(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK THREE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
The third week of the 2017 high school football season in Mercer County features an eight-game card this weekend, including three non-conference games. Undefeated Grove City and Wilmington will each play at home for the first time this season while Sharon and Lakeview will each play on the road for the first time in 2017.
This week's schedule has one Saturday game as Farrell visits Pittsburgh City League member Carrick in a 3 p.m. kickoff to close the weekend. Week Three also has one matchup of undefeated teams as Grove City hosts Conneaut in Region 5 play.
Sharon at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Greenville hosts longtime adversary Sharon (1-1, 1-1) in a key Region 2 game Friday night at Stewart Field. Friday's game marks the sixth time that the teams will have met since October 2014. Sharon has won three straight in the series after Greenville swept the two meetings in 2014.
Both teams used strong defensive efforts last Friday night to record league victories. Greenville's defense accounted for more points than it allowed in a 17-0 win at Slippery Rock. Meanwhile, Sharon blanked Reynolds through three quarters as the Tigers earned a 47-13 home win last Friday night.
At Slippery Rock, Greenville managed just 201 offensive yards. However, cornerback Michael Blaney returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter to open the scoring. Blaney also caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Nate Bell in the second quarter.
Greenville is one of two county teams (along with Grove City) to have a pair of players ranked among the area's top 10 rushers. Canyon Eells ranks fourth with 202 yards while running mate Brady Gentile is 10th with 138 rushing yards.
Greenville has not allowed a point in the first half this season, outscoring its first two foes 23-0 in the first half.
Like Greenville, Sharon has blanked its first two opponents in the first half this year. Last week, Sharon led Reynolds 35-0 at halftime as junior tailback Jordan Wilson ran for two scores in the first half and also caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Lane Voytik.
Voytik finished last week's game with more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (3) as he threw for 309 yards and five touchdowns on 19-of-22 accuracy. Voytik leads Mercer County in completions (36), passing yards (476) and touchdown passes (6) this season.
His top target has been senior wide receiver Ziyon Strickland, who has a county-high 15 catches this year. Strickland has 171 career receptions, which is second all-time in District 10 history. Franklin's Kahlil West caught 175 passes from 2012 to 2015. West also owns the D-10 record for receiving yards with 3,201. Strickland currently has 3,050 yards, which ranks No. 2 in the district's history. Strickland already owns the D-10 and county records for touchdown catches with 38.
Strickland caught two of those 38 touchdowns in Sharon's 34-24 home win over Greenville last season. Greenville charged out to a 17-0 lead in the first seven minutes before Strickland caught touchdown passes of 68 and 32 yards to cut the lead to three by halftime. Strickland then put Sharon ahead to stay with one minute left in the third quarter as he returned an Eells fumble 96 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Wilson then sewed up the win with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs. He ran for 167 yards on 19 carries. Eells led Greenville with 139 rushing yards while Bell completed 13 of 25 passes for 171 yards.
Sharon also won the previous meeting at Greenville, 33-21, in Week Nine of the 2015 season. Strickland caught eight passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in that win.
The game will be heard on 790 WPIC.
Slippery Rock at Hickory, 7:00 p.m.
For the first time this season, a pair of Class 3A teams will meet in Mercer County as Hickory opens its home schedule against Slippery Rock. The game is a rematch from last season's District 10 semifinals, when Hickory pulled away for a 33-10 win at Greenville.
Both teams enter the game at 1-1 overall and in Region 2. Hickory rebounded from a Week One loss at Greenville by surging to a 62-7 win at Mercer last Friday night. The Hornets bolted to a 49-0 halftime lead. Six different players scored on touchdown runs for Hickory while Hayden Gallagher also fired a 37-yard touchdown pass to Darren Mitchell.
Senior Will Gruber, who opened the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, also returned a punt 41 yards for a score. Gruber has scored via touchdown run, touchdown pass, punt return and free kick return this season. He has five return touchdowns since the start of 2016.
