The season’s mid-point is an appropros opportunity for self-analysis.
Beginning tonight, several Mercer County-area squads will learn this much about themselves: Are they contenders for a commonwealth crown, or pretenders for a postseason berth?
For some teams, if tonight’s tilts do not go as planned, it could make for a long second half of the 2013 season.
Four games into the campaign, only Greenville and Mercer, in District 10 Regions 3-AA and 1-A, respectively, remain undefeated among area aggregations. Both face challenging road tests tonight at once-beaten Grove City and West Middlesex.
(All games begin 7 p.m., unless indicated)
Greenville (3-0, 4-0) at Grove City (2-1, 3-1)
Going to Grove City, which is coming off a loss — the 1st for the Eagles — figures to make the Trojans’ task even tougher than normal, taskmaster Brian Herrick asserted.
Last week, no sooner had Sharon’s last-second drive been shut down by his Trojans, Herrick was informed Hickory had humbled Grove City. Herrick — who played for and coached under the ultra-conservative Bob Stone — borrowed a page from his mentor’s media saavy:
“(Being in first place in Region 3-AA) is nice, but we know what’s comin’. ... (Winning at tradition-rich Tiger Stadium) feels good, it’s another region win, and it feels good to win down here. It’s good when you can win a couple on the road, when you can steal one ... but if we don’t do a better job of tackling, we’re gonna have a long night (tonight),” assessed Herrick, perhaps thinking of Grove City’s Foster Reznor.
Last week’s Trojans’ triumph was a product of something old and something new: Play-maker Luke Houpt stretching Sharon’s secondary, thereby creating running lanes.
Historically, Greenville’s ground game has been tailored to a single tailback. Nick Black broke loose for 58 yards last week, part of the Trojans’ troika that also included Trey VanAken and Tyler Fattman.
“ ... He’s a tough kid. ... We’d been bringing him along slowly (from foot surgery), but we just threw him in there and he had a couple great runs for us, a couple big first downs. I’m sure proud of him,” Herrick said of Black.
After Houpt hauled in a pair of 1st-half TD tosses against Sharon, he and Matt Jones collaborated on a 17-yard, 2nd-half opening slant that short-circuited Sharon’s aggressive run-defense and prompted some verbiage from Herrick that would make Jon Gruden giggle gleefully.
“We thought the ‘slant’ would be good,” Herrick related. “We ran the ‘jet’ (sweep), and (Sharon) was rotating their ‘will” (weakside linebacker) up, trying to take the ‘jet’ away. So we thought maybe we could ‘slant’ behind it.
“Luke’s our big-play guy. I don’t think we go to him enough,” Herrick admitted. “We’re gonna keep coming back to him. But it takes the offensive line, too, Pass protection was very good.”
However the humble Herrick knows too well of how good Grove City has been, particularly this decade under the direction of bench boss Jeff Bell. The ’Grovers have given Greenville consecutive 19-14, 48-7 and 48-0 losses the last 3 years. The last Trojans’ triumph in what is one of Mercer County’s oldest rivalries occurred in ’09 (38-7) at the site of tonight’s tilt, Forker Field.
In the last 8 meetings with Greenville the Eagles have eased to 6 wins by a composite 229-98 margin.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM) with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch, and on WGRP (940 AM), with Steven G. Folmer and Karl Rupert calling the action.
Mercer (3-0, 4-0) at West Middlesex (2-0, 3-1), 7:15 p.m.
Not to put Herrick’s words in the mouth of Mercer mentor Pat McClearn, but the Mustangs are meandering on somewhat uncharted territory.
While Greenville has not started a season 4-0 since ’04, according to available archives at The Herald, the last Steads squad to start 4-0 was the 1992 edition. Ironically, that club ended 6-3-1 and was routed by Fairview in its D-10 opener.
Last year McClearn’s minions missed the playoffs, snapping a successful 5-year skein. One of the 7 insufferable setbacks was a 34-13 humbling in the County Seat administered by Middlesex, which was in the midst of back-to-back D-10 title tilt appearances.
Many felt this would be a Big Reds’ rebuilding project for 1st-year Middlesex mentor Ed Roberson; instead, he borrowed a page from predecessor Jason McElhaney’s book, and following a season-opening setback to Wilmington, the Reds have reeled off 3 consecutive conquests (Moniteau, Farrell, Conneaut Area), two occurring on the road.
The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
Farrell (1-1, 3-1) at Sharpsville (2-1, 3-1)
With deference to the Greenville-Grove City game and Mercer-Middlesex meeting, this could prove to be the weekend’s most competitive contest.
Ironically, these teams’ lone losses occurred to the two who will be meeting in Middlesex. Mercer shut out Sharpsville (6-0) in the County Seat, while Farrell fell, at home to Middlesex (19-14), allowing a late lead to dissipate into defeat.
These proud programs have accounted for the last 6 District 10 single-A championships.
