(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK NINE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
It's hard to believe, but the high school football regular season will wrap up Friday night in the Mercer County area. All 12 teams will be in action. Undefeated seasons, conference titles, playoff positioning and pride are all on the line in Week Nine.
Sharpsville at Sharon, 7:00 p.m.
Having clinched the area's top Class 3A playoff seed out of Region 2, Sharon returns home Friday night after playing four consecutive road games. While Sharon's playoff position is secure, Sharpsville needs a win to wrap up the third Class 2A playoff spot from the region.
Sharpsville (5-3, 4-3) has alternated wins and losses over the last four weeks and is coming off a 20-9 Senior Night win over visiting Slippery Rock at McCracken Field. The Sharpsville defense forced four turnovers and limited the Rockets to 132 yards of offense. Cornerback Peyton Schell intercepted two passes while safety Luke Levis added a pick. Sharpsville leads Mercer County with 22 takeaways this season.
Offensively, Sharpsville welcomed back senior halfback Cameron Prebble after he had been sidelined since a Week One injury. He carried the ball eight times, providing an experienced third option in Sharpsville's Wing-T offense to go with junior Kobe Joseph and senior Bobby Besser. Joseph ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries against Slippery Rock while Besser added 85 yards and a score on 11 attempts.
Besser leads Sharpsville with 655 rushing yards while Joseph has gained 429 yards. Besser is fifth in the county in rushing yardage. Levis and Besser both have 11 receptions, with five of Levis's catches going for touchdowns. A converted quarterback, Levis has a team-high 217 receiving yards. Sharpsville quarterback Nick Alexander, who played last season as a backup at Sharon, ranks sixth locally in passing yards (700) and touchdown passes (6).
Sharon features the county's leader in passing yardage as sophomore quarterback Lane Voytik has thrown for 1,457 yards in eight games. He also leads the area with 104 completions and 176 attempts, while his 18 touchdowns are second-highest in Mercer County.
In Sharon's 62-0 win last Friday at Lakeview, Voytik completed 11 of 16 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Six of his completions went to senior wide receiver Ziyon Strickland. Strickland had 94 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. He also ran for a touchdown and had punt returns of 85 and 65 yards, respectively, for touchdowns.
Strickland leads Mercer County with 47 receptions this year. He needs 13 catches to become the first District 10 player to have three seasons of 60 or more receptions.
Last week, Sharon recorded its first road shutout in conference play since a 28-0 win at Titusville October 23, 2009. Junior defensive end Warren Nixon recovered one fumble in the end zone and scored a second touchdown when he returned a fumble 29 yards to the end zone. Overall, the Tigers yielded 29 yards of offense.
Sharon has outscored its last four league opponents 173-20. Sharon owns a 95-7 scoring edge in the second quarter of games this season.
Last season, Sharpsville pulled out a 42-35 home win over Sharon in a game played on Saturday night due to field flooding the day before. Besser ran for a career-high 304 yards on 32 carries while Prebble ran for 153 yards and four touchdowns. Sharpsville amassed 464 rushing yards in the win. Strickland caught nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. Tailback Jordan Wilson ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns for Sharon.
Sharpsville has won five straight games against Sharon (2004, 2005, 2012, 2013, 2016). Sharon won all nine meetings during the 1980s (1981-1989). The teams met as Keystone Football League foes from 1982 to 1988. Sharon's last league win over the Blue Devils came in 1988, 33-0, at McCracken Field. In 1989, Sharon won a Mercer County Athletic Conference inter-divisional matchup with Sharpsville, 59-0. Sharon also defeated Sharpsville, 42-13, in 1992 and then again in 1993, 54-20.
This is the first league meeting between the teams at Sharon Tiger Stadium since September 12, 1986, when Sharon pulled out a 14-9 win.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.
Reynolds at Hickory, 7:00 p.m.
Reynolds enters Friday night's regular season finale in Hermitage with a chance to move up in the Region 2 Class 2A race as a Raiders win, along with a Sharpsville loss at Sharon, would put Reynolds in the No. 3 spot out of the league in the District 10 playoffs. Hickory, meanwhile, will be region's No. 2 entry in the Class 3A playoffs.
