(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK FOUR FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
The middle portion of the 2017 season begins Friday night as 11 of the area's 12 teams will be playing region games. All seven games, including the Greenville at Conneaut game, have direct or potential implications for conference titles and/or the playoffs.
Region 1 play finally begins as Farrell hosts West Middlesex in Class 1A. Meanwhile, 3-0 Sharpsville hosts 3-0 Wilmington with a share of first place in Region 2 at stake while a few miles south, Sharon hosts Hickory in a pivotal Class 3A game within Region 2.
Wilmington at Sharpsville, 7:00 p.m.
Two of the county's four undefeated teams will meet at McCracken Field when Sharpsville hosts Wilmington. The winner will be tied for first place with Greenville (3-0 Region 2) in the league.
Sharpsville features Mercer County's top offense as the Blue Devils' Wing-T attack averages 419.3 yards per game. Sharpsville also averages 46.7 points per game, third-best in the county. Sharpsville also leads the area in yards per carry (8.7). Meanwhile, Wilmington has surrendered seven points this season in three games, posting two shutouts. The "Hounds Hammer" defense is holding opponents to 50 rushing yards per game and a 1.4 yards per carry average.
Both teams are coming off one-sided home wins last week in Region 2 play. Sharpsville charged out to a 42-0 lead against Mercer on its way to a 42-21 victory at McCracken Field. Kobe Joseph returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown while junior quarterback Nick Alexander threw touchdown passes of 63 and 61 yards, respectively, to Luke Levis and Joe Bornes.
Alexander finished 4 of 5 for 172 yards. He leads the county in yards per completion (26.3) and ranks second in yards per attempt (16.0) and pass efficiency (253.7). His 447 passing yards are third-most in Mercer County. Senior halfback Bobby Besser leads Sharpsville in rushing (201 yards), receptions (7), receiving yards (144) and total touchdowns (5).
Wilmington scored 55 first-half points last week in a 74-0 victory over Lakeview. Junior Cameron Marett returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown, scored on a 71-yard punt return and added a 41-yard touchdown run. He ranks second in the area with eight total touchdowns. Bryson Verrelli ran for two touchdowns and also caught a 34-yard touchdown strike from Robert Pontius.
Defensively, Wilmington limited Lakeview to 96 offensive yards. Wilmington has allowed 343 total yards this season. Six individual players in the county have accumulated more than 343 yards from scrimmage this season.
Sharpsville has outscored its opponents 50-0 in the first quarter while Wilmington owns a 48-0 edge over the first 12 minutes of games this season. Wilmington has won five straight games on grass. Sharpsville is 32-4 in its last 36 home games.
Friday's game is a rematch of last year's District 10 Class 2A championship game in which Wilmington stormed to a 56-7 triumph. Wilmington also won last year's regular season meeting, 63-21, in New Wilmington. Both teams entered that game 3-0.
Sharpsville won the last meeting at McCracken Field, 42-7, in 2015. 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 five seasons ago.
Wilmington's last win at McCracken Field came September 27, 1996 when the 'Hounds earned a 35-0 win behind three Sam Koi touchdown runs. That year, Wilmington blanked its first eight opponents, leading to then-Herald sports editor Jeff Greenburg to anoint the Wilmington defense as the "Hounds Hammer." Wilmington also won at Sharpsville October 28, 1995.
Twenty years ago, the teams met in a non-conference game in Week Five, with both teams owning 4-0 records. Class AA Wilmington pulled out a 13-7 victory over Class A Sharpsville. Wilmington won the District 10 title and advanced to the state semifinals. Sharpsville rebounded to win first the District 10 title and then the PIAA crown in December 1997.
Sharpsville head coach Paul Piccirilli (196-64) is the father-in-law of Wilmington defensive coordinator Brandon Phillian.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Hickory at Sharon, 7:00 p.m.
Like the Sharpsville-Wilmington game, this is a rematch of a 2016 District 10 championship game. Unlike Sharpsville-Wilmington, the Hickory-Sharon series has an extended history as Friday night's meeting will the 51st all-time clash. Sharon leads the all-time series 37-12-1 but Hickory has won seven of the last eight meetings. Last year, Hickory swept the two meetings by winning 42-14 in the regular season, then claiming a 45-13 win in the District 10 3A championship game.
In both of last year's victories, Hickory won the turnover battle with Sharon and that recipe has continued to benefit the Hornets in 2017. Hickory has forced a county-high nine turnovers this season and is plus-6 in turnover margin. Last week, Hickory (2-1, 2-1) forced four Slippery Rock turnovers in a 27-0 home triumph at Hornet Stadium. The Hornets did yield 182 rushing yards but still recorded their first shutout since Week 2 of the 2016 season.
