(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK SIX FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
The second half of the 2017 regular season officially begins Friday night as the 12 local teams will all play their sixth game of the season. After a Week Five that featured upsets, near upsets and numerous statistical highlights, the sixth week of the season has a tough act to follow. With four league games and three intriguing non-conference clashes on the week's seven-game card, it is possible that similar fireworks will be produced Friday night.
Grove City at Slippery Rock, 7:00 p.m.
One of the area's top rivalries will be renewed Friday night when Slippery Rock hosts Grove City. It is a series that dates back to 1976 but one that never really took off until Slippery Rock joined District 10 and the Keystone Football League in 1988.
Grove City will be playing its fourth road game in the first six weeks of the season. Playing away from Forker Field has not been an issue for the Eagles, who own an eight-game win streak on the road. Meanwhile, Slippery Rock is playing the second of three games in a midseason homestand.
Both teams boast strong defenses entering Friday night's game. Grove City leads Mercer County in rushing defense, allowing 41.6 yards per game. The Eagles rank second in the area in scoring defense (7.8 points per game) and third in total defense (169.8 yards per game). Slippery Rock has played five games against rugged Region 2 opposition and is allowing only 17.4 points and 234.6 yards per game.
Turnovers have plagued the Slippery Rock offense this season, however, as the Rockets are minus-9 in turnover ratio. Last Friday night, Slippery Rock held visiting Sharon to 207 offensive yards but five Slippery Rock turnovers helped Sharon earn a 24-7 win.
Offensively, Slippery Rock's power spread attack has produced four backs who have gained between 100 and 200 rushing yards this season. Junior Kaleb Kamerer leads Slippery Rock with 199 rushing yards, including a 5.7 yards per carry average. Hunter Prementine, who is also one of the area's top kick returners, has rushed for 180 yards while fullback Seth Slater has 157 yards. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Shaffer has added 101 rushing yards.
A first-year starter, Shaffer has thrown for 353 yards and four touchdowns, along with eight interceptions. Patrick Shea leads the team with eight catches for 154 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown reception against Mercer.
Second-year Slippery Rock head coach Larry Wendereusz spent the 1996 season as an assistant coach at Grove City under head coach Clair Altemus.
Like Slippery Rock, Grove City features a spread-based power running game. The Eagles rank second in the county with 295.4 yards per game. Senior fullback Trey Adams shares the county lead with 13 touchdowns this year and leads the team with 445 rushing yards. Meanwhile, junior slotback Logan Lutz has added 433 rushing yards and junior Tyler Greer has added 269 yards on 24 carries, an average of 11.2 yards per carry.
Grove City also has a first-year starter at quarterback as junior Brady Callahan has started the first five games this year. Callahan leads Mercer County in completion percentage (76.6) and ranks fourth with 606 passing yards. He has also rushed for 166 yards. Lutz and junior Carter Chinn share the team lead with 13 catches while Adams has caught 11 passes out of the backfield. Lutz leads the county with 569 yards from scrimmage.
Senior Qadir Muhammad caught a 22-yard touchdown pass and also returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown last week in Grove City's 47-12 Homecoming win over Oil City. He caught 27 passes last season.
Both teams return to conference play next week. Grove City hosts Region 5 foe DuBois while Slippery Rock wraps up its homestand against Region 2 opponent Lakeview.
Grove City's 47-6 win over Slippery Rock snapped a three-game series win streak for the Rockets. Adams ran for 125 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles. Grove City has won eight of the last 11 meetings and leads the all-time series 20-10. The teams have never alternated winners over a three-year period as it's been a series of win streaks for each team. The all-time series is below:
|2016||Grove City, 47-6|
|2015||Slippery Rock, 52-18|
|2014||Slippery Rock, 47-21|
|2013||Slippery Rock, 49-21|
|2012||Grove City, 34-14|
|2011||Grove City, 55-0|
|2010||Grove City, 45-16|
|2007||Grove City, 28-17|
|2006||Grove City, 21-13|
|2005||Grove City, 34-31 (2 OT)|
|2004||Grove City, 24-0|
|2003||Slippery Rock, 33-14|
|2002||Slippery Rock, 7-0|
|2001||Slippery Rock, 34-6|
|2000||Slippery Rock, 60-19|
|1999||Slippery Rock, 37-30|
|1998||Grove City, 41-13|
|1997||Grove City, 22-6|
|1996||Grove City, 13-6|
|1995||Grove City, 26-13|
|1994||Grove City, 22-20|
|1993||Grove City, 36-0|
|1992||Grove City, 34-0|
|1991||Grove City, 41-0|
|1990||Grove City, 13-12|
|1989||Slippery Rock, 21-9|
|1988||Slippery Rock, 27-8|
|1985||Grove City, 27-0|
|1977||Grove City, 7-0|
|1976||Grove City, 29-20|
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Greenville at Sharpsville, 7:00 p.m.
