yard performance from sophomore Zack Helsley. The Lakers feature an offensive line that averages 265 pounder per man, tackle to tackle. Ren Rivers (6-5, 275) is the lone senior on the line. Tight end Dylan Schley is a 275-pound freshman.
"Offensively, they are physical," Wendereusz said. "They are very big up front. If they get their hands on you up front, they're going to take you for a ride."
Mercyhurst has blanked four opponents this season and is coming off consecutive shutouts of Harbor Creek (36-0) and Lakeview (48-0). The Lakers held Harbor Creek to 114 total yards and seven first downs. Lakeview gained just 60 yards and four first downs last Friday night.
"They're very good. Their defense is very stout," Wendereusz said. "There's a reason they have four shutouts on the season. They're very good defensively."
Mercyhurst is 6-0 in Erie County this season. The Lakers' losses came at Titusville (35-28), at Conneaut, Ohio (33-7) and at West Middlesex (14-0). West Middlesex held the Lakers to minus-20 rushing yards that night.
Slippery Rock's last playoff win in Erie County came November 8, 2008, when the Rockets upset North East at Veterans Stadium, 21-7, in the Class AA quarterfinals. Mercyhurst Prep is 5-7 all-time against Mercer County area programs in the District 10 playoffs.
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