(Statistical Information Courtesy of The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK ELEVEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
The District 10 playoffs began with what could be classified as the undercard last weekend with a sprinkling of games in Classes 1A, 3A and 5A. Now, the playoffs begin in full force this weekend with all 10 of the area's teams still alive in the postseason.
There will be one all-local game as Hickory faces Slippery Rock in a 3A semifinal Saturday afternoon. That is one of three regular season rematches on this week's card. In Class 1A, the Thursday night semifinals are both rematches from Region 1 play this year -- West Middlesex-Cambridge Springs and Farrell-Cochranton.
(Quotes are from interviews conducted by either Bob Greenburg or Professor Briggs.)
CLASS 1A SEMIFINAL -- Thursday, November 3
West Middlesex (6-3) vs. Cambridge Springs (5-5) -- Hickory High School, 7:00 p.m.
Region 1 champion West Middlesex makes its postseason debut Thursday night against No. 4 seed Cambridge Springs. It's a rematch of the teams' September 23 battle in Cambridge Springs, where West Middlesex held off a late charge for a 21-18 victory.
Cambridge Springs outgained the Big Reds that night, 364-231, but West Middlesex forced five turnovers. West Middlesex also stopped Spa on three two-point conversion attempts in the game, including two in the fourth quarter.
Turnovers have been key to West Middlesex's six-game win streak. In the five games won on the field (West Middlesex received a forfeit from Youngsville), the Big Reds plus-13 in turnover margin. In the regular season finale at Union City two weeks ago, West Middlesex forced five turnovers in a 35-8 win. Zach Long returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown while Bradon Gentile closed the scoring with a 65-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.
Against Union City, Fullback Clayton Parrish rumbled for 104 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Josh Porterfield added 63 yards and a score. Parrish needs 77 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the season while Porterfield is second on the team with 454 rushing yards. Both men have rushed for seven touchdowns.
After starting 0-3, the Big Reds have fashioned one of the better in-season turnarounds in recent memory.
"Our kids have worked hard this year. They've turned a pretty tough start into a pretty positive season," West Middlesex head coach Ed Roberson said. "We want to ride this train as long as we can and see how far we can go."
Cambridge Springs features one of District 10's most explosive offenses as the Blue Devils average 366 yards per game. Quarterback Noah Reisenauer has thrown for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns while also running for 719 yards and nine scores. Cody Lanning leads Cambridge Springs with 1,066 rushing yards.
"We're facing a very formidable 1-2 punch with their offense," Roberson said of Reisenauer and Lanning. "Defensively, we'll have to be ready to contain those guys."
Time of possession will also likely be a factor. Roberson noted that his team's goal is to have the ball for at least 30 minutes on offense. "The goal is to maintain possession and play physical football against them."
The Blue Devils advanced to the semifinals by pulling out a 48-32 quarterfinal round win over Union City. Cambridge Springs gained 492 yards of total offense as Lanning (190) and Reisenauer (177) both ran for over 100 yards. Reisenauer also threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Lanning. Defensively, Spa surrendered 304 rushing yards to Union City.
In the September 23 West Middlesex-Cambridge Springs game, Porterfield ran for two touchdowns while Parrish gained 127 yards on 27 carries. Lanning led Spa with 152 rushing yards while Reisenauer ran for two touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass to Trent Merry.
Cambridge Springs is 5-0 this year when winning the turnover battle and 0-5 when having a negative turnover margin. In a 32-30 loss September 16 at Reynolds, the Blue Devils rolled up 658 yards of offense but turned over the ball five times.
Last year, both West Middlesex and Cambridge Springs fell in the D-10 Class A semifinals. Cambridge Springs fell to Farrell while Sharpsville eliminated West Middlesex. This is the second all-time playoff meeting between West Middlesex and Cambridge Springs. West Middlesex pulled out a 7-6 win November 1, 2002 over the Blue Devils in the District 10 Class A semifinals at Greenville's Stewart Field. Dan Mihalcak's 10-yard touchdown run and Joe Habarka's extra point with 2:38 left put the Big Reds ahead.
