Bill Brest ... buffer?
Hickory High’s head football coach has broad shoulders and that’s necessary, because he’s taking on all distractions as his Hornets prepare for Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship game.
Hickory (10-1) will attempt to hoist the D-10 trophy for a 3rd consecutive season when the Hornets journey to Girard’s backyard — Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium — to meet the Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m.
“ ... We just focus on what we’ve gotta do and what Girard will be doing, and how we can be successful on Saturday,” began Brest (41-8), who has Hickory in its 4th consecutive district title tilt.
His Hornets’ last loss in the D-10 tournament occurred in the 2010 championship game. Hickory’s lone loss this season was in week 2 against Greenville. But Brest is concerned with none of that.
“We’re just thrilled to be in the District 10 championship game and having the opportunity to play for a championship,” he said. “This is the fourth time in-a-row and we’re going for a three-peat. I know our guys get sick and tired of hearing it, but ... we just want to be one-and-oh on Saturday by about 3 o’clock.”
That Brest “mantra” has worked well for the Hornets, who have outscored and outgained opponents by respective 49.5 to 9.3 and 416 to 156.6 margins.
Brest stopped shy of saying the loss to Greenville was Hickory’s tipping point, but acknowledged, “The bottom line is, in that week-2 game ...Greenville was the better team that Friday night. But the biggest lesson we learned was how to finish,” he emphasized. “In the few games right after that, we had such strong second halves. But as the season progressed our first halves were so much stronger, too.
“But finishing became our mantra in week three.”
That is appropos for Girard (10-2), as the Yellow Jackets stung both Sharon and Greenville with late rallies to win quarter- and semifinal-round games. After starting the season 1-2, Girard has journeyed to 9 consecutive wins for 4th-year head coach Jim Funk.
“I told the kids, ‘Listen they’re here for a reason — they’re a very good football team — so we have to prepare the right way,’” Brest related. “Actually, they’re a combination of what we were the last several years — multiple-I and spread.”
Brest is impressed with Del Barnes, who has broken the 1,000-yards rushing barrier in back-to-back seasons.
“He’s a scatback — quick, fast, good foortwork, but he’s put together, he’s thick,” Brest praised. “He does run the ball well, but they’re more of an inside-outside, zone-concept team. The Barnes kid does a nice job running the football; he has great vision.
“But,” Brest interjected regarding the ’Jackets, “everything comes down to the quarterback (Joe Dunn). He’s coming in on about five-thousand yards throwing. He does a nice job throwing, so we’ve gotta be smart, secondary-wise ... and also put pressure on him. But you know what he really does well with the ball?" Brest rhetorically asked. “In breaking down film of him, I put all his runs together and the kid can run the football — ‘iso’ ... inside-zone reads ... and he can break tackles and break away. We know he can throw, but we’ve gotta be able to stop the run.
“If we can stop the run and make them one-dimensional,” Brest reasoned, “maybe we can start teeing-off with our pass rush. But (Dunn’s) a very good football player.”
Greenville, disjointed by Girard, committed 4 first-half turnovers. Brest’s PowerPoint presentation for success addressed that:
“Number one, take great care of the football; number two, win the battle of field position; number three, win special teams, and number four, we cannot make mistakes,” he related. “Seeing Girard on film ... those are the four things we’ve gotta do to be successful on Saturday.
“One of our mantras is: Take great care of the football and make great decisions. We emphasize that on the practice field and hope that it carries over to game day.”
Brest characterized his Hornets healthy and focused.
“It’s phenomenal the way they’ve been preparing in the film room, preparing on the grease board, preparing on the field, preparing at home. ... They’re preparing the right way, and our kids are excited about this opportunity,” Brest summarized.
With winning, comes confidence. But also pressure with being the 2-time reigning champion. This is where Brest becomes the buffer.
“I’ve told the kids to just enjoy the moment, enjoy it this week, and let me handle the distractions,” he related. “I want the kids to study, do well in class, focus on their character, and prepare the right way and let the coaches coach. ... Our coaches, it’s unbelievable, their preparation and how they pay attention to detail. We do our best to put the kids in the right positions to be successful.
“I don’t want them distracted at all, but just have a great week.”
Like Barry Sanders scoring then simply handing the ball to an official, Brest wants his Hornets to “act like they’ve been here before. ... you know what we’ve gotta do — finish the right way
“Pressure’s what’s inside the locker room, what’s inside the team room. But there’s no pressure; just preparation,” Brest continued. “We don’t listen to what’s being said outside; we just prepare the right way and have fun.
“These guys are focused and zeroed in right now.”
