(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News. Anthony Pegues, Brandon Phillian interviews courtesy of PIC SportsLine)
WEEK EIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
A full slate of playoff games and three regular season tussles comprise this week's eight-game card. Friday night's playoff schedule features an all-local matchup as Hickory hosts Slippery Rock. Saturday night, Wilmington hosts Farrell for the District 10 Class 2A crown.
Grove City and West Middlesex both have lengthy road trips for their respective D-10 semifinals at Fort LeBoeuf and Eisenhower. Sharon and Kennedy Catholic have open dates this weekend.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
Slippery Rock at Hickory, 7:00 p.m.
Region 3 champion Hickory (6-0) opens its postseason path Friday night by hosting league foe Slippery Rock in the district semifinals. The teams met in the Region 3 finale two weeks ago, with Hickory securing a 28-7 home victory. Now, the Hornets will need to repeat that feat in order to reach the D-10 finals for the first time since 2016.
Hickory also owns a 45-0 win at Slippery Rock, which came in Week Three. Senior quarterback Michael Henwood produced two of his top career performances in this year's respective wins over Slippery Rock. Henwood threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns in the win at Slippery Rock. He then accumulated 275 passing yards and two touchdowns, along with 123 rushing yards and a score, in the October 17 victory in Hermitage.
Henwood leads Mercer County with 1,507 passing yards and 2,038 total offensive yards in six games. His 17 touchdown passes and 26 combined touchdowns also lead the area. He could surpass a pair of statistical milestones Friday night. Henwood currently has 3,919 career passing yards and 1,404 career rushing yards. He would become what is believed to be the first Mercer County player with over 4,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards.
Hickory junior wide receiver Ramarion Whitehead has 17 receptions for 315 yards and three touchdowns this year -- in the two games against Slippery Rock. Whitehead caught 10 balls for 141 yards and the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter of the October 17 game. Overall, Whitehead leads Mercer County with 37 receptions, 741 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. He also averages a county-high 20.0 yards per catch.
Senior tight end Rocco Iacino leads the area's tight ends with 17 catches for 308 yards while senior H-back Matt Cannone has added 16 catches. Six of his receptions have gone for touchdowns.
Hickory leads Mercer County in total offense, averaging 438.2 yards per game. Senior center Michael Trinchese and senior tackle Dalton Beatty have anchored an experienced and skilled offensive line.
The Hornets' defense has been every bit as exemplary as that explosive offense. Hickory allows a county-low 3.2 yards per play this season. The Hornets have surrendered a county-low nine touchdowns and have 13 takeaways. Cannone ranks second in the area with three interceptions while Whitehead and Henwood both have two interceptions. Opponents have converted only 29 percent of third-down opportunities against Hickory.
Beatty had 2.5 sacks and Iacino added two sacks in the second victory over Slippery Rock. In the first win, Hickory held Slippery Rock to six first downs and 104 offensive yards.
While Hickory contained Slippery Rock's offense during the first two meetings, the Rockets do feature one of the area's top passing games. Sophomore quarterback William Mokel leads the area with 103 pass completions and 189 attempts this year. He ranks second to Henwood with 1,131 passing yards. Mokel completed 16 of 24 passes for 141 yards last Friday night in a 28-3 loss at Class 6A Butler.
Five Slippery Rock receivers have caught 14 passes or more this season. Sophomore John Sabo leads the Rockets with 25 catches for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Sabo, who caught a 23-yard touchdown pass two weeks ago at Hickory, ranks third locally in receiving yards and fourth in catches.
Junior halfback Ryan Montgomery has caught 20 passes, good for seventh in the area. Montgomery has lined up both in the backfield and in the slot as part of Slippery Rock's spread offense. Senior wide receiver Ethan Plesakov (18 receptions), junior fullback Shane Thompson (16) and sophomore halfback Brett Galcik (14) are also top targets of Mokel.
