(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK TEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
The 10th week of the high school football season features an unorthodox combination of regular season games, playoff games and bye weeks for the area's 12 teams. Half of the 12 teams have the week off in anticipation of playoff games next week. Of the six remaining teams, three are playing regular season games and three have playoff game.
The trio of regular season games features two Pennsylvania-Ohio matchups to be played in the Buckeye State while the third game pits two teams looking to snap slides when Mercer hosts Saegertown. In playoff action, Hickory begins defense of its District 10 Class 3A title against Corry while Slippery Rock meets Harbor Creek in the other 3A quarterfinal.
The week's action begins Thursday night when West Middlesex meets Cochranton in a Class 1A quarterfinal at Wilmington.
DISTRICT 10 PLAYOFF GAMES
West Middlesex vs. Cochranton, 7:00 p.m. at Wilmington High School, Thursday Night
Region 1 foes West Middlesex and Cochranton will meet for the second time in a 20-day span Thursday night in the quarterfinal round of the Class 1A playoffs. In Week Seven, West Middlesex rolled to a 42-8 win at Cochranton as the Big Reds amassed a season-high 376 yards of total offense.
Junior fullback Clayton Parrish ran for 220 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He also returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. Senior quarterback Marshall Murray threw for a season-high 110 yards and three touchdowns.
Parrish leads Mercer County with 999 rushing yards on a county-high 199 attempts. West Middlesex has shifted its offense from an option-based attack to a predominantly stack-I system in which converted linemen Zach Long and Cade Franks frequently serve as lead blockers.
Senior tight end Chase Staunch leads West Middlesex with eight catches while junior wide receiver Kaz Hoffman has seven catches for a team-high 187 yards and three touchdowns.
Last week, West Middlesex closed the regular season with a 37-8 home loss to Union City. Long scored on a 20-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to tie the game 8-8. However, Union City scored the final 29 points of the game. Parrish ran for 81 yards on 21 carries. Defensively, West Middlesex allowed 408 rushing yards.
Cochranton also fell at home in league play last week as the Cardinals fell to Region 1 champion Farrell, 62-0.
Versatile junior Curtis Freyermuth leads the Cochranton offense. He has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark rushing this season, highlighting the season with a 305-yard outing September 29 in a 36-13 win at Titusville. Freyermuth has shared time at quarterback with junior Garrett Long in the absence of injured junior Kohl Bernarding.
First-year Cochranton head coach Joel Murray spent several seasons as an assistant at West Middlesex before taking the Cochranton position during the offseason.
West Middlesex is 17-7 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. Cochranton is 1-7 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The lone win came October 31, 2003 at Meadville -- a 38-17 win over Sharpsville. This is the first postseason meeting between the teams since November 8, 2013, when West Middlesex earned a 46-32 win in the District 10 Class A quarterfinals. In 2003, West Middlesex defeated Cochranton for the D-10 title in overtime, 7-6.
The winner will play Farrell in next week's district semifinals.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Hickory vs. Corry, 7:00 p.m., at Greenville High School, Saturday Night
Winners of six consecutive District 10 titles, the Hickory Hornets will look to rebound from a tough finish to the regular season Saturday night when they face Corry (4-5) in the Class 3A quarterfinals. Hickory has won 17 straight playoff games while Corry seeks its first playoff win in seven years.
Hickory dropped four of its final six regular season games while Corry closed the regular season by winning four of six games. Both teams fell in league play at home last week as Hickory fell to visiting Reynolds, 27-13, and Corry dropped a 31-9 verdict to fellow 3A playoff quarterfinalist Harbor Creek.
Hickory led Reynolds last week, 13-7, but Reynolds recovered a fumble in the end zone to spark the Raiders' comeback. Hickory also yielded 325 rushing yards.
Offensively, quarterback Hayden Gallagher threw for 163 yards and completed multiple passes to five different receivers. He leads Mercer County in individual total offense with 1,689 yards while his 1,493 passing yards are third-best in the area. Gallagher is in his first full season as Hickory's starting quarterback but does have plenty of postseason experience. He started all three of Hickory's playoff games last season, including the District 10 title game.