Note: The game will be simulcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM) and SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action. Air-time, 12:30 p.m.
Bill Brest ... buffer?
5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
Coach Chad Mild's Big Reds are road warriors
West Middlesex High boys basketball team did not play its first home game until after the first of the year, but competing at New Castle, Farrell and Youngstown’s Covelli Centre has served it well.
Witness West Middlesex’s 55-54 win over Fairview in last weekend’s District 10 Class AA championship game — at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Boys PIAA basketball preview boxes
Who: Farrell (22-3) vs. Montour (16-8).
What: Opening round.
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Sharon High’s Tiger Gymnasium.
Hickory, Mercer, KC girls PIAA playoff boxes
Who: Hickory (25-0) vs. Greater Johnstown (11-14).
What: PIAA Playoffs, 1st round.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Slippery Rock University.
Shannonhouse's Steelers set for statewide stage
With the approaching spring, a young man’s fancy turns to ... what else? The PIAA playoffs. And when Shenango Valley scholastic basketball aficionados think of the postseason they think of Farrell.
Recently at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the banners above were blowing in the breeze — ’52 ... ’54 ... ’56 ... ’59 ... ’60 ... ’69 ... ’72 — swaying as sprinting players created a vacuum of air rising from the floor. Melodramatic maybe, but there’s a feeling at Farrell that harkens back to the heyday when playoff success was a rite of passage.
Breese eyes repeat at state mat tourney
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: It's a young group of county matmen headed to state
THERE’S definitely a youth movement in Mercer County wrestling as demonstrated by the group of 11 matmen who are advancing to the PIAA State Class AA Championships on Thursday.
Eight of the locals are underclassmen. The only seniors are Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285), Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai (182).
Breese and Stoyer are the only returning state place-winners. Breese, who has verbally committed to Kent State University to wrestle next season, won the heavyweight class and is seeking a second gold medal. Stoyer placed 7th at 145 and wants to climb much higher on the medals stand.
Kennedy boys forfeit win, are out of playoffs
The PIAA basketball playoffs do not begin until Friday, but Mercer County already lost a team.
Kennedy Catholic High disclosed Monday the discovery of an academically-ineligible player, who competed in last Friday’s District 10 Class A consolation contest.
Kennedy Catholic edged Eisenhower in double-OT, 66-62, earning a berth in the statewide tournament. The Golden Eagles were to meet District 9 champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium in the opening round; instead, Eisenhower will represent D-10 as its 3rd-place team.
Raiders win 17th region title; 11 locals to Hershey
When Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer came off the mat after his 145-pound championship at the Northwest AA Regional Championships, he wasn’t celebrating his second straight crown. Instead, he turned to head coach Casey Taylor and said, “I did it for the team.”
And the team needed it!
Stoyer defeated Brookville’s Zach Vroman, 3-0, and sent Reynolds on its way to the school’s 17th region team title Saturday night at Sharon High School. Reynolds finished with 147 points, to Brookville’s 138.
Hickory girls capture 1st district title since 1983
MEADVILLE — Depending upon peoples’ perceptions, 31 years can seem like a lifetime ... but so can 16 minutes.
Hickory High girls’ basketball program’s District 10 drought ended Saturday afternoon as perennial power Villa Maria virtually vanished from the 2nd-half scoreboard.
The Lady Hornets erased a 7-point halftime deficit by yielding just 4 second-half points en route to a 39-24 victory over Villa Maria in the District 10 Class AAA championship game.
KC beats Cochranton for 4th straight D-10 crown
MEADVILLE — Everybody is on April Bocian’s bandwagon — and rightly so. But Tatum Kress helped keep Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program atop District 10’s Class A competition.
Kress connected for all 14 of her points during the 2nd half Saturday afternoon, keying the Kennedy Catholic to a 49-38 conquest of Cochranton.
McLane rallies to beat Mercer in AA title tilt
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
WM captures 3rd straight D-10 crown
EDINBORO — The West Middlesex Big Reds did it again! For the third straight year, the Big Reds, under the leadership of head coach Chad Mild, the winningest coach in West Middlesex school history, won the District 10 title with a thrilling 55-54 victory over the Fairview Tigers on Friday night at McComb Field House.
Farrell beats East for D-10 Class AAA title
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Raiders hold lead at Northwest AA Region Tourney
Reynolds coach Casey Taylor had a simple, but fitting comment after the opening night of the Northwest AA Region Wrestling Championships at Sharon High School Friday:
“So far; so good!”
The defending champion Raiders, who are seeking a 17th region crown in school history, jumped into the team lead with 45 points Friday, heading second place Brookville with 35.
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