Slippery Rock limited Greenville to 201 yards last week but could not overcome two turnovers in a 17-0 home defeat. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Shaffer completed 5 of 13 passes for 37 yards before yielding to junior Vito Pelosi. Pelosi came out of the bullpen to throw for 47 yards on 5-of-7 accuracy.
Defense has been Slippery Rock's strength this season as the Rockets have allowed just 14.5 points and 220 yards per game. Offensively, the Rockets are averaging only 6.5 points and 218 yards per game.
Hickory has won the last four meetings, including last year's playoff victory. Hickory led 14-0 at halftime and broke open the game in the second half. Gallagher, who made his second career start at quarterback in that game, completed 5 of 10 passes for 68 yards.
Hickory won the Week Three regular season matchup last year at Slippery Rock, 45-21, as Gruber caught a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Luke Brennan. Slippery Rock's last win over Hickory came September 26, 2014, when the Rockets pulled out a 14-7 home win. Slippery Rock's last win at Hickory came September 12, 2008, when the Clyde Conti-coached Rockets rolled to a 53-0 win in Hermitage.
Mercer at Sharpsville, 7:00 p.m.
Sharpsville opens the home portion of its Region 2 schedule Friday night by hosting longtime small school rival Mercer at McCracken Field. Although the season is only two weeks old, the two teams have a common opponent in Lakeview. Mercer opened the season with a 35-33 win at Lakeview, while Sharpsville downed the homestanding Sailors in Week Two, 49-13.
Sharpsville leads the county in scoring offense, having scored 49 points in each of its first two games this season. In last week's win at Lakeview, junior Kobe Joseph paced Sharpsville's ground attack by rushing for 131 yards on six carries. The Blue Devils ran for 364 yards on 34 carries, an average of 10.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Nick Alexander, the county's No. 2 passer in terms of quarterback rating, threw a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Luke Levis.
Overall, Sharpsville averages 434 yards per game. The Blue Devils also own the area's top pass defense, having allowed only 36 passing yards this season.
That number may not go up considerably as Mercer's option-based offense ranks fourth in Mercer County in rushing, averaging 222 yards per game. Mercer features Mercer County's leading rusher in senior fullback Jimmy Amon. Amon has gained 268 yards rushing this season. He ran for 88 yards and a score in last week's loss to Hickory.
While Sharpsville has the area's top passing defense, Mercer has yielded only 78 passing yards this year, third-best in the area. However, the Mustangs have allowed a special teams touchdown in each of the first two games this season.
Sharpsville has won three straight meetings, including a 33-0 game that only lasted two periods due to a halftime power outage at Mercer. Joseph led Sharpsville with 68 rushing yards. Mercer's last win over Sharpsville came four years ago, 6-0, in Mercer. That's the last game in Mercer County that did not have an offensive touchdown. Mercer last won at Sharpsville nine years ago, claiming a 21-0 win October 3, 2008.
This is the 12th straight season that the teams have met. Sharpsville has won eight of 12 meetings, including a 10-7 win in the 2009 District 10 playoffs.
Lakeview at Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Wilmington opens its home schedule Friday night against Lakeview in a Region 2 matchup. Wilmington returns to conference play after earning a 49-0 non-league win last Friday night at West Middlesex while Lakeview plays its first road game of 2017.
Wilmington's "Hounds Hammer" defense blanked West Middlesex and held the Big Reds to 39 offensive yards and five first downs. Junior Cameron Marett ran for three touchdowns while senior Bryson Verrelli caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Robert Pontius and also returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown.
Wilmington leads the area in scoring defense, allowing only seven points in two games this season. The Greyhounds have also held opponents to 2.6 yards per play, best among the 12 local programs. Marett is tied for the area lead with five touchdowns.
Lakeview fell to visiting Sharpsville last week, 49-13, despite scoring on special teams for the second straight week. Garrett Gadsby returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter while Mitch Hansen added a 60-yard touchdown run. Hansen is fifth in the county in rushing with 198 rushing yards.
Wilmington held Lakeview to 116 yards of offense in last year's meeting, a 45-6 Wilmington win at Lakeview.