This is the 20th anniversary of Cambridge Springs' last District 10 title team. In 1988, the Blue Devils became the first District 10 team to advance to a state championship game. Cambridge Springs has defeated Mercer County-area teams in the quarterfinals and finals, but never in a semifinal round game.
West Middlesex is 16-6 all-time in the District 10 playoffs while Cambridge Springs is 6-16 District 10 play. The 22 playoff games are the most by any Crawford County school.
The game can be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
CLASS 1A SEMIFINAL -- Thursday, November 3
Farrell (6-3) vs. Cochranton (6-3) -- Wilmington High School, 7:00 p.m.
Two weeks ago, Farrell and Cochranton closed the regular season at the Steelers' Paulekas Stadium, knowing that the teams would also face off in the District 10 semifinals. Farrell rolled to a 48-0 victory to clinch the No. 2 seed in the District 10 playoffs and presumably, a site closer to the Shenango Valley for this game.
Farrell jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead in the first meeting as Braxton Chapman ran for three first-half touchdowns. He finished with 191 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Kyi Wright threw touchdown passes of 58 yards and 10 yards, respectively to Jourdan Townsend in the second half to help break open the game.
Brandon Chambers caught four passes for 47 yards and also ran for 81 yards on six carries. Wright went 8 of 9 for 127 yards.
Defensively, Farrell held Cochranton's diverse spread offense to 150 total yards. Quarterback Kohl Bernarding went 8 of 17 for 49 yards. Nate Slawson caught three balls to lead the Redbirds.
Chapman has rushed for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, despite missing a month due to injury. He needs 110 yards to pass Alan Claiborne (2,870 yards) as Farrell's career rushing leader. Chapman is third in Mercer County in rushing and leads the area with an 11.8 yards per carry average. Defensively, Farrell yielded only 41 points in its four Region 1 games this season. Due to a forfeit from Youngsville, Farrell only played one league game at home -- Cochranton.
Bernarding and Curtis Freyermuth have shared quarterback duties this season. Bernarding is 42 of 66 (63.6 percent) for 681 yards and 12 touchdowns while Freyermuth has thrown for 338 yards and rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns. Freyermuth also has a dozen catches for 132 yards.
According to The Herald, injuries sidelined Cochranton's top two receiving threats in Logan Shreve (19 catches) and Peter Jamieson (15 receptions, eight touchdowns) for the Farrell game. The status of both players is unknown for Thursday's game.
Cochranton is 1-6 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The lone win came October 31, 2003 at Meadville -- a 38-17 win over Sharpsville. The last time Farrell lost in the playoffs to a team that it defeated during the regular season came 15 years ago. Farrell defeated Rochester on September 15, 2001, 12-9, but lost to the Rams in the District 7 Class A semifinals, 19-8, at North Allegheny.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.
CLASS 2A QUARTERFINAL -- Friday, November 4
Wilmington (8-1) vs. Eisenhower (6-4) -- Slippery Rock University, 7:00 p.m.
Seven years have passed since the Wilmington Greyhounds captured the District 10 title in football. However, a resurgent "Hounds Hammer" defense and a diverse offensive attack have put Wilmington in position to return to the state playoffs.
Wilmington has allowed a District 10-low 100 points this season as five foes have been held to single digits. The Greyhounds switched to a 4-3 defense this year to counteract the growth of spread offenses in the area. As a result, Wilmington had its best regular season record since the 2011 team won nine of its 10 regular season games.
In Wilmington's 48-7 victory over Slippery Rock in Week Nine, Bryson Verrelli and Ryan Byler both returned fumbles for touchdowns while Robert Pontius picked off a pass. Offensively, Wilmington generated 482 total yards, including 416 on the ground. Three backs went over the 100-yard mark, led by a 128-yard effort from fullback Kyle Slicker. Halfback Jack Patton, back in the lineup after missing several weeks to injury, gained 106 yards and halfback Cameron Marett contributed 104 rushing yards.