Sharpsville hosts Greenville at McCracken Field Friday night in Region 2 action. Sharpsville aims to snap a two-game slide while undefeated Greenville seeks its eighth consecutive regular season victory.
Sharpsville fell to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play last week with a 23-14 setback at Reynolds as six turnovers helped Sharpsville's 14-3 lead evaporate.
Injuries have afflicted Sharpsville in recent weeks as two-way linemen Tristan Stoner and Hunter Kos have both been sidelined, as has halfback/cornerback Cameron Prebble. Prebble accounted for 147 yards from scrimmage in the season opener against West Middlesex before leaving with a leg injury. All three missed last week's game at Reynolds.
With Prebble on the mend, senior Bobby Besser and junior Kobe Joseph have handled the bulk of the rushing chores in Sharpsville's Wing-T offense. Besser ran for 132 yards on 24 carries last week while Joseph added 96 yards on 10 attempts. Joseph opened the game's scoring with a 55-yard touchdown sprint.
Besser leads Sharpsville with 332 rushing yards and five touchdowns while Joseph has gained 291 yards. Besser leads the Blue Devils with nine receptions while five of Luke Levis's six catches have gone for touchdowns.
Greenville bolted to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter last Friday night in a 41-14 victory over visiting Lakeview. Junior fullback Brady Gentile opened the outburst with a 53-yard touchdown run while senior linebacker Cody Tumpak returned an interception for a touchdown. Michael Blaney caught touchdown passes of 30 and 60 yards, respectively, from Nate Bell to push Greenville's lead to 35-0 by halftime.
The Trojans may be without leading rusher Canyon Eells (460 yards), who left last week's game with injury. Eells is also Greenville's kicker and leads the team with 55 points. Sophomore Justin Stuyvesant handled extra points after Eells's departure last week. Gentile ranks second on the team with 336 rushing yards, 11th-best in Mercer County. He likely would take on an increased role in Greenville's rushing attack if Eells cannot go.
Defensively, Greenville has allowed a county-high 782 passing yards this year. However, Greenville also has nine interceptions as the Trojans defense has faced more pass attempts than any other Mercer County unit. Sharpsville quarterback Nick Alexander will present a challenge for Greenville as he averages 11.3 yards per attempt this year.
Sharpsville scored the final 26 points of last year's meeting in Greenville as the Blue Devils prevailed 33-14. Marquis Altman returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Joseph ran for 112 yards and Besser added 67 yards. Bell left the game due to injury for Greenville and did not return.
Sharpsville and Greenville competed against each other in the Northwest Conference from 1971 to 1981. Sharpsville began play in the Mercer County-centric Keystone Football League in 1982. The KFL morphed into the Mercer County Athletic Conference in 1989. Greenville joined the MCAC in 2002 but this is the first cycle that Sharpsville and Greenville have been in the same enrollment classification since then.
Sharpsville prevailed 34-13 at McCracken Field two years ago. Greenville won the 2014 meeting, 42-27, in the final game on grass at Stewart Field.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.
Reynolds at Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Wilmington (5-0, 4-0) hosts Reynolds (2-3, 2-2) Friday night in Region 2 action. Wilmington has blanked four straight opponents while Reynolds used an opportunistic defense last week in recording its second straight victory.
Wilmington shut out visiting Mercer last week, 69-0, in New Wilmington as the "Hounds Hammer" defense limited Mercer to 61 offensive yards on 40 plays. Wilmington has not allowed a point in 18 quarters and has yielded an average of only 100.4 offensive yards per game.
The Wilmington defense opened the scoring last week as Cameron Marett returned a fumble 24 yards for a touchdown. That marked Wilmington's fourth defensive touchdown of the season. Offensively, Wilmington produced a trio of 100-yard rushers in Bryson Verrelli (117), Jack Patton (102) and Zac Commesso (100). Patton scored three times while Verrelli reached the end zone twice.
Verrelli (424 yards) and Patton (337 yards) have each rushed for seven touchdowns while Marett has a team-high eight touchdown runs, along with 257 rushing yards. Tight end Colton Marett leads Wilmington with seven receptions for 142 yards.
