(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK EIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
Playoff positioning and region titles are at stake this weekend as the area's 12 local teams enter the eighth week of the 2017 season. Nine of the 12 teams are in conference action. Seven of this week's eight games will be played Friday night while West Middlesex hosts Carey (Ohio) in a non-conference clash Saturday night.
Hickory at Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.
It's a clash of defending District 10 champions Friday night when undefeated Wilmington (7-0, 6-0) hosts Hickory (4-3, 4-2) in Region 2 play. Wilmington, the defending D-10 champion and state semifinalist in Class 2A, will clinch the region title with a win. Six-time defending district champion Hickory (Class 3A) can keep its hopes for a share of the region title alive with a win in New Wilmington.
Wilmington nearly suffered its first loss of the season last Friday night at Greenville as the Greyhounds trailed 6-0 late in the fourth quarter. However, junior quarterback Robert Pontius completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to junior halfback Cameron Marett with 2:36 remaining. Pontius then helped seal the win with a 31-yard touchdown run after Greenville had turned over the ball on downs.
Defensively, Wilmington's streak of not allowing touchdown ended after 23 quarters at Greenville. Still, Wilmington held Greenville to six first downs while also forcing three turnovers. Marett intercepted two passes.
Wilmington allowed a season-high 3.8 yards per play against Greenville. Aside from Wilmington (2.4), only Grove City (3.0) is allowing fewer than 3.8 yards per play for the season. Wilmington leads the county in scoring defense (2.3), total defense (112.4 yards per game) and defensive pass efficiency rating (52.5 via NCAA formula). The "Hounds Hammer" has also recorded a county-best 13 interceptions. Additionally, Wilmington is holding opponents to 1.7 yards per rushing attempt.
Offensively, Wilmington owns Mercer County's top rushing attack as the Greyhounds have rushed for 270.0 yards per game, along with 35 touchdowns on the ground. Senior halfback Bryson Verrelli paces Wilmington with 494 yards, which ranks ninth in the county. Marett has 430 yards and 10 touchdowns while senior fullback Jack Patton has contributed 376 yards and eight touchdowns.
While Wilmington has been run-oriented throughout the season, Hickory's passing game has emerged as one the area's most proficient. Junior quarterback Hayden Gallagher leads the area with 1,300 passing yards. He also leads Mercer County in individual total offense with 1,473 yards.
His 68-yard touchdown pass to Darren Mitchell on a flea-flicker opened Hickory's scoring last Friday night in a 30-14 home win over Sharpsville. Mitchell leads Hickory with six touchdown receptions and a 25.2 yards per reception average. He ranks second in the county in yards per catch.
With top target Will Gruber (22 catches) sidelined by injury, Mitchell and Michael Filardi have emerged in the passing game. Filardi has caught 17 passes for 303 yards while Mitchell has 14 grabs for 353 yards. Fullback Nate Marchand has added 10 catches out of the backfield.
Marchand returned a kickoff 72 yards for a touchdown and added a nine-yard touchdown run against Sharpsville. That touchdown run proved to be a highlight for the Hickory rushing attack, which has been held in check in recent weeks. Hickory has averaged only 75 rushing yards per game over the last four weeks.
Defensively, Hickory remains the only area team to not allow a passing touchdown this season.
Hickory earned a 28-20 home win last year as the Hornets rallied from an early 14-0 deficit. Gallagher replaced the injured Luke Brennan at quarterback in the second quarter and completed 4 of 7 passes for 48 yards. Gruber caught seven passes for 55 yards. Verrelli caught seven passes for 81 yards while Marett ran for a team-high 66 yards on eight carries. Wilmington center Matty Jamison closed the scoring when he caught a tipped pass at the Hickory 5 and ran into the end zone with five seconds remaining.
Hickory has won six of the last eight meetings in the series. Hickory won the first meeting between the teams as Mercer County Athletic Conference foes in 1994, 19-7, at Wilmington. Wilmington won the next year, 14-6, which began an eight-year win streak in the series for the Greyhounds. Hickory won the 2003 meeting, 19-0, but Wilmington strung together five more consecutive wins over the Hornets. In 2009, Hickory pulled out a 21-14 win at Wilmington.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Greenville at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
The 51st renewal of one of the area's fiercest rivalries will be played Friday night in Transfer when surging Reynolds hosts Greenville. It's the first time that the game will be played at Reynolds since 2011, however, as Greenville hosted the 2012 and 2016 meetings. From 2013 to 2015, the teams met at Thiel College.
