(Statistical Information Courtesy of The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK EIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Ten of the area's 12 teams will be participating in the District 10 playoffs, which start at the end of the month. Of the 10 squads, six have already secured their playoff seeding, while a seventh (Sharpsville) is pretty close to locking up its positioning.
Of Friday night's eight-game card, two of the games have significant playoff implications. Sharpsville will secure the No. 2 Class 2A spot locally with a win while West Middlesex sewed up the top 1A position by receiving a forfeit from Youngsville. Mercer and Grove City both step out of league play this week against foes from the northern reaches of District 10.
The game that headlines the marquee, however, is a matchup of undefeateds as 7-0 Wilmington visits 7-0 Hickory for a Region 2 battle Friday night in Hermitage. The winner will clinch a share of the Region 2 title and stay on course for a 9-0 regular season.
Wilmington at Hickory, 7:00 p.m.
After competing as league opponents from 1994 to 2013, Wilmington and Hickory are reunited in conference play following their two-year stretch of playing non-conference games. While each team's respective playoff positioning is secure (Hickory No. 1 in 3A, Wilmington No. 1 in 2A), this is still the biggest meeting between the teams since their 2012 District 10 Class AA title game clash.
Hickory rallied from an early 19-7 hole last Friday night at Sharpsville to earn a 56-26 win over the inspired Blue Devils in a Region 2 battle. Senior tailback Chuck Carr became District 10's all-time leader with 97 career touchdowns as he scored five times in last week's win. Carr ran for 228 yards and also caught two passes for 41 yards.
As a team, Hickory piled up 453 offensive yards against Sharpsville. Junior quarterback Luke Brennan completed 6 of 9 passes for 158 yards. He's now thrown for 739 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 38 of 76 (50 percent) of his pass attempts.
For the season, Carr leads District 10 with 1,348 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. His 1,420 total yards from scrimmage ranks second in D-10. Hickory is averaging 48.4 points per game, the second-highest total in Mercer County this year.
While Hickory owns one of District 10's top offenses, Wilmington owns the district's best scoring defense as the "Hounds Hammer," a term coined by Herald sports writer Jeff Greenburg two decades ago, has yielded only 65 points in seven games. Last week, Wilmington blanked visiting Greenville, 35-0, by limiting Greenville to 79 offensive yards and six first downs.
Offensively, the balanced Wilmington attack gained 159 rushing yards and 161 passing yards. Quarterback Reese Bender went 7 of 10 for 110 yards and Spencer DeMedal added a 51-yard touchdown completion to Bryson Verrelli on his only attempt. Cameron Marett, the starting halfback opposite of DeMedal in Wilmington's vaunted Wing-T attack, ran for a pair of touchdowns last week.
This season, Bender, DeMedal and Verrelli have combined to attempt 61 passes without an interception. Bender is 27 of 43 (62.8 percent) while DeMedal is 10 for 17 (58.8 percent). Verrelli is 1 for 1 passing.
Wilmington is third in the area in scoring offense, averaging 44.7 points per game. Wilmington's plus-35.4 average point differential is second in Mercer County and third in District 10, trailing only Erie Cathedral Prep (39.9) and Grove City (36.3). Hickory is next in line at plus-33.4.
Hickory won the first meeting between the teams as Mercer County Athletic Conference foes in 1994, 19-7, at Wilmington. Wilmington won the next year, 14-6, which began an eight-year win streak in the series for the Greyhounds. Hickory won the 2003 meeting, 19-0, but Wilmington strung together five more consecutive wins over the Hornets. In 2009, under then-head coach Frank Antuono, Hickory pulled out a 21-14 win at Wilmington.
Over the last six seasons, Hickory holds a 5-2 edge, including a 39-7 win in the 2012 D-10 Class AA title game.
Hickory is in pursuit of the school's first-ever perfect regular season record. Wilmington last finished the regular season undefeated in 2006.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Reynolds at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
According to Herald archives, this will be the 50th all-time meeting between the two programs in northwest Mercer County. Greenville has won 17 of the last 18 meetings, including a 21-18 win at Thiel College's Alumni Stadium in 2015. The Trojans now have a 31-16-2 edge in a series that dates back to 1965.
For the first time since Greenville's 27-26 overtime win in 2012, the teams will not play at Thiel, but instead at Greenville's Stewart Field at Stone-Snyder Stadium. Reynolds is aiming for its first win at Stewart Field since a 14-13 win September 15, 1995.
Reynolds has already clinched its first District 10 playoff berth in 11 years and the Raiders can clinch the No. 3 2A spot out of Region 2 with a win Friday night. Reynolds has an outside shot to move up into the No. 2 position by winning twice and having Sharpsville fall to Slippery Rock and Sharon.
The Raiders will be bolstered by the return of versatile running back Dylan McDanel, who has been sidelined since early September with injury. He joins a backfield that features running back Damion Gearhart (654 rushing yards), quarterback Garrett Daniello (477 rushing yards) and running back Ryan McQuown (317 yards). That trio has combined for 16 rushing touchdowns this year. Daniello has also thrown for 384 yards.
