(Statistical Information Courtesy of The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK NINE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
The regular season comes to a close Friday night for the bulk of the area's 12 football teams. Of Friday night's eight scheduled games, two have direct effect upon playoff positioning (Meadville-Grove City, Cochranton-Farrell) while the Hickory-Reynolds and Mercer-Greenville games potentially affect the placement of Greenville and Reynolds. A Reynolds win and a Greenville loss would give Reynolds the No. 3 2A spot from Region 2.
West Middlesex returns to the field after an off week due to a Youngsville forfeit. Lakeview finally gets to play a non-conference game when the Sailors head to Erie to face playoff-bound Mercyhurst Prep.
Here's a look at the final full week of regular season play.
Sharon at Sharpsville, 7:00 p.m.
Winners of four straight, Sharon visits Sharpsville on Senior Night at McCracken Field in Region 2 play. The Tigers return to the road for the first time since summer -- September 16 at Hickory. Sharon (6-2, 5-2) concluded a four-game homestand last Friday night with a 55-6 victory over visiting Lakeview on Senior Night at Sharon Tiger Stadium.
While Sharon has featured one of District 10's most balanced offenses throughout 2016, the Tigers' passing game kicked into high gear against Lakeview. Quarterback J.P. McComb completed 10 of 14 passes for 344 yards (24.6 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns. Record-setting receiver Ziyon Strickland hauled in three touchdown passes and finished the night with 215 yards on six receptions.
Jeremiah Norris also eclipsed the 100-yard mark receiving as his four receptions went for 119 yards and two scores. Tailback Jordan Wilson added 107 rushing yards, helping Sharon finish with 525 offensive yards.
The Sharon defense held Lakeview to 155 yards. Dante Dellibovi's 27-yard fumble return for touchdown marked the third time in the last four weeks that Sharon has scored a defensive touchdown. During Sharon's four-game win streak, the Tigers have four non-offensive touchdowns while allowing four total touchdowns.
Sharpsville dropped to 5-3 overall and 4-3 in Region 2 last Friday night with a 42-21 setback at Slippery Rock in the teams' first meeting since 1999. Slippery Rock scored the final 21 points of the game to break a 21-21 tie in the third quarter.
Offensively, Sharpsville piled up 341 yards, including 201 passing yards from senior quarterback Luke Henwood. However, the Blue Devils turned over the ball three times. The Sharpsville defense yielded 305 rushing yards to Slippery Rock's power spread attack. After allowing a total of six points over the season's first three weeks, Sharpsville is allowing an average of 40.8 points over the last five games.
Despite the geographic proximity between the two school district and the fact that Sharon and Sharpsville have competed against each other as league foes in nearly every other sport, the two programs do not share a lengthy or storied history against each other.
It's the first meeting between the teams as league foes since 1988, the final year of the Keystone Football League. Sharon won all seven KFL meetings from 1982 to 1988. Sharon also bookended that string with non-conference wins in 1981 (9-7) and 1989 (59-0). Sharpsville has won the last four meetings, however. The Blue Devils swept Sharon in 2004 and 2005, then repeated that in 2012 and 2013.
Sharpsville is 7-1 in its last eight home finales, including that 19-6 win in 2013.
Sharon's four road games this year (Wilmington, Reynolds, Hickory, Sharpsville) have covered a total of 56 round-trip miles. Four local teams (Farrell, Grove City, Lakeview, West Middlesex) had at least one one-way trip of 56 miles or longer this year.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.
Hickory at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
During Hickory's notable run during the 2010s, three things have eluded the Hornets: an undefeated regular season, an outright conference title, and a berth in the state championship game. Friday night, Hickory can secure the first two of those with a win at Region 2 foe Reynolds.
Hickory (8-0, 7-0) clinched a share of the conference title by rallying for a 28-20 win over previously-unbeaten Wilmington. Decorated senior tailback Chuck Carr became the first Mercer County player to score 100 career touchdowns as he scored on four short touchdown runs. Carr, who has 101 career touchdowns, finished the game with 201 rushing yards on 31 carries.