Greenville has won 18 of the last 19 meetings and owns a 32-16-2 advantage in the all-time series, which dates to 1965. Entering Friday night, Reynolds (3-4, 3-3) has won three of its last four games while Greenville (5-2, 4-2) has dropped consecutive games after opening 5-0.
In Reynolds' three victories, the Raiders have forced 10 turnovers. Reynolds intercepted three passes last Friday night in its 54-0 Homecoming win over Mercer. Tyler Gill returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, marking Reynolds' third defensive touchdown in the last three weeks. Overall, Reynolds limited Mercer to 84 offensive yards last week.
Meanwhile, Reynolds amassed 373 rushing yards as five backs gained at least 57 yards. Senior halfback Austin Carrera led Reynolds with 98 yards and three touchdowns on five carries. Quarterbacks Tylir Shannon and Dalton Daniello ran for 66 and 62 yards, respectively, with each scoring a touchdown.
Carrera ranks third in the county with 637 rushing yards. He is averaging 6.2 yards per attempt this year. Reynolds owns Mercer County's No. 3-ranked rushing attack as the Raiders average 201.9 yards per game.
Greenville dropped to 5-2 last week after its upset bid of Wilmington fizzled in the closing moments. Greenville yielded only 201 yards to Wilmington's explosive offense. Overall, Greenville holds opponents to an average of 107 rushing yards, the third-lowest figure in the area. Middle linebacker Adonis Scriven leads Greenville with 100 tackles while defensive end Yosuke Sugano has 10 of the Trojans' 17 quarterback sacks.
Last week against Wilmington, Greenville used both Scriven and Sugano as blocking backs for junior Brady Gentile, who has taken over for the injured Canyon Eells as Greenville's featured back. Gentile has rushed for 384 yards in 2017. He also has 10 catches, which ranks second on the team.
Senior Michael Blaney caught five passes for 61 yards against Wilmington and leads the Trojans with 22 receptions for 416 yards. He is fourth in the area in catches and fifth in receiving yards.
Greenville won last year's meeting at home, 27-0, as the Trojans scored 20 points in the second half. Quarterback Nate Bell completed 10 of 14 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Slippery Rock at Sharpsville, 7:00 p.m.
A pair of teams with 3-3 Region 2 records will meet Friday night at McCracken Field when Sharpsville closes its home schedule against Slippery Rock. Slippery Rock closed a three-game homestand last Friday night with a 54-14 win over visiting Lakeview while Sharpsville fell at neighboring Hickory, 30-14.
The Slippery Rock offense, which had been held to 261 combined yards in back-to-back setbacks against Sharon and Grove City, broke through for a season-high 392 offensive yards against Lakeview. Slippery Rock's power spread offense ran for 381 yards, led by a career-high 143 rushing yards from sophomore Nathan Hyatt. Hyatt and senior Seth Slater both ran for a pair of touchdowns.
Slater leads a balanced rushing attack with 268 yards. Junior Kaleb Kamerer had rushed for 263 yards and senior Hunter Prementine has added 240 rushing yards for the Rockets. Defensively, Slippery Rock is holding opponents to 242 yards per game and a 4.7 yards-per-play average, which ranks fourth in the area.
Sharpsville allowed a kickoff return and interception return in the fourth quarter in last week's setback at Hickory. Those marked the fourth and fifth non-offensive touchdowns scored against Sharpsville this season.
Defensively, the Blue Devils have allowed only 12 offensive touchdowns in seven games. The 12 touchdowns are the third-lowest number allowed by an area defense trailing only Wilmington (2) and Grove City (6). The Blue Devils are tied for first locally with 18 takeaways, including a county-best nine fumble recoveries.
Senior fullback Bobby Besser led Sharpsville with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Besser has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games and is sixth in Mercer County with 570 rushing yards. His nine rushing touchdowns rank third locally. Besser also leads Sharpsville with 11 catches.