Wilmington head coach Terry Verrelli now owns a 296-128-3 record in 39 years as head coach.
Eisenhower extended its win streak to three last Friday night with a 28-0 win over Erie East in non-conference action. Senior Adam Pascuzzi ran for three touchdowns and finished with 130 yards on 10 rushing attempts. He is the team's third-leading rusher this season with 380 yards. Bryon Braswell leads the team with 680 rushing yards while junior quarterback Spencer Head has added 399 rushing yards.
Head has also thrown for 604 yards and four touchdowns, along with being intercepted seven times. Junior Jaydon Hayes, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, leads Ike with 20 receptions for 378 yards.
Eisenhower received an invitation to the playoffs after North East opted out of the District 10 playoffs with a 3-6 overall record. North East and Eisenhower both went 3-3 in Region 3 play but North East had the head-to-head tiebreaker. When North East declined the bid, Eisenhower stepped in, since the teams were tied in the standings.
Head coach Jim Penley is in his 13th season at Eisenhower.
Eisenhower's last playoff win came November 1, 2002, when the Knights blanked Saegertown in the Class A semifinals, 8-0. Eisenhower has scored in single digits in each of its last three playoff wins (8-6 over Conneaut Lake in 1995; 9-7 over Conneaut Lake in 1994). Eisenhower played for the District 10 Class A title every year from 1990 to 1995, winning the crown in 1992 and 1993.
This is the second time that Wilmington and Eisenhower have met in the playoffs. Wilmington rolled to a 43-7 win over the Knights in the D-10 Class AA semifinals November 1, 1996.
The Wilmington-Eisenhower winner will meet Greenville or Seneca in the District 10 semifinals.
CLASS 2A QUARTERFINAL -- Friday, November 4
Sharpsville (6-3) vs. Maplewood (6-4) -- Hickory High School, 7:00 p.m.
For the second straight season, Sharpsville and Maplewood meet in the opening round of the District 10 playoffs at Hickory High School. Last season, the then-unbeaten Blue Devils rolled to a 49-13 win over Maplewood at Hornet Stadium.
Sharpsville appeared to be stumbling down the stretch with losses to Hickory and Slippery Rock in Weeks Seven and Eight, respectively. However, Sharpsville rebounded in the regular season finale to down Region 2 rival Sharon, 42-35, at McCracken Field. Bobby Besser charged through the sloppy field conditions for 304 rushing yards while Cameron Prebble had 153 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Prebble (524 yards) is Sharpsville's second-leading rusher and second-leading receiver (11 catches, 173 yards) on the season. Besser has a team-high 875 rushing yards while Marquis Altman paces Sharpsville with 26 pass receptions for 524 yards.
Senior quarterback Luke Henwood is in his third full year as the starter after taking over midway through the 2013 season. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes while engineering the Blue Devils' intricate Delaware Wing-T offense. Henwood has been one of the few constants for the injury-riddled Blue Devils in 2016.
"It definitely hasn't been a walk in the park, between the youth we have on our team and the injuries have battled us from day one," Sharpsville head coach Paul Piccirilli said. "In 21 years here, I've never had anything like this. That's part of the game and we'll continue to fight.
"If someone would have told me at the beginning of the year that we'd go 6-3 and end up in the playoffs, I would have signed the contract right there," Piccirilli continued. "It has been an up-and-down year. But to go 6-3 in this league is unbelievable and we're very proud of that."
Maplewood closed the regular season last week with a 41-6 non-conference win over visiting Girard. Maplewood held Girard to minus-7 rushing yards while also intercepting three passes. Clay Cox returned a pick 30 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, closing the scoring.
Sophomore Chevy Blake ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns while junior Kor-jonn Henderson added 94 yards and a score. Blake (545 yards) and Henderson (519) have combined for over 1,000 rushing yards this season. Raheem Young leads the team with 22 catches for 353 yards and four scores.
