By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
There was a time during Jim Wildman’s initial Tigers’ tenure when Sharon and Greenville competed for District 10 championships almost annually.
Wildman retired following the 2001 season as Mercer County’s career coaching wins leader, only to be subsequently supplanted by Trojans’ taskmaster Bob Stone.
And while Wildman has returned for his 2nd stint at Sharon, Stone’s successor, Brian Herrick, has Greenville’s grid program off to its best start since the year Herrick assumed the helm, ’07.
On the surface it sounds like hyperbole, but this could serve as the biggest showdown between these proud programs since they met 8 times from 1984-95 in postseason play, as they take to the Tiger Stadium turf tonight in a key Region 3-AA tilt.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Greenville (2-0, 3-0) at Sharon (2-0, 2-1)
Herrick has had Greenville to the playoffs each of his 6 years as Trojans’ taskmaster. After 5 consecutive opening-round setbacks Greenville got its initial postseason win for him a year ago.
Greenville garnered a 14-7 win last year over Sharon.
This season Greenville gained some momentum with a Week-2 rally from a 21-point halftime deficit at Hickory (22-21).
After a season-opening setback Sharon has scored 125 points in back-to-back blowouts of Saegertown and Titusville. And a Tigers’ triumph tonight would equal the program’s victory output during the past 2 years combined — less than 3 calendar years removed from the 2010 D-10 Class AA championship.
And while this season’s region race appears somewhat unpredictable, a triumph tonight enables either the Trojans or Tigers to take a midseason foothold.
As a footnote, the Tigers twice triumphed over Greenville in 3 D-10 championship games (1985, ’95), while the Trojans tallied one win (’93), as well as in the precursor to the district playoffs — the Keystone Football League vs. Northwest Conference showdown at Tiger Stadium in 1984.
The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM) with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg, and WGRP (940 AM), with Steven G. Folmer and Karl Rupert calling the action.
Hickory (1-1, 2-1) at Grove City (2-0, 3-0)
The Hornets handed the Grovers a pair of losses last year (41-12 regular season in Hermitage; 35-13 in the D-10 semifinals). Ultimately, Hickory would harvest its 2nd straight district championship.
The last Grove City grid squad to get off to a better start to a season was the 2011 edition, which won its first 11 games — and the D-10 AAA title — before bowing to Montour in the PIAA playoffs.
Though the programs have not always met every year, Grove City last garnered a win over Hickory in ’06 (20-6) at Forker Field, site of tonight’s tilt.
Comparative scores can be foolhardy, but here goes: In Week 2, Grove City just got at New Wilmington (17-13) in the closing minutes, while Wilmington was whacked a week ago at Hermitage (42-6).
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch calling the action.
Lakeview (1-0, 3-0) at Mercer (2-0, 3-0)
Mercer missed out on the 2012 playoffs, as Lakeview laid a 28-13 loss on the Mustangs.
That evening in Stoneboro, Blake Reddick rushed for 163 yards and Zach Bigley and Zack VanDusen collaborated on an insurance 30-yard, 4th-period TD toss. Meanwhile, Mercer’s Logan Clarke connected for a pair of scoring strikes.
The ’Steads have secured success in 4 of the last 7 meetings with the Sailors (21-10 in 2011; 35-6 in ’09; 33-8 in ’08; 28-12 in ’07). The last occasion in which Lakeview lost in the County Seat was that ’08 contest, while Lakeview won there in 2010 (7-6).
One of the keys to tonight’s outcome could be determined by which defense best controls Reddick and his Mustangs’ counterpart Zane O’Brien, and which quarterback, Bigley or Clarke, minimizes miscues.
˝ According to available archives, Reddick has rushed for 4,196 career yards, eclipsing the previous Lakeview record (Deke Ison, ’01, 4,008).
Conneaut Area (0-2, 1-2) at West Middlesex (1-0, 2-1)
West Middlesex has won back-to-back games, but this will be a barometer for Coach Ed Roberson’s Reds’ resolve, coming off last week’s emotional win at Farrell (19-14).