Junior quarterback Nick Alexander ranks second in Mercer County in yards per completion (17.9).
Sharpsville's final three Region 2 games are against the league's three Class 3A teams: Hickory, Slippery Rock and Sharon. Slippery Rock has won two straight meetings in the series, including a 42-21 home triumph last year. Slater ran for 106 yards last year for Slippery Rock, which scored the final 21 points in the game.
Slippery Rock earned a 28-6 home win 18 years ago. Sharpsville won at McCracken Field in 1998, 49-8. Slippery Rock won the only meeting as Keystone Football League foes, 29-8, October 7, 1988 at McCracken Field. In 1989, Slippery Rock prevailed at home, 16-6. Slippery Rock also earned a 23-8 win October 1, 1993 at Sharpsville.
Sharon at Lakeview, 7:00 p.m.
Two road-weary teams will meet Friday night in Stoneboro when Lakeview hosts Sharon. Sharon is concluding a four-game road trip while Lakeview will play its first home game since September 15. Both teams fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter last week in road setbacks. Sharon fell at undefeated South Range (Ohio), 34-14, while Lakeview dropped a 54-14 verdict at Slippery Rock in Region 2 action.
Four turnovers helped foil Sharon's upset bit last Friday night at South Range. Quarterback Lane Voytik completed 17 of 28 passes for 153 yards and a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tristan Ballard. Ten of Voytik's completions went to Ziyon Strickland. Strickland also had a four-yard touchdown run, along with his 78 receiving yards. Junior tailback Jordan Wilson added 105 yards on a dozen carries.
Strickland leads Mercer County with 41 receptions. He needs 19 catches to become the first District 10 player with three seasons of 60 receptions. Strickland already owns District 10's career records for receptions (197), yards (3,447) and touchdowns (42).
Voytik leads the county in completions (93) and attempts (160). He ranks second with 16 touchdown passes and is third with 1,289 passing yards. Grove City's Kameron Patterson owns the county records for passing yards (1,777) and touchdowns (22) by a sophomore. Patterson set those marks in 2014.
Sharon yielded 437 rushing yards at South Range. This season, Sharon ranks ninth out of 12 teams locally in yards allowed per game (269.7). However, the Tigers are No. 3 in the area in scoring defense allowing only 15.6 points per game, thanks to an opportunistic defense that has 17 takeaways.
Lakeview may look for a similar effort on the ground Friday night as the Sailors' rushing attack has taken off in recent weeks. After rushing for 321 yards two weeks ago at Hickory, Lakeview amassed 224 rushing yards at Slippery Rock in Week Seven.
Senior Mitch Hansen, who missed two games this season, leads Mercer County in rushing yards per game (115.8) and is fourth overall with 579 rushing yards. Hansen averages 7.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Garrett Gadsby has added 323 rushing yards for Lakeview.
Sharon earned a 55-6 win over visiting Lakeview last season. Wilson ran for 107 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries for Sharon, which finished the game with 525 offensive yards.
Lakeview concludes its league schedule Friday night. The Sailors will host Mercyhurst Prep in non-conference play next week. Sharon will wrap up its home schedule against Region 2 foe Sharpsville.
Cambridge Springs at Farrell, 7:00 p.m.
The top seed in the District 10 Class 1A playoffs is at stake Friday night when Farrell (5-2, 2-0) hosts Cambridge Springs (6-1, 2-1) at Paulekas Stadium. Farrell returns to conference play after back-to-back games against Class 5A opponents while Cambridge Springs wraps up its four-game league schedule.
Farrell blasted visiting Fort LeBoeuf, 41-14, last Friday night on Homecoming at Paulekas Stadium. Junior wide receiver Jourdan Townsend hauled in three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Isaac Clarke to help spark the Farrell offense. Townsend finished with six catches for 185 scores while Clarke threw for 200 yards on 10-for-14 accuracy.
Senior Brandon Chambers led Farrell's balanced ground game with 87 yards on seven carries while Christian Lewis opened the game's scoring with a 55-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Farrell leads Mercer County in total passing yardage with 1,360 yards. Clarke is the county's top-rated passer (241.1 rating). He has thrown 18 touchdown passes and only one interception. Townsend, who recently received a scholarship offer from Kansas State, has caught 33 passes for a county-high 872 yards. The 872 yards are tied for fifth-most in county history, trailing only Sharon's Ziyon Strickland (1,214 in 2016), Strickland (1,213 in 2015), Grove City's A.J. Turner (1,016 in 2016), Greenville's Nico Zahniser (897 in 2011) and Sharon's Michael Tomko (872 in 2008).
