(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK TWO FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
It's "Rivalry Week" in the Mercer County area as all seven games on the weekend's schedule feature either geographic rivals playing and/or schools with historical connection squaring off.
Two games will pit 1-0 teams against each other. In Class 2A, Farrell welcomes Wilmington, while Reynolds hosts Mercer in a matchup of 1-0 Class 1A teams. In Class 3A, Sharon hosts backyard rival Hickory and Grove City hosts arch-nemesis Slippery Rock. Greenville hosts Sharpsville in the renewal of a 110-year-old series. Lakeview will host neighboring Cochranton in Region 4 action.
Saturday, one of the county's top small school rivalries will be rekindled as Kennedy Catholic hosts West Middlesex at Butala Stadium.
Wilmington at Farrell, 7:00 p.m.
Farrell has won consecutive state titles in Class 1A. Wilmington played for the Class 2A state title in 2017 and 2018, then reached the state semifinals last season. With Farrell now playing in Class 2A, the Farrell-Wilmington series takes on added importance in 2020 as only one of the programs can potentially advance out of District 10 and into the state playoffs.
Both squads opened the regular season last Saturday night with shutout victories. Farrell blanked homestanding Sharpsville, 41-0, while Wilmington picked up a 48-0 home victory over Greenville.
Farrell accumulated 222 passing yards, 201 rushing yards and 22 first downs in its Week One victory. Senior quarterback Christian Hartley completed 9 of 11 passes for 174 yards and two scores while junior Trian Holden completed all four of his attempts for 48 yards and a score.
Junior tailback Anthony Stallworth, the county's leading rusher in 2019, opened 2020 by rushing for 98 yards and two scores. His backfield partner, junior fullback Taidon Strickland, caught a touchdown pass from each of Farrell's quarterbacks.
Defensively, Farrell held Sharpsville to 53 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Senior safety Brice Butler, a 2019 All-State selection, intercepted a pass for the Steelers, who held Sharpsville to a 2-for-8 performance on third down.
Farrell's defense will be tested by Wilmington's powerful Wing-T attack, however. The Greyhounds ran for 364 yards and averaged 10.7 yards per carry in their win over Greenville. Senior fullback Darren Miller ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns on nine first-half carries. Senior halfback Ethan Susen and sophomore reserve Michel Crastina also ran for touchdowns.
Senior split end Mason Reed closed the first half's scoring with a 76-yard catch and run from senior quarterback Caelan Bender. Susen then opened the second half by returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown. The "Hounds Hammer" defense limited Greenville to minus-3 rushing yards and 75 total offensive yards.
Wilmington's defense smothered Farrell in last year's Week Two meeting as the Greyhounds earned a 40-0 home win. Wilmington held Farrell to three first downs and 82 offensive yards. Farrell also went 0 for 7 on third down.
Susen ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns while Miller added 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bender completed 5 of 6 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown to Susen.
Three running backs could eclipse the 2,000-yard mark for their respective career in Friday night's game. Farrell's Stallworth has 1,991 career rushing yards. Miller has rushed for 1,926 career rushing yards. Susen has 1,844 career rushing yards and 2,341 total yards from scrimmage.
Farrell won the last meeting at Paulekas Stadium as the Steelers rallied from a 12-0 hole to pick up a 31-19 win August 31, 2018 over Wilmington. Wilmington has won 17 straight regular season games since that defeat.
Farrell leads the all-time series 6-5. Farrell is 3-2 at home against Wilmington. The Steelers won the first meeting, 22-12, September 5, 1986 at Farrell. The teams met as Tri-County A opponents in District 7 from 1986 to 1991. Wilmington moved to Class AA in 1992, then joined District 10 prior to the 1994 season. Farrell played in D-10 from 1982 to 1985 in the Keystone Football League.
In 1988, Wilmington earned a 36-7 win at Farrell in the regular season, then defeated the Steelers five weeks later for the District 7 title, 10-7, at Three Rivers Stadium.