Offensively, seven ballcarriers combined for 235 rushing yards against Slippery Rock. Junior Simeon McKinley ran for 71 yards on 12 carries while Vincent Tarver added 46 yards on six carries. Both players scored touchdowns in the win. McKinley leads Hickory with 182 yards while the emerging Tarver has 118 yards and a team-high three rushing touchdowns in 2017. Tarver, a sophomore, is averaging 9.1 yards per carry.
Junior quarterback Hayden Gallagher threw for 122 yards against Slippery Rock. He ranks third in the county in pass efficiency rating (162.1) and fourth in yardage (381). Hickory is one of two teams in the county (along with Sharpsville) to average over 125 passing yards and 200 rushing yards per game this season.
Kicker Sam Scarton drilled field goals of 29 and 23 yards, respectively, in the second quarter. He leads Mercer County kickers with 23 points and three field goals.
Sharon (1-2, 1-2) fell last Friday night at Greenville, 21-14. The Sharon defense forced three turnovers and sophomore quarterback Lane Voytik threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-23 accuracy. However, Sharon also turned over the ball three times and Greenville limited Sharon to two net rushing yards.
Senior wide receiver Ziyon Strickland became District 10's all-time leader in receptions as he hauled in six passes for 39 yards. Junior tight end Frank Shaffer added four receptions for a team-high 50 yards. James McKinney and C.J. Parchman both caught touchdown passes.
Strickland has 177 career receptions for 3,089 yards. He needs 113 yards to pass Franklin's Kahlil West as D-10's all-time leader in receiving yards. Strickland already owns the district record for touchdown catches with 38. Strickland leads the county with 21 receptions while Shaffer's 12 catches rank third. Sharon is the only county team to have two players with 10 or more catches.
Jordan Wilson leads Sharon with 210 yards rushing. Sharon ranks 12th out of 12 teams in the area in rushing offense, averaging 59.7 yards per game, as quarterback sack yardage is deducted from rushing totals in high school and college. Voytik leads the county in completions (52) and attempts (80). He ranks second with 640 passing yards and eight touchdown passes.
Hickory held Sharon to 20 net rushing yards in last year's District 10 title game. Gallagher threw three touchdown passes, including two to current senior Will Gruber. Then-junior fullback Nate Marchand added a 12-yard touchdown run to close Hickory's scoring in the fourth quarter. Voytik came on in relief last year and threw a 34-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
This is Sharon's lone home game in a six-week span. The Tigers begin a four-game road trip next Friday night at Class 3A Slippery Rock. Due to the unorthodox schedule, Friday night's game is Homecoming for Sharon. Hickory will play its fourth road game in five weeks next Friday night at Pittsburgh City League foe Westinghouse.
The game will be heard on 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.
West Middlesex at Farrell, 7:00 p.m.
Another District 10 championship game rematch will be held Friday night as defending D-10 Class 1A champion Farrell hosts D-10 runner-up West Middlesex in the Region 1 opener at Paulekas Stadium.
Farrell (2-1) enters Friday's conference opener on a two-game win streak as the Steelers have racked up lopsided road wins at North East (65-0) and Carrick (62-0) over the last two weeks. Last Saturday afternoon, senior quarterback Isaac Clarke completed 8 of 9 passes for 234 yards and five touchdowns at Carrick. Junior wide receiver Jourdan Townsend caught four passes for 153 yards with all four catches going for touchdowns. Senior Brandon Chambers also caught four passes in the victory, gaining 71 yards and scoring a touchdown.
Christian Lewis led Farrell with 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Townsend leads Mercer County with 364 receiving yards. Seven of his 14 catches have gone for touchdowns. He leads the county with nine total touchdowns and 58 points. Clarke is the area's top passer in yardage (673), touchdown passes (10) and efficiency rating (306.7).
While Farrell leads Mercer County with 153 points scored this year, West Middlesex has managed just one touchdown through the first three weeks this season. The Big Reds have faced a rugged non-conference schedule with games against undefeated Sharpsville, undefeated Wilmington and 2-1 Iroquois. Last week, visiting Iroquois downed West Middlesex, 28-7.
West Middlesex broke through in the fourth quarter when Marshall Murray fired a 53-yard touchdown pass to Kaz Hoffman. Junior fullback Clayton Parrish ran for 141 yards on 24 carries, his best outing of the season.
This is the first game in which West Middlesex's defense will not be going against a Wing-T offense.