The Eagles escaped with a season-opening win over Girard (27-17), but subsequently dropped consecutive contests to Lakeview (14-2 in Stoneboro), and Sharpsville (19-7). Sharpsville shut down Hunter Merritt to a season-low 66 yards rushing.
Last year Middlesex mustered a 32-7 conquest of Conneaut, and 2 years ago swept Conneaut Valley (42-12) and Linesville (52-15).
The last season before the three school districts (’Valley, Linesville, Conneaut Lake) merged in 2010, the Big Reds routed ’Valley (27-20) and ’Lake (46-14), but lost to Linesville (32-27) in Middlesex.
Reynolds (1-1, 2-1) at Saegertown (0-2, 0-3)
The Raiders rolled in Weeks 1 and 2, then got a rude awakening from Grove City — 23-0 halftime deficit — before Reynolds’ 2nd-half rally came up just shy (37-30).
Raiders’ running machine Mike Millero is on pace for a 2,000-yard season, and encounters a porous Panthers’ defense that has permitted 1,166 total yards in 3 games.
Saegertown snapped a 10-quarter scoreless skid last week at Greenville, though the Panthers were pounded (50-7).
Titusville (0-2, 0-3) at Wilmington (0-2, 1-2)
A good opportunity for the Greyhounds to get back to .500 following last week’s uncharacteristic humbling in Hermitage.
The 42 points permitted to the Hornets were the most a Hounds Hammer defense yielded since Terrelle Pryor-led Jeannette jolted Wilmington (41-21) in the ’07 PIAA Class AA western regional championship game.
After falling to Franklin (18-14) in its opener, Titusville has been tattooed by Reynolds (35-14) and Sharon (58-8) the past 2 weeks.
Kennedy Catholic (0-2, 0-3) at Sharpsville (1-1, 2-1)
Sharpsville has won 7 straight and 9 of the last 10 meetings in the series.
Last week the Blue Devils bounced back from their lone loss (6-0 at Mercer) and a 7-0 first-quarter deficit at Linesville to post a 19-7 win over Conneaut Area.
Conversely, Kennedy Catholic, in spite of scoring more points than its first 2 games combined, suffered a setback to Mercer (42-16).
Redbank Valley (2-1) at Farrell (2-1)
This non-conference encounter should serve as a test to determine if the Steelers can bounce back from a disappointing Region 1-A home-field loss to West Middlesex.
Redbank Valley victimized Union (55-34) last week as Mark Strothers sprinted to an unofficial District 9 single-game record 302 yards on 32 carries (d9.com). Strothers’ scoring sprints included 10-, 64-, 13-, 28-, 4- and a pair of 33-yard runs. According to d9.com, Strothers shattered the school’s single-game standard (Skyler Smith, 289, versus Moniteau, ’05). Dave Richards (Clearfield, ’02) is believed to be the last D-9 back to score 7 TDs in a single game.
Reportedly, Strothers suffered 2 knee injuries in the past year.
Redbank Valley’s Bulldogs KO’d Keystone (44-6), but bowed to Brookville (35-21). Strothers’ other outings included 96 yards, 3 TDs (10, 49, 6) against Keystone and 113 yards, 1 TD against Brookville.
Farrell forged 54 points in blanking Redbank Valley last year.
Struthers (3-0) at Brookfield (3-0)
This could be Brookfield’s biggest test of the young season.
Struthers slammed Field (40-7) last week by amassing 435 total yards, led by Gary Muntean’s 8-for-10, 132-yard passing performance that included a 34-yard TD toss to Temeko Holness. Also, Nick Pollifrone ran for 2 TDs and Tyler Chaney an 86-yard scoring sprint on his lone carry.
Holness (3 for 49) and Luke Witkowski (3 for 54) were Muntean’s main targets, according to The (Warren) Tribune-Chronicle).
Struthers stomped Campbell Memorial (39-6) and Cortland-Lakeview (35-14) earlier.
Brookfield was being beaten at Campbell last week (6-0) before Joey Clark concluded a 25-carry, 96-yard rushing performance with a game-winning 15-yard, 4th-quarter TD run in the Warriors’ win (10-6).
A year ago at Struthers the Warriors won, 26-13.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.