This year's regular season rematch will be Saturday night, October 10 in New Wilmington.
Friday night's game is one day shy of the 90th anniversary of night football in Mercer County. On September 19, 1930, Farrell defeated Brookfield, 6-0, in the first night football game in Mercer County. The Farrell High field featured 14 light poles for what the Pittsburgh Press described as "nocturnal combat."
The game can be heard on 790 WPIC.
Mercer at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
First place in Region 1 will be at stake Friday night when Reynolds opens its home schedule against Mercer. Reynolds outlasted West Middlesex, 27-20, last Friday night while Mercer spoiled Kennedy Catholic's return to varsity football by picking up a 46-6 home decision Saturday night. Mercer seeks its first 2-0 start since 2013 while Reynolds aims to go 2-0 for the second straight season.
The Mercer-Reynolds game features Mercer County's leading scorers after one week, Mercer senior Aidan Bright and Reynolds senior Cole Toy. Bright ran for one touchdown, returned an interception to the end zone on the first scrimmage play of the game, and returned two punts for touchdown against Kennedy Catholic. He added a two-point conversion.
Toy had less variety in his four-touchdown performance as the senior running back ran for all four touchdowns, while also posting a county-high 201 rushing yards in the win. Toy's 31-yard touchdown run on fourth down late in the fourth quarter helped secure Reynolds' road victory. He now has 1,860 career rushing yards.
Senior fullback Aidan Mull added 67 yards on nine attempts as the Raiders ran for 317 yards as a team. Defensively, Reynolds recorded six quarterback sacks and limited West Middlesex to 3.9 yards per play. Reynolds never trailed.
Thanks in part to five quarterback sacks, Mercer held Kennedy to minus-61 rushing yards in the opener. The Mercer defense opened the scoring with Bright's 30-yard interception return and the Mustangs also limited Kennedy to an 0-for-7 performance on third down.
Offensively, junior quarterback Ethan Wiley threw touchdown passes to senior split end Ryan Winner and junior halfback Logan Turton. Turton also ran for a team-high 59 yards and Bright added 53 yards from the other halfback spot.
Bright's first punt return touchdown came in unusual fashion as Kennedy's punt landed in the field of play but bounced backwards into the end zone. Bright sprinted downfield from his returner position and alertly pounced on the ball. That gave Mercer a 12-0 lead midway through the first quarter. He also scored on a 41-yard punt return in the third period.
Reynolds bolted to a 26-0 halftime last year on the way to a 40-13 home win over the Mustangs. Toy ran for a career-high 229 yards and four touchdowns to help pace Reynolds. As a team, the Raiders ran for 407 yards on 40 carries.
Reynolds has won six straight in the series and has won 21 of 30 all-time meetings with the Mustangs. This is the 11th straight year that the teams have met. Mercer last won at Reynolds 10 years ago, a 33-12 win October 8, 2010 in Transfer.
Reynolds High School's first-ever varsity football game came at Mercer. Mercer earned a 55-0 home win September 23, 1960. That year, under head coach Ralph Bouch, Reynolds played both varsity and junior varsity squads. Reynolds went 1-2 against varsity opposition. This year is the 60th anniversary of that inaugural season.
The return game will be October 9 at Mercer.
Slippery Rock at Grove City, 7:00 p.m.
Grove City opens its home schedule Friday night by hosting Slippery Rock in Class 3A action at Forker Field. The Eagles are looking to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2015 after they fell at Hickory last week, 41-21. Slippery Rock, meanwhile, aims for a second 2-0 start in a three-year span after opening the 2020 campaign with a 27-7 home victory over Sharon.
Slippery Rock scored 27 unanswered points after trailing 7-0 in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback William Mokel completed 18 of 23 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start. The 231 passing yards are the most for a Slippery Rock quarterback under fifth-year head coach Larry Wendereusz.
