(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives)
FARRELL STEELERS 2020 FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Anthony Pegues, 2nd year (13-2)
Last Year: 13-2 overall, won PIAA Class 1A title
The names change and in this case, the team's PIAA classification changes. But for the Farrell Steelers, expectations remain high as the team prepares for the 2020 football season.
Farrell won back-to-back PIAA Class 1A titles in 2018 and 2019 and the Steelers will carry a 13-game winning streak into this season. However, graduation claimed several standouts who played major roles in both state championship runs. Additionally, the PIAA's competitive balance formula moved Farrell from 1A to 2A.
The Steelers appear to be well-fortified to handle these challenges, however, as Farrell returns five starters and several other contributors on each side of the ball. Second-year head coach Amp Pegues reports that his team's roster of approximately 55 players is Farrell's largest squad in nearly 40 years.
"We have a great bunch of kids," Pegues said. "They have been working hard and putting in the work that they need to put in. We're led by a great senior class this year and they're doing what they need to do."
On the offensive line, senior center Gary Satterwhite III returns for his fourth year as the starter. A First Team All-State and All-Region pick last year, the 6-foot-2, 295-pound Satterwhite has started 44 career games on the offensive line. Juniors Jaiman Holden and Preston Williams both played extensively on the offensive line last season and are expected to start at tackle and guard, respectively. Pegues noted that several other candidates are battling for the two remaining starting spots.
"The offensive line is coming together well," Pegues said. "There is a lot of skill and a lot of size."
That line will clear the way for a stable of talented and experienced running backs. Junior Anthony Stallworth led Mercer County with 1,768 rushing yards last season. He also led the county in yards per carry, averaging 9.4. Senior Jaden Harrison added 989 rushing yards and also caught 18 passes. However, a leg injury will have Harrison sidelined for at least the first part of the regular season. Both backs earned First Team All-Region honors last year.
Junior tailback Anthony "Duke" Jackson ran for 266 yards and six touchdowns on only 20 carries last year. He aims for a greater role in the Farrell offense this fall. Classmate Taidon Strickland will take over as the fullback.
Senior wide receiver Brice Butler led Farrell with 497 receiving yards and six touchdown catches last year. He shared the team lead with 21 catches and is expected to again be a top target in 2020. He earned First Team All-Region recognition in 2019.
Senior A'Marion Odem, junior Omar Stewart, Jr., junior Denzel Driver and sophomore Kylon Wilson will also have major roles in the Steelers' passing attack.
While the probable pass-catchers are known, the starting pass-thrower remains to be determined. Senior Christian Hartley and junior Trian Holden are among those in the quarterback derby. Hartley started at quarterback early in 2019 and finished the season with 238 passing yards and two touchdowns. Holden, meanwhile, completed two of five attempts in reserve duty.
Defensively, All-State selection Strickland and All-Region honoree Jackson lead the linebacking group. Jackson returns at outside linebacker while Strickland holds down an inside spot. Stewart will likely start opposite Jackson at outside linebacker. Junior Allen Michael Jackson is in contention to start inside, next to Strickland.
All-State selection Butler returns at safety while Odem is a returning All-Region pick at cornerback. Wilson and sophomore Lamont Samuels, Jr., are battling for the other cornerback spot.
Satterwhite, Jaiman Holden and Williams will handle the tackle positions on Farrell's defensive line. Several players are in competition to fill the notable vacancies at defensive end, left by the graduation of Brian Hilton, Jr., and Sayvion Thomas.
Hartley will punt. Butler will kickoff and Samuels will handle place-kicks.
The move to Class 2A places Farrell in a region with Greenville, Sharpsville and Wilmington. Farrell played both Greenville and Wilmington last season in non-conference play. Farrell has also frequently played Sharpsville over the last 15 years.
"The league has strong teams," Pegues said. "Greenville is going to be good. They're coached well and they are good at what they do. Sharpsville -- they're still Sharpsville. You have to prepare very well for them. They are coached very well. Wilmington has been the cream of the crop in 2A. They are a very good team and they beat up on us last year.
"We're welcoming the challenge this year."