(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK SEVEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Seven of the area's 13 teams will play this weekend as the District 10 playoffs intersect with add-on regular season games Friday night and Saturday. Farrell will be the only local team playing a postseason game this week as the Steelers (4-2) visit Northwestern (6-0) in a District 10 Class 2A semifinal.
Postseason qualifiers Grove City, Hickory, Reynolds and West Middlesex have open dates this week. Wilmington received a bye into next weekend's Class 2A district title game. Slippery Rock will face Hickory in the D-10 Class 3A semifinals next week. But the Rockets will first visit Butler for a postseason tune-up Friday night.
Friday night's regular season card features two all-local matchups as Lakeview hosts Mercer while Sharon visits Greenville. Saturday, Kennedy Catholic hosts D-10 Class 1A playoff qualifier Cambridge Springs.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 2A SEMIFINAL
Farrell at Northwestern, 7:00 p.m.
Farrell begins its quest for a sixth consecutive District 10 title Friday night by heading to Albion for a Class 2A semifinal. Farrell qualified for the D-10 playoffs as the second-place team from Region 2 while undefeated Northwestern won the Region 4 crown. It will be the first-ever meeting between the programs.
Both teams closed the regular season with victories over respective opponents that they had previously defeated this season. Farrell secured a 30-8 home win over Greenville last Friday night. Meanwhile, Northwestern held off host Maplewood, 13-12, in a non-conference game between Region 4 opponents. Northwestern earlier topped Maplewood in overtime in Week One, 17-14.
The Farrell defense limited Greenville to 98 total yards and eight first downs last Friday night. Farrell's special teams also broke into the scoring column as Lamont Samuels, Jr., scored on a 55-yard punt return. That marked the Steelers' first special teams touchdown of 2020.
Offensively, junior tailback Anthony Stallworth paced Farrell with 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He leads Mercer County with 884 rushing yards, 20 total touchdowns, 122 total points and 1,056 total yards from scrimmage.
Senior Christian Hartley and junior Trian Holden continue to rotate at quarterback for Farrell. The duo has combined for a county-best 195.9 pass efficiency rating (NCAA formula) and a 67.1 percent completion rate. Hartley has thrown for 574 yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, Holden is 18 of 25 (72 percent) for 302 yards and three touchdowns this year.
Senior wide receiver Brice Butler leads the Steelers with 16 catches for 289 yards. He ranks third locally in yards per catch (18.1) and fifth in receiving yards. Stallworth has averaged 28.7 yards per catch on his six receptions out of the backfield. Farrell has a county-low four turnovers this season.
Like Farrell, Northwestern features a strong ground attack and an efficient passing game on offense. Junior quarterback Ryan Tewell pilots the Wildcats' offense and will present a challenge to Mercer County's top-ranked passing defense. Tewell has thrown for 617 yards, seven touchdowns and only one interception this season. He has also rushed for 289 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns.
Senior running back Austin Swift paces the Wildcats with 686 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He averages 6.4 yards per carry. Senior Malachi Schaefer leads Northwestern with 15 catches while junior Eric Steinle has 13 catches for a team-high 199 yards and five scores. Steinle caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Tewell last week against Maplewood. He also scored on a four-yard run after receiving a lateral from Tewell.
Swift ran for 120 yards in last week's win. Tewell completed 7 of 15 passes for 100 yards. He also ran for 65 yards on eight carries.
Northwestern is plus-8 in turnover margin this season. The Wildcats also feature one of District 10's top kickers in senior Preston Runser. Runser has kicked five field goals this year.
Northwestern has won six straight home games. The last loss came September 6, 2019, when Wilmington picked up a 42-14 win in Albion. Northwestern went 7-4 last year. Fourth-year head coach Mark Brooks owns a 24-13 record. Northwestern went 5-5 in his first year and then 6-4 in 2018.
Northwestern will be the site of a District 10 playoff game for the first time since November 9, 1990. That night, Iroquois defeated West Middlesex in overtime, 3-0, in a Class A semifinal. One year earlier, Fairview earned a 28-12 win over Cambridge Springs in a Class AA semifinal at Northwestern.