Mokel completed passes to seven different receivers, including a 30-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Brendan Earl 70 seconds into the third quarter. Earl and fullback Shane Thompson both caught four passes from Mokel. Thompson led Slippery Rock with 89 rushing yards on nine carries. His 33-yard touchdown run on a draw play tied the game 7-7 with 7:31 remaining in the second quarter.
Thompson, Trent Duncan and Tony Pilosi all recorded sacks for Slippery Rock's defense, which held Sharon to 225 yards on 59 offensive plays. Sophomore linebacker Brent Galcik intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to help preserve the victory. Slippery Rock had only three interceptions during the entire 2019 season.
While Slippery Rock used a strong finish in Week One, a slow start doomed Grove City in the opener at Hickory. The Eagles trailed 20-0 late in the first quarter and ultimately dropped their first opener since 2015.
Hickory held Grove City's up-tempo offense to 229 yards on 65 plays. The Eagles also went 3 for 13 on third down.
Senior quarterback Logan Breese completed 15 of 31 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. Hickory also intercepted Breese twice. Freshman wide receiver Gavin Lutz made his varsity debut by catching six passes for 37 yards. Junior split end Anthony Pereira added four receptions for a team-high 57 yards while classmate Zach Rodgers caught a touchdown pass.
Junior running back Curtis Hovis led the Eagles' ground attack with 74 yards and a score on 25 carries. Sophomore Anthony Nemec also ran for a touchdown.
A plus-4 turnover margin in last year's meeting at Forker Field helped lift Grove City to a 31-16 Week Five win over the Rockets. Grove City led 24-0 in the fourth quarter before Slippery Rock rallied to within eight, 24-16. Breese went 9 of 19 for 122 yards. Hovis ran for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Grove City leads the all-time series 24-11. The Eagles have won five straight games against Slippery Rock and 12 of the last 15 meetings. The teams first met in the 1976 season finale as Grove City downed Slippery Rock, 29-20. Grove City has won 11 of 17 meetings at Forker Field.
The teams will also play October 9 at Slippery Rock.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Hickory at Sharon, 7:00 p.m.
The Sharon High School football program pre-dates World War I. Yet, Friday night will mark the first time that Sharon has hosted Hickory in its home opener. Sharon will try to avoid its second straight 0-2 start while Hickory guns for a second consecutive 2-0 start.
Sharon jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the opener at Slippery Rock before being blanked in the final three quarters of a 27-7 setback. Senior quarterback Brett Salsgiver highlighted his first start by throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Tyvell Richardson, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Sharon held a 16-12 edge in first downs but the Tigers turned over the ball on downs four times. Salsgiver completed 8 of 23 passes for 90 yards. He also ran for 42 yards. Junior Jaydin Robinson paced Sharon with 46 rushing yards while junior wide receiver Ja'On Phillips had six catches for 69 yards.
Like Sharon, Hickory scored on its opening possession of the season as tailback Clay Wiesen scored on a seven-yard run. However, Hickory maintained momentum throughout, on the way to a 41-21 home victory over Grove City.
Wiesen ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns in his varsity debut. Senior tight end Rocco Iacino caught five passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to extend Hickory's lead to 34-7.
Senior quarterback Michael Henwood completed 18 of 26 passes for 267 yards and the two touchdown passes to Iacino. Henwood also ran for a touchdown and intercepted a pass from his cornerback position. Junior wide receiver Ramarion Whitehead, the county leader in yards per catch last season (24.7), caught a game-high seven passes for 87 yards.
In addition to forcing two turnovers, the Hickory defense held Grove City to 2.1 yards per rushing attempt and a 3-for-13 performance on third down.
Hickory scored the final 15 points in last year's Week Two meeting as the Hornets pulled out a 28-21 home victory. Henwood ran for 149 yards and a touchdown. He also threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Current senior Matthew Cannone intercepted a pass and caught the game-tying two-point conversion pass from Henwood with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
Hickory took its only lead of the night with 3:06 left in the game on Kam Fisher's nine-yard touchdown run.
