(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK EIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
While Week Seven featured very little in terms of region and playoff races, outside of two Class 3A games, the week did not lack for great finishes and outstanding individual performances. Will that carry over into Week Eight?
The eighth week of the season is -- inexplicably -- the final week of region play for the 12 Mercer County area teams. In Region 1 (Class 1A), all four teams remain alive for the three playoff spots and three teams could gain at least a share of the region title. In Region 5 (Class 3A), Grove City and Sharon have both clinched playoff spots and Grove City will be the top seed out of the region. Slippery Rock will join them with a win over Hickory. Hickory can also elbow its way into the postseason party with a win and a Conneaut win over Grove City.
In Class 2A, Wilmington (6-1, 2-0) visits Sharpsville (6-1, 2-0) for the outright region title. In all, 11 of the area's 12 teams are playing region games this week.
Wilmington at Sharpsville, 7:00 p.m.
The Region 4 championship will be decided Friday night at McCracken Field when Sharpsville hosts Wilmington. Sharpsville owns a four-game winning streak while Wilmington has won five straight games.
Those streaks continued in vastly different manners last week, however. Wilmington led 49-0 at halftime in a 52-6 victory over visiting Iroquois. Meanwhile, Sharpsville needed all 48 minutes to pull out a home win over Conneaut (Ohio). Senior fullback Kobe Joseph scored on a two-yard run as time expired to give the Blue Devils a 32-28 victory.
Joseph scored three touchdowns in the win and finished the game with 171 yards on 29 carries. Quarterback Nick Alexander threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-45 passing after overcoming a pair of interceptions in the first half. Five men caught at least four passes, led by Luke Levis's six receptions for 72 yards. His 21-yard catch on 4th-and-15 kept Sharpsville's final drive alive.
Joseph also had five catches for 51 yards while Joe Bornes, Danny Henwood and Max Messett each had four catches. Sharpsville recorded 28 first downs and 432 offensive yards. The Blue Devils' 84 offensive plays last week marked the most by a local team this season.
Joseph leads Mercer County with 19 touchdowns and 114 total points. He ranks fourth locally in rushing yards (783) and yards per carry (9.1). Alexander has taken over the county lead in passing yards with 1,472. Levis has moved into fourth place in both receptions (27) and receiving yards (446). Bornes now leads Mercer County in yards per catch, at 20.0.
Sharpsville has attempted the fewest rushing plays (176) of any local team. However, the Blue Devils average 5.7 yards per carry, which is No. 5 among local programs, as are the Blue Devils' 23 rushing touchdowns.
The Sharpsville offense will be tested by Wilmington's "Hounds Hammer" defense, which leads the area in rushing defense (64.1), fewest yards per carry (2.3) and total defense (153.6). The Greyhounds have yielded only 27 points over the last four weeks.
Offensively, Wilmington's Wing-T offense continues to pile up points and yardage. Last week against Iroquois, 11 Wilmington backs combined for 371 yards and six touchdowns. Cameron Marett scored three times while Ethan Susen led the Greyhounds with 86 yards and a touchdown. Fullback Noah Hunt added 61 yards.
Susen averages a county-best 15.5 yards per attempt. He has also averaged 19.1 yards on his seven receptions this year. Junior Junior McConahy leads Wilmington with 12 receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
Marett has accumulated 17 total touchdowns this season. He is sixth in the area with 654 rushing yards. Senior quarterback Robert Pontius moved into second place in passer rating with a mark of 200.6 (NCAA formula). He has thrown for 702 yards and eight touchdowns this year. Pontius has also rushed for eight scores.
This is the second straight season that the teams will meet at McCracken Field. Wilmington earned a 35-0 win at Sharpsville last year as the Greyhounds held Sharpsville to 98 offensive yards and six first downs. That marked Wilmington's first win at Sharpsville since September 27, 1996 when the 'Hounds earned a 35-0 win behind three Sam Koi touchdown runs.
In 1996, 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.
