By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
ERIE — District 10 was destined for a Class AA championship game between reigning 2-time titlist Hickory and Greenville.
But no one informed the Girard High football team of the plans.
“ … This is pretty cool … I’m pretty fired up about it,” admitted 4th-year Yellow Jackets’ head coach Jim Funk after Girard jolted Greenville, 16-14.
At Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Yellow Jackets (10-2) enjoyed their 9th consecutive conquest after a 1-2 season’s start. Conversely, the best Greenville grid campaign in head coach Brian Herrick’s 8-year Trojans’ tenure concluded at 11-1.
However Herrick’s hurtful post-game expression told a tale of Trojans’ turnovers and missed opportunities.
“You can’t do that,” Herrick said regarding 4 Trojans’ turnovers during the 1st half and 11 total penalties for 90 lost yards. “We’ve talked about that. We’ve put ourselves in a hole a lot all year, but managed to dig ourselves out. It just didn’t happen (Saturday) night, and we ran out of time.”
The teams traded 4th frame scores and the lead.
Greenville’s Tyler Fattman flew for a 41-yard scoring sprint with 7:35 remaining, and Matt Jones’ 2-point conversion toss to Luke Houpt gave Greenville a 14-10 lead.
But Girard’s Kel Barnes broke a 26-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Jackets midfield position at their own 43-yard line. A half-dozen plays later quarterback Joe Dunn delivered the eventual game-winner by optioning up the middle and plunging into the end zone to complete a 33-yard touchdown.
In spite of a botched PAT, that gave Girard a 16-14 lead with 3:38 left.
The Yellow Jackets appeared to have secured the win with 2:11 left when Jones’ 3rd- and 4th-down passes fell incomplete at Greenville’s 36. But on a 2nd-and-8 play out of shotgun formation, the center snap sailed over Dunn’s head, and the resulting 21-yard fumble was recovered by Houpt at Girard’s 45 with 2 minutes left.
Trey VanAken’s 18-yard run on a delay-draw got Greenville to Girard’s 27 with 1:41 to play. VanAken’s subsequent 3-yard run and a 5-yard Jones-to-Houpt hook-up had the Trojans at the 16 with 49.5 seconds. But Jones’ final 3 pass attempts – including a 4th-and-13 fade to the right corner intended for Houpt, defensed by Dunn – fell incomplete.
“I don’t know what to say,” the youthful-looking, 30-year-old Funk admitted when asked if his Jackets’ win would be considered an upset. “Mike Zona, our defensive coordinator, he schemed (Greenville) fantastically, and our kids just played hard.”
The win was the 2nd in 6 days for Girard, which edged Sharon (22-19) in an emotional game postponed 2 days by a tragic auto accident involving 4 Sharon football players.
“It’s been kind’ve a surreal week,” Funk admitted. “That Sharon game – it was such a tragedy – but it was neat to see how everybody came together to make that (game) happen. And I was proud of how our kids played. And coming out here (Saturday) night and playing the way they did. Because this isn’t how we play; we’d been putting points on the board. Our kids just played to win, and I’m really proud of ’em.”
Nick Black burst 20 yards, giving Greenville an early 6-0 lead on the Trojans’ game-opening series following a Girard punt. However from that juncture the ’Jackets disjointed and tormented the Trojans.
Girard jolted Matt Jones with 1st-half interceptions by Nason McCall, Brenden Kohan and Cody Dinger. Sandwiching those was Kohan’s recovery of VanAken’s 1st-down fumble at his own 7-yard line with 2:38 remaining in the 1st frame. On the ensuing play Dunn delivered out of the option, and Devin Mason’s conversion kick gave Girard a 7-6 lead with 2:33 remaining in the 1st quarter.
That margin remained at intermission as Greenville’s last half-dozen drives of he half ended in a pair of punts and 4 miscues.
The lone 3rd-quarter score was Mason’s 25-yard field goal with 2:22 left, giving Giard a 10-6 lead.
“It was a great effort by the Girard kids, they played a whale of a game,” Herrick praised. Admitting, “But you can’t turn the ball over four times in a half and have as many 15-yard penalties as we had. It’s unfortunate that happened (Saturday) night.
“Our kicking game put us behind the eight-ball all night … I’m the special teams coach; I didn’t do a good job,” Herrick said, adding,
“I think (the Trojans) had confidence we could come back, but credit (Dunn). We had him tackled for a two-yard gain and he strips it for a touchdown.”
Herrick has to bid adieu to seniors Cody Ingersheim, Houpt, Fattman, Jacob Rickert, VanAken, Randal Peabody, Dominic Chambers, Alex Ho, Sawyer Miller, Mitchell Kalchthaler, Garrett Stell, Pat Kozminski, Justin Reynolds and Gage Guriel.
“I told them I love them. They stuck with the program – we had to throw them in when they were freshmen, a lot had to start and play significant minutes as freshmen because we just didn’t have a lot of depth. I’m extremely proud of them, as I am of all the kids in our program.
“I can’t say enough about the character of our kids,” Herrick concluded. “As many comeback wins as we’ve had the last two years, that says a lot about their character. And they’ll bounce back from this … they’ll bounce back.”
DISTRICT 10 CLASS AA
GREENVILLE 6 0 0 8 14
GIRARD 7 0 3 6 16
GV — Black, 20 run (run failed)
Gir — Dunn, 7 run (Mason kick)
Gir — Mason, 25 FG
GV — Fattman, 41 run (Houpt pass from M. Jones)
Gir — Dunn, 33 run (run failed)
11 First downs 10
178 Rushing yards 98
14 Passing yards 35
16-3-3 Att-comp-int 15-8-1
192 Total yards 133
1-1 Fumbles-lost 3-1
11-90 Penalties-yards lost 7-60
Rushing: GREENVILLE — Fattman 9-64, Black 10-62, VanAken 14-39, Houpt 2-16, M. Jones 1-(-3); GIRARD — Dunn 17-94, Barnes 15-28, Dinger 1-(-3), team 1-(-21).
Passing: GREENVILLE — M. Jones 16-3-3-14; GIRARD — Dunn 15-8-1-35.
Receiving: GREENVILLE — Houpt 2-0, Ingersheim 1-14; GIRARD — Divido 3-11, Dinger 2-21, Barnes 2-3, Little 1-0.