Defensively, Reynolds (4-3, 3-3) forced homestanding Mercer into four turnovers last Friday night in a 41-2 Raiders victory. It marked the first time since a 24-0 win at Titusville on September 30, 2011, that Reynolds has held a league foe out of the end zone. Joel Leise's 60-yard interception return helped highlight the defensive effort.
While Reynolds returns McDanel, injuries continue to be a problem for Greenville (3-4, 2-4). Quarterback Nate Bell and wide receiver Ethan Reiser have both missed games due to injury. Reiser started at quarterback last week against Wilmington. Greenville head coach Brian Herrick has reportedly spent the week trying to solve his team's quarterback riddle. Could Bell return from injury? Will Reiser be back behind center? Opening Night starter Brady Kalchthaler could come back from tight end. Or maybe Herrick has a couple of wild cards up his sleeve?
Regardless of who takes the snaps for Greenville, that man's main duty will likely be to get the ball into the hands of workhorse tailback Canyon Eells. Eells has rushed for exactly 800 yards and seven touchdowns on 142 carries this year, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the Trojans' rushing offense. Reiser is the top target with 20 receptions for 304 yards. Lanky receivers Michael Blaney and Connor Gilfoyle each have eight catches. Three of Blaney's eight receptions have been for touchdowns.
A win would give Greenville the inside track to the No. 3 spot in Class 2A as well as keep alive the Trojans' hopes for a winning regular season record. Like Reynolds, Greenville has clinched a D-10 playoff berth. It is Greenville's 11th straight season of qualifying for the District 10 playoffs. That's the longest active streak in Mercer County.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.
Sharpsville at Slippery Rock, 7:00 p.m.
Friday night, Slippery Rock and Sharpsville will meet for the first time since October 1, 1999, when the Blue Devils head to Butler County for a Region 2 battle. Overall, it is just the second all-time league meeting between the teams, who also met in 1988 as members of the Keystone Football League in its final year.
Sharpsville (5-2, 4-2) can secure the No. 2 Class 2A spot from the league with a win over the Class 3A Rockets, who will be that class's No. 3 entry from the area. Slippery Rock (2-5, 2-4) is the team coming off of a victory, however, as the Rockets pulled out a last-second 19-14 win at Lakeview last Friday night in Stoneboro. Bailey Mertens' four-yard quarterback sneak put Slippery Rock ahead to stay.
Mertens threw for 115 yards on 12-of-29 passing. He also ran for 34 yards while fullback Seth Slater led the Rockets on the ground with 76 yards on a dozen carries.
Sharpsville's upset bid of visiting Hickory last Friday fizzled in the second half as the Blue Devils fell, 56-26. Luke Henwood and halfback Cameron Prebble each threw touchdown passes to help give Sharpsville a 19-7 lead. Henwood later threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Besser, closing Sharpsville's scoring.
Henwood finished the game 8 of 14 for 106 yards. He did throw just his second interception of the season. In 2016, Henwood has thrown for 684 yards and eight touchdowns. Six of those touchdown passes have gone to Marquis Altman, who leads the Blue Devils in receptions (21) and receiving yards (410). Besser has a team-high 542 rushing yards and also 123 receiving yards on six catches. Besser leads Sharpsville with 10 touchdowns.
Sharpsville also sews up the No. 2 spot in Class 2A with a Greenville win over Reynolds. A win Friday night gives Sharpsville its ninth straight regular season with at least six victories.
Slippery Rock won the last meeting, 28-6, at Slippery Rock 17 years ago. Sharpsville won at McCracken Field in 1998, 49-8.
Lakeview at Sharon, 7:00 p.m.
Sharon wraps up a four-game homestand Friday night with its first-ever conference game against Lakeview. The Tigers have won the first three of those four home games, including last week's 28-14 victory over Ohio power Parma Heights Holy Name.
The Tigers, who ran their home win streak to eight games, scored the final 14 points of the game to secure the win. Jordan Wilson's five-yard touchdown run in the third quarter broke a 14-14 tie while Ziyon Strickland clinched the win with a 45-yard interception return for touchdown.
Strickland caught touchdown passes of 47 and 35 yards, respectively, from quarterback J.P. McComb to account for Sharon's first two scores. Strickland caught 10 passes for 141 yards to become Mercer County's all-time leader in career catches (129) and receiving yards (2,263). This season, he leads Mercer County with 38 catches and is second in the area with 576 receiving yards.
A late Slippery Rock touchdown last Friday night in Stoneboro extinguished Lakeview's slim playoff hopes. Garrett Gadsby threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Reddick and then gave Lakeview (1-6, 1-6) a late 14-13 lead with a 90-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
Lakeview is the only area team to have not played a non-conference game. The Sailors will close the regular season at Mercyhurst Prep next Friday night.
Farrell at Cambridge Springs, 7:00 p.m.
It's a rematch of last season's District 10 Class A semifinals Friday night when Farrell (4-3, 2-1) visits Cambridge Springs (3-4, 1-2) in Region 1 play. Farrell returns to action after receiving a forfeit from Region 1 foe Youngsville last week.