Reynolds earned its first win over Sharpsville since 1995 last week by rallying for a 23-14 win. Junior defensive end Chance Westover returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter while senior safety Mason Wilkerson put Reynolds ahead 16-14 in the fourth quarter with a 75-yard fumble return to the end zone. The returns marked Reynolds' first defensive touchdown since Joel Leise's 60-yard interception return for a touchdown at Mercer October 7, 2016.
Overall, Reynolds forced six turnovers after having produced three takeaways over the first four games of 2017. After allowing Sharpsville touchdowns on its first two possessions of the game, Reynolds held Sharpsville to 139 yards on 38 plays the rest of the game.
Senior halfback Austin Carrera paced Reynolds with 102 rushing yards, including a 32-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left that sealed the victory. Carrera has moved back to the top of Mercer County with 511 rushing yards this season. He is the lone county back to average 100 yards or more per game this season. Reynolds quarterbacks have posted the second-lowest interception rate in the county this year, having been picked off just twice in 68 pass attempts this season.
Wilmington has won 15 straight regular season meetings in the series, including a 35-6 win last season. Reynolds' last regular season win against Wilmington came in Week Nine of the 2001 season, 7-6, in a snowstorm. Reynolds did blank Wilmington, 21-0, in the 2005 District 10 Class AA title game.
Lakeview at Hickory, 7:00 p.m.
Two teams in need of a victory will clash Friday night in Hermitage as Hickory hosts Lakeview in Region 2 play. It's a rare home game for Hickory, which played four of its first five games on the road this season.
Hickory fell to 2-3 overall last week with a 28-13 setback at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh. Junior quarterback Hayden Gallagher completed 16 of 30 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Will Gruber hauled in 10 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown while Darren Mitchell also pulled in a touchdown catch. Gruber's 10 catches are the most in a game by a Mercer County player this season. His 22 catches are second-most in the county.
However, Westinghouse held Hickory to 22 rushing yards on 23 attempts. In Hickory's two wins this year, the Hornets have rushed for 568 combined yards. In Hickory's three defeats, the Hornets have rushed for 143 total yards on 89 combined attempts. Turnovers have also haunted Hickory over the last two weeks as the Hornets have had eight giveaways. Overall, Hickory has 10 turnovers in five games this year after committing 10 turnovers in 13 games last year.
Defensively, Hickory (2-2 conference) is the only Mercer County team to not allow a passing touchdown this season. The Hornet defense has also secured 11 turnovers. Hickory ranks fifth in fewest yards per play allowed (4.7) in the county.
Lakeview fell to 0-5 overall and in Region 2 last Friday night with a 41-14 defeat at Greenville. Garrett Gadsby and Logan McFadden both scored on touchdown runs for the Sailors, who finished with 123 rushing yards as a team. Gadsby led the way with 74 yards and McFadden contributed 49 yards.
Gadsby ran for 145 yards last year against Hickory but the Hornets earned a 40-8 win in Stoneboro.
Hickory has won 12 straight home games. The Hornets last lost three consecutive games in 2008, when Hickory had a five game-slide from September 6 to October 10 that season.
Sharon at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
Sharon continues its four-game road trip Friday night with a trip to Mercer in Region 2 play. Sharon (3-2, 3-2) is coming off consecutive wins over Class 3A brethren Hickory and Slippery Rock while Mercer aims for its second win of 2017.
Last Friday night at Slippery Rock, the Sharon defense forced five turnovers in helping lift Sharon to a 24-7 victory. Offensively, sophomore quarterback Lane Voytik threw touchdown passes to Ziyon Strickland and James McKinney while Jordan Wilson's eight-yard touchdown run in the first quarter opened the scoring. Senior kicker Aaron Nichols drilled a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give Sharon a 17-7 lead.
Sharon featured near-perfect balance in terms of yardage and plays last week. The Tigers had 107 rushing yards on 21 attempts and 100 passing yards as Voytik went 6 for 20. Wilson led the ground game with 72 rushing yards on nine carries while junior tight end Frank Shaffer caught three balls for 20 yards.
Strickland leads Mercer County with 25 catches. He needs 27 yards to become District 10's all-time leader in receiving yards. Franklin's Kahlil West owns the mark with 3,201 yards.
Mercer's option offense will look to take advantage of a Sharon defense that is allowing 4.5 yards per carry this season. Fullback Jimmy Amon ranks second in the county with 483 rushing yards while his 97 attempts are the most in the area. Halfback P.J. Boggs has emerged in recent weeks, picking up 93 rushing yards over the last two weeks. He's second on the team with 126 yards on the season.