The other notable sidebar to the game is that Sharpsville head coach Paul Piccirilli is the father-in-law of first-year Wilmington head coach Brandon Phillian. The two men coached against each other when Phillian worked as the defensive coordinator under his predecessor, Terry Verrelli. However, this is the first meeting between the two as head coaches.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Lakeview at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
Lakeview heads west on State Route 358 to meet Greenville in Class 2A action Friday night. Last Friday night, Lakeview nearly pulled off what most would have considered the upset of the year in District 10 as the Sailors led 5-1 Northwestern in the fourth quarter, 3-0. However, the Wildcats escaped Stoneboro with an 11-3 win.
The Sailors defense forced a pair of turnovers and held Northwestern out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter. Offensively, Justin Osborne kicked his second field goal of the season -- a 22-yarder in the third quarter. Quarterback Kendall Crocker led Lakeview with 35 rushing yards and halfback Logan McFadden added 30 yards.
Fullback Jared Alcorn leads the Sailors with 133 rushing yards while Lane Barber (108), McFadden (102) and Crocker (102) have all reached triple figures on the ground.
Greenville improved to 2-5 last week with an abbreviated 29-0 win over visiting Seneca at Stewart Field in District 10 crossover play. Injuries forced the already-depleted Seneca squad to concede in the second quarter.
Senior halfback Brady Gentile piled up a season-high 172 yards and four touchdowns in the game for the Trojans. His 633 rushing yards rank seventh locally as do his 10 rushing touchdowns.
Greenville won last year's meeting with visiting Lakeview, 41-14, as Gentile opened the scoring with a 56-yard touchdown run. Isaac Sasala led Greenville with 93 rushing yards. McFadden had 49 rushing yards for Lakeview. Two years ago, Greenville claimed a 35-6 decision at Lakeview.
Hickory at Slippery Rock, 7:00 p.m.
Slippery Rock could finish third, fourth or fifth in the five-team Region 5, dependent upon what happens in the area Friday night. Hickory would love to slide into that fourth spot and claim the final playoff spot from the conference. Hickory needs to defeat Slippery Rock and have Conneaut defeat Grove City. That would leave Hickory and Slippery Rock tied for fourth at 1-3, but Hickory would own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
If Hickory, Slippery Rock and Conneaut all finish 1-3, Hickory would then need Conneaut (Pa.) to defeat Conneaut (Ohio) in Week Nine and also have Slippery Rock lose to Oil City. Conneaut (Pa.) would accrue more tiebreaker points than Slippery Rock in that situation, which then brings the Hickory-Slippery Rock head-to-head scenario back into play.
Slippery Rock put itself in playoff position with a 42-20 win over Conneaut (Pa.) last week in Linesville. Junior quarterback Vito Pilosi ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns while also throwing respective touchdown passes of 77 and 50 yards to Nathan Hyatt and Kaleb Kamerer. David Duffalo added 82 rushing yards and touchdown for the Rockets (5-2, 1-2), who finished with 386 offensive yards.
Pilosi's 17 combined rushing and passing touchdowns rank second locally to Farrell's Kyi Wright (22). Pilosi is also fourth in individual total offense with 1,255 yards. He leads area quarterbacks with 523 rushing yards, which ranks 11th in the area. Kamerer is the area's No. 9 leading rusher with 541 rushing yards.
Defensively, Slippery Rock leads the area with 10 interceptions. The Rockets' 16 takeaways are second in the area to Grove City's 20 caused turnovers.
Tight losses helped define the first part of Hickory's season but last week, the Hornets reversed that trend by pulling out a 23-22 win over Westinghouse. Senior Michael Filardi sparked the comeback with a pair of big plays in Hickory's 20-point fourth quarter. He caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Michael Henwood, then answered a Westinghouse touchdown with a 78-yard kickoff return.
Henwood's six-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds remaining gave Hickory the lead and eventual victory.
Filardi had five catches for 112 yards while junior Nathan Richards had a career-high seven receptions for 53 yards. Henwood finished 16 of 24 for 185 yards in his third start behind center. He has thrown for 503 yards and five touchdowns in that span.
Filardi now leads Hickory with five touchdowns and 30 points. He also leads the team with 24 catches for 387 yards and four scores. Filardi ranks sixth in the county in receptions and receiving yards.