In the 1987 regular season finale, Northwestern hosted Grove City in what became a de facto playoff game. District 10 declared that the winner of that November 6 game would earn the fourth and final Division II playoff berth. Grove City earned its first-ever trip to the postseason by defeating the Wildcats, 32-14.
While true home games are new this year in District 10, other districts throughout Pennsylvania have regularly used home sites in the postseason. Farrell is 8-2 all-time in postseason road games. Farrell lost at Greenville, 7-6, in the second annual Northwest Conference-Keystone Football League "playoff" November 11, 1983. On November 1, 2002, the Steelers dropped a 7-6 verdict at Monessen in the first round of District 7's Class A playoff tournament.
The PIAA's competitive balance formula elevated Farrell from Class 1A to Class 2A. This is not Farrell's first postseason appearance in 2A, or "AA," however. Farrell won the 1976 District 7 title in Class AA by earning wins over Knoch (19-0), Laurel (6-0) and Brentwood (14-8). Four years later, Farrell won at Jeannette in the D-7 Class AA quarterfinals, 13-7. Seton-La Salle then downed the Steelers in the semifinal round, 35-0.
Farrell is 26-4 all-time in the District 10 playoffs, including 11 straight district playoff victories. Farrell's last D-10 playoff loss came November 14, 2014, as West Middlesex topped the Steelers, 21-6.
Farrell has won 12 straight total playoff games. All-time, Farrell is 79-24 in postseason play. Northwestern is Farrell's 64th different postseason opponent. Northwestern is 8-17 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The Wildcats won District 10 titles in 1985 and 1993. Northwestern is 9-18 overall in the postseason, going 1-1 in the 1993 PIAA playoffs.
The Farrell-Northwestern winner will face Wilmington in next week's District 10 Class 2A title game.
The game can be heard on 790 WPIC.
Mercer at Lakeview, 7:00 p.m.
Neighboring rivals Mercer and Lakeview square off Friday night in Stoneboro in a regular season game. Both programs look to rebound from Week Six setbacks. An 0-for-4 performance in the red zone hurt Mercer in a 31-0 loss to visiting West Middlesex. Meanwhile, Lakeview fell at Cambridge Springs, 29-18. A late interception return for touchdown for Cambridge Springs sealed the victory.
Mercer accumulated 189 offensive yards last week despite only having possession for 16:32 of the game. Junior quarterback Ethan Wiley threw for a season-high 150 yards last week as the Mustangs' Wing-T offense continues its transition to a more balanced approach. Senior halfback Aidan Bright caught four passes for 90 yards to help lead the receiving corps. Bright also ran for 41 yards.
Bright ranks fourth in the area with 875 all-purpose yards and fifth with 56 points. He has rushed for 376 yards and leads the Mustangs with 12 receptions for 170 yards. Junior split end Donovan Pugh and sophomore halfback Nathan Haines each have four catches. Both players are taking on a larger role in the offense as the season progresses.
Defensively, Mercer has intercepted eight passes and allowed only three passing touchdowns. Pugh is tied for second in the county with three interceptions and Bright owns two picks. The Mustangs will be tested by one of the area's most productive dual-threat quarterbacks in Lakeview junior Gavin Murdock.
Murdock ranks second in the county among quarterbacks with 433 rushing yards. He ranks second locally with 980 total offensive yards. Murdock has thrown for 547 yards, the No. 6 figure in Mercer County. Senior wide receivers Lane Barber and Hunter Miller each share the team lead with 13 receptions this season. Junior running back Calogano Wilkins has added six catches. Wilkins is Lakeview's No. 2 rusher on the season, having accumulated 223 yards.
Murdock ran for 118 yards and a touchdown last week at Cambridge Springs. Barber had five receptions for 123 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown pass from halfback Ryan O'Polka on an option pass. Barber and versatile senior Kendall Crocker both intercepted passes for the Sailors, who held Spa to 204 total yards.
Each team has 13 turnovers this season. Mercer is plus-2 in turnovers while Lakeview owns a zero turnover margin on the year.
Mercer leads the all-time series 25-11. The Mustangs have won three straight, including a 34-14 home win over Lakeview in Week Nine last year. Wiley threw for 88 yards while Bright had 87 rushing yards and a touchdown. Murdock ran for one score and also threw a touchdown pass to Barber. Mercer led 6-0 at halftime.