Both teams are looking to bounce back from setbacks last week, albeit defeats that differed greatly. Reynolds fell to archrival Greenville, 21-7, after battling the Trojans tight into the fourth quarter. Hickory, meanwhile, fell 52-0 at Wilmington. The Hornets suffered their first shutout loss since a 19-0 loss to Oil City on Halloween eight years ago. Hickory allowed 461 offensive yards while being held to 94 yards on offense.
Last Friday night, Reynolds grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 54-yard touchdown run by senior Cole Matthews. However, three turnovers helped foil Reynolds' upset bid.
The backfield combination of Matthews (319) and classmate Austin Carrera (673 yards) has combined for 992 yards this year for Reynolds. Carrera ranks third in Mercer County with 673 rushing yards while the Reynolds rushing attack is fourth in the area, averaging 190.8 yards per game.
Hickory quarterback Hayden Gallagher leads Mercer County with 1,506 yards of total individual offense. His 1,330 passing yards ranks third in the county. Last week, Wilmington held Hickory to a season-low 30 passing yards on 4-of-8 accuracy.
Three of those completions went to senior wide receiver Darren Mitchell, who has emerged in recent weeks in the absence of senior speedster Will Gruber. Mitchell leads Hickory with six touchdown catches and is averaging 22.3 yards per catch on his 17 receptions. Gruber still holds the team lead with 22 receptions in five games.
Defensively, Hickory is allowing 5.0 yards per carry this season. Hickory opponents have executed 357 rushing plays this season, the highest number faced by any local defense.
Both teams own turnover margins of zero for the season. Reynolds has 13 takeaways and 13 giveaways. Hickory has turned over the ball 14 times while also forcing 14 turnovers.
Last season, Gallagher made his first start at quarterback in Hickory's 54-7 win at Reynolds. He threw for 90 yards and two touchdowns on 5-of-6 passing. Gruber caught both touchdown passes.
Hickory has won nine straight in the series. Reynolds prevailed in Hermitage, 22-18, in 2005. In 1995, Hickory and Reynolds played the first Mercer County regular season football game to go overtime. Hickory prevailed, 24-21, at Reynolds.
Wilmington at Slippery Rock, 7:00 p.m.
The two local schools not based in Mercer County will square off Friday night as Wilmington looks to conclude an undefeated regular season. This is one of the area's older rivalries as the teams first met 51 years ago and have played nearly every year since. The teams played as District 7 members in both the Tri-County North and the Midwestern Athletic Conference. In District 10, Slippery Rock and Wilmington have competed against each other in the Mercer County Athletic Conference, Region 3 and now Region 2.
Defense has been the strength of both teams throughout the 2017 season. Wilmington leads Mercer County in scoring defense, having allowed 16 total points in eight games. Wilmington has also allowed an area-low 110.1 total yards per game. Slippery Rock yields 18.6 points per game and is seventh in the area, allowing 244.1 yards per game.
Turnovers have been a factor for each offense this season, however. Wilmington has committed a county-low six turnovers this year and leads the area with a plus-10 turnover margin. Slippery Rock has turned over the ball a county-high 20 times this year, leading to a minus-10 turnover margin. Because of the turnovers, the Slippery Rock defense has been on the field for 412 plays, the second-highest mark among the area's 12 teams (Hickory - 430).
In part to taking care of the football, Wilmington leads the area in scoring offense (44.5) and rushing yardage per game (283.5). The Greyhounds average 8.7 yards per carry and have rushed for 41 touchdowns this season.
Last week, Wilmington rushed for 378 yards and six touchdowns in its 52-0 home win over Hickory. Fullback Jack Patton ran for 109 yards and a touchdown while halfback Bryson Verrelli added 72 yards and two touchdowns. Verrelli also caught three passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Verrelli leads Wilmington with 566 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He and split end Colton Marett share the team with 12 receptions. Cameron Marett has added 521 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns while Patton has 485 yards and nine touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Robert Pontius has thrown for 578 yards and five touchdowns. He also has 234 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Pontius has not been intercepted since Week Three against Lakeview. Colton Marett leads Wilmington with 205 receiving yards while Verrelli has 194 receiving yards.