Wilmington is 3-0 against Lakeview since the teams' series resumed in 2014. According to available records, Wilmington is 11-1 all-time against Lakeview. The teams first met in 1966, Lakeview's first year of varsity football. Wilmington, under the direction of legendary coach Joe Fusco, earned a 37-7 win. Lakeview's lone win came in 1969, 25-6.
In addition to Fusco and current Wilmington head coach Terry Verrelli, two other football coaching legends have guided teams in the series. Gene Nicholson succeeded Fusco as head football coach both at Wilmington and at Westminster College. Meanwhile, renowned Ohio high school coach Dick Angle coached Lakeview in the Sailors' 14-0 loss to the Greyhounds in 1973.
Prior to 2014, the teams last met September 13, 1975, when Wilmington earned a 40-12 win at Lakeview. In 1974, Wilmington entered its October 19 game against Lakeview with a 1-2-3 record. Wilmington won that game 27-6.
Wilmington is in pursuit of its third straight 3-0 start. Lakeview last started 0-3 in 2002. Lakeview has never won a league game on artificial turf.
Conneaut at Grove City, 7:00 p.m.
While Lakeview and Wilmington have a somewhat intermittent history that dates back half a century, Friday night's Conneaut-Grove City game at Forker Field is the second all-time meeting between the programs. For the second consecutive year, both teams enter their meeting with 2-0 records.
Both Grove City and Conneaut opened Region 5 play last week with convincing victories. Grove City blasted Warren, 42-2, while Conneaut downed visiting DuBois, 35-14, after leading by 35 at halftime.
Grove City piled up 342 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns at Warren last Friday night. Fullbacks Trey Adams and Tyler Greer both scored twice while slotbacks Logan Lutz and Carter Chinn each scored once. Lutz ran for 136 yards on six carries and also had six catches for 59 yards. Junior quarterback Brady Callahan completed 13 of 15 passes for 174 yards.
Grove City averages a county-best 311 rushing yards per game this season. Lutz is third in the area with 204 rushing yards while Adams ranks sixth with 183 yards.
Defensively, the Eagles held Warren to seven rushing yards and 90 total offensive yards. Grove City leads Mercer County in rushing defense, holding opponents to 0.6 yards per carry and 18.5 yards per game. Overall, opponents are averaging 113 yards per game against the Eagles defense under the direction of second-year coordinator Brad Trezona.
"I think one of the biggest keys in our first two wins would have to be the physicality that we are playing with on both sides of the ball right now," Grove City head coach Sam Mowrey said. "Offensively, we have won up front and on the perimeter.
"Defensively, I can't speak highly enough about them. Defense wins championships and in the first two weeks, we have been flying to the ball and gang tackling. Of course, there is always room to grow on both sides of the ball. But those are some things that have really stuck out to me through the first two weeks of the season."
Conneaut features senior slotback Bailey Kersnick, who ranks third in District 10 with 301 rushing yards. He ran for 163 yards against DuBois last week after posting 138 rushing yards a season-opening 55-6 win over Fairview. Junior quarterback Kyle Sheets added 72 rushing yards and two scores against DuBois. Sheets has thrown for 217 yards and rushed for 123 yards while directing Conneaut's spread offense.
"Conneaut has a tone of weapons," Mowrey said. "Their offense is well-balanced. They have shown that they can throw and when things break down, Sheets does a great job of extending plays with his legs. Their running backs have proven to be great downhill runners. They find creases and have had big games in their first two weeks."
Defensively, CASH uses a blitz-heavy 3-4 scheme. "They are extremely aggressive," Mowrey said. "They have pressure coming from everywhere and can really disrupt the timing and rhythm of an offense."
Conneaut has outscored its first two opponents 77-0 in the first half this year. Grove City has allowed nine total points, all in the second quarter.
Grove City rolled to a 48-6 win in Linesville last year as A.J. Turner scored six times for the Eagles. His final touchdown came on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Callahan in the third quarter.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Reynolds at Cambridge Springs, 7:00 p.m.
Reynolds steps out of conference play Friday night to visit Class 1A Cambridge Springs (2-0). The Raiders are looking to rebound from last week's 47-13 setback at Sharon while Cambridge Springs makes its final tuneup for the start of Region 1 play.
