(Statistical Information Courtesy of The Herald, Erie Times-News, and The [Somerset] Daily American)
(Coach Quotes Courtesy of Bob Greenburg Interviews)


Four local teams remain alive in the playoffs as November goes past its halfway point. Will the 13th week of play be lucky or unlucky for the area's four teams playing Friday or Saturday? At least one team will advance to Thanksgiving weekend as Sharpsville and Wilmington will meet Saturday night for the District 10 2A crown.

Farrell and Hickory return to state playoff action this weekend. Farrell opens the Class 1A playoffs by facing District 5 champion Conemaugh Township at Somerset High School. Saturday afternoon, Hickory meets District 9 power Karns City in a 3A playoff clash at Slippery Rock University. The Hickory-Karns City game is the first of a split doubleheader at The Rock.

PIAA CLASS 1A PLAYOFFS -- Friday, November 18
Farrell (8-3) vs. Conemaugh Township (10-2) -- Somerset High School, 7:00 p.m.

For the second straight season, Farrell will compete in the PIAA playoffs after winning the District 10 title. Friday night, the Steelers will make a lengthy trek to Somerset to take on District 5 champion Conemaugh Township in the opening round of interdistrict play.

Farrell qualified for the state playoffs by pulling out a 22-12 win over West Middlesex last Thursday night at Hickory. That same night, Conemaugh Township avenged a regular-season 16-13 loss to Meyersdale by earning a 26-0 victory over the Red Raiders at Somerset High School.

Special teams and defense helped lift Farrell to its win over West Middlesex in the D-10 title game. West Middlesex turned over the ball three times in Farrell territory while James Jackson set up two Farrell touchdowns with respective kickoff returns of 63 and 69 yards.

Quarterback Kyi Wright ran for a pair of short touchdown runs while Braxton Chapman added a one-yard touchdown run. Chapman led Farrell with 87 rushing yards. Farrell had only five first downs and 164 offensive yards.

"We knew it would be a battle but I'm very happy with how our guys responded," Farrell head coach Jarrett Samuels said. "Our special teams really came through."

Chapman leads Farrell with 1,353 rushing yards this season. Brandon Chambers has a team-leading 24 catches.

By downing Meyersdale, Conemaugh Township earned its first District 5 title since 2009. The Indians also won the district in 1993 and 2003. Conemaugh Township held Meyersdale to seven first downs and 145 total offensive yards. The Indians also recorded three interceptions.

Quarterback Jeff Tresnicky gave Conemaugh Township an early 6-0 lead when he threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Cotchen on the first play of the game. Cory Myers added two rushing touchdowns while Logan Walerysiak added field goals of 25 and 21 yards, respectively.

Buster Stahl led Conemaugh Township with 140 rushing yards on 17 carries while Myers added 85 yards on 20 attempts. Conemaugh Township accumulated 323 yards of offense.

Stahl and Myers have combined for 1,818 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Stahl leads the team with 1,079 yards while Myers has 739 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Tresnicky has thrown for 874 yards and six touchdowns. Tight end Jake Grosik has a team-high 22 catches while split end Cotchen has 21 receptions.

"It jumped out at all of us that they remind us all of a Dan York-coached Lakeview football team," Samuels said of Conemaugh Township's I-formation offense. "They're very physical up front. They have a good line, a good tight end and they have two very good backs and a quarterback that runs their offense very well.

"Their toughness is something you see on film. They come off the ball and they come right at you. They're not going to hide what they're going to do."

Myers leads the defense with 118 total tackles and six sacks. Middle linebacker Grosik has 111 stops.

Champions of the Western Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (WestPAC), Conemaugh Township's other setback came October 29 against Heritage Conference champion Ligonier Valley in the Appalachian Bowl, 56-0. This is the first time since 1993 that the Appalachian Bowl has been held in the District 5 and 6 areas.

Conemaugh Township head coach Sam Zambanini is in the 18th year of his second stint as head coach. He also served as head coach during the 1987 and 1988 seasons. He owns a 109-95 overall record. Zambanini is also Conemaugh Township's head baseball coach and has guided the Indians to a 339-186 record over 25 seasons, including D-5 titles in 2003, 2005 and 2012.

Conemaugh Township is 0-2 in the PIAA football playoffs, falling to Laurel Valley in 1993 (34-20) and to Clairton in 2009 (46-0). The Indians went 9-3 last season. Farrell is 10-5 all-time in the state playoffs. The Steelers won Class A state titles in 1995 and 1996 while earning state runner-up in both 1990 and 2015. Clairton is the only team in the have defeated Farrell in the western region (2008, 2009, 2010) playoffs. Farrell is 7-0 in its first state playoff game of each season.

"I'm so excited right now for this group of guys," Samuels said. "These guys have really come into their own."

The winner will play the District 9 champion, either Elk County Catholic or Ridgway, in the state quarterfinals next weekend.