Townsend also has 14 touchdown catches this year. Strickland and Turner both set the county record with 17 touchdown catches last year. Conneaut's Henry Litwin caught a District 10 record 20 touchdown passes two years ago. Townsend leads Mercer County this season with 18 total touchdowns and 114 total points.
Farrell leads Mercer County in scoring offense, averaging 44.7 points per game. The Steelers average an area-high 10.9 yards per play and have committed the second-fewest turnovers (7) among the area's 12 teams.
Cambridge Springs suffered its first setback of the season last week, falling 41-32 at Union City. The Blue Devils yielded 500 yards of offense, including 482 rushing yards as Union City produced a trio of 100-yard rushers. Cambridge Springs piled up 479 offensive yards, along with four touchdown plays of 46 yards or longer.
Senior quarterback Noah Reisenauer completed 8 of 13 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns. This season, Reisenauer has thrown for 872 yards and 12 touchdowns while also rushing for 839 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Last year, Reisenauer threw for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns while also rushing for 788 yards and nine scores.
This is the second year of the two-year District 10 schedule cycle. Due to Youngsville folding its program in the offseason, Farrell has three of its four league games at home while Cambridge Springs had only one conference home game.
Farrell earned a 32-14 win at Cambridge Springs last season. Farrell held Reisenauer to 89 total offensive yards.
Farrell closes its Region 1 schedule next Friday at Cochranton. Cambridge Springs will host fellow PENNCREST School District school Maplewood in non-conference play next week.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.
Fairview at Grove City, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Grove City will host Class 3A Fairview (3-4) Friday night at Forker Field in non-conference action. Grove City has posted back-to-back shutout wins over Slippery Rock (28-0) and DuBois (42-0). Last week's win clinched at least a share of the Region 5 title for the 7-0 Eagles.
Junior quarterback Brady Callahan fired a career-high five touchdown passes in last week's triumph. Callahan threw for 256 yards on 22-of-28 passing. Junior Logan Lutz grabbed eight passes for 149 yards, including a touchdown, and senior Qadir Muhammad caught two scoring passes.
Junior Tyler Greer led Grove City on the ground with 142 rushing yards on 11 carries while senior fullback Trey Adams added 70 yards and a score on 13 attempts.
Defensively, Grove City held DuBois to four rushing yards and 81 total yards. Over the last two weeks, Grove City has surrendered 161 total offensive yards. Grove City leads the area in rushing defense, holding opponents to 41.0 yards per game and 1.4 yards per carry. The Eagles are No. 2 overall in total defense (112.4 yards) and scoring defense (5.6).
The Callahan-guided offense is averaging a county-high 425.7 yards and has generated an area-best 39 offensive touchdowns. Callahan leads the area with a 76.3 completion percentage. Lutz is 10th in the area with 488 rushing yards and third in both receiving yards (429) and receptions (31). His 917 yards from scrimmage lead Mercer County.
Adams has rushed for a county-best 15 touchdowns. He is second to Farrell's Townsend in scoring with 92 points.
Fairview is 2-3 in Region 4 with wins coming over winless Titusville (40-7) and Girard (36-0). Junior tailback Chris Mohra leads the Tigers with 914 rushing yards. Sophomore quarterback Mason Bender has thrown for 383 yards and rushed for 312 yards. Fairview fell to Mercyhurst Prep last week, 48-7.
Grove City is the third Region 5 foe for Fairview this year. Fairview opened the season with a 55-6 home loss to Conneaut (Pa.). Two weeks ago, Fairview pulled out a 34-33 home win over Warren. Grove City defeated Conneaut 28-12 and picked up a 42-2 win at Warren.
Grove City earned a 42-7 win at Fairview last season. The teams last met in Grove City 10 years ago, October 5, 2007, with the Eagles scoring three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes to earn a come-from-behind 25-21 win over Fairview. Fairview defeated Grove City twice in 2006. The Tigers earned a 26-13 win in the regular season, then downed Grove City, 32-7, in the District 10 Class AA playoffs.
