By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
When Wilmington High football team invades Tiger Stadium tonight, unlike years past, there will be no championships on the line. But to borrow a hackneyed cliché, respect cannot be bought; thus, the essence of this rivalry remains intact.
Sharon welcomes Wilmington in a Week 8 District 10 Region 3-AA encounter with playoff berths at stake for both.
Should the Tigers tumble, they would be hard-pressed to make the cut, as they are one of a handful from the area’s aggregation vying for 4 spots. Wilmington, meanwhile, could weather a loss, but still qualify for the postseason tournament in Week 9, though that’s not certain.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Wilmington (3-2, 5-2) at Sharon (3-2, 4-3)
There was a time earlier this season — following back-to-back losses to Grove City and Hickory — when Wilmington was regarded as perhaps a year away from pursuing the playoffs, owing to 2012 Greyhounds’ graduation losses.
But just as Hickory had its wake-up call courtesy of Greenville, so, too, did Wilmington awaken after being blown out at Hermitage. Since then the Hounds Hammer defense has yielded only 1 touchdown in the last 16 quarters, while lefty Cody Llewellyn has orchestrated an offense that has scored 136 points during that span.
The Greyhounds’ ground game features new names, but with tradition-rich results, with Josiah Bloise and Jacob Sotter setting the tone.
Arguably, Sharon’s signature success this season occurred last week with a 20-6 win over West Middlesex. Sharon shut down the Big Reds’ offense to a season-low point output (6; while Wilmlington permitted 10 to the Big Reds in a season-opening win), while the Tigers mauled Middlesex for a handful of miscues.
And while Carnell Hawkins returned to form by surpassing the century mark in yards rushing, Anthony Johnson enjoyed a career-best 135-yards rushing, 2-touchdown outing.
Following a disappointing Week-4 loss to Greenville, Tigers’ taskmaster Jim Wildman prophetically promised, “People are gonna hear from us before it’s over ... these 60 kids ... aren’t gonna give up for the next six, seven, eight, nine weeks — or whatever it takes.”
When he retired, Wildman was the Mercer County area’s career coaching wins leader, subsequently surpassed by Greyhounds’ veteran Terry Verrelli (276-115-3). While it’s unlikely Wildman (212-81-6) will return the favor, a win tonight would restore the roar in the Tigers’ tradition.
The game will be broadcast on WPIC (790 AM) with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
Farrell (2-2, 4-3) at Conneaut Area (1-3, 4-3)
With a win the Steelers’ season could remain alive in Linesville following tonight’s tilt. However Farrell’s fortunes have fallen in back-to-back losses to Lakeview and Hickory.
Following the latter Steelers’ skipper Jarrett Samuels said several seniors were among a segment of players he jettisoned from the squad — leaving him some scant seniors, a quartet of juniors and “a great sophomore class.
“... With those guys, we’re building for the future,” Samuels said, emphasizing, “but we still have a chance to get into the (2013) playoffs, and I’m just gonna push these guys harder.
“It’s my job. At the end of the day, I’m lookin’ in the mirror and know that I gave my best to these guys.”
CASH has captured consecutive conquests of 5-win clubs Mercer (21-14) and Region 2-A leader Eisenhower (35-0). In the latter, the Eagles ended with a 389-150 edge in total yards, according to The (Meadville) Tribune, led by Hunter Merritt’s 20-carry, 228-yard, 2-TD (73 and 68) and Elijah Anderton (20 carries, 94 yards, 3 TDs). Merritt also mustered a 4-for-10, 41-yard passing performance, all of which went to Taylor Williams.
Farrell forged a 20-18 conquest of Conneaut last year at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium. Two years ago host Linesville outlasted the Steelers (37-36),
Sharpsville (3-2, 4-3) at Lakeview (3-1, 6-1)
Last year Sharpsville skipper Paul Piccirilli predicted Lakeview would be the team to beat in Region 1-A in 2013. And while Piccirilli’s proud program produced a 2nd straight D-10 title in 2012, his prognostication has proven accurate.
With Blake Reddick re-writing the rushing record books, Lakeview is off to the program’s best start since Joe Sass’ Sailors secured an 8-1 French Creek Valley Conference co-championship in 1982. According to available archives at The Herald, Lakeview’s lone loss that season occurred to Conneaut Valley, 20-19, in Week 3, but the Sailors outlasted Linesville, 14-12, in Week 8 in Stoneboro.
Sharpsville’s slender hopes at defending its dual District 10 titles hinges on an upset in Stoneboro tonight.
In the last 3 regular seasons Sharpsville has silenced the Sailors (42-0, 52-6, 34-0). In that trio of tilts Reddick rushed for 184 yards on 39 carries (4.71 yards/carry), with only 1 TD.
However in last year’s D-10 semifinals the Blue Devils outlasted Lakeview (41-34), though Reddick roared for a 23-carry, 243-yard, 3 TD (68, 41, 2) rushing performance.
The game will be broadcast on WLLF (96.7 FM) with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch on mike.
Greenville (5-0, 7-0) vs. Reynolds (2-3, 4-3)
at Thiel College’s Alumni Stadium
As though this rivalry wasn’t ramped up enough from 4-plus decades on the gridiron and wrestling mats, it set a new standard last year.