Hickory also welcomed back senior wide receiver Will Gruber from injury last week. Gruber has caught a team-high 24 passes for 496 yards. Fellow senior Darren Mitchell emerged in Gruber's absence and has a team-high six touchdown catches. Mitchell averages 19.9 yards per catch (20 receptions for 398 yards) while Gruber averages 20.7 yards per catch.
Turnovers have afflicted Hickory this season. In 2016, the Hornets finished plus-13 in turnover margin. However, Hickory is minus-2 through nine games this season.
Under first-year head coach Brian Patten, Corry has earned its second straight District 10 playoff berth after missing the postseason in 2031, 2014 and 2015. Senior running back Tyler Burlew has rushed for 1,099 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this year after rushing for 906 yards last year. He has also caught eight passes for 172 yards. Senior wide receiver Ryan Saxman also has eight catches for a team-leading 229 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Zack Lesher is in his first season as Corry's signal-caller. He has thrown for 609 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Hickory and Corry met as conference opponents in 2014 and 2015. Hickory earned a 42-0 home win in 2014, then claimed a 48-7 win at Corry two years ago.
The winner will face Mercyhurst Prep in the D-10 semifinals next weekend.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.
Slippery Rock vs. Harbor Creek, 7:00 p.m., at Fairview High School, Saturday Night
Following a rugged regular season in which it faced seven playoff squads, Slippery Rock returns to the District 10 Class 3A playoffs Saturday night against Harbor Creek. It's the first postseason meeting between the programs.
Slippery Rock led undefeated Wilmington 14-0 in the second quarter before the Greyhounds scored the final 24 points last week in the regular season finale. Slippery Rock held the explosive Wilmington offense to 239 total yards and 10 first downs.
Defense has been the strength of the Rockets throughout the season as Slippery Rock allows only 4.7 yards per play, fourth-lowest among the area's 12 teams. Senior linebacker Rod Williams leads the Rockets with 62 tackles and four sacks while senior end Luke Brandon has three sacks. Slippery Rock has allowed only one team to gain over 300 yards this season (Hickory, 357).
Offensively, Slippery Rock has committed an area-high 21 turnovers this season. Sophomore Vito Pilosi has taken over as the starting quarterback, although junior Jake Shaffer could also see action behind center. Pilosi ran for 75 yards and a touchdown against Wilmington while senior Seth Slater gained 67 yards and scored a touchdown.
Slater leads Slippery Rock's balanced rushing attack with 335 rushing yards. Junior Kaleb Kamerer has 283 yards, senior Hunter Prementine has 250 yards and Pilosi has gained 241 rushing yards.
Longtime Erie McDowell assistant Ned Bailey is in his fourth season as Harbor Creek coach. He has guided the Huskies to a 7-2 record, the program's best mark since a 7-3 mark in 2011 under longtime head coach Dan Budziszewski. The Huskies have posted a six-game improvement from last season.
Harbor Creek will closely mirror Slippery Rock on both offense and defense. The Huskies utilize a spread offense and a 3-4 defensive alignment. Freshman Jaxson Favre, the nephew of former Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre, has taken over as Harbor Creek's quarterback. In last week's 31-9 win over Corry, Favre completed 9 of 14 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 64 yards.
Favre is Harbor Creek's third-leading rusher this year with 246 yards. Senior tailback Lee Barney leads Harbor Creek with 737 yards while senior Benjamin Johnson has 529 yards and six touchdowns. Freshman Cody Smith leads Harbor Creek with 24 catches for 265 yards and four touchdowns.
Sophomore linebacker A.J. Ennis leads the Huskies with four sacks.
Harbor Creek's two losses came to Class 5A Fort LeBoeuf (3-0) and undefeated Mercyhurst Prep. Harbor Creek is 3-8 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The Huskies' last playoff win came November 16, 2007 -- a 14-10 win over Grove City in the D-10 Class AA semifinals. Harbor Creek also defeated Sharon in the quarterfinals that year, 37-0. The Huskies' other playoff win came in 2004, a 34-7 decision over Greenville in the D-10 semifinals.
The winner will play Sharon in the D-10 semifinals.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
REGULAR SEASON GAMES
Sharpsville at South Range (Ohio), 7:00 p.m.
For the first time in 14 years, Sharpsville will trek to Ohio as the Blue Devils face undefeated South Range (9-0) in both teams' regular season finale. It's a playoff tune-up for each team. Sharpsville will face Seneca in the District 10 Class 2A quarterfinals next week while South Range will be the top seed in the eight-team Division V Region 17 playoffs in Ohio next week.