Thompson leads the Rockets (2-5) with 271 rushing yards. He ran for 48 yards October 17 at Hickory.
Hickory leads the all-time series 22-10. The Hornets are 2-0 against Slippery Rock in the playoffs. Four years ago, Hickory earned a 33-10 win over Slippery Rock in the D-10 Class 3A semifinals. In 2014, Hickory avenged a regular season loss to Slippery Rock by downing the Rockets in the Class AA semifinals, 35-27.
Slippery Rock is 9-13 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. Hickory owns a 28-7 record in the D-10 tournament.
The winner will face Fort LeBoeuf or Grove City in next week's district title game.
The game can be heard on 790 WPIC.
Grove City at Fort LeBoeuf, 7:00 p.m.
For the fifth straight season, Grove City will play Fort LeBoeuf. The teams met in the District 10 Class 5A semifinals in 2016 and 2017, then squared off in the 2018 and 2019 season openers. Grove City won each of those four meetings but likely will have its stiffest test in the series against the 6-0 Bison when the Eagles head to Waterford for a district semifinal.
Both teams had last weekend off, although Fort LeBoeuf scrimmaged Class 2A finalist Wilmington. Grove City (3-3) used the week for rest and recovery after several injuries afflicted the team late in the regular season.
"We had a much-needed off week and we were able to rest some bumps and bruises," Grove City head coach Sam Mowrey said. "We were able to focus on things that we needed to improve. It was a great week to get back to basics."
Grove City welcomes back senior quarterback Logan Breese from a knee injury. Breese missed the final two games of the regular season after a surgical procedure but has been cleared to return. A two-year starter, Breese has thrown for 745 yards and seven touchdowns in four games this year.
Junior Zach Rodgers filled in for Breese and threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-46 accuracy. Both Rodgers and Breese have completed 57 percent of their passes this season.
Rodgers will start at wide receiver, along with classmate Anthony Pereira. Pereira leads Grove City with 30 catches for 512 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot-4 Pereira ranks second in the county in receptions and receiving yards. Senior tight end Zack Martin has added a dozen receptions this year. Those three veterans will take on an increased role as injuries have also afflicted the receiving corps.
Grove City lost freshman Gavin Lutz (23 receptions) for the season to a broken foot. Junior kicker-turned-receiver John Hake replaced Lutz in the starting lineup and recorded six pass receptions. Hake is also a soccer standout and recently suffered a broken collarbone in a match, leaving vacancies at receiver, kicker and punter. He went 18 for 19 on extra points and averaged 32.3 yards per punt.
Sophomore Hayden McCreadie will replace Hake at receiver and as place-kicker. Martin will take over as punter.
While Grove City's passing game has been reconfigured multiple times over the last month, the Eagles still have junior Curtis Hovis and sophomore Anthony Nemec at running back. Hovis leads the Eagles with 493 rushing yards and Nemec ranks second on the team with 225 rushing yards.
Defensively, Grove City limits opponents to 3.3 yards per carry this season. However, the Eagles rank 13th out of the area's 13 teams in pass defense, allowing 196 yards per game. Fortunately for the Eagles, Fort LeBoeuf features a ground-based Wing-T offensive attack. The Bison have attempted only 20 passes all season.
Fort LeBoeuf averages 348.5 rushing yards per game. Junior Tristin Harris leads Fort LeBoeuf with 813 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 45 attempts. He averages 18.1 yards per attempt. Senior fullback Jack Rimpa has added 537 yards and a dozen scores. Rimpa averages 10.3 yards per rush. He also leads Fort LeBoeuf with six catches and 156 receiving yards. A standout wrestler, Rimpa went 33-14 at 152 pounds last winter and qualified for the PIAA Class AA Championships.
Fort LeBoeuf closed the regular season with a 49-7 win over visiting Girard two weeks ago. Harris ran for 123 yards and three touchdown on four attempts. Junior Adam Lichtinger added 92 yards and two scores. The Bison accumulated 323 rushing yards on 30 carries.