Sharon leads the all-time series 39-13-1. The teams have met in the regular season every year since 1981. The teams first met in 1959. The home team has prevailed in each of the last six regular season meetings between the neighboring rivals. Sharon won the last meeting at Tiger Stadium, 27-24, two years ago.
Hickory is 5-21 all-time against the Tigers at Sharon. Hickory did win District 10 title games in 1988, 1989 and 1991 at Sharon Tiger Stadium, however.
The teams will meet October 9 in Hermitage.
Sharpsville at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
When Greenville and Sharpsville first met in high school football, the United States had only 46 states, William Howard Taft lived in the White House and federal income tax had not been ratified as the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution. One-hundred ten years later, a lot has changed in the United States, but Sharpsville and Greenville are still playing football.
Friday night, Greenville will host Sharpsville in the 76th all-time meeting. Both teams are looking to rebound from shutout defeats in Week One. Greenville fell at Wilmington, 48-0, while Farrell pulled away from Sharpsville for a 41-0 win at the Blue Devils' McCracken Field.
Greenville and Sharpsville both featured first-time starting quarterbacks last Saturday night in their respective season openers. For Greenville, junior Jalen Ritzert went 7 of 12 for 43 yards at Wilmington. Sharpsville sophomore quarterback Stephen Tarnoci completed 4 of 9 passes for 62 yards in his debut as a starter.
Senior Rufus Byler caught five passes for 31 yards to lead Greenville. Senior Danny Henwood had three receptions for 35 yards on the Sharpsville side.
The teams also met in Greenville last year and the Trojans rallied from a 12-0 halftime hole to earn a 20-12 victory. Isaac Sasala's 24-yard interception return for a touchdown with 39 seconds left sealed the win for Greenville. Sasala also ran for 68 yards while Levi Swartz added 32 yards and the go-ahead touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Fullback Chris Roth led Sharpsville with 77 rushing yards. He and quarterback Garen Levis both ran for touchdowns. Levis now starts at wide receiver for Sharpsville.
Sharpsville has not started a season 0-2 since 2007, when the Blue Devils dropped home decisions to South Side Beaver (14-6) and Farrell (21-15). That's the only time that Sharpsville has lost its first two games of the season under 25th-year head coach Paul Piccirilli.
Greenville owns a 39-34-2 edge in the all-time series. Greenville won the first meeting in 1910, 17-0. The teams began playing regularly in 1922 and the series remained uninterrupted from 1927 to 1982. In 1983, Bradford joined the Northwest Conference, causing Greenville's schedule to be reconfigured. A common open date could not be found, so Sharpsville filled its open date that year with Franklin.
Sharpsville and Greenville then played each year from 1984 to 1989. The series then resumed in 2014 and 2015 with non-conference games. The schools have been league foes for the last five seasons.
The rematch will be held October 9 at Sharpsville.
Cochranton at Lakeview, 7:00 p.m.
Lakeview will renew one of its most-frequently played rivalries Friday night as the Sailors host Cochranton in Region 4 action. It is the 34th all-time meeting between the neighboring schools. Only Mercer (37 games), Union City (35) and Conneaut Lake (34) have appeared more frequently on Lakeview's schedule than has Cochranton.
Lakeview and Cochranton are both looking rebound from opening night setbacks at home in Region 4 play. Lakeview fell to visiting Cambridge Springs, 41-13, last Saturday night. Meanwhile, Saegertown snapped a 38-game slide by pulling out a 13-6 win at Cochranton.
Cambridge Springs jumped out to a 26-0 lead at Lakeview in last week's lidlifter. The Sailors broke through when senior wide receiver Hunter Miller caught a five-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Gavin Murdock. Murdock also scored on a short touchdown run in the fourth quarter to close the scoring.
Miller caught four passes for 57 yards. Murdock went 5 of 16 for 69 yards. He also led the Sailors with 36 rushing yards on eight carries.