Carr leads Mercer County in rushing yards (1,348), carries (161), rushing touchdowns (28), total touchdowns (30) and points (180). He is second in District 10 in scoring.
Sophomore quarterback Hayden Gallagher came on relief in the second quarter after starting quarterback Luke Brennan left due to injury. According to multiple sources, Brennan is out for the remainder of the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Gallagher, who went 4 for 7 against Wilmington, handled the bulk of the quarterbacking duties for Hickory during the summer while Brennan convalesced from an offseason injury.
Hickory staffers have not publicly confirmed it but Gallagher is expected to make his first varsity start at quarterback Friday night.
Reynolds (4-4, 3-4) looks to rebound from a 27-0 setback last Friday night at archrival Greenville. The Raiders had just 15 offensive yards in the second half after trailing 7-0 at halftime.
Senior halfback Dylan McDanel returned from injury and ran for 56 yards on 12 carries. Senior Damion Gearhart paced Reynolds with 106 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Defensively, Tylir Shannon intercepted a pass and Jared Uhrin recorded a sack. However, Reynolds allowed 20 points and 254 yards in the second half.
Reynolds can clinch the No. 3 Class 2A playoff spot with a win and a Mercer win over Greenville. Regardless of Friday night's results, Reynolds has qualified for the D-10 playoffs for the first time since 2005.
This is the first meeting between Hickory and Reynolds since October 25, 2013, when the Hornets won at Reynolds, 43-6. Hickory has won eight straight in the series. Reynolds prevailed in Hermitage, 22-18, in 2005. Reynolds' last home win over Hickory came September 6, 1996, a 16-13 triumph. The year before, Hickory and Reynolds played the first Mercer County regular season football game to go overtime. Hickory prevailed, 24-21, at Reynolds.
Mercer at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
One week after coming within a whisker of its first victory in 2016, Mercer visits playoff-bound Greenville in Region 2 action. The Mustangs dropped a 7-6 non-conference decision to visiting Eisenhower last Friday as a two-point conversion misfired in the third quarter. Mercer also turned over the ball in Eisenhower territory on its final two drives in the fourth quarter.
Mercer broke through when quarterback Dylan Hetrick threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Knopp. Hetrick finished the game with152 passing yards, with three of his eight completions going to Knopp. Knopp had 39 receiving yards while Josh Robertson led Mercer with 55 receiving yards on a pair of catches.
In his first year as the full-time starter at quarterback, Hetrick has thrown for 721 yards. Jimmy Amon is Mercer's leading rusher (222 yards) and receiver (19 catches, 205 yards).
Greenville pulled away from archrival Reynolds last Friday night in earning a 27-0 victory at Stewart Field. Junior quarterback Nate Bell returned from injury to engineer a Trojan offense that picked up 361 offensive yards. Bell threw for 162 yards on 10-of-14 accuracy with wide receiver Ethan Reiser grabbing seven passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Reiser also played wingback and ran for 53 yards and a score on seven carries.
Junior Canyon Eells led Greenville with 108 rushing yards after being held to minus-5 yards in the first half.
Friday's meeting is the first between Mercer and Greenville since Week Three of the 2005 season, when Mercer pulled out a 21-14 home win. Greenville picked up wins over Mercer in 2002 (35-6), 2003 (27-0) and 2004 (38-0). According to Herald archives, Greenville leads the all-time series 24-6. The teams did not play between 1979 and 2002.
Slippery Rock at Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.
If asked to name a football series in the area that has been played more frequently than Grove City-Slippery Rock, Sharpsville-West Middlesex, Greenville-Sharon or Mercer-Lakeview, "Slippery Rock-Wilmington" would be a correct answer.
Friday night's regular season finale between the teams marks the 50th anniversary of their first meeting as members of District 7's Tri-County North conference. The teams also competed together in the Midwestern Athletic Conference, the Mercer County Athletic Conference and District 10 Region 3. Now, the two programs are reunited again in Region 2.
