By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
Normally, Sharon versus Sharpsville on the football field would be the quintessential Shenango Valley rivalry.
Friday night at James M. McCracken Field, it was Sharon versus Sharpsville ... sort of.
For the record, Sharpsville won the District 10 inter-region regular-season finale, 19-6 under the Pines on Sharpsville’s Senior Night.
Tyrin Peavy produced an 88-yard touchdown return on the game’s opening kickoff to stake Sharpsville to an early lead. Subsequently, Derrick Smith returned an interception 60 yards for Sharpsville’s 2nd score and Greg Popatak produced a 45-yard scoring sprint.
Those sandwiched Sharon’s lone score, Derrick Forrest’s 90-yard return of Peavy’s 2nd-period fumble.
With Sharpsville leading 19-6 at intermission and both programs proceeding toward the postseason, the coaches mutually agreed to allow the clock to continuously turn during the 2nd half.
Sharpsville skipper Paul Piccirilli and Tigers’ taskmaster Jim Wildman had slightly different philosophical takes on how the game was approached. While Sharpsville’s starter played for the better part of the 1st half. among those who did not take the field for Sharon were starting signal-caller Andrew Tomko and Tigers’ tailback Carnell Hawkins.
When asked to assess how his club played, Wildman rhetorically replied,
“You mean our junior varsity team? They played hard.”
Wildman was asked — in the lead-up to the game — if it was discussed by the coaches not to play at all.
“Oh, yeah ... but that wasn’t our choice. Neither one of us wanted to play,” Wildman responded. “The contract, I guess that was signed two years ago that, no matter what ... so they played it last year; we had to play it this year.
“We’ve talked on the phone all week long. What we did in the second half was mutually agreed upon,” Wildman added.
“The reason why, it was our ‘Senior Night,’” Piccirilli explained. “We owe it to all the members of our senior class that participate to be recognized, so that (not playing) wasn’t it.
“We did talk about a running clock from the first quarter on, but we weren’t allowed to do that,” Piccirilli continued. “But the referree said, ‘As soon as the third quarter starts, you guys can do whatever you want,’ so (he and Wildman) both agreed on that.
“Once again (Wildman) did a heckava job trying to get his team in the playoffs as healthy as could be, so I commend him for that. That’s why (Wildman) wins as many games as he does.”
Asked if he was glad the game was played, Wildman’s voice took a testy tone:
“It’s all about the program, Ed, you know? The young kids deserve a chance to play, when they’ve gotten beat up all week. Where’re you comin’ from? I’m not sure. Is that what you mean?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?” Wildman continued in response to the question regarding being content that his younger players had the opportunity. “That was our decision going in. Yeah, I’m happy. That was our choice ... I don’t get it ...”
Ultimately, Wildman abruptly concluded the post-game interview by bidding good night and walking away.
In Wildman’s 1st season of his 2nd stint, Sharon (6-4) will return to the D-10 Class AA playoffs for the first time following a 2-year hiatus. Conversely, Piccirilli’s Blue Devils are the defending, 2-time Class A titlists.
“I’m very happy,” Piccirilli assessed. “Defensively, we’ve been that way all year. Hopefully, we can just continue picking up the pace on offense and move it a little bit forward.
“We’re playing the number one seed (Region 2 champion Eisenhower). They’ve gotta have something up there. Their quarterback is a heckava runner/thrower and (another back is a) heck of an athlete ... they have a big line. So if we don’t move the ball, somewhat on offense, we better shut ’em out or we’re not gonna advance.”
Piccirilli produced a sly smile when asked if, as the No. 4 seed, Sharpsville may be overlooked, even though it is the 2-time kingpin.
“I’m hopin’ they’re all looking beyond us. I hope we just sneak in the backdoor and somehow get in(to the PIAA playoffs). But I really don’t think anybody’s gonna look beyond us. They know how tough we play defensively, and anytime we can move the ball and can makes things happen offensively, I think we’re gonna be a force to be reckoned with.
“Nick Henwood pulled a muscle, but this is as healthy as we’ve been, going into the playoffs — I better knock on wood,” Piccirilli concluded.
SHARON 0 6 0 0 6
SHARPSVILLE 13 6 0 0 19
Sv — Peavy, 88 kickoff return (Lutz kick)
Sv — Smith, 60 interception return (kick failed)
Sh — Forrest, 90 fumble return (kick failed)
Sv — Poptatak, 45 run (kick failed)
4 First downs 11
41 Rushing yards 181
0 Passing yards 4
3-0-2 Att-comp-int 2-1-0
41 Total yards 185
1-0 Fumbles-lost 3-2
4-60 Penalties-yards lost 6-55
Rushing: SHARON — Thompson 9-19, Mosley 5-16, Norris 9-7, E.Hawkins 1-1, Williams 2-(-2); SHARPSVILLE — Poptatak 2-57, Keck 7-33, L.Henwood 3-30, Eckles 7-30, BuCher 5-26, Peavy 2-(-1), Rogan-Laird 1-(-3).
Passing: SHARON — Mosley 3-0-2; SHARPSVILLE — L.Henwood 2-1-0, 4.
Receiving: SHARPSVILLE — Szugye 1-4.