"They have talented running backs that show both speed and physicality," Mowrey said. "It is going to be crucial to slow down their ground game and force them outside of their comfort zone."
Senior quarterbacks Max Endres and Alex Blose have both played this season. Endres is 9 of 13 for 160 yards. Blose is 5 of 7 for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Fort LeBoeuf won Region 7 by sweeping Fairview, Girard and Mercyhurst Prep this season. The Bison average 47.2 points per game and allow an average of only 4.7 points per game. Opponents average 130 total yards per game. Head coach Jeff Nichols (82-82) is in his 17th season.
"Fort LeBoeuf is always a well-coached, disciplined and scrappy team," Mowrey said. "This year, they have been stout against the run and they fly to the football. We are going to have to be physical up front and win in the trenches to get the ground game going."
Prior to the schedules and regions being reconfigured due to COVID-19, the teams were set to meet September 4 in Grove City.
Grove City is 20-14 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. That includes a 45-6 win three years ago over Fort LeBoeuf in the Class 5A semifinals. The previous season, the Eagles edged Fort LeBoeuf, 27-23, in the D-10 semifinals. Grove City is 1-0 in playoff games at Fort LeBoeuf. Last season, the Eagles rallied past Mercyhurst Prep for a 28-17 quarterfinal win at newly-renovated Carm Bonito Field.
Fort LeBoeuf is 3-17 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. Fort LeBoeuf fell to Erie Cathedral Prep in the Class 4A title game in each of the last two seasons. The Bison are in pursuit of their first D-10 title since 1990. That year, Fort LeBoeuf defeated Hickory in the Class AA semifinals, 6-0, in overtime. The Bison then defeated Erie County foe Fairview for the D-10 title, 20-13.
The winner will play Hickory or Slippery Rock in next week's District 10 Class 3A championship game.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
Cambridge Springs at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Reynolds hosts Region 4 runner-up Cambridge Springs (6-1) in a District 10 semifinal Friday night in Transfer. Reynolds aims for its first District 10 title since 2005 while Cambridge Springs guns for its first district crown in 24 years.
Reynolds returns to action after an open date last week. Two weeks ago, Reynolds clinched the first undefeated regular season in the 60-year history of its program by picking up a 34-18 win at Kennedy Catholic. Cambridge Springs closed the regular season last week with a 45-8 win at Kennedy in non-conference play.
Friday night's game will be a matchup of strengths. Reynolds boasts Mercer County's highest-scoring offense as the Raiders average 43.3 points per game. The Raiders average 315.3 rushing yards and have a county-best 32 rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, Cambridge Springs has recorded two shutouts and allows only 11 points per game. Last week, Spa held Kennedy to 112 total yards.
Senior halfback Cole Toy leads the Raiders' potent rushing attack with 824 rushing yards. He has 2,483 career rushing yards and will likely eclipse the 2,500-yard mark Friday night. He ran for 139 yards and four touchdowns in the win at Kennedy. Fellow senior halfback Dreyvin Livingston has added 460 yards. Livingston averages 9.6 yards per carry. He led Reynolds with 140 rushing yards at Kennedy.
Toy ranks second in the area in rushing yards and scoring (18 touchdowns, 110 points). Livingston ranks 10th in rushing yardage and seventh in scoring with 44 points. He is also 26 of 31 on extra points this year.
Livingston leads the defense with three interceptions. Eight different Reynolds players have at least one interception. The Raiders have a county-high 19 takeaways this year, as well as a plus-11 turnover margin. That figure also leads Mercer County.
Senior quarterback Trenten Wheeler leads Cambridge Springs with 520 passing yards and 435 rushing yards. He only handled place-kicking duties in last week's win at Kennedy but will be back at quarterback this week.
Cambridge Springs posted 224 offensive yards against Kennedy Catholic. However, six of nine Spa drives began inside the Kennedy 40.