Two-time titlist Sharpsville has bedeviled the Steelers in the last 3 meetings, including last year (35-13) and 2011 (36-8 in the regular season; 36-0 in the D-10 semifinals).
Prior to that Farrell forged 5 consecutive conquests, including the ’09 district crown (34-7) — the 3rd of its 4 straight 6-county-wide skein of successes.
This season, the stingy Steelers’ defense has yielded only 43 points (14 in the 2nd half of last week’s rout of Redbank Valley), surpassed only by Sharpsville (31).
Sharon (2-1, 2-2) at Reynolds (2-1, 3-1)
This harkens back to the halcyon days of the Keystone Football League when these proud programs competed for the championship on an annual basis.
But tonight’s tilt could serve as a tipping point for both as they look to return to the postseason.
The Tigers have tumbled to Hickory and Greenville — teams that are a combined 7-1, while Sharon has slammed Saegertown and Titusville, which are an aggregate 0-8.
Similarly, Reynolds routed Saegertown and Titusville, as well as Maplewood in its opener — teams that are a collective 2-10. Against Grove City, though, the Raiders had to rally from a 23-0 hole that utimately fell shy at home.
This game features two of the area’s most prolific running backs: “The Hawk” — Sharon’s Carnell Hawkins — and Reynolds’ Mike Millero.
Reynolds rolled (21-14) last year at Tiger Stadium.
Wilmington (1-2, 2-2) at Saegertown (0-3, 0-4)
Wilmington will meet its 2nd straight winless opponent, after tattooing Titusville (47-0) last week.
Saegertown has suffered setbacks to Sharon, Greenville and Reynolds in Region 3 play. Saegertown has been outscored 237-14 this season.
Titusville (0-3, 0-4) at Hickory (2-1, 3-1)
After sustaining its lone setback, Hickory has humbled Wilmington and Grove City by an aggregate 79-13 differential during the last 2 weeks. Conversely, the Rockets have been routed 58-8 and 47-0 by Sharon and Wilmington during the same span.
Titusville, to date, has been outscored by a composite 158-36 margin.
Lakeview (1-1, 3-1) at Kennedy Catholic (0-3, 0-4), noon
Kennedy’s long season could grow longer. Lakeview’s lone loss occurred last week to Mercer, and the Sailors will be seeking to make amends.
Mercer limited Sailors’ speedster Blake Reddick to his lowest rushing output (61) since Sharpsville shackled him (65) in Week 8 last year.
Reddick rushed for 160 yards and a TD and Zach Bigley tossed a trio of TDs — 2 to Zach VanDusen — in the Sailors’ 27-0 shutout in Stoneboro against the Golden Eagles.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM) with Jeff Wimer and Mike Piddington calling the action.
Brookfield (3-1) vs. John F. Kennedy (1-3),
Mollenkopf Stadium, Warren, 7
In regular-season play, the Warriors’ win streak (17) was snapped by Struthers last week. Brookfield was beaten at Niles (13-9) midway through the 2011 season, then was undefeated last year and through the first 3 games of this season.
JFK was clubbed at Pandora-Gilboa (27-13) last week, as the Eagles’ allowed 307 yards rushing, including 203 and 3 TDs by Seth Schmenk.
Quarterback Michael Roscoe rifled 14 of 26 attempts for 207 yards for JFK, and he also ran for a pair of 1-yard TDs.
After erupting for 76 points in a pair of opening wins, Brookfield has tallied only 2 TDs in its last 2 games.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.
The season’s mid-point is an appropros opportunity for self-analysis.
LOCAL COLLEGE SPORTS: Thiel's Schafer picked for NCAA Pathway Program
Thiel College assistant director of athletics and senior woman administrator Amy Schafer was one of just 12 individuals recently selected for the NCAA 2014 Pathway Program.
The Pathway Program exists to assist minority and/or female administrators who wish to become director of athletics as their next career step through education, training and mentoring. The program is designed to provide national exposure to its participants and to generate the opportunity to glean information and career guidance from the leadership of intercollegiate athletics administrators throughout the country.
Reynolds 20-year home mat streak halted
They say that all good things must end. Even winning streaks of local powerhouse Reynolds High wrestling team!
The Raiders of coach Casey Taylor dropped a tough 30-25 decision to Erie McDowell Tuesday night at Reynolds, the first home loss for the Raiders since 1993.
The Class AAA Trojans (2-0) last year rallied from a large deficit to beat Class AA Reynolds in Erie, 38-33. On Tuesday, the northerners also rallied from a 25-21 deficit in the final two matches to halt the streak.
Roundup: Sharon rallies to beat WM, 72-56
When West Middlesex High’s wonderful 2013 Final Four run ended last March 22, it was at Sharon’s Tiger gymnasium. And while Tuesday night’s circumstances were considerably less dramatic, they ended similarly.
The Big Reds built a 20-8 first-quarter bulge. Ultimately, however, West Middlesex made 27 miscues, resulting in a 72-56 District 10 inter-region setback at Sharon.