Cole Matthews and David King each scored on touchdown runs in the fourth quarter last week for Reynolds. King led the Raiders with 61 yards while Matthews added 56 rushing yards. Senior quarterback Dalton Daniello made his first start for Reynolds and completed his only pass attempt, an 18-yard completion to King.
Cambridge Springs blanked archrival Saegertown last week, 46-0, as junior quarterback Noah Reisenauer threw for 111 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Reisenauer also threw three touchdown passes in Spa's 47-13 win over Class 3A Titusville in Week One.
Last year, Reisenauer threw for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns while also rushing for 788 yards and nine touchdowns. In last year's meeting, a 32-30 Reynolds win in Transfer, Reisenauer threw for 424 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 139 yards as the Blue Devils finished with 660 yards.
Reynolds returns to Region 2 play in Week Four at Lakeview. This is the second of three straight road games for Reynolds. Cambridge Springs hosts Cochranton in both teams' Region 4 opener in Week Four.
Iroquois at West Middlesex, 7:00 p.m.
Following a pair of non-conference setbacks to local rivals Sharpsville and Wilmington to open the season, West Middlesex (0-2) looks to break through Friday night at home against Class 2A Iroquois.
Junior fullback Clayton Parrish leads West Middlesex with 97 rushing yards this season. Quarterback Marshall Murray is 4 for 13 passing while directing the Big Reds' ground-based offense. West Middlesex is minus-3 in turnover margin through the first two weeks.
Iroquois is playing its first road game of the season after splitting a pair of games at John Post Stadium to begin 2017. Iroquois fell to archrival Harbor Creek, 17-15, in Week One. However, the Braves rebounded for a 40-16 home win over Northwestern in the Region 3 opener for both teams.
The Braves' Wing-T offense amassed 364 rushing yards against Northwestern as two backs went over the 100-yard mark. Tarrell Clark ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns while Brandon Ashley added 109 yards and a score. Clark leads Iroquois with 299 rushing yards this year. Quarterback Mike Lasher is 3 of 8 for 29 yards in two games.
Iroquois earned a 29-12 home win over West Middlesex last season as the Braves forced four turnovers. Iroquois went on to complete a 9-0 regular season and reached the District 10 semifinals before falling to Sharpsville. Iroquois has won six straight road games and is 10-1 in its last 11 road games. This is Iroquois' first game in Mercer County since November 1, 2013, when the Braves dropped a 60-0 verdict at Lakeview.
West Middlesex will open Region 1 play at Farrell in Week Four. Iroquois returns to Region 3 play at Seneca.
Farrell at Carrick, 3:00 p.m. Saturday
Coming off a 65-0 win last week at North East, the 1-1 Farrell Steelers will now head south to Pittsburgh for a Saturday afternoon battle at Cupples Stadium against Carrick.
Farrell quarterback Isaac Clarke threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns on 12-of-15 passing last Friday night at North East. Jourdan Townsend caught five balls for 145 yards and two scores. He also returned a punt 70 yards for a score as Farrell led 50-0 at halftime.
Clarke leads Mercer County in passer rating (249.6 via NCAA formula) and is second locally in yards passing (439), completion percentage (65.5) and touchdown passes (5). Townsend leads the area with 211 receiving yards and 34 total points. Brandon Chambers leads Mercer County with 288 yards from scrimmage.
Carrick opened Pittsburgh City League last Thursday night with a 49-0 loss to Perry Traditional Academy at Cupples Stadium. In Week One, the Raiders fell to Brentwood, 32-8. Junior lineman Trevor Hazen leads the Raiders on both lines after earning All-City League honors in 2016.
Farrell rolled to a 61-6 home win over Carrick last season. Farrell outgained Carrick, 459-156, as Braxton Chapman ran for 344 yards.
This is Farrell's first regular-season game in Allegheny County since October 6, 2006, when the Steelers fell at Deer Lakes, 20-14. When Farrell hosted Carrick last year, it marked Farrell's first game against a Pittsburgh City League team since a 27-0 win over Peabody in 1959.