Although records are not fully complete, the teams have played nearly every season since 1966 either as District 7 foes (1966-87), interdistrict opponents (late 1980s/early 1990s) and in District 10 (1994-present).
While Wilmington (7-1, 6-1) has had the better overall season, Slippery Rock (3-5, 3-4) comes into the game on a high note as the Rockets rolled past visiting Sharpsville last week, 42-21. The Rockets produced a pair of 100-yard rushers last week in quarterback Bailey Mertens (154 yards) and fullback Seth Slater (106). Mertens ran for two touchdowns and also threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Rossi. Slippery Rock finished with a season-high 399 yards of total offense.
Defensively, Slippery Rock allowed 341 yards but forced three Sharpsville turnovers. Stephen Heller's 20-yard fumble return opened the Slippery Rock scoring last week.
Wilmington led at Hickory last Friday night, 14-0, but eventually dropped a 28-20 decision in a battle of undefeated teams. Quarterbacks Reese Bender and Spencer DeMedal combined to complete 20 of 29 attempts for 194 yards as each man completed 10 passes. The Greyhounds chewed up 336 offensive yards against Hickory's vaunted defense.
Junior split end Bryson Verrelli caught seven passes against Hickory and now has a team-leading 25 catches for 429 yards and four touchdowns. DeMedal has 949 yards of total offense (633 rushing, 316 passing). He has also caught seven passes for 120 yards this year.
Having switched to the 4-3 this season, Wilmington owns District 10's top scoring defense, having allowed only 93 points in 2016 under defensive coordinator Brandon Phillian.
Wilmington won last year's meeting at Slippery Rock, 42-23, in Week Ten. Slippery Rock prevailed at Wilmington two years ago, 27-7.
The teams first met in 1966, with Wilmington closing the season with a 39-6 win. That was the final game as Wilmington head coach for Joe Fusco, who took over as head coach at Grove City High School for the 1967 season. Gene Nicholson, who also succeeded Fusco as head football coach at Westminster College, took over the Greyhounds and led them to a 26-6 win over Slippery Rock in the 1967 opener.
Slippery Rock's first win over Wilmington came October 9, 1971, 7-0. Slippery Rock also defeated Tri-County champion Wilmington in 1972, 13-0, and then blanked the Greyhounds by a 14-0 score in 1973. (Thanks to Mike Kilroy of the Butler Eagle for his assistance.)
Meadville at Grove City, 7:00 p.m.
The Region 5 title and a top seed in the Class 5A District 10 playoffs are at stake Friday night at Forker Field when Grove City (8-0, 5-0) hosts surging Meadville (6-2, 5-0). The winner of Friday night's game will get the No. 1 spot from Region 5 in next week's playoffs and will face Erie Strong Vincent in the quarterfinals. Region 5's runner-up gets Central Tech in the opening round, a team that owns a 40-36 season-opening win over Meadville.
Grove City stepped out of conference play last Friday night by earning a 42-7 win at Class 2A Fairview. Senior quarterback Kameron Patterson continued his assault on the Grove City record book by completing 21 of 26 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 361 yards of total offense.
As a team, the Eagles chewed up 480 yards of offense. A.J. Turner, Logan Lutz, Qadir Muhammad, emerging Molek Walker, and Brayden Martin all had at least three catches. Turner led with six receptions and Lutz caught four passes.
Patterson has a District 10-best 1,989 passing yards. The school -- and at the time, Mercer County -- record is 2,118, set in 1992 by Brian Cavanaugh, when he orchestrated Grove City's run-and-shoot attack under head coach Kelly Nan. Patterson's uncle, Mike Snyder, played wide receiver with Cavanaugh and was one of his top targets.
With his 334 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns added in, Patterson has accounted for a district-best 2,323 total offensive yards and 33 combined touchdowns. Grove City leads Mercer County in scoring with 389 points.
Under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Brad Trezona (a teammate of Cavanaugh and Snyder), the Eagles' new 4-4 defense has allowed just 52 points over the past five weeks. Overall, Grove City has surrendered just 100 points (12.5 per game) this season.