Sharpsville closed Region 2 play last Friday night with a 21-20 loss at Sharon. Following Kobe Joseph's one-yard touchdown run with one minute left, Sharpsville went for the go-ahead two-point conversion but Sharon stopped the Blue Devils.
Joseph (118) and Bobby Besser (106) both ran for over 100 yards while quarterback Nick Alexander completed 6 of 7 passes for 76 yards. Besser leads Sharpsville with 766 rushing yards while Joseph has 547 yards. Besser ranks fourth in the county in rushing and third with 11 rushing touchdowns.
Defensively, Sharpsville leads Mercer County with 23 takeaways this season.
South Range is playing its seventh home game of the season. The Raiders playing as an independent this year. Next year, South Range will begin play in the Northeast 8, along with Girard, Hubbard, Jefferson, Liberty, Niles, Poland and Struthers. South Range is comparable in enrollment to Sharpsville and Greenville. South Range would be Class 2A in Pennsylvania nomenclature.
Last week, the Raiders walloped host St. Clairsville (7-2), 46-28, as quarterback Aniello Buzzacco ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw for 131 yards. Running back Peyton Remish added 129 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Overall, the Raiders finished with 470 yards of offense.
Three weeks ago, South Range earned a 34-14 win over visiting Sharon. Remish ran for three scores. South Range ran for 437 yards and finished the game with 526 total offensive yards.
Sharpsville's last game in Ohio came September 27, 2003, when the Blue Devils rolled past Rocky River Lutheran East, 50-6. That marked the second of two straight games in Ohio. On September 20, 2003, Sharpsville fell at Steubenville Central Catholic, 45-14. In 2002, Sharpsville fell at Liberty Center, Ohio, 55-35. Sharpsville's last "nearby" game in Ohio came September 9, 2000 at Brookfield, when the Blue Devils stormed to a 41-14 win at Addison Field.
The game will be broadcast on Sports Radio 1240 WBBW.
Lakeview at Crestview (Ohio), 7:00 p.m.
Lakeview will wrap up the 2017 season Friday night in Columbiana County against a Crestview squad that needs a win and some help to get into the playoffs. Currently, Crestview is in eighth place in Region 17, the same region as the aforementioned South Range. The top eight teams will qualify in that region.
Lakeview closed its home schedule last week with a 65-6 loss to visiting Mercyhurst Prep in non-conference action. Mitch Hansen highlighted the evening for Lakeview with a 74-yard touchdown run. He finished with 94 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Hansen leads Lakeview with 673 yards and six touchdowns. He is third in the county in rushing yards per game (96.1) and is ninth overall in rushing yardage.
Crestview has crawled back into postseason contention with three straight wins. Last week, the Rebels edged Indian Creek, 28-25. Quarterback Caleb Hill threw for 143 yards and added 83 rushing yards in the win. Hill has thrown for 912 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Junior Andrew Yanssens leads the Rebels with 963 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He has five 100-yard rushing outings this year.
Saegertown at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
Mercer and Saegertown will close the 2017 season Friday night in the county seat as each team looks to go into the offseason on a high note. Mercer has dropped eight straight games since a 35-33 season-opening win at Lakeview in Week One. Saegertown, meanwhile, has dropped 19 consecutive games.
Mercer closed conference play last Friday with a 56-21 home setback to playoff-bound Greenville. Senior fullback Jimmy Amon ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns while senior wingback Austin Hesselgesser added 70 yards and a score. Amon ranks third in the county in rushing yardage and ninth in individual total offense. He is aiming to become Mercer's first 1,000-yard rusher since Kyle Mariacher ran for a school-record 2,314 yards in 2011.
Saegertown head coach James Wolfgang is in his first season. Although the Panthers have not broken into the win column, the roster size has nearly doubled from 2016 under Wolfgang's guidance. He is a Saegertown High School graduate.
Shane McClinton leads the Panthers with 476 yards rushing and four touchdowns this season. Saegertown fell to visiting Eisenhower, 49-7, last week in the Region 3 finale.
This is the first meeting since November 11, 2011, when Mercer earned a 48-20 win over Saegertown in the District 10 Class A quarterfinals at Wilmington.