Defensively, Sharon leads Mercer County with 11 interceptions as a team. The Tigers have not allowed a point in the first quarter this season. Mercer has one touchdown in the first quarter. Sharon won last year's meeting at Sharon Tiger Stadium, 42-0. Wilson ran for 101 yards on eight attempts to help lead Sharon to the victory.
Mercer's last win over Sharon came September 20, 2003 as the Mustangs rallied late for a 14-7 win. That game, like many others on that weekend, was moved to Saturday the 20th due to bad weather forecasted from Hurricane Isabel. It is believed to the Mercer's only all-time win over Sharon.
Farrell at Meadville, 7:00 p.m.
It's been 50 years since Meadville hosted Farrell on the gridiron. In 1967, Farrell rolled to a 36-0 win over Meadville. Friday night, the Steelers will look for similar success in their quest to extend their four-game win streak when they visit Class 5A Meadville at Bender Field.
Farrell executed only 20 offensive plays but still pulled out a 48-36 home win over Region 1 foe Union City last Friday night, thanks in part to four non-offensive touchdowns. Farrell trailed 36-34 late in the fourth quarter until Jourdan Townsend's 56-yard touchdown reception from Isaac Clarke gave the Steelers the lead for good. Townsend then clinched the win moments later with a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Townsend also returned a kickoff 62 yards for a touchdown and Christian Lewis tallied a 65-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Elijah Harper returned a Union City fumble 44 yards for a score. Still, Farrell's defense allowed run-oriented Union City to execute 75 offensive plays.
Farrell leads Mercer County in scoring offense (51.8) and passing yards per game (200.4). The Steelers are the only team not to be intercepted this season. Clarke is 42 of 56 for 931 yards and 13 touchdowns. He leads the area in passing yards and touchdowns. Townsend leads District 10 with 564 receiving yards. He has 22 catches and is averaging 25.6 yards per reception.
Townsend leads Mercer County with 84 total points and four non-offensive touchdowns.
Meadville fell to 3-2 overall last week with a 24-14 loss to Crawford County rival Conneaut in Region 5 play. Fullback Isaiah Manning ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Manning leads District 10 with 896 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He racked up 321 yards and five scores on 21 carries September 16 in a 55-21 win at DuBois. Manning is the centerpiece of Meadville's Wing-T offense.
While it's been five decades since Farrell played a road game against Meadville, the Steelers' last trip to Bender Field came two years ago in the District 10 Class A playoffs. Farrell earned a 40-21 win November 20, 2015 over Cambridge Springs in the semifinal round.
Meadville won last year's meeting, 47-16, at Paulekas Stadium in Farrell. In Week 7, Meadville will visit Franklin in Region 5 play. Farrell hosts another Class 5A team, Fort LeBoeuf, next week.
West Middlesex at Mercyhurst Prep, 7:00 p.m.
West Middlesex leaves Mercer County for the first time this season to face undefeated Class 3A Mercyhurst Prep at Erie's Veterans Stadium. It's a rematch of last year's Week Five battle won by West Middlesex, 14-0, at home.
Last Friday night, West Middlesex led undefeated Cambridge Springs 14-13 in the second quarter before dropping a 33-14 decision. Fullback Clayton Parrish ran for 142 yards and the game's first touchdown while Logan Hurley caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Marshall Murray.
Parrish has moved up to sixth in the county in rushing yardage with 427 yards. Turnovers have hindered the Big Reds, who have turned over the ball a county-high 13 times this year.
Mercyhurst blasted winless Girard last week, 70-0. Junior running back Zack Helsley ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns while 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end Chris Mottillo had three catches for 60 yards and a score.
Helsley leads Mercyhurst with 831 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He had 1,357 yards last year and 935 yards as a freshman, giving him 3,137 career yards. Six of Mottillo's nine catches have been touchdowns.
Senior linebacker Jesse Luketa leads the Mercyhurst defense. A Penn State commit, the 6-3, 240-pound Luketa is a four-star recruit and is considered the No. 7 high school prospect in Pennsylvania by ESPN. He's the sixth-ranked outside linebacker in the country, according to ESPN. Luketa chose Penn State over offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, seven Southeastern Conference programs, UCLA and Baylor, among others.
Mercyhurst has won its five games by a combined 255-21. Those five wins have come against teams with a combined 5-20 record, however.
Last year, Parrish ran for 211 yards and two touchdowns against Mercyhurst, including an 89-yard touchdown run. The Big Reds held Mercyhurst to minus-20 rushing yards and only 15 minutes of possession time. The teams combined to go 1 for 21 on third down.
West Middlesex will visit Region 1 opponent Cochranton in Week 7 while Mercyhurst visits Fairview in a Region 4 tussle.