While Grove City owns Mercer County's top scoring offense, Meadville is the highest scoring team in Region 5. The Bulldogs have amassed 412 points this year, an average of 51.5 points per game. Meadville has scored 70 points in each of the last two weeks. Meadville's 36 points in Week One marked a season low for the Bulldogs, who have scored 47 or more points in each game of their six-game win streak.
Senior speedster Journey Brown headlines Meadville's multiple-back Wing-T offense. Brown, the defending state Class AAA champion in the 100-metre dash, has 1,463 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns this season. He averages 11.4 yards per carry.
Fellow halfback Isaiah Manning has also gone over the 1,000-yard mark this year (1,037) and averages a team-leading 15.7 yards per carry. He ran for 319 yards in last week's 70-6 win at Oil City. Fullback Antonio Ferraro has added 688 yards. Halfback Julius Ream, the son of former Allegheny College All-American Shane Ream (1998-2001) has 298 yards on 29 carries this season. Ream ran for 110 yards at Farrell October 1.
Meadville averages 469 rushing yards per game. The Bulldogs ran for 661 yards last week at Oil City after gashing Franklin for 528 yards the week before. Quarterback Kirk Mumau is 17 of 37 passing this year for 417 yards and six touchdowns. He is also Meadville's kicker, having made 39 extra points this season.
Defensively, Meadville has allowed just 36 points and 718 yards over the last five games. In the first three weeks of the season, Meadville yielded 115 total points and 1,343 yards.
In addition to playing the other five Region 5 squads, both Grove City and Meadville had have played General McLane this season. Grove City rallied for a 34-28 win over McLane in the season opener while Meadville fell at McLane in Week Two, 49-41.
Grove City is 25-0 all-time in Region 5. Each of the 25 wins has been by at least nine points.
Grove City posted undefeated regular seasons in both 2010 and 2011. The Eagles went 7-0-2 in 1969 and recorded a 9-0 mark in 1961. Meadville's last win at Grove City came in the 2000 opener, 23-22, when the Eagles missed a two-point conversion with 1:12 left in the game. The Bulldogs defeated Grove City 25-0 in the 2001 opener. Grove City won each of the four meetings from 2008 to 2011.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Cochranton at Farrell, 7:00 p.m.
It's a playoff preview Friday night at Paulkeas Stadium as Cochranton and Farrell close the Region 1 schedule. Both teams are 3-1 in the league and have lost to West Middlesex. The winner of Friday's game will be the No. 2 seed in the District 10 1A playoffs while the other will end up third. With sixth-place Youngsville opting out of the playoffs, West Middlesex, Cochranton and Farrell all receive byes to the semifinals. Since West Middlesex has clinched the top spot, Cochranton and Farrell are assured of meeting in the semifinal round.
Both Farrell and Cochranton clinched spots in the top three last week with conference victories. Farrell charged past Cambridge Springs, 32-14, behind 285 rushing yards from tailback Braxton Chapman, who returned from injury. Chapman now has 2,580 career yards, fourth-most in Farrell history.
Farrell finished with 504 offensive yards as quarterback Kyi Wright finished with 152 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-13 accuracy. Brandon Chambers grabbed four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown while Jourdan Townsend had the other three receptions for 47 yards and one score.
Despite missing three weeks (two due to injury, one due to a forfeit), Chapman still leads Region 1 with 958 rushing yards. He is second in Mercer County.
After dropping consecutive games by five-point margins, Cochranton improved to 6-2 overall last week with a 24-20 home win over Union City. The Cardinals trailed 20-8 in the third quarter before Kohl Bernarding fired touchdown passes of 49 and 15 yards, respectively, to Peter Jamieson.
Versatile Curtis Freyermuth recorded all three two-point conversions for Cochranton, which has had four of its last five games decided by five points or less. Freyermuth has rushed for a team-best 687 yards and seven touchdowns. He's also thrown for 338 yards and has 12 receptions for 132 yards.
Bernarding is 42 of 66 for 681 yards and 12 touchdowns while splitting time at quarterback with Freyermuth. Jamieson has 15 receptions this year. Eight have gone for touchdowns.