Up front, 2016 All-Region selection senior Matt Jamison (center) and junior Colton Richards (left guard) help anchor a physical and athletic offensive line that also includes junior tackles Jordan Gray and Jimmy Reed, as well as junior right guard Alex Ramirez.
Slippery Rock led Sharpsville 9-7 in the second quarter last week and trailed 13-9 in the fourth quarter until a late touchdown sealed Sharpsville's win. Slippery Rock forced three turnovers but had four giveaways. Sophomore quarterback Vito Pelosi made his third start for Slippery Rock and rushed for a season-high 72 yards.
Slippery Rock has outscored opponents 93-78 in the first half this season. Opponents hold a 71-33 cumulative scoring edge in the second half, however.
Kaleb Kamerer leads a balanced Slippery Rock rushing attack with 279 rushing yards. Seth Slater has added 268 yards while Hunter Prementine has 245 yards and a team-high three rushing touchdowns. He leads the team with five total touchdowns and 30 points.
The teams first met in 1966, with Wilmington closing the season with a 39-6 win. That was the final game as Wilmington head coach for Joe Fusco, who took over as head coach at Grove City High School for the 1967 season. Gene Nicholson, who also succeeded Fusco as head football coach at Westminster College, took over the Greyhounds and led them to a 26-6 win over Slippery Rock in the 1967 opener.
Slippery Rock's first win over Wilmington came October 9, 1971, 7-0. Slippery Rock also defeated Tri-County champion Wilmington in 1972, 13-0, and then blanked the Greyhounds by a 14-0 score in 1973.
Greenville at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
Playoff-bound Greenville heads to the county seat Friday night to face a Mercer squad that returns to Region 2 play after a one-week hiatus. Greenville (6-2, 5-2) will be the No. 2 seed from Region 2 in the District 10 Class 2A playoffs and can clinch second place in the league with a win.
Last Friday night, Greenville outlasted archrival Reynolds for a 21-7 road win in Transfer. The win stopped a two-game slide for Greenville. Senior Adonis Scriven ran for a career-high 115 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 23 carries while senior quarterback Nate Bell completed 9 of 13 passes for 115 yards. His 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brenden Calvin broke a 7-7 tie in the third quarter.
Bell also kicked all three extra points last week for Greenville in place of injured running back/kicker Canyon Eells. This season, Bell has thrown for 842 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Michael Blaney is fourth in the county with 28 receptions and third with 505 receiving yards. Blaney averages 18.0 yards per catch.
Defensively, Greenville holds opponents to 3.4 yards per carry. Mercer's option-based rushing game will test Greenville. The Mustangs have executed 323 rushing plays, the third-highest total in the area. Senior fullback Jimmy Amon is second in the county with 677 rushing yards.
After scoring 63 points over the first three weeks of the season, Mercer has been held to 14 points over the past five games. In last week's 52-0 defeat at Eisenhower, Mercer had 145 total yards, five first downs and three turnovers.
Turnovers have afflicted both teams this season. Mercer has 17 giveaways this year while Greenville has turned over the football 16 times. Greenville also has forced 17 turnovers, though, while Mercer has a county-low three takeaways.
Greenville won last year's meeting, 34-7, as the Trojans outgained Mercer, 382-95. Amon scored the Mercer touchdown when he caught a 39-yard scoring pass from quarterback Dylan Hetrick. According to Herald archives, Greenville leads the all-time series 25-6. The teams did not play between 1979 and 2002. Mercer last defeated Greenville in 2005, 21-14.
Farrell at Cochranton, 7:00 p.m.
One week after clinching the top seed in the District 10 Class 1A playoffs, Farrell (6-2, 3-0) looks to sew up an undefeated Region 1 record by visiting Cochranton (2-6, 0-3). Farrell clinched the Region 1 title last week with a 20-13 home win over Cambridge Springs. Farrell held the potent Spa offense to 165 yards and 3.3 yards per play. Brian Hilton, Jr.'s strip sack with 1:00 left clinched the victory.
Offensively, Farrell managed only 228 yards. Senior wide receiver Brandon Chambers caught three passes for 64 yards and a touchdown while junior tailback Christian Lewis had 98 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Fullback Tymir Green and quarterback Isaac Clarke each scored on two-yard touchdown runs.