Freshman J.D. McFadden has taken over as Maplewood's quarterback and has thrown for 589 yards and six touchdowns.
Fifth-year Maplewood head coach Bryan Borkovich played at Westminster College from 2004 to 2007 under head coaches Jerome "Jerry" Schmitt and Jeff Hand. He is a Blackhawk High School graduate.
Maplewood High School formed in 1973 after the merging of Townville and Randolph-East Mead High Schools. Maplewood's first football win came in its debut, September 8, 1973, when the Tigers earned a 19-0 win over Venango Christian. Maplewood's lone playoff win came November 6, 1993 in the Class A semifinals -- a 24-6 win over Kennedy Christian.
Sharpsville is 34-11 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The 34 wins are second most by a Mercer County program (Sharon is 35-14). Only Erie Cathedral Prep (37) has more D-10 playoff wins. Sharpsville is 24-5 against non-Mercer County teams in the District 10 playoffs. Sharpsville's last D-10 loss to a team outside of Mercer County came November 19, 2010, when the Blue Devils fell in the Class A semifinals to Mercyhurst Prep, 56-33.
The Sharpsville-Maplewood winner meets Iroquois or Reynolds in the District 10 semifinals.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.
CLASS 2A QUARTERFINAL -- Friday, November 4
Greenville (5-4) vs. Seneca (6-3) -- Harbor Creek High School, 7:00 p.m.
For the 26th time in the 32-year history of the District 10 football playoffs, the Greenville Trojans will be participating in the postseason tournament. On the other side, Seneca makes its fourth-ever appearance in the playoffs and is looking for its first D-10 playoff victory.
While the teams' respective playoff histories are vastly different, both teams enter the playoffs on modest win streaks. Greenville closed the regular season with wins over Reynolds and Mercer. Seneca won its last three games, downing North East, Saegertown and Northwestern.
Greenville downed Mercer, 34-7, two weeks ago as the Trojans' resurgent ground game generated two 100-yard rushers. Canyon Eells ran for 114 yards and three touchdowns while wide receiver-turned-halfback Ethan Reiser ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Brady Gentile added 70 rushing yards as the Trojans finished with 344 rushing yards.
Eells surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and now has 1,023 yards on the season. Reiser leads Greenville with 27 catches for 425 yards and two touchdowns.
In Greenville's five wins this year, the Trojans have allowed 41 points. The Trojans have surrendered 150 points in their four defeats.
Greenville is 18-22 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The Trojans are pursuing their first district crown since 1999.
Like Greenville, Seneca is coming off an open week. In Week Nine, Seneca wrapped up the No. 2 Class 2A berth from Region 3 with a 44-12 win over visiting Northwestern. Seneca quarterback Joey Scarabino ran for 189 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Mike Shearer.
Only a sophomore, Scarabino has rushed for 919 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has thrown for 1,111 yards and 12 touchdowns on 60-of-116 accuracy. Last year, Scarabino threw for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns. Ethan Stafford and Brandon Foley have each caught a team-high 13 passes for the Bobcats while Tre Thrower has 12 receptions. Thrower is second on the team with 389 rushing yards.
This is the first time that Seneca will be considered the "home" team for a playoff game as the higher-seeded team. Sixth-year head coach Dave Frank has led Seneca to three straight winning seasons.
Seneca's last win over a Mercer County team came November 2, 2012, when the Bobcats edged playoff-bound West Middlesex, 21-20. Seneca won the last meeting with Greenville, claiming a 21-6 season-opening home win in 2005. Seneca finished the regular season 6-3 and qualified for the D-10 playoffs for the first time in program history. Greenville blanked Seneca in the 2004 opener, 44-0, at Stewart Field.
Seneca is the 11th different Erie County program that Greenville has faced in the playoffs, joining Cathedral Prep, Corry, Fairview, Fort LeBoeuf, General McLane, Girard, Harbor Creek, North East, Northwestern and Strong Vincent.