Cambridge Springs' lone blemish came October 2, when Class 2A Northwestern earned a 25-8 win over the host Blue Devils. Cambridge Springs owns a pair of wins over Class 2A Lakeview -- a 41-13 road win in the opener and then a 29-18 home triumph two weeks ago.
The teams met during the 2016 and 2017 regular seasons. Reynolds earned a 32-30 home win September 9, 2016. Cambridge Springs evened the all-time series September 8, 2017 with a 30-12 home win over the Raiders.
Reynolds is 14-8 all-time in District 10 playoff action. This will be Reynolds' first playoff game on grass since an 18-15 loss to North East in the 2002 Class AA semifinals at Greenville. Cambridge Springs is 7-18 all-time in District 10 playoff games.
The winner will play West Middlesex or Eisenhower in next week's championship game.
West Middlesex at Eisenhower, 7:00 p.m.
For the first time in 18 years, West Middlesex and Eisenhower will meet in the postseason as the 4-2 Big Reds visit undefeated Eisenhower (7-0) in the District 10 semifinals. In 2002, West Middlesex earned a 21-17 win over Eisenhower for the District 10 Class A championship. Friday night, the teams will battle for a berth in the 2020 1A title tilt.
West Middlesex clinched the fourth and final berth in the playoffs with a 31-0 triumph two weeks ago at Mercer in the regular season finale. Eisenhower went 6-0 in Region 5 play, then rolled to a 31-8 win last Friday night at Cochranton in non-conference play.
West Middlesex boasts Mercer County's top defense as the Big Reds allow only 154.3 yards per game. West Middlesex has held opposing quarterbacks to 28 percent (17 of 68) completions this year. The Big Reds have not allowed a passing touchdown. West Middlesex opponents are 13 of 61 (21 percent) on third down.
However, the West Middlesex defense will face a stiff test Friday night at Eisenhower. The Knights average 50 points and 454 offensive yards per game. Senior quarterback Owen Trumbull, a three-year starter, has thrown for 1,144 yards and 18 touchdowns this year. He has completed 62 of 93 (66.7 percent) attempts.
Senior Dillon Benson leads Eisenhower with 26 receptions for 561 yards, an average of 21.6 yards per catch. Benson had six receptions for 111 yards at Cochranton. Senior Caleb Robinault has added 10 catches for 222 yards. Benson and Robinault have both caught six touchdown passes. Benson caught 64 passes for 831 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
Trumbull has thrown for 3,523 career yards and 36 passing touchdowns. He had six touchdown passes October 9 in a 61-8 win over Iroquois.
Yet, Eisenhower's passing game takes a secondary role when compared to a punishing rushing attack that averages 290.6 yards per game. Junior running back Cael Black has rushed for 804 yards and 15 touchdowns. Black placed sixth in the state in the 220-pound weight class at last year's PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships. He ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns last week at Cochranton.
Trumbull has added 281 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Offensively, West Middlesex senior quarterback Ty Tate has thrown for 623 yards while adding 251 rushing yards and a team-leading seven touchdown runs. He ranks sixth in Mercer County with 874 yards of total offense and fifth in passing yardage.
Senior wide receiver Chris Smith leads West Middlesex with 16 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Senior wingback Alex Rea has grabbed 14 receptions and sophomore wingback Colby Johnson owns 11 catches. Johnson also averages a team-high 5.7 yards per carry. He's third on the team with 176 rushing yards. Junior fullback Ian Smith paces West Middlesex with 371 rushing yards.
Eisenhower owns a plus-6 turnover margin. West Middlesex is minus-4 for the season.
West Middlesex owns a 20-9 all-time record in the District 10 playoffs. This is Eisenhower's first playoff appearance since falling to Wilmington, 52-0, in the Class 2A quarterfinals four years ago. Eisenhower's last playoff win came November 1, 2002, when the Knights blanked Saegertown in the Class A semifinals, 8-0. Eisenhower has scored in single digits in each of its last three playoff wins (8-6 over Conneaut Lake in 1995; 9-7 over Conneaut Lake in 1994).