The first quarter may be critical in Friday night's game. Slippery Rock is outscoring the opposition 76-26 in the opening 12 minutes this year. Opponents have outscored Hickory 42-14 in the first period through the first seven games.
Hickory has dropped six consecutive road games, although two of the setbacks this year came against two of District 10's three remaining undefeated teams, Mercyhurst Prep and Grove City.
Hickory has won five straight meetings in the series. Last year, the Hornets prevailed in Hermitage, 27-0. Slippery Rock's last win over Hickory came September 26, 2014, when the Rockets pulled out a 14-7 home win.
Friday's game is two days shy of the 30th anniversary of the teams' first meeting. Hickory earned a 28-7 Keystone Football League win at Slippery Rock October 14, 1988. Andre Coleman put Hickory ahead to stay in the third quarter, 14-7, with a 99-yard touchdown run.
The game can be heard on 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.
Conneaut (Pa.) at Grove City, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Grove City (7-0, 3-0) looks to secure the Region 5 title Friday night at Forker Field when the Eagles host injury-riddled Conneaut (4-3, 1-2). Grove City clinched the top playoff seed from the region with last week's 42-9 win over Sharon. Meanwhile, Conneaut's title hopes evaporated in a 42-20 home loss to Slippery Rock in Week Seven.
Last week against Sharon, Grove City produced a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game as Tyler Greer (171) and Colby Nelson (107) both went over the 100-yard mark. Senior wide receiver Logan Lutz added 95 rushing yards on nine attempts. The Eagles finished with a season-high 377 rushing yards. Grove City's 563 yards of total offense marked the most for the Eagles since a 629-yard outing October 7, 2016 at DuBois.
Both Greer and Nelson rank in the area's top 10 in rushing. Greer is fifth with 760 yards while Nelson has the No. 10 spot with 530 yards. Greer leads the team with 939 yards from scrimmage while Lutz has 863 scrimmage yards. Lutz leads the county with 43 catches and his 672 receiving yards rank second locally.
Quarterback Brady Callahan continues to lead the area in completion percentage (76.6). He is second with 1,382 passing yards and 95 pass completions.
Like Grove City last week, Conneaut produced a pair of 100-yard rushers in its setback to Slippery Rock. Senior halfback Peyton Hearn ran for 124 yards while junior wide receiver-turned-quarterback Tanner Niemann ran for 112 yards. Niemann took over at quarterback after starting quarterback Kyle Sheets left the game in the first half with an injury. His status for Friday's game is unknown.
Sheets has rushed for 701 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. He is a two-year starter at quarterback. Hearn ranks second in District 10 with 1,090 rushing yards.
Injuries have also decimated Conneaut's offensive and defensive lines after the Eagles opened the season with a 4-1 record. Conneaut owns wins over Class 5A programs General McLane (36-35) and Meadville (48-6).
Grove City and Conneaut played each of the last two seasons as Class 5A foes. Last year, Grove City pulled out a 28-12 home win over Conneaut as Lutz ran for 144 yards and Callahan added 94 rushing yards. Two years ago, Grove City blasted Conneaut in Linesville, 48-6, as A.J. Turner scored six touchdowns.
The game can be heard on Oldies Z-104 (WWIZ 103.9).
West Middlesex at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
After two years apart, West Middlesex and Mercer are reunited again as Region 1 Class 1A opponents. West Middlesex clinches a playoff berth with a win and would also grab share of the region title with a Reynolds win over Farrell. Mercer, meanwhile, would secure the third and final playoff spot with a victory and a Reynolds win over Farrell. That scenario would eliminate West Middlesex.
Both West Middlesex (6-1, 1-1) and Mercer (3-4, 0-2) earned 28-0 wins over Crawford County foes last week in D-10 crossover play. West Middlesex blanked host Cambridge Springs while Mercer shutout visiting Saegertown. West Middlesex held Spa to four first downs and 55 yards while Mercer limited Saegertown to minus-11 yards of total offense and a pair of first downs.