Last season, the teams met in Week Four at West Middlesex with the teams boasting the same records they do this year. Farrell led 14-0 in the second quarter before West Middlesex charged back for a 21-14 win. Dustin Murray's 20-yard touchdown catch from Josh Porterfield with five seconds left game the Big Reds the win.
Parrish ran for 204 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. Lewis opened Farrell's scoring with a 61-yard touchdown run in the first quarter while Townsend -- who played his freshman year at West Middlesex -- snagged a 31-yard touchdown pass from Kyi Wright. Wright remains sidelined this season due to knee surgery.
Farrell rebounded for a 22-12 win over West Middlesex in the District 10 Class 1A title game. Two long James Jackson kickoff returns set up a pair of Farrell touchdowns. West Middlesex outgained Farrell, 235-164, but the two long returns and three turnovers hampered West Middlesex.
West Middlesex has won six of the last eight meetings. 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.
Grove City at Franklin, 7:00 p.m.
The 3-0 Grove City Eagles visit Region 5 foe Franklin Friday night in the renewal of a series that dates back to a 23-11 Franklin win in 1909. Grove City opened its home schedule last Friday with a 28-12 home win over conference rival Conneaut at Forker Field.
While Grove City has been known for a potent passing game in recent years, the Eagles have emerged as a dominant team on the ground in 2017. Grove City charged through the Conneaut defense for 330 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Junior Logan Lutz ran for 144 yards while senior fullback Trey Adams added 75 yards and three touchdowns. Junior quarterback Brady Callahan added 94 yards and a score.
Callahan leads Mercer County with a 78.4 completion percentage, having completed 29 of 37 attempts this year. He went 7 for 10 last week. Junior tight end Carter Chinn caught a team-high five passes, including an eight-yard catch on fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Grove City held Conneaut to 58 rushing yards. Lutz and senior safety Qadir Muhammad both intercepted passes while Muhammad also recovered a fumble.
Lutz leads Mercer County with 418 yards from scrimmage. His 348 rushing yards places him third in the county while his nine receptions are fourth-best in the county. Chinn is tied for fifth in the county with eight total catches. Grove City leads the county in rushing offense, averaging 317.3 yards per game. The Eagles lead the county in rushing attempts (158) and total offensive plays (200).
Grove City owns Mercer County's top rushing defense, allowing only 31.7 yards per game and 1.1 yards per carry. Grove City's first three opponents have been held to 95 yards on 85 attempts.
Franklin fell to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference with a 44-34 home loss to Warren last Friday night. Brenden Gorden led Franklin with 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns, helping the Knights rush for 268 yards as a team. Sophomore quarterback Ian Haynes completed 11 of 33 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. He is the son of head coach Tom Haynes.
Warren chewed up 571 yards of total offense against Franklin, including 432 rushing yards. In Franklin's 44-38 win over Oil City in Week Two, Franklin yielded 480 offensive yards. Franklin opened the season with a 24-16 loss at Brashear.
Ian Haynes has thrown for 633 yards this year. He threw for 1,576 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman last year. Gorden leads the Knights with 294 rushing yards.
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). Franklin's last home win in the series came in 1988, 25-6. In 2010, Franklin came to Grove City for a matchup of 2-0 squads but Grove City ambushed the Knights, 91-12. Grove City has never lost a Region 5 game on the road.
Grove City native Bob Thorn coached Franklin in the 1916 and 1919 seasons. His last game as Franklin coach ended in a forfeit loss to Oil City. According to The News-Herald, Thorn complained about the crowd surging onto the field at Oil City's West End Grounds. The crowd for that game was described as twice as large as a normal crowd. Franklin led 6-0 in the second half before the game was halted.
Thorn returned to Grove City in 1920 as athletic director and multiple-sport coach at Grove City College. The football/track/lacrosse facility at Grove City College is named Robert E. Thorn Field.
Slippery Rock at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
Slippery Rock makes its first trip to Mercer in 12 seasons Friday night as a pair of 1-2 squads meet in Region 2 play. Both teams are looking to snap two-game losing streaks after pulling out narrow road wins in Week One.
Turnovers have plagued both teams this season as each squad has committed seven turnovers this year. Last week, Slippery Rock dropped a 27-0 decision at Hickory as four giveaways helped foil Slippery Rock's upset attempt. After being held in check over the first two weeks of the season, senior Seth Slater ran for 107 yards on 17 carries last week for the Rockets.
Slater leads Slippery Rock with 135 rushing yards while Hunter Prementine has added 101 rushing yards. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Shaffer has thrown for 142 yards this season but has been intercepted five times. Junior Vito Pelosi has also seen time at quarterback for Slippery Rock.