Eisenhower played for the District 10 Class A title every year from 1990 to 1995, winning the crown in 1992 and 1993. Ike is 9-14 all-time in the D-10 playoffs.
The winner will play Reynolds or Cambridge Springs in next week's Class 1A championship game.
Sharpsville at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
When a series dates back 110 years, it takes something out of the ordinary to be considered "history making." That's the case Friday night as longtime rivals Greenville and Sharpsville meet for an unprecedented third time this season. Neither team qualified for the District 10 playoffs but are taking advantage of the PIAA allowance for additional regular season games this fall.
Sharpsville swept the two meetings in Region 2 play this season. Sharpsville pulled out a 14-12 win at Greenville in Week Two as the host Trojans misfired on a game-tying two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Three weeks later, Sharpsville rallied from an early 7-0 deficit to secure a 24-14 home victory at McCracken Field.
In the September 18 meeting, Sharpsville took a 7-6 lead midway through the third quarter on senior halfback Danny Henwood's 68-yard touchdown sprint. Sophomore quarterback Stephen Tarnoci pushed the lead to 14-6 by scoring on a one-yard sneak late in the third period. That score came after a bad punt snap gave Sharpsville possession at the Greenville 21.
Sophomore halfback Mason Dickens gave Greenville a 7-0 lead in the return bout but Henwood scored twice on short touchdown runs in the second half to put Sharpsville ahead to stay.
Henwood leads Sharpsville with 467 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He has also caught a team-high 10 passes from Tarnoci and freshman quarterback Caullin Summers. He ranks ninth in the county in rushing yards and eighth with 706 all-purpose yards. Junior fullback Chris Roth has added 284 rushing yards on a team-leading 78 attempts.
The youthful duo of Dickens and freshman fullback Malachi Hyde has handled the bulk of the ball-carrying duties for Greenville since midseason. Dickens leads Greenville with 264 yards while Hyde has gained 238 yards. Hyde ran for 65 yards and Dickens had 64 rushing yards last week in a 42-15 home setback to Sharon.
Senior wide receiver Rufus Byler continues to rank among the county leaders in receptions and receiving yards. He ranks eighth with 19 catches and ranks fifth with 304 receiving yards.
Sharpsville has a county-low four takeaways this season. The Blue Devils have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 63 percent of their pass attempts and average 10.8 yards per attempt this season. The Blue Devils are Mercer County's least-penalized team, having been flagged only 22 times in six games. Sharpsville had an open date last weekend.
Greenville owns a 39-36-2 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.
Sharpsville will visit District 9 entry Moniteau next Thursday night in regular season action.
Cochranton at Mercer, 7:00 p.m.
Mercer closes its home schedule Friday night by hosting fellow Class 1A foe Cochranton (0-7). It is the 12th all-time meeting in a series that predates the Great Depression. Both teams look to close 2020 with victories after suffering setbacks last week.
Mercer fell at Lakeview, 47-7, in non-conference play. Meanwhile, Cochranton battled undefeated Eisenhower before falling by a 31-8 count.
Both Mercer and Cochranton have struggled to finish drives this season. The Mustangs have scored on 6 of 17 trips inside the red zone this season. Meanwhile, Cochranton's eight points last week matched a season high.
However, each squad features a dynamic senior running back with big-play capability. Mercer's Aidan Bright scored on a 68-yard touchdown run last week at Lakeview and leads the Mustangs with 482 rushing yards. He ranks second in the county with 1,012 all-purpose yards and third with 10 touchdowns and 62 points. He also leads Mercer with 13 catches.
Cochranton senior Jon Gallo leads the Cardinals with 360 rushing yards this season. He also has five receptions. Gallo has played running back, wide receiver and quarterback over the last three seasons.