Two years ago at Lakeview, Bright ran for three touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass in the Mustangs' 44-14 win. He finished with 160 yards from scrimmage. Crocker led Lakeview with 67 rushing yards and both touchdowns.
The teams met yearly from 1966 to 1976 as members of the Tri-County League. Mercer and Lakeview first met September 17, 1966, with visiting Mercer earning a 44-0 win. That marked the first home game in Lakeview history.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Sharon at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
A pair of perennial playoff teams will meet in a regular season game Friday night when Greenville hosts Sharon. Sharon had won three straight District 10 Class 3A championships but did not advance to postseason play this year. Greenville's Mercer County-best streak of 14 consecutive playoff appearances also ended.
Sharon and Greenville both closed the scheduled portion of the regular season with road setbacks last Friday night. Sharon's game-winning two-point attempt in the final minute missed the mark as the Tigers fell at Grove City, 14-13. Meanwhile, Greenville fell 30-8 at Farrell.
Both Sharon and Greenville have shifted their offensive philosophies as the season has progressed. Sharon began the season using the "I" and spread sets, but the Tigers are now primarily relying upon a methodical Wing-T scheme. Greenville also used three- and four-receiver sets for the first part of the season, but is now again featuring its classic split back toss power attack.
The game will feature the area's two left-handed starting quarterbacks in Sharon's Brett Salsgiver and Greenville's Jalen Ritzert. A senior, Salsgiver has thrown for 475 yards and five touchdowns while being intercepted only once. He has also rushed for 260 yards and a team-leading four touchdowns.
Like Salsgiver, Ritzert is a first-year starter for Greenville. The junior has thrown for 423 yards and three scores this year. He threw for 45 yards, along with a touchdown pass to junior tight end Cole Karpinski last week at Farrell. Karpinski led Greenville with two catches last week. Freshman fullback Malachi Hyde paced Greenville with 37 rushing yards.
Hyde ranks second on the Trojans with 173 rushing yards while sophomore Mason Dickens has a team-high 200 yards on the ground. Senior Rufus Byler ranks among the county leaders with his 18 catches and 300 receiving yards. He is No. 4 in receiving yards and sixth in catches. Byler leads Greenville with 568 all-purpose yards.
Sharon features the county's third-ranked pass catcher, junior wide receiver Ja'On Phillips. Phillips has 27 catches this season and is also 10th locally with 220 receiving yards. He leads the Tigers with three interceptions.
Senior running back Tyvell Richardson leads Sharon with 342 rushing yards. He ran for 56 yards and a score at Grove City. Sophomore fullback Labrae Norris led the Tigers with 78 yards last week. He's now third on the team with 191 rushing yards.
The two programs have played 50 previous times since 1913. Sharon leads the all-time series, 35-14-1. Greenville won the last meeting, 21-14, September 8, 2017, in Greenville. The home team has won each of the last two meetings.
The teams played on Thanksgiving Day in both 1915 and 1916. The teams did not meet in the regular season between 1944 and 2002. Greenville defeated host Sharon, 13-6, in the final Northwest Conference-Keystone Football League playoff game November 9, 1984. District 10 began football playoffs in 1985 and Sharon claimed the inaugural D-10 Division I title with a 53-7 win over Greenville at Farrell.
Sharon and Greenville played the longest game in Mercer County history September 28, 2007, when the Trojans won 36-35 in quadruple overtime. Chris Frangapane scored a two-point conversion on the second possession of the fourth overtime to give Greenville the win.
Slippery Rock at Butler, 7:00 p.m.
Slippery Rock (2-4) will face Class 6A Butler in a tune-up Friday night for the District 10 Class 3A playoffs. The Rockets will visit Hickory in the D-10 semifinals October 30 and are the only 3A playoff qualifier who will play this week.
Slippery Rock visited Hickory in the region finale last Saturday night. The Rockets trailed 21-0 at halftime but cut into the lead on John Sabo's 23-yard touchdown catch from William Mokel. Slippery Rock had two more possessions in the second half but did not draw closer as Hickory earned a 28-7 victory.