Mercer features Mercer County's leading rusher in senior fullback Jimmy Amon. The 230-pound Amon has gained 376 yards this season. He leads Mercer with four touchdowns and is coming off a 108-yard effort in a 42-21 defeat at Sharpsville last week.
Slippery Rock earned a 35-0 home win in last year's meeting, which marked the first time the teams had played since 2005. Slater caught a 26-yard touchdown pass and also returned a fumble 35 yards for a score. Slippery Rock held Mercer to four rushing yards and 32 total offensive yards.
Slippery Rock won the last meeting at Mercer, 21-7. 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, and Shenango. Mercer head coach Pat McClearn served as an assistant coach at Slippery Rock under former head coach Clyde Conti.
Reynolds at Lakeview, 7:00 p.m.
Reynolds concludes a three-game road trip Friday night in Stoneboro as the Raiders visit Lakeview. Each team is looking to break into the win column for the first time this season.
Reynolds stepped out of Region 2 play last week and dropped a 30-12 decision at Class 1A power Cambridge Springs. Reynolds trailed 13-0 in the second quarter but pulled to within 20-12 on Austin Carrera's five-yard touchdown run in the third period. Cambridge Springs sewed up the win in the fourth quarter with a field goal and a defensive touchdown, however.
Sophomore Bryce McCloskey saw the bulk of the action at quarterback for Reynolds, completing 8 of 16 passes for 39 yards in his first extensive varsity action. Senior Dalton Daniello went 2 for 2 for 12 yards at Cambridge Springs. Both quarterbacks are filling in for injured starter Tylir Shannon, who has missed the last two weeks due to an injury suffered late in the season opener against Slippery Rock.
The Reynolds defense held Cambridge Springs' explosive offense to 243 yards of total offense. The Raiders have forced only two turnovers this year, the second-lowest figure in the area. However, Reynolds has committed just three turnovers, which is second-best in Mercer County.
Carrera ranks fourth in the county with 280 rushing yards.
Lakeview opened its road schedule last week with a 74-0 loss at Wilmington. The Sailors trailed 34-0 after the first period. Senior fullback Mitch Hansen leads Lakeview with 223 yards, which ranks his seventh in Mercer County.
Reynolds scored 50 second-half points in last year's meeting on its way to a 64-16 home win over Lakeview. Matt Gosser helped highlight the outburst with a 75-yard interception return for touchdown.
Lakeview won the last meeting in Stoneboro, 30-29, two years ago. The Sailors secured a 33-26 win at Reynolds in 2014. Lakeview will begin a three-game road trip after this week's game.
Greenville at Conneaut (Pa.), 7:00 p.m.
Coming off a 21-14 home win over Region 2 rival Sharon last Friday night, undefeated Greenville now makes its first-ever trip to Conneaut in non-conference action. Greenville's defense forced three turnovers, held Sharon to two rushing yards and received three sacks from senior defensive end Yosuke Sugano last week.
Halfback Canyon Eells led Greenville's ground game with 166 yards and a touchdown while fullback Brady Gentile added 62 yards and a score on 18 attempts. Quarterback Nate Bell also scored on a six-yard run in the third quarter, pushing Greenville's lead to 13-0.
Eells ranks second in the county with 368 rushing yards while Gentile ranks 10th with 200 yards. Greenville and Grove City are the only two county teams with two rushers in the area's top 10. Michael Blaney ranks fifth in the county with eight receptions. Eells is the only player in the county with a touchdown and a field goal this year.
Greenville is one of two local teams (Wilmington) to not allow a rushing touchdown this season.
Conneaut fell to 2-1 last week with a 28-12 loss at Grove City in Region 5 play. Conneaut ran for just 58 yards and turned over the ball three times at Grove City. Conneaut trailed 14-0 at halftime before closing to within 14-12 in the third quarter. However, CASH allowed Grove City to own possession for nearly nine minutes in the final quarter.
Senior Bailey Kersnick leads Conneaut with 338 rushing yards. He went over the 100-yard mark in Conneaut's wins over Fairview and DuBois but managed only 37 yards at Grove City. Junior quarterback Kyle Sheets, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, has thrown for 358 yards and rushed for an additional 149 yards.
This game could factor into a playoff tiebreaker situation for Greenville. The Trojans still must play both Wilmington and Sharpsville, the two other top Class 2A teams in Region 2. Should the teams all go 1-1 against each other, Greenville owning a win over Class 5A Conneaut would be very beneficial when compared to Wilmington and Sharpsville's respective non-conference wins over Class 1A West Middlesex.
All-time, Conneaut is 19-3 in non-conference regular season games, including a 9-0 record at home. This is the sixth season of Conneaut High School football after the consolidation of Linesville, Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Valley High Schools.