The game can be heard on WGRP 940.
CLASS 2A QUARTERFINAL -- Friday, November 4
Reynolds (4-5) vs. Iroquois (9-0) -- Erie Veterans Stadium, 7:00 p.m.
Reynolds returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2005, when the Raiders won the District 10 Class AA title and advanced to the state semifinals. An off week prior to the start of the playoffs could be the cure for the injury-riddled Raiders, who dropped four of their last five games to close the regular season.
"It's a great thing for our kids," Reynolds head coach Josh Mull said of making the playoffs. "We play in a very tough league.
"The biggest positive we take in, being as injured as we were throughout the course of the year, was that we played a great schedule," Mull continued. "The rigor of the schedule that we play really is a positive for our kids and they're looking forward to going up and playing a quality opponent."
Poor field position plagued Reynolds early against Hickory in Week Nine as the host Raiders fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter, eventually dropping a 54-7 decision. Ryan McQuown, recently back from injury, highlighted the night with a 75-yard touchdown run.
McQuown joins fellow senior Damion Gearhart to give Reynolds one of Class 2A's deepest offensive backfields. Gearhart leads Reynolds' unique spread offense with 766 rushing yards while senior quarterback Garrett Daniello has 491 rushing yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. McQuown averages 10.2 yards per carry and finished the regular season with 402 yards.
In 2015, senior Dylan McDanel amassed 952 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 109 carries. However, a broken collarbone sidelined McDanel early in 2016 and according to Mull, McDanel reinjured his clavicle against Hickory and is out for the season.
"We're as healthy as we're going to get," Mull said. "We're going to give it our best shot."
Along with Cathedral Prep and Hickory, Iroquois is one of three undefeated teams in District 10. Third-year head coach Matt Morgan has guided the Braves to three playoff berths and a combined 23-8 overall record. His Wing-T offense produced two 1,000-yard rushers last year and has Erie County's second-leading rusher this year in senior fullback Tyler Barone. Barone has rushed for 1,507 yards and 22 touchdowns this year.
"Barone is a big, powerful back," Mull said. "Once he gets north and south, he's really hard to bring down."
Junior quarterback Tarrell Clark is second on the team with 444 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns but may be out due to a non-football injury, according to Tom Reisenweber of the Erie Times-News. Clark also leads the Iroquois defense with three sacks this season.
"(Iroquois) definitely knows how to win, and that's obvious with a 9-0 record," Mull said. "I think we match up to them pretty well. We're ready to take them on and give them our best effort."
Last season, Iroquois fell to West Middlesex in the Class A quarterfinals, 27-20, at wind-swept Fairview High School. Iroquois outgained the Big Reds, 305-194, but turned over the ball four times.
Iroquois looks to snap an eight-game playoff losing streak as the Braves' last playoff victory came November 2, 2001 in the Class A semifinals, 30-19, over Linesville. The Braves are 8-14 all-time in the playoffs. Iroqouis won District 10 Class A titles in 1990, 1991 and 1995.
The 1990 team remains the only D-10 team to win multiple overtime games in the district playoffs in one year. The 1990 Iroquois team is also the last D-10 Class A champion to not participate in the state playoffs due to the point system used then. Smethport (District 9) and state runner-up Farrell (District 7) played for the West title.
The 1990 D-10 playoffs featured four total overtime games. There have only been five overtime games in the District 10 playoffs since.
Reynolds is 11-4 all-time in the District 10 playoffs, having won titles in 1986 (Division II), 1987 (Division II), 1989 (Class AAA) and 2005 (Class AA). Reynolds is 3-9 in its last 12 games against Erie County foes over the past decade (2006-present).
The game can be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
CLASS 3A SEMIFINAL -- Saturday, November 5
Hickory (9-0) vs. Slippery Rock (4-6) -- Greenville High School, 2:00 p.m.
