(Statistical Information Courtesy of The Herald, Erie Times-News and D9Sports.com)
WEEK THREE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
The regular season reaches the one-third mark for many of Mercer County's 12 high school football teams this Friday. Nine of the 12 teams will play league games, with several of the games likely having major playoff ramifications. Sharon will host Greenville in the Tigers' home opener as each team looks to avoid a 1-2 start in conference play. Mercer and Slippery Rock each host Region 2 powerhouses as the respective home teams shoot for win No. 1 in 2016.
In Linesville, Conneaut will host Grove City for what could be the inside track to the Region 5 championship. Both teams are 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the league.
Greenville at Sharon, 7:00 p.m.
Sharon breaks the seal on its home schedule Friday night as longtime adversary Greenville visits Sharon Tiger Stadium. A loss would be crippling to either team's hopes of winning the Region 2 crown as both squads have split their first two league games this season. Each team rebounded last week with conference victories. Sharon earned a 45-10 win at Reynolds by scoring the final 28 points of the game. Greenville, meanwhile, pulled away from Slippery Rock for a 34-14 win.
Jordan Wilson paced Sharon's balanced offensive attack with 174 rushing yards and three touchdowns while the Tiger defense intercepted five passes.
Greenville regrouped from its one-sided opening night setback against Hickory to earn a home win over Slippery Rock. The Trojans installed Nate Bell as the starting quarterback and Bell threw for 143 yards on 8-of-13 accuracy. Greenville made plenty of hay on the ground, however, as Canyon Eells chewed up 290 yards on 29 carries. Eells accounted for 28 of Greenville's 34 points as he scored three touchdowns, went 4 for 4 on extra points and then booted two field goals.
Last season, Sharon won both meetings, including a come-from-behind 15-9 win in the District 10 semifinals at Wilmington. The Tigers also won at Greenville in the 2015 regular season, 33-21. The road team has won the last three regular season meetings in the series. In 2014, Greenville stopped a game-tying two-point conversion with 2:55 left to preserve a 22-20 win. Greenville also pulled out a 21-14 victory in the D-10 semifinals two seasons ago.
Excluding last season's vacated win against Struthers (a game Sharon won on the field, 34-27), the Tigers have won nine of their last 10 games at Tiger Stadium. That 22-20 loss to Greenville in 2014 is the lone setback among those 10 games.
The game will be heard on 790 WPIC.
Hickory at Slippery Rock, 7:00 p.m.
The Region 2 leading Hickory Hornets head to Slippery Rock in the Hornets' first road trip of the season. Hickory hosted Grove City in its preseason scrimmage and then opened the regular season with consecutive home games against Greenville and Mercer. It's a well-worn cliche in sports that defense travels and Hickory's starting defense -- under the guidance of defensive mastermind Dave Bodien -- has not allowed a point in two games this season.
Last week, Hickory sophomores Asher Patton and Kuldero Delgros each returned interceptions for touchdowns while Will Gruber returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown. Hickory's special teams have accounted for three touchdowns this season while opposing offenses overall have two touchdowns.
Offensively, record-setting tailback Chuck Carr amassed 207 yards and five touchdowns on just 13 first-half carries against Mercer. Carr now has 76 career touchdowns and 4,960 rushing yards. He likely will become the fifth Mercer County back to go over the 5,000-yard mark.
Slippery Rock yielded 290 rushing yards to Greenville halfback Canyon Eells last Friday night in a 34-14 setback at Stewart Field. The Rockets' new spread offense has shown flashes under senior quarterback Bailey Mertens, who is in his first full season as the starter. Mertens completed 12 of 28 passes for 143 yards last week. Tight end Calvin Rossi caught four passes for 64 yards. Slippery Rock trailed only 10-7 at halftime before Greenville pulled away.
Slippery Rock won the last meeting between the teams at Slippery Rock High School, 14-7, in 2014. Hickory won the last time the teams met in Slippery Rock, however, pulling out a 35-27 win in the District 10 Class AA semifinals that November at Slippery Rock University's Mihalik-Thompson Stadium. Last year, Hickory earned a 43-10 home win over the Hi-Rockets.
Throughout the 2016 season, Slippery Rock is celebrating the 50th anniversary of varsity football beginning at SRHS. This week, players from the late 1980s and 1990s will be honored. Among those will be the 1988 team, which was the first to play in District 10 as part of the KFL, and the 1996 squad, which earned Slippery Rock's first D-10 playoff berth.
Wilmington at Lakeview, 7:00 p.m.