Roundup: WM girls beat UC; Sharpsville, KC fall
ä West Middlesex 52, Union City 27 — At Union City, coach Mike Williams’ Region 1-A Ms. Reds improved to 2-1 with a win over the Lady Bears of Region 4-AA.
Alyson Pierce scored 15 to lead WM, Noelle Murray registered 13 points and Allie Staunch bucketed 10 markers.
Hickory falls to Lions in PIAA Class AA western region final
SLIPPERY ROCK — Brett Brumbaugh brought Bill Brest back to reality.
Brest seemed, Saturday afternoon, momentarily lost in thought when a post-game question was posed. Perhaps it was because it had been 3 months since he had experienced the disappointment of defeat.
Brumbaugh-led South Fayette’s football team short-circuited a splendid season a step shy of the statewide stage for Brest and Hickory High with a 23-20 win over the Hornets in the PIAA Class AA western regional championship game.
SPORTVIEW: Browns, Steelers will both lose
THE CLEVELAND Browns quarterback position has been a revolving door this season, but at least one of the more successful signal-callers is back. Jason Campbell is recovered from a concussion and will start.
Does it really matter?
Roundup: Opening-weekend tipoff tourneys conclude
Kittanning Tipoff Championship
ä Hickory 60, Kittanning 32 — Coach Jeannette Whitehead’s Lady Hornets had an impressive weekend in winning the opening tourney of the season.
“It’s nice to get out of the game with a win,” said Whitehead. “The kids were anxious to get going.”
2013-14 hoops season begins with tipoff tourneys
Farrell Julius McCoy Tipoff Tourney
ä Kennedy Catholic 48, Imani Christian Academy 40 — The Golden Eagles set up an all local rematch with host Farrell by pulling away in the fourth quarter in a tight battle.
For KC, Gerald Zachar and Sam Crow each scored 13 points to pace the victory, Brown had 14 and Southerner 12 for Imani.
Brookfield boys win season-opener against Py Valley
It was a typical season-opener: Too many turnovers, some questionable shot selection, and careless personal fouls. But for Brookfield High boys’ bench boss Bill Kovach, “ ... always happy with a win.”
The Warriors were 7-for-10 from the free-throw line during the 4th frame, and held off Pymatuning Valley, 59-48, Tuesday night.
Hornets advance to semis with win over Central
DuBOIS, PA. — Some people could say the “third time is a charm.” For the Hickory High Hornets it was much more than that. In fact, it was glorious.
After losing in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs the last two years, the Hornets finally nailed down a victory with a 37-27 triumph over the Central Dragons from Martinsburg.
Lakeview falls to Clarion Area in PIAA quarterfinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — In the scholastic athletic arena, “mercy rule” — while not politically correct in hyper-sensitive 2013 society — is a relatively accepted term.
Clarion High’s football had mercy-ruled all 13 prior opponents this season. And the Bobcats seemed bent on continuing their commanding conquests during Saturday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal-round meeting with Lakeview.
Hickory focused on winning PIAA opener
The calendar reminds us that Thanksgiving arrives a little later than usual this year. But as holiday traditions go, this one has been pretty productive for Hickory High head football coach Bill Brest.
“My wife always has me put up our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving ... and the next day, we’ve won. So I’ll be more than happy to help my wife put up the tree this Friday,” Brest related.
During the past 2 years Hickory has won District 10 titles on Thanksgiving weekend. But this year the Hornets harvested their 3rd consecutive crown last week, jettisoning Girard (21-10). Now Hickory (11-1) has a 1 p.m. date in DuBois Saturday against surprising Central-Martinsburg (11-2) in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.
Smart move by PIAA to schedule games early this weekend
Congratulations to the PIAA for making a good move that helps teams and fans of high school sports.
Wow, I haven’t been able to say that often enough!
But many of the high school football games this coming weekend will be played in the afternoon which is a real plus for traveling on possibly snow-blown highways at this time of the year.
Hornets 3-peat as D-10 champs with win vs. Girard
EDINBORO — When legendary coach Vince Lombardi said “the only good thing that comes from losing is the desire never to lose again,” he could very well have been referencing the future for Coach Bill Brest and his Hickory Hornets.
Since Hickory lost to Sharon, 14-6, in the 2010 District 10 finals in Brest’s first year at the helm of the team, the D-10 Class AA title game has belonged to Hickory. And Saturday afternoon at Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium, it was no different as the Hornets topped Girard, 21-10 for a third straight crown.
Sailors beat Devils to capture 1st District 10 title
NEW WILMINGTON — Lakeview may have a long way to go to equal Sharpsville’s success in the sport of football, but the Sailors jump-started the process Friday night.
With Blake Reddick roaring into the record book, the Sailors shut out Sharpsville, 27-0, in the District 10 Class A championship game at Greyhounds Stadium.
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