The game can be heard on Sports Radio 96.7 and News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.

PIAA CLASS 3A PLAYOFFS -- Saturday, November 19
Hickory (11-0) vs. Karns City (9-2) -- Slippery Rock University, 1:00 p.m.

Two perennial PIAA playoff qualifiers will meet Saturday afternoon at Slippery Rock University's Mihalik-Thompson Stadium as District 10 champion Hickory faces D-9 kingpin Karns City. Hickory earned its trip to the state playoffs last Saturday with a 45-13 victory over archrival Sharon in the District 10 title game. Meanwhile, Karns City advanced to interdistrict play November 10 with a 54-36 win over Pittsburgh Perry via a District 8-9 subregional.

Hickory has won six straight district titles while Karns City has eight D-9 crowns in the last 10 years. Yet, the teams have not met in the playoffs until this season. However, Hickory and Karns City have met four times in the regular season over the last decade. Karns City earned a 28-25 overtime win over the Hornets in 2006 and then rolled to a 35-11 win the next year. Hickory won both matchups in 2010 and 2011, however, by respective scores of 28-14 and 42-20.

In last Saturday's win over Sharon, Hickory quarterback Hayden Gallagher -- known more for his running prowess through his first two starts -- threw three touchdown passes to help lead the Hickory offense. He threw touchdown passes of 20 and 40 yards to junior Will Gruber and also fired a 54-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Pica.

"We asked (Gallagher) to make some big throws and he did," Hickory head coach Bill Brest said. "I'm very, very happy for him and we're going to need more out of him this week."

Tailback Chuck Carr ran for 189 yards and a score while fullback Nate Marchand also scored on a 12-yard jaunt. Senior safety Caleb Gagliardi highlighted the Hornets' defensive effort by returning his third interception of the game 52 yards for a touchdown. Hickory held Sharon to 20 rushing yards and 176 total offensive yards.

Carr, District 10's all-time leading rusher with 6,674 yards, has rushed for 2,143 yards and 41 touchdowns this season. His 44 total touchdowns this season tied the single-season Mercer County record set by Greenville's Andy Blatt in 1991.

Karns City rolled out to a 48-6 lead over Perry Traditional Academy last Thursday night in the District 8-9 title game. For Karns City, Kaiden Powers caught two touchdown passes, ran for a touchdown, returned an interception 45 yards for a score and also kicked six extra points for the Gremlins. Quarterback Jacob King completed 6 of 10 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns. King also threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Chandler Turner.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Turner is Karns City's leading rusher with 920 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Powers has 521 yards and eight scores while senior Cullen Williams has 485 yards and nine touchdowns. Karns City will feature both the I-formation and a single-back, double-wing set.

King has thrown for 1,063 yards and 11 touchdowns this year while being intercepted just four times. Five Karns City receivers have caught at least 10 passes this season. Senior Jimmy Thompson leads the way with 15 catches for 235 yards and four touchdowns. Powers leads the team with 254 receiving yards on his 13 receptions. Fullback Eric Dodd has 14 catches while Williams (12) and Turner (10) are also in double figures.

"They execute at a high level offensively," Brest said. "They have a stable of running backs, a stable of skill guys. They have some big physical linemen. I really, really like their quarterback."

Thompson and Mitchell McDonald lead Karns City's defense with 5.5 sacks apiece. Williams has three of the team's nine interceptions this year. Powers is 6 for 6 on field goals this year, including a 40-yarder. Sixty of his team-high 132 points have come through the kicking game.

"They definitely are the best team that we will have faced up to this point," Brest said. "They remind me of Wilmington, but believe it or not, a lot better.

"Defensively, they're not the biggest defense," Brest continued. "But they are very fast, physical, aggressive and fundamentally sound. They are an outstanding football team. It is a great challenge for us."

Karns City head coach Ed Conto is in his 17th season and owns a 159-46 record. Karns City has played for a district title 13 times in his 17 years and is 9-4 in those 13 games. Karns City earned the D-9 title and a berth in the state playoffs in 2000, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In addition to going undefeated in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference's Large School Division, Karns City also again beefed up its non-conference schedule this season. The Gremlins opened the season with a 35-22 setback against Class 5A power Armstrong, which reached the District 7 playoffs and finished 9-2 overall. Karns City capped the regular season with a 35-28 setback against District 6-9 Class 4A playoff finalist Clearfield (10-2).

"They've had a really good schedule," Brest said. "They've played some tough teams to get them ready for the playoffs."

Karns City is no stranger to Mercer County teams, having playing 15 games against area teams since 1999. The Gremlins are 4-11 in those games, including a 22-21 win at eventual Class AA state champion Wilmington in 2008. Karns City fell to Sharon in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs in 1999 (33-9), 2000 (14-6) and 2001 (20-13).

The Hickory-Karns City winner will play District 6's champion, which will either be Martinsburg Central or Juniata.

The game can be heard on Sports Radio 96.7 and News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.