Lakeview opens its home schedule Friday night after back-to-back road games by hosting 2-0 Wilmington. The Sailors dropped to 1-1 last week with a 42-0 loss at Sharpsville while Wilmington handled West Middlesex, 49-6, in a non-conference home game. Friday night's game is Wilmington's road opener.
Wilmington scored the first 42 points last week in improving to 2-0 overall. Spencer DeMedal ran for two touchdowns and added a third score when he returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown. Defensively, the revamped "Hounds Hammer" defense continued to excel, allowing just 145 total yards on 41 offensive plays.
Coming off a short week, Lakeview dropped to 1-1 overall and in the conference by falling at Sharpsville. The Sailors turned over the ball three times and did not complete a pass. Sharpsville bolted to a 28-0 lead in the first 12 minutes. On the ground, seniors Tanner Reddick (77) and Cole Richael (73) combined for 150 rushing yards.
Last year, Wilmington knocked Lakeview out of playoff contention with a 28-6 home win in Week Eight. Wilmington also won the teams' 2014 meeting, 19-0, their first matchup since Wilmington joined District 10 in 1994. In 2015, Wilmington started 3-0 before dropping three of its next four games. Lakeview has had a winning record after three games every year since 2009.
Sharpsville at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Sharpsville looks to keep pace with fellow unbeatens Wilmington and Hickory in the Region 2 race Friday night by visiting longtime rival Mercer. Both teams were involved in shutouts last week as Sharpsville blanked Lakeview and Mercer fell at Hickory.
Opportunistic Sharpsville forced three turnovers last week and finished with 310 offensive yards on just 33 scrimmage plays. Senior quarterback Luke Henwood completed two passes, touchdown completions of 49 and 38 yards to classmate Marquis Altman.
Sharpsville has won 28 of its last 31 home games. The Blue Devils have been even better on the road, winning 10 of their last 11. The lone loss came October 31, 2014 at Greenville, 42-27, in a game that saw both teams' reserves play the final three quarters as the game had no bearing on standings or playoff positioning.
Mercer junior fullback Jimmy Amon accounted for 98 yards from scrimmage last week, including 46 receiving yards on four catches. He has a team-leading 174 yards from scrimmage this season. Mercer has allowed a special teams touchdown in each of the first two games this season.
Sharpsville head coach Paul Piccirilli is in his 21st season as head coach. Prior to taking over at Sharpsville, he worked as an assistant coach under former Mercer head coach Frank Makarevich, one of the state's preeminent Wing-T offense tacticians. Sharpsville has won the last two meetings, including a 48-12 win at McCracken Field last year. Mercer prevailed three years ago, 6-0, on a Saturday night in Mercer. That's the last game in Mercer County that did not have an offensive touchdown.
Grove City at Conneaut, 7:00 p.m.
First place in Region 5 is on the line Friday night in Linesville as 2-0 Grove City visits undefeated Conneaut in the teams' first-ever meeting. Each team opened conference play last Friday night with a victory. Grove City blasted Warren, 43-20, while Conneaut pulled out a 34-33 win at DuBois. The respective wins continued notable streaks for each team as neither Grove City (21-0 all-time) nor Conneaut (11-0) has ever lost a Region 5 game.
Grove City quarterback Kameron Patterson surpassed Brian Cavanaugh (1990-92) as Grove City's all-time leading passer in last week's triumph over Warren. This season, Patterson has thrown for 341 yards and six touchdowns. Logan Lutz (3) and A.J. Turner (2) have caught five of the six touchdown passes.
Grove City also recorded its first non-offensive touchdown of the season last week when Qadir Muhammad returned a deflected punt 54 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles did not have to punt.
At DuBois last Friday night, Conneaut received 291 total yards of offense from quarterback Connor Mattera. Mattera ran for 125 yards on 27 carries out of CASH's spread scheme. He also completed 8 of 16 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Kyle Sheets caught five passes for 153 yards and also threw a go-ahead 47-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Ben Collier.
Defensively, Conneaut yielded 525 yards of offense but intercepted three passes and also received two points when a DuBois punt snap went out of the end zone in the first quarter. The second half featured six lead changes.
Conneaut opened the season with a 28-10 home win over Fairview. Conneaut ran for 318 rushing yards. Isaiah Gillette, who did not play against DuBois, ran for 198 yards. The Eagles, like in Week Two, also earned a safety on a botched Fairview punt.