In 2012, 2014 and 2015, Hickory avenged a regular season setback against a region foe by defeating them in the District 10 Class AA championship game. Now, after concluding the first perfect regular season in program history, could the Hornets have the tables turned on them Saturday afternoon by Slippery Rock?
Hickory pulled away from host Slippery Rock for a 45-21 victory September 9 as quarterback Luke Brennan threw three touchdown passes, including two to Will Gruber. Brennan threw for 144 yards while tailback Chuck Carr charged through the Rocket defense for 153 yards and two scores. He also caught Brennan's first touchdown pass.
A knee injury has sidelined Brennan for the season, however, so sophomore Hayden Gallagher will make his second career start at quarterback Saturday afternoon. In his first start, two weeks ago against Reynolds, Gallagher completed 5 of 6 passes for 90 yards and two touchdown passes to Gruber. Gallagher also ran for 43 yards and a touchdown in the 54-7 win, adding an extra dimension to Hickory's multiple-formation offense.
"We're very confident in his ability," Hickory head coach Bill Brest said of Gallagher. "All summer, he pretty much got all of the reps in all of our passing scrimmages. He got a lot of reps in our scrimmages and he's had reps all season. We're very excited about what he can do. He's had a really great two weeks of practice and preparation. He's run the football well and thrown the ball accurately."
"The new quarterback (Gallagher) has come in for them and done some neat things," Slippery Rock head coach Larry Wendereusz said. "He runs the ball really well. That adds another dimension you have to prepare for."
Carr currently has 6,336 career yards, which ranks second all-time in Mercer County and District 10, behind the 6,548 yards gained by Lakeview's Blake Reddick from 2010 to 2013. Carr already owns D-10's touchdown record, with 105. This year, he has a county-high 1,731 rushing yards and 38 total touchdowns.
"Carr's that good," Wendereusz said. "He's their 'No. 1." But they have a lot of '1-Bs' that you have to be ready to handle as well."
Slippery Rock recorded its first-ever postseason shutout last Saturday night when the Rockets blanked Mercyhurst Prep in the quarterfinals, 28-0. Slippery Rock held the Lakers to six first downs, 17 rushing yards and 119 yards of offense. The Rockets also forced three turnovers, including Stephen Heller's 27-yard interception return in the fourth quarter that sparked Slippery Rock's 21-point final period.
"Defensively, our coaches did a great job of getting our guys ready to play," Wendereusz said. "Our players bought in and they came out and set the tone with the first top defensively. From there, the excitement just continued to build."
Offensively, senior quarterback Bailey Mertens threw for 76 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 76 yards and a score. Calvin Rossi had five receptions for 25 yards and the first touchdown of the game. The Rockets have won three of their last four games after a 1-5 start. That surge concerns Brest.
"They're playing with a lot of momentum. Number two, this is the playoffs. Your records are 0-0. What happened in the past really means nothing. Thirdly, I think they are a tremendously-coached football team. Coach Larry is an outstanding coach and his staff does a great job. They're multiple defensively, with their fronts and blitz packages," Brest continued. "They have improved tremendously on the offensive line. Their quarterback is continuing to get better.
"It's going to be a great challenge for the Hornets."
Slippery Rock is 7-9 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. Hickory won the lone postseason meeting between the programs in 2014, 35-27, in the District 10 Class AA semifinals at Slippery Rock University. Hickory is 24-5 in the D-10 playoffs, including an ongoing 15-game win streak. That's the longest playoff win streak in District 10 history.
Wendereusz is the fifth different Slippery Rock coach to guide the Rockets to the D-10 playoffs, joining Mike Kish (1996), Brendan Smith (1999), Clyde Conti (2002, 2003, 2008), Brendan Hathaway (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and Travis Sarver (2015). Joe Walton coached Slippery Rock to the District 7 Class A semifinals in 1984 as the Rockets finished 11-1 overall and as Tri-County North A champions.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.