Cochranton forced four turnovers and did not commit a turnover against Saegertown. Senior Jon Gallo ran for 104 yards on 19 carries. Junior quarterback Wyatt Barzak, a returning starter for Cochranton, completed 5 of 21 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Clifton Roberts is in his first season as Cochranton head coach. He spent the last three seasons as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator.
Lakeview leads the all-time series, 20-12-1. This is the first meeting since 2013. Lakeview has won six straight against the Redbirds. Cochranton's last win at Lakeview came September 9, 2005, a 14-0 victory.
The teams first met October 20, 1979 as Crawford County League Western Division opponents. Lakeview prevailed at home, 12-0. Cochranton began varsity football in 1979. Cochranton's addition to the league gave the CCL 11 teams, so the league split into two divisions. Cochranton, Conneaut Lake, Conneaut Valley, Lakeview and Linesville comprised the Western Division. The Eastern Division consisted of Cambridge Springs, Kanty Prep, Maplewood, Saegertown, Union City and Venango Christian.
In 1980, both Lakeview and Cochranton began play in the newly-minted French Creek Valley Conference. The FCVC teams broke away from the CCL, stranding Kanty Prep (which closed), Venango Christian and Commodore Perry.
This is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season. With six teams in Region 4, the schools have a single-round robin schedule. The Week One pairings will have a rematch in the sixth game of the regular season to round out the schedule.
West Middlesex at Kennedy Catholic, 1:00 p.m.
For the first time in seven years, Kennedy Catholic will play a home varsity football game at Butala Stadium as the Golden Eagles host longtime rival West Middlesex in the area's lone Saturday clash. Each team aims to rebound from an opening-night setback. A fast start by Mercer helped send Kennedy to a 46-6 road setback in Week One. Meanwhile, West Middlesex fell to visiting Reynolds, 27-20.
Although Kennedy's return to varsity football did not result in a victory, the Golden Eagles produced a number of highlights. Sophomore quarterback Nick Ondo made his first start and threw for 202 yards on 17-of-29 accuracy. Dajaun Young caught a county-high 10 passes last week for 66 yards while Sky'Ler Thomas caught four passes and gained 110 receiving yards. His 85-yard touchdown on a hook-and-lateral put the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback Blaze Campbell intercepted a pass for the Kennedy defense. The Golden Eagles also recorded three quarterback sacks. However, Mercer's three non-offensive touchdowns helped contribute to the opening night defeat.
While Ondo primarily used his strong right arm last week, West Middlesex senior quarterback Ty Tate used both his arm and his legs to account for 203 total yards and three total touchdowns against Reynolds. Tate completed 12 of 16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 91 yards and two scores. Tate set career highs in rushing yards, passing yards and total offense last Friday night, despite being sacked six times.
Senior split end Chris Smith caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Versatile senior wingback Alex Rea caught four balls. The Big Reds went 6 for 12 on third down and six of their eight possessions featured at least six offensive plays.
West Middlesex has won nine straight in the series but Kennedy still owns a 24-14 all-time advantage. The teams last met October 19, 2013, with West Middlesex picking up a 55-12 road win in Hermitage. The Big Reds accumulated 532 yards of total offense that afternoon.
Kennedy began varsity football in 1966 and the Golden Eagles fell at West Middlesex, 22-7, in the second game in program history. Kennedy is 10-6 against the Big Reds at Butala Stadium, which opened in 1972. The teams first met at Butala Stadium September 20, 1975, with Kennedy earning a 21-6 win.
That 1975 game featured controversy, however. Several West Middlesex players suffered burns from lime that had been spread on the field. Not surprisingly, the schools had differing viewpoints on the incident. The New Castle News and Greenville Record-Argus both had stories on the situation in the subsequent week.
Kennedy will visit West Middlesex in three weeks, on October 9.
The game can be heard on 790 WPIC. Live stats available here.