Mercer junior quarterback Ethan Wiley has thrown for 482 yards this season. Junior split end Donovan Pugh has emerged in recent weeks and ranks second on the team with seven receptions. Sophomore halfback Nathan Haines has added six catches.
The Mercer defense ranks second in the county with 16 takeaways. Pugh has three interceptions while Bright and Troy Baughman both have two thefts. Mercer is also No. 2 in the county in fewest penalty yards per game. The Mustangs average only four penalties and 26.4 yards per game.
Cochranton quarterback Wyatt Barzak has thrown for 419 yards in his second year as a starter. The 6-foot-4 junior has thrown three touchdown passes, including an 88-yarder to Kendrick Hostetler in the first quarter last week. Hostetler leads the Redbirds with seven catches for 258 yards.
The Cochranton defense holds teams to 19.9 points per game. However, Cochranton yielded 431 total yards and 24 first downs last week to Eisenhower (7-0). Clifton Roberts is in his first season as head coach after serving as an assistant coach under former head coach Joel Murray.
Lakeview is the teams' common opponent. Cochranton fell to the Sailors, 26-0, in Week Two.
Mercer won last year's meeting, 14-12, in the season opener. Bright ran for 67 yards and also caught a touchdown pass from Wiley for Mercer. Gallo ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. He also had five receptions for 42 yards. Barzak completed 10 of 19 passes for 104 yards.
That marked the first win for Mercer head coach Jeff Lockard. He became the third Mercer coach to record his first win against Cochranton, joining Keith DeGraaf (2018) and Gary Krenzer (2002). Bill Crowell's second win as Mercer coach came against Cochranton, when the County Seaters recorded a 19-13 home win November 7, 1930.
Mercer leads the all-time series, 9-2. Of the 11 previous meetings, seven have come in season openers (1933, 1934, 1935, 2002, 2003, 2018, 2019). Cochranton won the first meeting at home, 14-0, October 11, 1929.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 2A TITLE GAME
Farrell at Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.
Wilmington has won four consecutive District 10 titles in Class 2A. Farrell won five straight D-10 titles in Class 1A before moving up to Class 2A this season. One of those historic streaks will end Saturday night when the Greyhounds (6-0) and Steelers (5-2) meet in New Wilmington.
Wilmington received a bye to the finals while Farrell outlasted previously-undefeated Northwestern in the semifinals last Saturday, 30-10, in Albion. Thunderstorms postponed that semifinal game from Friday night to Saturday.
A pair of regular season victories over Farrell helped propel Wilmington to the Region 2 title. The Greyhounds pulled away for a 41-20 win at Farrell in the season's second week. On October 10, Wilmington held off visiting Farrell, 21-20.
"We're definitely excited about playing Farrell and having it at home. We're very grateful for the opportunity," Wilmington head coach Brandon Phillian said. "The opportunity to compete for a District 10 championship is something that is very, very special."
Farrell earned a spot in the title game with its victory at Northwestern. Junior tailback Anthony Stallworth ran for 245 yards and a touchdown in the victory. He went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season and the 3,000-yard plateau for his career. This year, Stallworth leads Mercer County with 1,129 rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns. He now has 3,022 career rushing yards.
Senior quarterback Christian Hartley added a pair of short touchdown runs. Senior running back Jaden Harrison made his season debut at Northwestern after missing the regular season due to a leg injury. He opened the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, his first carry of the season.
"It's a great emotional lift to have Jaden back in the fold," Farrell head coach Anthony Pegues said.
Harrison ran for 989 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He also caught 18 passes in 2019. Harrison has 1,799 career rushing yards and 24 total career touchdowns.
"You can see how talented of a runner (Harrison) is," Phillian said. "He has the ability to change a game on any given play. There's no doubt that when you add him to that offense, it certainly adds another element that makes Farrell more dynamic and more difficult to prepare for."
Hartley has thrown for 587 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Trian Holden has added 302 passing yards and three touchdowns. Together, they have helped Farrell post a county-best passer rating of 194.77 (NCAA formula).
