Simply stated, Middlesex made one more play, while Mercer made a myriad of miscues.
West Middlesex High’s Nate Patten pilfered a Logan Clarke pass with 90 ticks to play Friday night, and the Big Reds football team rolled to its 4th consecutive conquest, 17-14.
In a 14-play drive that consumed approximately 6èminutes and in spite of a trio of holding penalties, Mercer moved from its own 13-yard line to Middlesex’s 10.
However, pressured by blitzing Eric Lucich, Clarke’s 3rd-and-5 pass was picked by Patten at the 5-yard line. Four Trey Staunch runs and 3 Mercer times-out later, the Big Reds (3-0, 4-1) recorded their 4th straight success.
“The heart that it took to win this game was just incredible,” an emotional Middlesex mentor Ed Roberson related. “These kids ... you could just see it in their eyes, that they weren’t going to to give up, that they were gonna pull through. I’m very proud of them.”
A 7-all stalemate at intermission was snapped by Chandler Tyillian’s 24-yard 3rd-quarter field goal, then Staunch’s 3-yard sneak 85 seconds into the 4th frame.
The latter culiminated a 7-play, 99-yard drive drive after the Reds refused Clarke’s 4th-and-1 bid from the 1 with 1:26 left in the 3rd quarter. The highlight of Middlesex’s march was Lucich churning 53 yards on the 4h frame’s 1st play.
Following Staunch’s score, Tyillian’s PAT provided Middlesex with a seemingly safe 17-7 margin.
That lasted all of 11 seconds before Clarke collaborated with T.J. Peters for a 65-yard scoring strike, the 2nd TD for that tandem. Chase Hoffman’s subsequent conversion kick drew the ’Steads within 17-14 with 10:35 remaining.
Middlesex’s ensuing series was short-circuited after 5 plays, and Tyillian’s midfield punt rolled dead at Mercer’s 13 with 7:46 left. From that juncture it seemed as though every time Mercer moved a stride forward the ’Steads stepped backwards twice.
Despite the 3 holding penalties Mercer moved to Middlesex’s 43, but was forced to punt before the Reds returned the favor — Middlesex’s punt-return team was whistled for holding.
With a 4th-down do-over, Clarke connected with Brayton Edwards for a drive-sustaining 7-yard gain.
Five plays later — including a dropped, potential, go-ahead TD pass as well as a drive-stopping end zone interception ruled a trap — the Region 1-A rivalry ended on Patten’s pick, which made Clarke’s clutch 15-for-33, 270-yard, 2-TD passing performance moot.
After missing the 2012 postseason, Mercer (3-1, 4-1) is on a mission to return. Friday night’s 9 penalties and 1 turnover were a setback, though not a roadblock in the mind of Mercer mentor Pat McClearn.
“We just had too many opportunities we didn’t take care of,” admitted McClearn, amid Middlesex’s victory bell banging in the distance. “We left ... probably two scores off the board in the first half, then the drive down there (3rd quarter), then came up short at the end. That’s too good of a football team to do that against.
“But I know our kids are gonna play hard and keep battlin,’” McClearn continued. “We were tellin’ them, there was ten minutes to go in the game at that point in time (down 17-7), so they were gonna keep tryin’ to make plays. I can’t fault the effort.
“I’m very proud of the way our guys played, but like I said, too many opportunties we didn’t take advantage of, and that’s too good of a team to do that against,” McClearn reiterated.
Though elated, Roberson was relieved that his Reds rose up.
“Pat McClearn is one of the best coaches I’ve ever met; he just does a great job. Those kids are always ready to play, and they play hard every, single game,” Roberson praised. “Region 1 is not an easy place to play football. If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game every night, you’re not gonna win.
“I’ve just overwhelmed, I’m so proud of these guys. They just did what they had to do, and they grew up (Friday) night,” Roberson related.
The stoic Staunch was stout, though not spectacular, passing for 111 yards and rushing for 34, while Lucich lent a game-high 86 yards rushing. Tyillian, who tallied a 15-yard 2nd-quarter TD run contributed 41 yards rushing and 4 receptions for another 68 yards. His rushing total was skewed when, in punt formation, a center snap sailed over his head, resulting in a 26-yard loss that seemingly set up Mercer. That was before Middlesex’s mettle at the goal line.
“I’m just doin’ my part, but we’re all the same, we’re all one team,” Tyillian explained. “One player doin’ his part, but everybody’s gotta help out, too. ... I’m doing my part, doing everything I can to help our team out.