Conneaut has won 13 straight games at home while Grove City is on an 11-game road losing slide. This is Grove City's only game on grass this season. Conneaut (2014 D-10 AAA title game) and Grove City (2011 D-10 AAA title) are the last two District 10 programs to defeat Erie Cathedral Prep. Conneaut advanced to the D-10 AAA title game last year and finished the 2015 season with a 12-1 record.
The game will be heard on SportsRadio 96.7. Live stats available here.
West Middlesex at Iroquois, 7:00 p.m.
It's a rematch of the 2015 District 10 Class A quarterfinals Friday night at Iroquois's John L. Post Stadium in Lawrence Park as undefeated Iroquois hosts West Middlesex in the Braves' 2016 home opener.
West Middlesex rallied for a 27-20 win at windy Fairview last fall. While only a handful of Big Reds contributors from that game are back, Iroquois (2-0) is well-stocked with veterans. Last week, Iroquois opened Region 3 play with a 41-12 win at Northwestern as the Braves' Wing-T offense chewed up 425 rushing yards. Tyler Barone ran for 198 yards while junior quarterback Tarrel Clark - a two-year starter - added 146 rushing yards and three touchdowns on six carries.
On opening night, Iroquois rolled past backyard rival Harbor Creek 28-12 behind 321 total rushing yards. Barone ran for 205 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.
Clark is 1 for 3 passing this year, with the lone completion being a four-yard touchdown pass to Barone against Northwestern.
West Middlesex has won five consecutive games against Erie County opponents, including two playoff wins over Iroquois in that span. The Big Reds are looking to rebound from a pair of setbacks against Mercer County rivals Sharpsville and Wilmington to open the season. West Middlesex last started a season 0-3 in 1997.
Cambridge Springs at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
After splitting two league games to open the season, Reynolds steps out of conference play Friday night to host Crawford County power Cambridge Springs.
Reynolds began a three-game homestand last Friday night with a 45-10 setback against Sharon. Reynolds rallied to with 17-10 but Sharon broke open the game by scoring the final 28 points of the game. Five Reynolds turnovers helped doom the Raiders, who finished with 239 total yards of offense.
Cambridge Springs is 1-1 overall after splitting non-conference games with Crawford County foes Titusville and Saegertown. Last Friday, quarterback Noah Reisenauer completed 6 of 7 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns in Spa's 57-0 win over Saegertown. The Blue Devils finished with 378 yards of offense.
In Week One at Titusville, Cambridge Springs dropped a 38-16 decision after owning an early 8-0 lead. Reisenauer threw for 102 yards on 5-of-13 accuracy in his first start under center.
Reynolds is 6-1 in its last seven non-conference home games. The Raiders have won seven straight games against Crawford County opponents. Cambridge Springs is making just its third trip to Mercer County in the last 11 years. The Blue Devils played at West Middlesex in both 2005 and 2015.
Second-year Cambridge Springs head coach Justin Grubbs is a 1998 Grove City College graduate. Grubbs started at nose tackle on Grove City's 1997 Presidents' Athletic Conference title team that set a program record with nine victories.
Carrick at Farrell, 7:30 p.m.
Farrell hosts Carrick Friday night in the Steelers' final prep for the start of Region 1-A play. Farrell evened its overall record at 1-1 last week with a 40-12 win over visiting North East as sophomore quarterback Kyi Wright threw four touchdown passes. Wright finished 8 of 10 for 181 yards while on the ground, senior tailback Braxton Chapman charged through the Grape Picker defense for 180 yards on 13 attempts.
Farrell led 34-0 at halftime and stretched the lead to 40-0 in the third quarter when Chapman raced 75 yards to the end zone.
Carrick opened the 2016 season last week with a 46-7 loss to Perry Traditional Academy at Cupples Stadium in Pittsburgh. The Raiders went 2-6 last year after a 1-8 mark in 2014. Carrick opened the 2012 and 2013 seasons with consecutive setbacks at Grove City. Carrick lost to Sharon at Cupples Stadium in 2009, 28-6. Carrick last won a non-conference game November 1, 2003 -- a 21-19 home win over Riverview.
Carrick is a Class 4A squad with a male enrollment number of 385. Comparable sized schools would be DuBois (390) and Mars (396).
Carrick is the second Pittsburgh City League team to visit District 10 this season. In Week One, Brashear lost at Franklin, 21-7. Hickory will host Westinghouse in Week Five for Homecoming at Hornet Stadium.
This is Farrell's first game against a member of the Pittsburgh City League since 1959, when the Farrell Night Riders downed Peabody, 27-0. That year, Farrell finished 8-0-2 with the ties coming against Niles (8-8) and Sharon (13-13).
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