(Statistical Information Courtesy of The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK FOUR FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
The final Friday of summer features a number of games that on most weeks, would be the headline game in Mercer County. Eleven of the area's 12 teams play conference games. The Sharpsville-Wilmington and Grove City-Franklin games both showcase a pair of undefeated teams. Farrell and West Middlesex finally get to open their conference schedule after watching their local rivals get two or three league clashes under their belts.
Oh, and Hickory hosts archrival Sharon! Week Four is a week that many fans probably highlighted when the schedules came out last spring.
Sharpsville at Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.
The top spot among 2A teams in Region 2 -- and possibly outright possession of first place -- is at stake Friday night when Wilmington (3-0, 2-0) hosts Sharpsville (3-0, 2-0). The teams have two common opponents through the first three weeks of the season as both Sharpsville and Wilmington own one-sided wins over Lakeview and West Middlesex.
Last Friday, the Sharpsville and Wilmington defenses both turned in notable performances on the road. Sharpsville held Mercer to minus-10 yards of offense in a 33-0 power failure-shortened victory. Meanwhile, the "Hounds Hammer" held Lakeview to 116 yards of offense while blanking the Sailors until the fourth quarter.
The two defenses have combined to allow 31 total points this year (Wilmington 25, Sharpsville 6). Sharpsville has recorded two of the three shutouts this season in Mercer County.
Both teams have excelled on offense this year as well. Sharpsville averages 39 points per game, which includes 33 points in just two quarters against Mercer. Wilmington, meanwhile, averages 41.3 points per game.
Wilmington has used both Spencer DeMedal and Reese Bender at quarterback this year. Bender started the opener against Sharon while last week, DeMedal threw for 75 yards on 2 of 4 passing. He also ran for 95 yards and two scores. Both Bender and DeMedal threw touchdown passes to Bryson Verrelli against Lakeview. DeMedal has a team-leading nine touchdowns this season.
For Sharpsville, senior quarterback Luke Henwood has completed 13 of 25 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Henwood took over as Sharpsville's starter during his freshman season and has 2,944 passing yards since the start of 2014. According to Bob Greenburg, Henwood now has 37 career touchdown passes. The school record is 42, set by John Napotnik (1994-97).
As usual, Sharpsville's Wing-T offense boasts plenty of balance as Bobby Besser (214 rushing yards), Kobe Joseph (195) and Cameron Prebble (151) lead the way on the ground. Joseph has three rushing touchdowns while averaging 12.2 yards per carry.
Each team has also gotten plenty of production from the kicking game in 2016. Sharpsville's Connor Willliams drilled a career-best 49-yard field goal last week while Wilmington's Jacob Winters kicked a 32-yarder against Lakeview. Winters also had a 30-yard field goal in a season-opening win over Sharon.
Sharpsville has won each of the last three meetings, including a 42-7 home win last season. In 2014, Sharpsville won at Wilmington 40-0 and then earned a 27-0 win over the Greyhounds in the District 10 Class A semifinals. The teams met as non-conference foes in 2012 and 2013. Wilmington prevailed in 2013, 20-0, while Sharpsville secured a 20-14 home win four seasons ago.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Franklin at Grove City, 7:00 p.m.
Franklin and Grove City renew a series that dates back to 1909 when the 3-0 Knights visit 3-0 Grove City at Forker Field. It is the first meeting since 2011, the most recent season that the two programs competed as conference rivals. Grove City won each of the meetings between 2008 and 2011.
Grove City opened its league schedule last Friday with a 48-6 win at Conneaut. Senior tight end/linebacker A.J. Turner scored six touchdowns at Conneaut while scoring in three different manners (four touchdown catches, fumble return, interception return). The Eagles forced six Conneaut turnovers and outgained CASH, 429-179.
Quarterback Kameron Patterson now has 3,755 career passing yards after his 207-yard effort last week, Patterson completed 10 of 12 passes with three touchdowns against CASH and now has nine touchdown passes this year.
Franklin pulled out a 27-24 win at Warren last week to move to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in Region 5. Brendon Gordon and Ian Haynes both threw touchdown passes for the Knights, whose balanced attack piled up 331 offensive yards (144 rushing, 187 passing). Haynes finished 9 of 21 for 161 yards and a touchdown. Gordon went 2 of 6 for 26 yards. He also caught three passes for 72 yards and score and added 76 rushing yards on 11 carries. Vincent Greco led Franklin with 79 rushing yards. He is Franklin's leading rusher on the season with 364 yards and four touchdowns.