Lewis ranks third in the county with 671 rushing yards. Chambers has added 386 yards while averaging 12.5 yards per carry. He also has 23 catches for 348 yards. Jourdan Townsend has 35 catches for a county-best 875 yards. That yardage figure ranks second in District 10. The 875 yards are 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.
Clarke leads Mercer County in touchdown passes (19), yards per attempt (12.7) and quarterback efficiency rating (224.8).
Under first-year head coach Joel Murray, Cochranton has earned wins over Saegertown (51-14) and Titusville (36-13). Junior Curtis Freyermuth leads the Cardinals with 1,018 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns. Linebacker Kenny Custed leads Cochranton with 120 total tackles. Murray, a West Middlesex native, had been the Big Reds' offensive coordinator until taking the Cochranton head coaching position during the offseason.
Union City handed Cochranton a 43-0 setback last week. The Bears held Cochranton to 59 offensive yards.
Farrell twice defeated Cochranton last season. In the regular season finale, Farrell earned a 48-0 home win October 21. Farrell finished with 471 offensive yards. Townsend caught a 58-yard touchdown pass and a 10-yard touchdown pass. Thirteen days later, the Steelers picked up a 52-16 win over Cochranton in the District 10 1A semifinals. Chambers ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on six carries. He also caught a 36-yard touchdown pass and returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown.
This is Farrell's first trip to Cochranton since September 29, 2006, when the Steelers earned a 42-14 win. That marked the Steelers' lone win that year.
Union City at West Middlesex, 7:00 p.m.
West Middlesex has a short week of preparation for its Region 1 finale against visiting Union City after the Big Reds dropped a 28-18 decision to 7-1 Carey (Ohio) last Saturday night. Union City (3-5, 2-1) has won two straight and would earn a share of the conference title with a win and a Farrell loss at Cochranton. A West Middlesex win Friday night would create a three-team tie at 2-2 between West Middlesex, Cambridge Springs and Union City.
West Middlesex had four of five second-half drives end without points in Carey territory last Saturday night. The Big Reds also went 0 for 3 on extra points. West Middlesex did own a 337-335 advantage in total offense as junior fullback Clayton Parrish ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Parrish leads Mercer County with 918 yards on a county-high 178 attempts.
West Middlesex's passing game has made significant strides in recent weeks also. One week after throwing for 110 yards against Cochranton, senior quarterback Marshall Murray picked up 105 passing yards against Carey.
Union City has attempted only 35 passes this season as 96 percent of the Bears' total offense has come via the ground game. As a team, Union City has 2,734 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns in 2017. Fullback Gavin Henry leads Union City with 1,333 yards (third-best in D-10) while quarterback Daulton Kerns has added 724 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Last season, West Middlesex clinched the Region 1 title with a 35-8 win at Union City. The Big Reds scored a pair of defensive touchdowns while Parrish ran for 104 yards and a touchdown. Henry ran for a Union City-high 94 yards.
Grove City at Meadville, 7:00 p.m.
For the second straight year, Grove City carries an 8-0 overall record into its Week Nine clash with Meadville (6-2). While both teams carry identical records into the game as they did last year, the composition of each team is considerably different.
After featuring one of District 10's top passing attacks last year, Grove City has emerged as one of the district's top rushing teams. No Mercer County team has run the ball more often this year than the Eagles, who have rushed 333 times. Grove City's 457 offensive plays are the most in the county as well.
The Eagles average 254.5 rushing yards per game behind a trio of diverse backs: punishing senior fullback Trey Adams, dynamic junior slotback Logan Lutz and junior gamebreaker Tyler Greer. Adams leads Grove City with 582 yards and a county-best 17 touchdown rushes. Lutz has rushed for 488 yards while Greer has 454 yards on only 39 carries.
While the Grove City passing game has taken on a secondary role in 2017, the Eagles still own one of the area's most efficient attacks. Junior quarterback Brady Callahan leads the county with a 76.1 completion percentage mark. He has thrown for 1,125 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lutz has caught 33 passes for 494 yards, giving him a county-best 982 yards from scrimmage.