The off week allowed the banged-up Steelers to further heal up, most notably tailback Braxton Chapman. Chapman ran for 674 yards and eight touchdowns in the first three-plus games of the season before being injured against West Middlesex in the league opener. Chapman's return cause for concern in Cambridge Springs as he ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns last season in Farrell's 40-21 D-10 semifinal win over Spa.
Two weeks ago, Farrell fell at home to Class 5A Meadville, 47-16, as the Bulldogs scored the final 33 points of the game. Brandon Chambers caught six passes for 77 yards to help lead Farrell's offense, which had just 45 rushing yards on 31 attempts. Jourdan Townsend opened Farrell's scoring with an 83-yard kickoff return for touchdown.
Cambridge Springs earned its first league win last Friday by downing visiting Union City, 20-8, despite having just seven first downs. Cambridge Springs' first two league losses came by a combined seven points (Cochranton, 22-18; West Middlesex, 21-18).
Quarterback Noah Reisenauer leads the Cambridge Springs spread attack with 1,119 passing yards and 487 rushing yards. He has accounted for 15 total touchdowns this year. Cody Lanning is Cambridge Springs' leading rusher with 689 rushing yards.
Farrell closes the regular season against Cochranton (5-2, 2-1) while Cambridge Springs is scheduled to play Youngsville.
West Middlesex at Youngsville, 7:00 p.m.
Youngsville has forfeited this week's game to West Middlesex. West Middlesex is now 5-3 overall and 4-0 in Region 1 play. The win gives West Middlesex the No. 1 seed in the District 10 playoffs and at least a share of the conference title.
Grove City at Fairview, 7:00 p.m.
One week away from its winner-take-all Region 5 game with Meadville, Grove City looks to improve to 8-0 by visiting Fairview.
The Eagles ran for 318 yards and added 311 passing yards in amassing a season-high 629 offensive yards. Quarterback Kameron Patterson threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-27 passing while also rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Nine Grove City players caught at least one pass. Nick Davies, Logan Lutz, Qadir Muhammad and Molek Walker all had touchdown receptions.
Patterson now has 24 touchdown passes this season, setting a single-season program record. His 1,679 passing yards and 24 touchdowns are tops in District 10. A.J. Turner leads District 10 with 667 receiving yards this season. He is averaging 25.7 yards per catch on his 26 receptions. Turner is third in the county with 14 touchdowns.
Fairview (3-4, 2-3 Region 4) is a Class 3A team that dropped a 34-27 conference decision at Mercyhurst Prep last Friday night. The Tigers piled up 336 rushing yards but could not fully erase a 34-14 deficit in the fourth quarter.
Clayton Halmi ran for 219 yards on 36 carries while Jared Hanas added 125 rushing yards on 18 attempts. The Tigers executed 76 offensive plays last week. Defensively, Fairview yielded 394 rushing yards to Mercyhurst Prep.
Fairview averages 305 rushing yards per game this season. Halmi has rushed for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns while Hanas has 645 rushing yards.
The teams have two common opponents this season, Warren and Conneaut (Pa.). Grove City opened Region 5 play with a 43-20 home win over the Dragons in Week Two. Fairview earned a 41-14 win at Warren two weeks ago. Fairview opened the season with a 28-10 loss at Conneaut. Grove City rolled past Conneaut, 48-6, in Week Three.
The teams last met October 5, 2007, with Grove City scoring three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes to earn a come-from-behind 25-21 win over Fairview at Forker Field. Interestingly, that same night nine years ago, Wilmington played at Hickory and Reynolds visited Greenville.
Fairview defeated Grove City twice in 2006. The Tigers earned a 26-13 win in the regular season, then downed Grove City, 32-7, in the District 10 Class AA playoffs.
Eisenhower at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
Mercer steps out of Region 2 play for the first time this season to host Eisenhower (3-4, 2-3) Friday night. The Mustangs dropped a 41-2 decision at home last Friday night in Region 2 play to Reynolds. The defeat snuffed out Mercer's slim playoff hopes.
Quarterback Dylan Hetrick threw for 156 yards on 13-of-27 passing for the Mustangs last week. Brian Shevitz and Jimmy Amon both caught four passes for Mercer. Amon leads the team with 17 catches while Shevitz has a dozen receptions. Hetrick has thrown for 569 yards this season.
Mercer opened each of the last four seasons with wins over Eisenhower, including a 41-14 home triumph in the 2015 lidlifter. Mercer also pulled out a 14-7 win over Eisenhower in the 2007 District 10 Class A quarterfinals.
Eisenhower is on the road for the third straight week and for the fourth time in a five-week span. The Ikes fell at Region 3 foe Maplewood last week, 28-14. Currently, Eisenhower is in a four-way battle for two playoff spots out of Class 2A Region 3, battling with Seneca, North East and Northwestern. Eisenhower's wins this season are over Youngsville (48-12), Northwestern (46-22) and Seneca (28-21).
Eisenhower has lost 15 straight games to Mercer County foes. The Knights' last win over a local team came September 1, 2007 -- a 15-0 win at Reynolds.
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