CLASS 2A FINAL -- Saturday, November 19
Wilmington (10-1) vs. Sharpsville (8-3) -- Slippery Rock University, 7:00 p.m.

Two of Mercer County's most decorated and successful programs over the past quarter century will meet Saturday night for the District 10 Class 2A title. It is the second time in three years that the teams will meet in the playoffs but the first time that a D-10 title is at stake. Two years ago, Sharpsville blanked Wilmington in the semifinal round, 27-0.

Wilmington already owns a 63-21 home win this season over Sharpsville in Week Four of the regular season. That night, the Greyhounds ran for 470 yards and seven touchdowns. Kyle Slicker (211), Spencer DeMedal (103) and Cameron Marett (100) all eclipsed the 100-yard mark that night in New Wilmington. Wilmington scored the final 35 points in the game, breaking open a moderately close game.

Now, Sharpsville will look to follow Farrell's lead by avenging a regular season loss in the District 10 title game.

Last week, Wilmington and Sharpsville both secured 27-point wins in the semifinal round. Wilmington secured a 35-8 win over Greenville while Sharpsville pulled away from previously-undefeated Iroquois in the fourth quarter for a 41-14 victory. 

Wilmington's resurgent "Hounds Hammer" defense held Greenville to 171 total yards, 93 of which came on the Trojans' final drive of the game. Wilmington stopped Greenville on four straight plays from inside the Wilmington 2 in the first quarter, setting the tone for the rest of the night. 

Ryan Byler recorded two of Wilmington's six sacks. Jack Patton opened the scoring by returning a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown. DeMedal returned one of his two picks for a touchdown and Colton Marett also intercepted a pass as Wilmington forced four turnovers. The Greyhounds have allowed 108 points in 11 games this year. Seven opponents have been held to one touchdown or less.

"Defensively, we've gotten better as the year went along," Wilmington head coach Terry Verrelli (298-128-3) said. "I think that's probably the key to our success."

Offensively, DeMedal ran for a touchdown and also caught a 51-yard touchdown pass in the closing moments of the first half from Reese Bender. Cameron Marett added a 69-yard scoring jaunt.

DeMedal leads Wilmington with 790 rushing yards. Cameron Marett has 716 while fullback Kyle Slicker has rushed for 714 yards.

"They're very well coached, offensively and defensively," Sharpsville head coach Paul Piccirilli said of Wilmington. "Verrelli understand. You don't get to almost 300 wins not knowing what he knows. That's why his teams are in contention every year, and it's a tribute to him.

"They're young too. People don't realize that they only have four or five seniors who are starters. So they're going to be tough to reckon with in the next couple of years."

Sharpsville scored 20 straight points over the final 12 1/2 minutes of last week's win over Iroquois. Senior quarterback Luke Henwood opened the final surge with a 51-yard touchdown pass to halfback Cameron Prebble. Bobby Besser then posted respective touchdown runs of 80 and 18 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Besser bulled his way through the Braves defense for 234 yards on 29 carries. Prebble added 65 yards on 16 attempts, helping the Blue Devils finish with 318 rushing yards. Henwood completed all three of his attempts for 95 yards. Sharpsville did not commit a turnover and finished plus-2 in turnover margin.

Besser leads Sharpsville with 1,237 rushing yards this season and Prebble has 785 yards on the ground.

"The last four weeks, they have exceeded any expectation of what we thought," Piccirilli said of his backfield duo that has combined for over 2,000 rushing yards. "Each guy has rushed for over 200 (yards) in a game. You have to give the ball to the guys that can make things happen. Those two can make big plays and that's what we'll continue to try to do against Wilmington."

Besser scored on an 80-yard run for Sharpsville in the Week Four matchup against Wilmington. After that run, which came on Sharpsville's first scrimmage play, the Blue Devils had only 77 rushing yards on 29 carries.

"'Pic' does a great job with that program every year," Verrelli said. "He's moved things around and made his team better. There's no question. I certainly don't expect the same kind of game. They are better. Just watching them, they're definitely a better team than when we played them the first time."

Piccirilli feels that time of possession will be pivotal for his team. "We're not near the defensive team we've been in the last 5 to 10 years. Without a doubt, we need to control clock. If we can't do that, it's going to be a long day. But the nice thing about our team is that our kids believe."

Sharpsville is in the District 10 championship game for the sixth straight season. The Blue Devils won D-10 titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

"Every year, that's our No. 1 goal: to make it to the District 10 championships and see what happens from there on," Piccirilli said. "We haven't always been the best team in the District 10 championship but to get there is truly and honor and it says a lot about our kids and coaches."

The Sharpsville-Wilmington winner will play either District 9 champion Kane or District 5 titlist Chestnut Ridge in the state quarterfinals. Kane and Chestnut Ridge clash Friday night at E.J. Mansell Stadium in DuBois.

The game can be heard on Sports Radio 96.7 and News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.

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