CLASS 3A SEMIFINAL -- Saturday, November 5
Sharon (7-3) vs. Titusville (8-1) -- Oil City High School, 8:00 p.m.
An explosive and balanced offense combined with an opportunistic defense last Saturday to lift the Sharon Tigers to a 45-0 win over Corry in the District 10 3A quarterfinals. Now, the Tigers will face one of Corry's Region 4 rivals -- Titusville -- in the district semifinals Saturday night.
The Sharon defense forced six Corry turnovers, including five interceptions. Safety Jeremiah Norris recorded three of the five interceptions to help lead the defensive effort. Sharon limited the Beavers to 14 rushing yards and 10 first downs. The Sharon defense has 22 interceptions this season while recording five defensive touchdowns in 10 games.
Meanwhile, Sharon's offense displayed its usual balance as the Tigers chewed up 177 rushing yards and 231 passing yards. Quarterback J.P. McComb threw for 200 yards on 12-of-22 accuracy, including two touchdown passes to Ziyon Strickland. Strickland, who also returned an interception for a touchdown, finished with six receptions for 114 yards. Jayquan Odem added 57 yards and a touchdown on his three catches.
Sophomore tailback Jordan Wilson ran for 83 yards in the first half before being sidelined with an ankle injury. Wilson is Sharon's leading rusher this season with 1,156 yards this season. Norris, who began 2015 as the starting tailback before moving to wide receiver, would start is Wilson cannot go. Norris has 329 rushing yards in 2016.
Strickland leads District 10 with 1,022 receiving yards and 15 touchdown catches. His 58 catches lead the county and are No. 2 in the district behind Girard's Morgan Silman (59 receptions). A junior, Strickland is the first Mercer County receiver to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons.
McComb has thrown for 1,947 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. With 53 yards, he will join Jeff Valentino (1998) and Andrew Tomko (2014, 2015) as 2,000-yard passers in Sharon history.
After a decade of struggles, Titusville broke through this year with an 8-1 record, including a 5-1 mark in Region 4 play. The Rockets have played four games decided by a touchdown or less, including last-second wins over Fairview (32-27), Mercyhurst Prep (35-28) and Cochranton (26-21). Titusville also lost in the closing moments at Conneaut (Ohio), 28-27.
Titusville's last two victories have been by more comfortable margins. The Rockets rolled past Corry in Week Eight, 42-14, at historic John J. Carter Field. Two weeks ago, Titusville charged past homestanding Girard, 56-20, to earn a share of the Region 4 title.
In the win over Girard, senior quarterback Brady Corklin ran for 204 of Titusville's 457 rushing yards. Corklin ran for three touchdowns while classmate Mike Watkins ran for two scores. Corklin also returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown during Titusville's 42-point second quarter.
Corklin has recorded the rare 1,000-1,000 combination in passing and rushing this season. He has thrown for 1,321 yards and 17 touchdowns while also running for 1,093 yards and 19 touchdowns. Watkins is the second-leading rusher on the team (494 yards) and leads the Rockets with 21 catches and 660 receiving yards. His 31.4 yards per catch average leads District 10.
Fourth-year head coach Tom Hancock has guided Titusville to its best record since the Rockets posted a 9-0 regular season in 2007. The Rockets start six seniors and five juniors on offense. Titusville's 5-3 defense boasts seven seniors among the starting 11.
Sharon and Titusville faced each other each year from 2008 to 2015 as members of Region 3-AA. Sharon won the last three meetings while Titusville prevailed in 2011 (14-6) and 2012 (35-33). Titusville is 1-8 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The lone win came in 1989, when the Rockets shocked undefeated Sharon (9-0-1) in the Class AAA semifinals, 18-7.
Since then, Titusville is 0-2 against area teams in the playoffs. In 2000, Wilmington downed Titusville, 42-7, in the Class AAA semifinals at Franklin. Three years earlier, Grove City stunned the Rockets in the D-10 Class AAA semifinals, 22-20, on a muddy field at Franklin.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC and Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
CLASS 5A SEMIFINAL -- Saturday, November 5
Grove City (9-1) vs. Fort LeBoeuf (8-2) -- Meadville High School, 2:00 p.m.