Defensively, the Eagles have emerged as one of District 10's stingiest units. Grove City allows 6.5 points and 143.0 yards per game. The Eagles have Mercer County's top rushing defense, holding opponents to 52.6 yards and 1.6 yards per carry for the season. The Eagles have not allowed a point in the first quarter this season and are outscoring foes 213-15 in the first half.
Last week, Grove City rolled past undermanned Fairview, 46-13, on Senior Night at Forker Field. Nick Murawski's 77-yard interception return and Qadir Muhammad's 64-yard punt return gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead before they executed an offensive play.
The Grove City defense will face its stiffest test by far Friday night, though, as Meadville's Wing-T offense averages 417.8 rushing yards per game. Fullback Isaiah Manning, a 205-pounder who ran for 1,912 yards and 22 touchdowns last year, has 1,722 yards and 24 scores this year. Halfback Julius Ream has 10 rushing touchdowns and 544 yards while De'Shawn Wofford has rushed for 577 yards and seven scores.
Quarterback Colin Kilburn, a first-year starter, is 11 of 27 passing this year for 249 yards. Ream has six catches while Wofford has four receptions. Two-way lineman William Paczkoskie is the only returning starter from last year for Meadville. He has four sacks this year.
Manning ran for 279 yards and four touchdowns last week in a 53-12 win over visiting Oil City. Wofford added 140 rushing yards. Meadville finished with 564 rushing yards. Two weeks ago, Meadville drilled Franklin, 77-14, as 551 of the Bulldogs' 617 yards came on the ground. Six different backs rushed for touchdowns as Meadville led 50-0.
Meadville opened the season with a 34-7 loss at Class 6A Erie. In Week Five, Meadville dropped a 24-14 decision to visiting Conneaut at Bender Field.
Last year, Meadville earned two wins over Grove City. The Bulldogs ran for 434 yards in a 48-14 Week Nine win at Forker Field, which clinched the Region 5 title for Meadville. Manning had 197 yards for Meadville. Three weeks later in the District 10 5A title game, Meadville downed Grove City, 67-27. Manning ran for 267 yards and four touchdowns.
Grove City is 30-1 all-time in Region 5. Each of the 30 wins has been by at least nine points. Grove City posted undefeated regular seasons in both 2010 and 2011. The Eagles went 7-0-2 in 1969 and recorded a 9-0 mark in 1961. Grove City won each of the four meetings from 2008 to 2011. Meadville's last home win over Grove City came August 31, 2001, 25-0.
Grove City head coach Sam Mowrey played at Grove City College with current Meadville assistant coach Mike Richards. Mowrey played quarterback from 2000 to 2003 while Richards played safety and tight end from 2000 to 2003 for the Wolverines.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Mercyhurst Prep at Lakeview, 7:00 p.m.
After eight consecutive games against Region 2 foes, Lakeview hosts undefeated Mercyhurst Prep (8-0) Friday night in Stoneboro. It will be Senior Night for Lakeview's 17-man senior class.
Last week, Lakeview dropped a 62-0 decision to visiting Sharon on Homecoming. The Sailors yielded four non-offensive touchdowns in the defeat.
Senior Mitch Hansen leads Lakeview with 579 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He averages 6.8 yards per carry. Classmate Garrett Gadsby has added 342 rushing yards and four scores. He leads Lakeview with six total touchdowns.
For Mercyhurst Prep, junior running back Zack Helsley has rushed for 100 yards or more in each game this season. He has 1,370 yards and 18 touchdowns this year while averaging 11.4 yards per carry. Helsley ran for 1,357 yards last year as a sophomore.
The Lakers have also been bolstered by a pair of transfers in quarterback Jacob Brooks and Chris Mottillo, who both arrived from Girard. Brooks threw for 229 yards last week in Mercyhurst's 34-7 win over Harbor Creek. He has 1,039 passing yards and 16 touchdowns this year after throwing for 2,202 yards at Girard. Mottillo, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder, has 11 touchdown catches this year. Overall, he has 17 catches for 476 yards. He had 43 receptions for six touchdowns last year at Girard.
Linebacker Jesse Luketa, a Penn State recruit, leads the Mercyhurst defense.
Helsley ran for 256 yards and four touchdowns in the Lakers' 48-0 home win over Lakeview last year in Erie.