Hartley also played some fullback last week at Northwestern due to the loss of starting fullback/linebacker Taidon Strickland. Game officials ejected Strickland from the game due to a targeting infraction on a roughing the passer penalty. Unless an appeal is successful, Farrell will be without Strickland, who earned All-State honors at inside linebacker last season.
"That was really a tough call," Pegues said. "They ruled it was helmet-to-helmet contact. Taidon's an All-State kid, with over 300 career tackles. He's our quarterback on defense. He's the guy who makes all of the defensive calls out there and makes the adjustments. He's a smart, tough kid."
"Strickland is a great player," Phillian said. "He does a great job for them on both sides of the football. That would certainly be a major loss for Farrell. But I'm sure they have guys ready to step in if they are called upon to do so."
Wilmington did not have a game last week but the Greyhounds scrimmaged Class 3A playoff participant Fort LeBoeuf. "We wanted to stay sharp and stay crisp," Phillian said. "I know that both us and Fort LeBoeuf felt it was very beneficial. They're a very, very good football team. It helped to keep our team in tune and in sync as we prepare for Farrell."
Wilmington has been in sync throughout the 2020 season. The Greyhounds' famed "Hounds Hammer" defense leads the area in scoring defense, allowing 10.0 points per game. Offensively, Wilmington's Wing-T attack averages a county-high 353.2 rushing yards per game, as well as 9.5 yards per carry.
Senior halfback Ethan Susen leads Wilmington with 697 rushing yards, which also ranks third in the area. He leads the area with an 11.8 yards-per-carry average. Senior fullback Darren Miller has added 510 yards and 10 scores on the ground.
Junior halfback Luke Edwards, Wilmington's third starting running back, stepped to the forefront two weeks ago at Sharpsville as he ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He has 269 rushing yards.
Senior quarterback Caelan Bender has 236 rushing yards. Bender has thrown for 299 yards and five touchdowns. He has only attempted 27 passes this season, however. He averaged nearly 10 pass attempts per game last season.
Wilmington scored the final 28 points of the game in its Week Two win at Farrell. Bender's 17-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Greyhounds up 27-20. He then intercepted Hartley in the end zone on Farrell's next drive.
Miller and Susen sealed the win with touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. Susen ran for 234 yards and two touchdowns while Miller had 118 yards and a touchdown. Bender contributed 93 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Wilmington finished with 465 rushing yards.
Stallworth led Farrell with 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Hartley.
"They were more prepared than we were in that first game," Pegues said. "I felt like we only played three quarters and they played a full four quarters."
In the return game at Wilmington, Miller gave the Greyhounds a 21-14 lead in the third quarter with a 40-yard touchdown run. Stallworth scored with eight minutes left in the game, cutting the lead to 21-20. However, Miller blocked the extra point.
Farrell drove to the Wilmington 9 in the final minute. A holding penalty wiped out a go-ahead touchdown run by Stallworth. On fourth-and-3 at the 10, Wilmington's Weston Phanco tackled Hartley short of the first down marker with 32 seconds left, preserving the one-point win.
Farrell outgained Wilmington, 432-263. Stallworth ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 76-yard touchdown pass. Brice Butler grabbed four receptions for 111 yards. Susen led Wilmington with 110 yards and Miller added 106.
"In the second game, we made the adjustments that we needed to make. We were tackling a lot better," Pegues said. "We felt like we let one get away. We felt like we outplayed them and that we should have won that game. We feel very confident about our situation heading into this game."
"Farrell is a terrific football team," Phillian said. "They have exception talent. They have hard-nosed kids. Coach Pegues and his staff do a great job. They're well-prepared and well-coached. They're a great program."
Both teams are plus-6 in turnover margin this year. Each team has only four turnovers this year. Wilmington leads the county in third-down conversion rate (66.7 percent), having converted 24 of 36. Farrell is No. 2 in the area in that category at 50 percent (22 of 44). Wilmington went 11 for 15 on third down in the two games against Farrell. The Steelers converted 8 of 16 total third downs in the two prior meetings.