The Knights benefited from Warren's 0-for-4 performance on points after touchdown.
Franklin opened the season with a 21-7 home win over Pittsburgh City League member Brashear. In Week Two, the Knights outlasted archrival Oil City, 30-20. The Knights advanced to the District 10 Class AAA semifinals last season, finishing 6-6 overall.
Grove City and Franklin met every year from 1977 to 1989, with Franklin's last win in the series coming in 1989 at Forker Field (26-0). In 2010, Franklin came to Grove City for a matchup of 2-0 squads but Grove City ambushed the Knights, 91-12. Grove City is 22-0 all-time in Region 5 play.
Franklin won the 1909 game, 23-11. In that game, Franklin coach McNees reportedly received a cut over his eye when a drunken miner threw a stone and struck him, according to The News-Herald.
Farrell at West Middlesex, 7:00 p.m.
Weeks after the area's other 10 teams opened conference play, Farrell and West Middlesex start Region 1-A play Friday night against each other. Farrell seeks its third straight win while West Middlesex aims to avoid its first 0-4 start in 19 years.
Farrell rolled to a 61-6 home win last week over Carrick as senior tailback Braxton Chapman ran for 344 yards and five touchdowns on 19 carries. Chapman now has 645 rushing yards and eight scores this year while averaging 14 yards per carry. Quarterback Kyi Wright completed 5 of 6 passes for 102 yards and a score. Jourdan Townsend, who played last season at West Middlesex, caught a 70-yard touchdown pass.
West Middlesex dropped a 29-12 decision at Iroquois last Friday night in a rematch of the 2015 District 10 Class A playoffs. Quarterback Josh Porterfield ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns. However, Iroquois forced four Big Reds turnovers.
Porterfield leads West Middlesex with 191 rushing yards while Clayton Parrish has added 148 yards. That duo has accounted for West Middlesex's 24 points this season.
West Middlesex has won five of the last six meetings, including District 10 playoff victories in 2012 and 2014. Farrell earned a 42-0 home win over the Big Reds last season. Farrell's last win at West Middlesex came in 2010 (41-0). Farrell has won seven straight league openers. This is the first time that West Middlesex has been Farrell's league opener since returning to District 10. However, West Middlesex's first league game in 2013 came against Farrell. West Middlesex, which defeated Farrell that night 19-14.
In addition to competing together in Region 1-A for the last decade, Farrell and West Middlesex also met throughout the 1980s in District 7's Tri-County North A conference.
Sharon at Hickory, 7:00 p.m.
One of Mercer County's fiercest rivalries will be renewed Friday night at Hornet Stadium when Hickory hosts Sharon in a rematch of the 2015 Class AA District 10 title game.
Hickory (3-0, 3-0) has opened the season with league wins over Greenville, Mercer and Slippery Rock. Last week at Slippery Rock, Will Gruber's touchdown catches of 44 and 11 yards, respectively, in the second quarter helped Hickory build a 24-7 halftime lead. Tailback Chuck Carr ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns for Hickory. Carr also caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Luke Brennan, who finished the game 7 of 15 for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
Carr now has 79 career touchdowns. He went over the 5,000-yard mark for his career last week and now has 5,115 rushing yards. He is fifth all-time in Mercer County and could pass Sharon's Mike Archie (5,136, 1988-90) and Greenville's Joe Korcinsky (5,197, 1995-97) on the list Friday night. Korcinsky holds the county record with 91 touchdowns.
Sharon improved to 2-1 overall and in the conference last Friday night by charging past visiting Greenville, 34-24, at Sharon Tiger Stadium. Sharon spotted the Trojans an early 17-0 lead before scoring 34 straight points. Ziyon Strickland, who also caught touchdown passes of 68 and 32 yards from J.P. McComb, gave Sharon the lead in the third period by returning a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown.
Jordan Wilson then helped Sharon seal the win with a pair of touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. Wilson finished with 167 rushing yards on 19 carries. Jeremiah Norris added 90 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
Sharon rallied for a 35-34 home win over Hickory in Week Two last season, setting the Tigers on course to win the Region 3 title outright. Hickory led 14-0 early before Sharon charged back to take a 21-14 lead in the third quarter. Defensively, Sharon forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter.
According to The Herald, Sharon leads the all-time series 37-10-1. Sharon begins a four-game homestand next week. Hickory has been named as the state's top Class 3A team in this week's Harrisburg Patriot-News state rankings.
The game will be heard on 790 WPIC.
Mercer at Slippery Rock, 7:00 p.m.