The Trojans trailed 20-6 entering the 4th frame, before tallying twice to tie the tilt, then rallying past Reynolds in OT (27-26). That essentially served as Greenville’s springboard to the D-10 playoffs, while simultaneously denying Reynolds.
While this season’s Greenville gridders are off to the program’s best start since 2000, Reynolds is looking for a return to the postseason for the first time since the best single-season in program annals, 2005.
The Raiders’ Week-8 desperation mode under 1st-year mentor Josh Mull, coupled with last season’s circumstances and tonight’s unique venue, all will lend a playoff atmosphere.
The game has additional significance since this is the first of 3 years (minimum) where football and wrestling matches between the two schools will be held at Thiel College.
Reynolds is designated as the home team tonight.
The game will be broadcast on WGRP (940 AM), with Steven G. Folmer and Karl Rupert calling the action. There will also be a live webcast at www.thiel.edu with Thiel announcers Hugh Ringer and Don Achenbauch on duty.
Saegertown (0-5, 0-7) at Hickory (4-1, 6-1)
Ordinarily, this might be viewed as a trap game; however the Hornets have not taken their foot off the gas since their lone loss in Week 2.
Interestingly, the Panthers posted more points in last week’s 54-31 loss to Maplewood than they had scored in the previous 6 games combined. Casey Fetzner fashioned a 22-carry, 217-yard, 2-TD rushing performance, part of the Panthers’ season-high 425 total yards. Also, Ryan Kirdahy connected on 4 of 9 pass attempts for 110 yards, including 18- and 35-yard TD tosses to Willy Bernardo.
“You’ve got to credit these kids,” Saegertown skipper Justin Catalano told The (Meadville) Tribune. “They impressed us (last Friday night), and we keep getting better every week.”
Unfortunately for Saegertown, so does Hickory. In the last handful of games the Hornets have outscored 5 foes by an aggregate 247-47 (reaching 70 and 60); conversely, Saegertown has been outscored by a composite 422-59.
Grove City (3-2, 4-3) at Titusville (0-5, 0-7)
The Eagles have endured losses to Hickory, Greenville and Slippery Rock — teams that are a combined 20-1.
Grove City suffered its initial setback on the road last week at Slippery Rock (49-21), but would figure to take kindly to cozy Carter Field tonight, as did Reynolds (35-14) and Sharon (58-8) back in Weeks 2-3.
The Rockets have been outscored 318-49 this season, and were overwhelmed by Oil City (49-0) last week.
Last year Grove City garnered a 42-6 rout of the Rockets.
Under Jeff Bell, the Eagles have enjoyed almost a decade-long District 10 playoff appearances skein, dating back to the program’s place in the ’04 PIAA Class AA championship game.
Keystone (1-6) at Mercer (5-2)
The Steeds snapped a 2-game skid with last week’s win over Mercyhurst Prep (46-21) at the college.
For Mercer mentor Pat McClearn, marksman Logan Clarke connected for 6 touchdown tosses, equally divided between T.J. Peters, Brayton Edwards and Zane O’Brien for an unofficial, single-game school standard.
A win almost assuredly would end Mercer’s 1-year hiatus from the postseason.
Keystone claimed its initial victory, victimizing winless Allegheny-Clarion Valley (30-14). According to D9.com, Austin Chambers chucked 17 and 10 yards, respectively, to Logan Corvino and Dustin Wolbert as part of a 10-for-13, 156-yard passing performance (Jake Courson, 8 catches for 64 yards). Also, Chambers chugged 13 and 15 yards for TDs, Zach Stiglitz slashed for 85 yards on 10 totes and a TD, and Jacob Weaver went for another 65 yards on 11 carries.
Conneaut (4-3) at Brookfield (5-2)
After the Warriors won their first 3 games, Brookfield has bounced back from its lone losses, including last week’s win at Ashtabula-Edgewood (20-6).
Conneaut was clobbered by Gates Mills-Gilmour Academy (42-12) last week, snapping the Spartans’ 3-game win skein. Conneaut was ripped, 465-98, in total yards, according to The (Ashtabula) Star-Beacon. Troy Colucci collaborated with Alex Gerdes on a 10-yard TD toss, then Colucci collected a 15-yard run for the other Spartans’ score for Coach Rocco Dobran.
Brookfield belted Conneaut, 49-6, in their last meeting.
West Middlesex (3-1, 4-3) at Kennedy (0-4, 0-7), Noon
Coming off an inter-region setback at Sharon, the Big Reds gain a boost for their bid for the postseason.
In a scheduling quirk, this will be KC’s 6th home game — unfortunately, Butala Stadium has not served the Golden Eagles well. KC has been outscored 189-28 thus far on its home turf (Bradford, Farrell, Mercer, Lakeview, Reynolds).
West Middlesex has won the last 8 meetings in this series, including last year (55-20).
KC last copped a win over West Middlesex in ’05 (35-21 regular season; 29-6, D-10 playoffs).
The game will be broadcast on WLLF (96.7 FM), with Ryan Briggs and Jeff Wimer calling the action.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research to this preview.