Wilmington leads the all-time series, 7-6. Farrell 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.
Wilmington last lost at home October 16, 2015, when Hickory earned a 42-7 non-conference win. The Greyhounds have won 22 straight home games.
Farrell is 27-4 all-time in the District 10 playoffs, including 12 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 13 straight total playoff games, including consecutive state titles in Class 1A. All-time, Farrell is 80-24 in postseason play. The Steelers are 15-1 all-time in district title games, with the lone loss coming to Wilmington 32 years ago.
Wilmington owns a 16-4 record in district title games, including a 14-4 mark in District 10. This is the 19th time in 27 years that Wilmington has played for a D-10 title.
The Farrell-Wilmington winner advances to the PIAA Class 2A tournament. The winner will play the District 9 champion, either Brookville or Karns City. Those teams play Friday night at Brockway.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7. Live stats available here.
Lakeview at Franklin, 1:30 p.m.
Lakeview (3-4) looks to even its overall record Saturday afternoon when the Sailors jaunt to neighboring Franklin (1-6). The Sailors closed their home schedule last Friday night with a 47-7 win over rival Mercer. Meanwhile, Class 4A Franklin fell Saturday afternoon at Class 3A North East (1-6), 49-12, in a game postponed one day by thunderstorms.
Lakeview's 47-point outburst marked the highest total for the Sailors since a 68-7 win September 5, 2015 at Youngsville. The Sailors rolled up 552 yards of total offense against Mercer, which marked the highest total this year in Mercer County. It's the highest total for a Mercer County team in a regular season game since Grove City totaled 587 yards at Meadville October 19, 2018.
Junior quarterback Gavin Murdock accounted for 441 of those yards with his right arm and legs. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the victory. The 441 yards of total offense are the most for an area player since Hickory's Hayden Gallagher accumulated 495 total yards September 29, 2017 in a 41-14 win over Lakeview.
Senior slotback Kendall Crocker added 48 rushing yards and a touchdown catch. Senior wide receiver Hunter Miller caught five passes for 122 yards. Murdock also intercepted a pass on defense.
Murdock now ranks fourth in Mercer County with 643 rushing yards this season. His 1,421 yards of total offense ranks second locally. Miller ranks ninth in the county with 18 receptions and 284 receiving yards.
First-year Franklin head coach Matt Turk has installed a triple-option offensive attack. Senior quarterback Aaron Burkhardt conducts the offense, leading the team with 221 rushing yards and four scores. He has also completed 33 of 74 passes for 433 yards and three touchdowns. Cade Adams leads Franklin with 13 receptions for 166 yards while Cole Buckley has 12 catches for a team-high 207 yards and three scores.
Burkhardt went 5 of 11 for 53 yards and three interceptions last week at North East. He ran for a one-yard touchdown while Adams scored on a 20-yard touchdown run. North East returned two interceptions for touchdowns and also scored on a kickoff return.
The Knights have dropped five straight games after blanking Titusville, 21-0, September 19. This is Franklin's fifth Saturday game of the season. Four of Franklin's defeats came to playoff teams - Oil City (twice), Conneaut and Meadville.
Lakeview leads the all-time series 3-1. The teams met each year from 2012 to 2015. The Sailors have won each of the last three meetings. Lakeview is 2-2 all-time in Venango County. The Sailors are 1-1 at Franklin, 0-1 at Oil City (lost 12-6 October 26, 1990) and 1-0 at Venango Christian (won 33-0 September 27, 1980).
A Saturday afternoon home game will have a "turn back the clock" feel for Franklin. The Knights played Saturday afternoon home games from 1979 until 1985 after constructing its new facility behind Franklin High School. The "Light the Knights" volunteer effort raised $50,000 to erect lights in 1986. Prior to 1979, Franklin played its home games at the legendary Miller-Sibley Field.