Sabo caught four passes for 80 yards while junior fullback Shane Thompson ran 11 times for 48 yards. Mokel finished 8 of 24 for 80 yards. Hickory sacked him five times.
Mokel ranks second in the area with 990 passing yards. He has attempted an area-high 165 passes this year and is second with 87 completions. Sabo has moved into fifth place in the local rankings with 22 receptions. He is sixth in the area with 283 receiving yards.
Four other Slippery Rock men have double-digit reception totals this season. Senior wide receiver Ethan Plesakov and Thompson both have 16 catches. Junior halfback Ryan Montgomery owns 15 receptions and sophomore halfback Brett Galcik has 10 catches. Galcik averages 20.6 yards per catch and ranks second on the team with 127 rushing yards. Thompson leads Slippery Rock with 271 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Butler (1-4) broke a 24-game losing streak last Friday night with a 55-14 victory over Blackhawk in non-conference play. Butler quarterback/linebacker Cooper Baxter ran for two touchdowns, threw a touchdown pass, returned a fumble for a score and added an interception return to the end zone. Butler scored the final 35 points of the game.
Baxter leads the Golden Tornado with 385 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He ran for over 100 yards in each of Butler's games with Erie Cathedral Prep. Baxter is 35 of 68 passing for 309 yards.
Butler is in its first year as a District 10 football member. Butler plays Class 5A Cathedral Prep, 6A Erie McDowell and 6A Erie in league play.
Third-year Butler head coach Eric Christy is the older brother of Slippery Rock defensive coordinator Eli Christy. Both men are Butler High graduates.
This will be Slippery Rock's first game against a Butler County opponent since a 22-10 win at Mars in District 7 Midwestern AA Conference play September 26, 1987. The Rockets trailed 10-0 at halftime before scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half. Slippery Rock began play in District 10 and the Keystone Football League in 1988.
Cambridge Springs at Kennedy Catholic, 1:00 p.m.
Coming off a near upset of undefeated Reynolds last Saturday afternoon, Kennedy Catholic will host the Raiders' upcoming playoff opponent this week as Cambridge Springs (5-1) comes to Hermitage.
Kennedy posted season highs in points (18), rushing yards (88) and total yards (190) against Reynolds. The Golden Eagles only trailed 13-12 at halftime after a 66-yard touchdown run by Matt Jordan and Sky'Ler Thomas's 80-yard touchdown catch from Nick Ondo. However, the Raiders secured a 34-18 victory.
Jordan finished with a season-high 82 yards on 15 carries. Ondo threw for 102 yards and also scored on a quarterback sneak. Defensively, Sean Yeager and Kole Tarary both recorded sacks.
Jordan ranks eighth in the area in all-purpose yards per game (104.0). He has a team-leading 261 rushing yards in five games. Thomas leads the county in yards per catch (20.2). He is sixth in the area with 283 receiving yards. Ondo is No. 7 in the area with 524 passing yards.
Cambridge Springs scored the final 14 points of the game last Friday night in its come-from-behind 29-18 win over visiting Lakeview. Aidan Rauscher's 64-yard interception return for touchdown in the closing moments cemented the Blue Devil victory. Spa took the lead earlier in the quarter when Trenten Wheeler tossed a nine-yard touchdown to Colton Smith.
Wheeler ran for 82 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 4 of 11 passes for 62 yards and the go-ahead score. Rauscher caught a pair of passes for 46 yards.
Wheeler has thrown for 520 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He has also been intercepted six times in 82 attempts. Wheeler leads Spa with 435 rushing yards. Rauscher paces the receiving group with 15 catches for 209 yards and three scores. Asa Henderson has contributed 11 catches for 122 yards. Six different receivers have caught touchdowns this season.
Cambridge Springs leads the all-time series 3-1. The teams met each year from 1987 to 1990. Kennedy won the first meeting, 27-0, September 19, 1987 at Butala Stadium.
Cambridge Springs will play Reynolds in the D-10 Class 1A semifinals October 30. Reynolds and West Middlesex have open dates this weekend. Eisenhower (6-0), the other 1A playoff entrant, will visit Cochranton this week before hosting West Middlesex on the 30th in the semifinal round.