“We’re all emotional. It’s (Roberson’s) first year, so we’re gotta get him these wins and keep going,” Tyillian added.
“ ... It’s an awesome feeling to win a homecoming. It’s my first homecoming here,” Roberson related. “The way this community has embraced me and embraced what we’re trying to do with these kids has just been awesome!
“We knew we were gonna have to do that this season,” Roberson reflected regarding the Reds’ resilience. “We graduated a lot of kids, and these kids have stepped up and accepted every, single challenge we’ve given them this season.
“We’re healthy, physically, and mentally and spiritually this team is at a place I haven’t seen a high school football team in a long time,” Roberson related. “I’m excited. But you celebrate (one) night, then get ready to play Sharpsville.
“Going foward, we’ve just got to pull it through every week.”
MERCER 0 7 0 7 14
MIDDLESEX 0 7 3 7 17
WM — Tyillian, 15 run (Tyillian kick)
M — Peters, 54 pass from Clarke (Hoffman kick)
WM — Tyillian, 24 field goal
WM — Staunch, 3 run (Tyillian kick)
M — Peters, 65 pass from Clarke (Hoffman kick)
12 First downs 12
41 Rushing yards 161
270 Passing yards 111
33-15-1 Att-comp-int 20-9-1
311 Total yards 272
9-73 Fumbles-lost 3-0
0-0 Penalties-yards lost 9-75
Rushing: MERCER — Clarke 8-32, O’Brien 7-13, Leonard 4-(-4); WEST MIDDLESEX — Lucich 14-86, Tyillian 8-41, Staunch 9-34.
Passing: MERCER — Clarke 33-15-1, 270; WEST MIDDLESEX — Staunch 20-9-1, 111.
Receiving: MERCER — Edwards 6-76, Peters 3-135 Leonard 3-29, Haines 1-13, Davis 1-10, O’Brien 1-7; WEST MIDDLESEX — Tyillian 4-68, Fair 4-40, Lucich 1-3.
Simply stated, Middlesex made one more play, while Mercer made a myriad of miscues.
Breese defends heavyweight title at PIAA Championships
HERSHEY, Pa. — Move over Rod Wright!
Lakeview senior heavyweight star Sam Breese had a goal coming into the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships this weekend at Hershey Giant Center — besides winning a second state crown, that is.
WM knocks off Neshannock in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — The notion of Trey Staunch sneaking up on opposing teams is laughable. At 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds, the stout Staunch is not sneaking up on anyone.
However after posting a game-high 31-point, 18-rebound performance in West Middlesex High basketball team’s 76-66 PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Neshannock Saturday night, Staunch said opponents may have been overlooking the Big Reds.
Hickory girls 26-0, oust Johnstown
SLIPPERY ROCK — At Morrow Field House Saturday evening, the Hickory Lady Hornets kept the perfect season alive with a 63-37 state playoff first round win over the Greater Johnstown Trojans from District 6.
“It feels great to get the win (Saturday),” said veterans Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “We’ve been at this place over the last few years and we’ve been sent home in the first round so it was a huge win for us. I’m very proud of our team effort."
KC girls roll past California in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team was in the ’hood Saturday afternoon.
Led by senior Taylor Hood, the Lady Golden Eagles eased past California, 53-34, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Lakeview's Breese to defend PIAA title
HERSHEY, Pa. — If you are Major League Baseball player, a .333 batting average is great. But in wrestling at the state tournament — not so much!
Out of the dozen wrestlers that Mercer County sent to Hershey for the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships, only four (.333) will reach the medal stand today — led by Lakeview senior Sam Breese who shoots for a second straight gold medal.
Farrell edges Montour, 60-57, in PIAA opener
Montour High boys’ basketball coach Adam Kaufman lamented another season-ending setback. However there are several hundred coaches across the Commonwealth who envy his program’s recent success and would trade places with him in a heartbeat.
But during Friday night’s PIAA Class AAA playoff opener, Kaufman & Co. could not overcome those streaky Steelers ... those survivin’ Steelers.
“ ... Hey, survive and move on,” summarized Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse following Farrell’s 60-57 win at Sharon High.
GCC ousts Mercer in 1st round of PIAAs
The Mercer Lady Mustangs were outscored 16-4 in the final quarter of the first round of the state playoffs by the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions, ending their season Friday night 56-31 at Sharon High School.
Senior Lexie Arkwright had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double performance for the Lady M’s. She also snagged three steals. Adelyn Cook and Haylie Glass each added 4 points for Mercer.
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.
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