Grove City and Fort LeBoeuf meet Saturday afternoon with a berth in the inaugural Class 5A title game at stake. Grove City is looking for its seventh all-time District 10 championship game appearance while LeBoeuf has not played for the D-10 title since winning the Class AA crown in 1990.
Grove City advanced to the semifinals by downing Central Tech 43-19 last Friday night in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Fort LeBoeuf blanked Franklin in the quarterfinal round, 43-0, to give the Bison their fourth shutout of the season.
Fort LeBoeuf's defense will be tested by Grove City's explosive offense Saturday afternoon. The Eagles have gone over the 400-yard mark seven times this season and have scored 42 points or more on eight occasions. The Eagles reached both of those milestones against Central Tech by finishing with 401 yards. Junior fullback Trey Adams ran for 130 yards and four touchdowns while quarterback Kameron Patterson completed 10 of 11 passes for 222 yards. He also threw his school-record 28th touchdown pass, a 74-yard catch by senior tight end A.J. Turner.
Patterson has thrown for 2,335 yards this season and now has 5,548 for his career. He needs one touchdown pass to tie Andrew Tomko's county record of 29 touchdown passes, set last season. No county player has ever thrown for 30 touchdowns in a season.
Turner and Logan Lutz each have 36 catches this year for the Eagles. Turner has gained 856 receiving yards and has 13 touchdown catches while Lutz has contributed 644 yards and nine touchdowns. Adams leads the ground game with 810 yards. Patterson has rushed for 404 yards while senior Cordell Sanders has 308 yards, six touchdowns and a team-best 7.2 yards per carry average.
Against Central Tech, Grove City's offensive line of senior tackle Jared Reppart, senior guards Zane Fuss and Zach Herndon, junior center Joe Kosick and junior tackle Logan Minch combined to help the Eagles average 5.3 yards per carry.
Defensively, Lutz and Qadir Muhammad both intercepted passes while sophomore linebacker Carter Chinn recovered a fumble and Fuss had a sack.
"I couldn't be happier for the boys, especially our seniors," third-year Grove City head coach Sam Mowrey said. "It was a great win for them and definitely an exciting night."
Fort LeBoeuf bolted to a 31-0 halftime lead last week in eliminating Franklin. It marked the Bison's first playoff win since a 20-13 win over Fairview in the 1990 D-10 Class AA title game. The Bison racked up 345 rushing yards, led by a 203-yard, three-touchdown outing from senior Jared Kula. Junior quarterback Corey Shields went 3 of 5 for 89 yards and a touchdown. He took over as the starter late in the season after a knee injury felled senior quarterback Kenny Youngberg.
Kula has rushed for 1,420 yards and 22 touchdowns this year. He picked up 1,393 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2015, helping LeBoeuf qualify for the Class AA playoffs.
"They have a really good running back," Mowrey said. "He's a hard runner who really grinds out the yards. Their offensive line is very physical and the quarterback seems to do a real good job of running the offense. All around, they are a physical, aggressive team. They're having a heck of a season.
"They are a very disciplined, well-coached team."
Fort LeBoeuf's losses this year came against Class 6A Erie McDowell (31-10) and undefeated Cathedral Prep (49-7). Fort LeBoeuf downed General McLane in Week Eight, 49-42, to clinch the top 5A berth from Region 6. Grove City downed McLane in the season opener, 34-28.
Fort LeBoeuf's last win over a Mercer County team came October 14, 2011, when the Bison edged Sharon, 38-36, at Tiger Stadium. Last year, LeBoeuf closed the regular season with a 13-10 loss to West Middlesex. Greenville then eliminated the Bison in the D-10 quarterfinals, 50-0.
The winner will face either Meadville or Conneaut in next week's 5A title game.
The game can be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
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