West Middlesex posted its third shutout of the season, which is the most for the Big Reds since the 2006 state finalist team blanked five teams. The Big Reds rank third locally in scoring defense, allowing 10.7 points per game. The Big Reds also limit opponents to 96.1 rushing yards per game, which also ranks third.
Offensively, senior fullback Clayton Parrish ran for a touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jake Bowen in last week's win. Parrish finished with 157 yards and moved past R.J. Bowers (3,264) into second place on West Middlesex's career rushing list with 3,313 yards. Parrish trails Eric Lucich (2011-14) by 485 yards for West Middlesex's career lead.
Parrish ranks second locally in rushing yards (928), rushing touchdowns (14) and attempts (113). As a team, West Middlesex ranks fourth in the area in yards per carry (6.2) and fifth in rushing offense (217.7).
Bowen has added 218 rushing yards while junior halfback Zeb Rubaker has contributed 130 yards in his first year as a starter. Bowen has thrown for 648 yards and four touchdowns this year. Senior Kaz Hoffman leads the Big Reds in receptions (14), yards (271), yards per catch (19.4) and touchdown receptions (2). Rubaker has added nine catches.
Mercer snapped a three-game skid with last week's win over Saegertown. Three different running backs scored touchdowns as halfback Aidan Bright and fullbacks Andrew Weinel and P.J. Boggs all found the end zone. Bright led Mercer with 80 of the Mustangs' 211 rushing yards while Brian Shevitz added 72 yards. Boggs and Weinel respectively had 33 and 31 rushing yards.
Quarterback Dylan Hetrick also fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to senior split end Zack Previty. Hetrick finished 5 of 9 for 99 yards.
Shevitz (393) and Bright (343) have been the featured ball carriers in Mercer's Delaware Wing-T offense while the two fullbacks have combined for 276 yards and six touchdowns. Weinel is the team's No. 3 rusher with 184 yards.
Each team has played all seven of its games on natural grass this season. West Middlesex won the last meeting, 32-0, three years ago in Mercer. Overall, West Middlesex has won five straight in the series. That streak began in the 2011 District 10 Class A semifinals, when the Big Reds upset Mercer 44-34. Two weeks prior, Mercer defeated West Middlesex in the regular season finale, 42-6.
Mercer's last home win over the Big Reds came November 5, 2010 when the Mustangs pulled out a 19-15 win.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Mercer and West Middlesex competed against each other in District 7's Tri-County North A conference. Both teams migrated to the Mercer County Athletic Conference in 1990 and competed in the Small School Division from 1990 to 1993.
Farrell at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Farrell aims for a 3-0 Region 1 record and the outright conference title Friday night when the Steelers make their first trip to Transfer in four seasons. Reynolds (4-3, 1-1) will earn a share of the region title with a win and would claim the No. 1 playoff seed out of the conference with a victory coupled with a Mercer win over West Middlesex.
Both Farrell and Reynolds earned road wins over Class 1A opponents in District 10 crossover action. Farrell downed Cochranton, 76-12, while Reynolds pulled out a 6-0 win at Eisenhower. That win snapped a two-game slide for Reynolds.
Farrell (7-0) bolted to a 35-0 lead in the first quarter last week at Cochranton. Christian Lewis ran for three touchdowns and also returned a kickoff for a score. He finished the game with 209 yards on seven carries and became the first local back to go over the 1,000-yard mark this season. He leads Mercer County with 1,005 rushing yards and averages 11.7 yards per carry this year.
Lewis's understudy, sophomore Jaden Harrison, also ran for three touchdowns in last week's win. Harrison added 146 rushing yards and now has 327 yards for the season. That figure is tied for second on the squad, with senior quarterback Kyi Wright. Wright threw for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdown passes went to senior Jourdan Townsend, who caught four passes for 122 yards.
Wright leads Mercer County with 15 touchdown passes. He also leads the area in passer rating (235.5) as he has thrown only one interception and has a 68.9 completion percentage. Townsend's 712 receiving yards and 14 touchdown catches are both tops in the area. His 41 receptions rank second.