Grove City visits Meadville in Week Nine while Fairview visits Region 4 foe Conneaut (Ohio).
Mercer at Eisenhower, 7:00 p.m.
Mercer steps out of Region 2 play to visit Warren County-based Eisenhower Friday night. Mercer is concluding its road schedule while Eisenhower caps a three-game homestand. Both teams enter the game 1-6 overall.
Mercer's slim Class 2A playoff hopes evaporated last week with a 54-0 defeat at Reynolds. Senior fullback Jimmy Amon paced Mercer with 68 rushing yards, along with two catches for 24 yards. Eisenhower, meanwhile, allowed 23 second-half points in a 23-0 home loss to Maplewood.
Amon ranks second in Mercer County with 638 rushing yards. He also leads Mercer with six catches for 88 yards. Junior quarterback Dylan Hetrick has thrown for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns this year. Senior kicker R.J. Carson is 11 for 11 on extra points this year. He is Mercer County's only perfect kicker this year on extra points.
Senior Jaydon Hayes leads Eisenhower with 594 rushing yards. He also has 11 catches for 181 yards. Last year, Hayes led Eisenhower with 21 catches while primarily playing wide receiver.
Eisenhower went 6-5 last year, falling to Wilmington in the District 10 Class 2A quarterfinals. Prior to this season, the Ikes had posted four winning seasons in the last five years under head coach Jim Penley. Penley is 66-76 in 14 years as head coach.
Mercer opened each season from 2012 to 2015 with wins over Eisenhower, including a 41-14 home triumph in the 2015 lidlifter. Mercer also pulled out a 14-7 win over Eisenhower in the 2007 District 10 Class A quarterfinals. Eisenhower won last year's meeting in Mercer, 7-6.
Eisenhower visits Saegertown next Friday while Mercer hosts Greenville.
Carey (Ohio) at West Middlesex, Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
For the first time in 23 years, West Middlesex will host an Ohio foe as Carey (6-1) makes a 175-mile trip to the Shenango Valley. Carey, a Class 1A-sized school, is located approximately halfway between Columbus and Toledo in northwest Ohio.
West Middlesex earned its first win of 2017 last Friday night with a 42-8 win at Region 1 rival Cochranton. West Middlesex's often overlooked passing attack stepped forward at Cochranton as senior quarterback Marshall Murray completed 7 of 10 passes for a season-high 110 yards and three touchdowns. Murray threw two touchdown passes to Chase Staunch while Kaz Hoffman also grabbed a 21-yard touchdown pass.
Meanwhile, junior fullback Clayton Parrish charged through the Redbirds for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Parrish became the first area back to go over the 200-yard mark this season.
No area back has carried the ball as frequently or for as much yardage as has Parrish this year. A 1,000-yard rusher last year, Parrish leads Mercer County with 738 yards and 150 attempts. Hoffman and Staunch share the team lead with six catches this year.
Carey plays in Division VI in Ohio and is currently ranked fourth in Region 22, according to the OHSAA Computer Rankings. The top eight teams in the region qualify for the playoffs. The Blue Devils are coming off a 45-0 win over Northwest 10 Conference foe Buckeye Central. Carey is currently 4-1 in the league.
Quarterback Brayden Wentling leads the team in both passing (776) and rushing yardage (438). He has thrown eight touchdown passes and rushed for seven scores. Head coach Jonathan Mershman is in his first year as head coach after working as the defensive coordinator for several seasons.
Carey has made 10 all-time playoff appearances and has won 11 conference titles. Carey won the 1975 OHSAA Class A title with a 15-7 overtime win over Newark Catholic at the Rubber Bowl in Akron.
West Middlesex last hosted an Ohio school October 7, 1994, when the Big Reds blanked visiting Southington, 35-0. Exactly one year later, Southington defeated West Middlesex, 19-0. That is the last time West Middlesex played a non-Pennsylvania foe in football.
Carey is the third team nicknamed "Blue Devils" to face West Middlesex this year. The Big Reds have already faced Sharpsville and Cambridge Springs through the season's first seven weeks.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.