The 2016 season is the 50th anniversary of varsity football beginning at Slippery Rock High School. The 2016 Rockets are playing three schools (Lakeview, Mercer, Wilmington) that the 1966 SRHS squad met during the inaugural year and Mercer is the first of those foes.
Both teams enter Friday's game in search of their first victory as each is 0-3 overall and in Region 2. Last week, Slippery Rock battled Hickory tough before the Hornets pulled away in the second half. Quarterback Bailey Mertens scored on a nine-yard touchdown run while Seth Slater led the Rockets on the ground with 70 yards. Hunter Prementine returned a punt 86 yards for Slippery Rock's second touchdown.
Slippery Rock is playing its third home game in a four-week span. The Rockets will play three straight on the road, starting next week at Sharon.
Mercer looks to bounce back from consecutive shutouts against county powers Hickory and Sharpsville. A blown transformer halted last week's Sharpsville-Mercer game at halftime. Jimmy Amon leads Mercer with 127 rushing yards. His nine catches also top the team. Nathan Knopp has four receptions for a team-leading 87 yards this year.
Mercer has allowed the opponent to score on a punt in each of the first three weeks. Lakeview returned a blocked punt for a touchdown while Hickory had a traditional punt return for a score. Last week, a bad punt snap resulted in a safety for Sharpsville.
This is the first meeting between Slippery Rock and Mercer since the Rockets earned a 21-7 home win in 2005. Mercer's last win over the Rockets came in 1995, 13-6. Mercer won the first meeting, 26-7, in 1966. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Slippery Rock and Mercer competed against each other in the Tri-County League with other schools such as Wilmington, Laurel, Mohawk, Shenango, et al.
Mercer head coach Pat McClearn served as an assistant coach at Slippery Rock under former head coach Clyde Conti.
Lakeview at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
After pulling out a 32-30 non-conference win over Cambridge Springs last Friday night, Reynolds closes a three-game homestand by hosting Lakeview in a rematch of one of 2015's wildest games.
Last year, Lakeview held off a furious Reynolds comeback to earn a 30-29 victory in Stoneboro. The teams combined for 714 offensive yards, with Lakeview owning a 362-352 edge. Reynolds scored the final three touchdowns of the game but a missed extra point in the fourth quarter prevented the game from going to overtime.
A successful kick through the uprights gave Reynolds its win last week over Cambridge Springs as Ryan McQuown booted a 43-yard field goal with two minutes left. Reynolds led 29-8 before Cambridge Springs surged back to take a 30-29 lead in the fourth quarter. Reynolds allowed 660 yards of offense, including 424 through the air.
Lakeview's multiple-formation offense aims to produce similar numbers against Reynolds after being limited to just six total points over the last two weeks by Sharpsville and Wilmington. The Sailors fell to visiting Wilmington, 45-6, last week. Tanner Reddick and Garrett Gadsby have shared time at quarterback for Lakeview. Gadsby (five catches) is also Lakeview's leading receiver. Tailback Cole Richael has 214 rushing yards while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Lakeview won the last meeting at Reynolds, 33-26, in 2014. Reynolds's first District 10 title game at Lakeview's expense as the Raiders earned a 41-6 win in the 1986 Division II title game.
Conneaut (Pa.) at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
The area's lone non-conference game features an opponent that is quite familiar to Mercer County area fans, Conneaut. The Eagles will make the 20-mile trip down from Linesville for the first-ever meeting between the programs.
Greenville charged out to a 17-0 lead last week at Sharon before falling 34-24. Ethan Reiser sparked Greenville in the first quarter with a 45-yard interception return and a 63-yard punt return for touchdown. Reiser caught eight passes for 100 yards while Canyon Eells picked up 139 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
Greenville (1-2) led 17-14 in the third quarter and had a goal-to-go situation before fumbling -- a fumble that Sharon's Ziyon Strickland returned 96 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Nate Bell has taken over as Greenville's starting quarterback and has thrown for 356 yards. Eells leads Greenville in rushing with 498 yards while Reiser's 16 catches lead the team.
Conneaut allowed two defensive touchdowns in the second quarter last week against Grove City as CASH fell 48-6. Conneaut turned over the ball six times in falling to 2-1 overall. The Eagles opened the season with wins over Fairview and DuBois.
All-time, Conneaut is 18-1 in non-conference games during the regular season. Greenville has not lost a non-conference game at home since a 48-21 setback September 2, 2011 against North East. The Trojans are 5-0 since.
The game will be heard on 940 WGRP.
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