Offensively, Farrell has committed a county-low four turnovers this season. The Steelers lead the county with a plus-10 turnover margin. Farrell also leads the area in scoring offense (52.7) and scoring defense (7.6). As a team, Farrell has a county-best 10 100-yard individual rushing performances this year.
Injuries have plagued Reynolds on the line and the backfield in recent weeks but the Raiders have remained alive in the region race. Last week, quarterback Sean O'Hara lofted a 15-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Aidan Mull, breaking a scoreless tie. O'Hara completed a season-high seven passes in 12 attempts for 85 yards last week. He added 31 rushing yards.
With starting halfbacks Tyrese Baker and Jordan DeCarmen both less than 100 percent, sophomore Cole Toy ran for 98 yards on seven carries for Reynolds. The Raiders finished last week's game with 300 total yards and no turnovers.
DeCarmen leads Reynolds with 630 rushing yards, which ranks eighth in the area. His 8.2 yards-per-carry average is seventh in the area, two spots ahead of Baker (7.7). Baker has 4779 yards and O'Hara has 413 rushing yards, making Reynolds the only local team with three backs over the 400-yard mark on the season.
While Farrell features the county's leader in touchdown passes, Reynolds has surrendered a county-low two touchdown passes this year. Reynolds also holds opponents to 3.6 yards per carry.
This is the first meeting since Farrell earned a 46-10 home win September 11, 2015 over Reynolds. Farrell has won all four meetings since joining District 10 permanently in 2006. The teams also met from 1982 to 1985 as charter members of the Keystone Football League. Reynolds won the inaugural meeting in 1982, 24-14. Farrell prevailed in 1983, 38-21, on its way to the KFL title. Reynolds earned a 27-6 victory in 1984 while Farrell downed the Raiders in 1985, 15-7.
The 1983 Farrell team went 9-0-1 in the regular season, tying Erie McDowell in the season finale, 0-0. In the second annual KFL-Northwest Conference "playoff" game, Farrell fell to Greenville, 7-6.
University Prep at Sharon, 7:00 p.m.
Sharon is the first local team to have completed its region schedule as the Tigers have the final bye in the five-team Region 5 schedule. The Tigers (4-3) have sewn up the No. 2 seed from the region in the District 10 Class 3A playoffs. A Grove City loss to Conneaut would give Sharon a share of the region crown but Grove City has the tiebreaker due to last week's win.
Sharon looks to rebound from that setback by hosting Pittsburgh City League foe University Prep (4-3) at Tiger Stadium. The Tigers fell behind 21-7 late in the second quarter and could not rebound in the second half. Grove City limited Sharon's potent offensive attack to 161 total yards.
Quarterback Lane Voytik threw for 120 of those yards on 14-of-30 passing. Fellow junior C.J. Parchman had five receptions and junior Ty Eilam had four catches. Senior tailback Jordan Wilson ran for 69 yards and opened Sharon's scoring with a first-quarter touchdown run. Defensive tackle C.J. Malloy accounted for Sharon's other two points when he posted a sack in the end zone for a safety last week.
Wilson leads the county with 122 rushing attempts and his 836 yards are third-best locally. He is closing in on his third straight 1,000-yard season. Voytik has completed (114) and attempted (199) more passes than any local quarterback this year. His 1,503 yards of total offense leads the county.
Class 4A University Prep improved to 4-3 overall last week with a 46-7 win over Brashear in City League play. Quarterback Messiah Wilkerson threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the win while Damon Macklin ran for 102 yards and a score.
Wilkerson threw for 83 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-16 loss to Farrell in the season opener. He has thrown for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns this year. Macklin has 555 rushing yards and six touchdowns. University Prep also fell to Ohio power Steubenville, 35-8, September 21. University Prep is 4-1 in the City League, dropping a 35-14 decision to Allderdice two weeks ago.
This is Sharon's first game against a City League opponent since October 3, 2009, when the Tigers won 28-6 at Carrick. Sharon last lost a non-conference home game to a team from outside the area seven years ago. On October 14, 2011, visiting Fort LeBoeuf downed the Tigers, 38-36.