Nate Liberty is in his fifth season as Cochranton's fifth head coach since the program's relaunch in 1979. He is 28-20 as head coach. With a win Friday night, Cochranton will have its best season since the 2003 team finished as District 10 Class A runners-up with a 10-1 record.
This is the first meeting between the teams since September 29, 2007, when Farrell earned a 45-14 home win over the Cardinals.
West Middlesex at Union City, 7:00 p.m.
West Middlesex returns to action after receiving a forfeit last week from Youngsville in Region 1 play. West Middlesex has clinched the top 1A playoff spot from Region 1 while Union City (2-6, 1-3) will be meeting Cambridge Springs in the lone quarterfinal game next weekend.
Two weeks ago, West Middlesex (5-3, 4-0) pulled out a 19-14 win over Cochranton that gave the Big Reds the inside track to the top spot in Region 1. Quarterback Joshua Porterfield threw for 103 yards and a touchdown while adding 83 rushing yards and a score in the Big Reds' triple-option offense. Cody Kobielus pulled in four passes, including a 43-yard touchdown that gave West Middlesex an early 13-0 lead.
Kobielus and Dustin Murray each have a team-best eight catches this year. Sophomore fullback Clayton Parrish has run for 819 yards and six touchdowns while Porterfield has contributed 391 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Over its last two games, West Middlesex has had 60 minutes, 34 seconds of possession time out of a possible 96 minutes. Defensively, West Middlesex has allowed only 46 points in league play.
Union City has dropped four straight games after opening 2-2. The Bears have held the lead in each of their last two games before falling. Last week, Union City held a 20-8 lead at Cochranton before the Redbirds rallied.
Union City's punishing ground game averages 291 yards per game. Gavin Henry leads the Bears with 938 rushing yards while Emmett Murphy has added 422 yards. Union City has four backs with at least 300 yards this year. Murphy has the only Union City touchdown pass this year, a 26-yard option pass to Jacob Uber.
Each team has lost to Class 2A Iroquois (8-0) in non-conference play. West Middlesex dropped a 29-12 decision on the road to the Braves in Week Three. Iroquois handed Union City a 39-14 home setback in the sixth week of the season. Union City's wins this year are over 3A Harbor Creek (28-6) and Region 1 foe Youngsville (45-8).
Lakeview at Mercyhurst Prep, 7:00 p.m.
Lakeview heads to Mercyhurst University's Tullio Field Friday night to face Class 3A Mercyhurst Prep. It is Lakeview's only non-conference game of the 2016 season.
After opening the season with a 24-22 win at Mercer, the Sailors have dropped seven straight games in Region 2 play. Last Friday night at Sharon, Cole Richael paced the Sailors with 123 rushing yards. He leads the Sailors with 373 rushing yards this season. Tanner Reddick has contributed 315 rushing yards.
Mercyhurst is 5-0 in Erie County this year, including a 4-0 home record. Sophomore Zack Helsley leads the Lakers' ground game with 1,095 yards and 10 touchdowns. He already has 2,030 career yards. In Mercyhurst's other game against a Mercer County foe -- a 14-0 loss at West Middlesex -- Helsley had 16 yards on nine carries. That night, Mercyhurst Prep went away from its ground game as 38 of the 52 offensive plays were pass plays.
Mercyhurst is coming off a 36-0 win at Harbor Creek. The Lakers concluded Region 3 play at 4-2 and can grab a share of the conference title if Titusville and Conneaut (Ohio) both lose Friday night. At 5-3, the Lakers have their best record since the 2012 team went 8-3. That concluded a seven-year run in which Mercyhurst Prep went 68-14. From 2013 to 2015, Mercyhurst went 6-24.
This is the first meeting between the teams since November 10, 2006, when Mercyhurst Prep defeated Lakevew in the District 10 Class A quarterfinals, 39-0. The Lakers also won the last regular season clash, 41-14, in the 2005 season opener. Lakeview's last win in the series came September 3, 2004, 45-14 in Stoneboro.
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