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.
HIGH SCHOOL SPRING SPORTS ROUNDUP
Baseball, softball and tennis teams were in action Monday as the nice weather allowed for high school spring sports action that has been limited so far by rain, snow and windy conditions.
Players relent, agree to play for reinstated football coach
Minnesota State University-Mankato's football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
Hickory track coaches near finish line
While the Shenango Valley lionizes legendary gridiron greats and hardwood heroes, the sport of track & field at Hickory High has resonated its relevance throughout District 10 and commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
For the better part of the last 3 decades that was due, to a great extent, to the efforts of Barb Dzuricsko and Mark Slezak.
More than 200 dual-meet victories combined between the girls’ and boys’ programs, 9 district championships (7 girls, 2 boys), 2 statewide runners-up berths and another pair of 3rd-place finishes, culminating in the Lady Hornets’ 2012 PIAA Class AA championship.
Their collective resumé would be envied by any coach, regardless of sport. Which makes this recent revelation regrettable: Dzuricsko and Slezak simultaneously will step down at this season’s conclusion.
SPORTVIEW: Cavaliers are example of how an owner impacts a team
WHEN LEBRON James vacated Cleveland for South Beach a few years ago, angry Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert declared that the Cavaliers would win an NBA championship before James and the Miami Heat.
How’s that working out, Dan?
Miami is seeking a third straight title this postseason while the Cavaliers are headed for the golf courses. Pretty sad.
Roundup: Trojans, Hounds win team titles at WM Invitational
Wilmington High girls and Greenville boys dominated the annual Big Red Track & Field Invitational Thursday afternoon in West Middlesex.
A half-dozen girls’ and 7 boys’ teams competed.
Wilmington overwhelmed the female field, as the Lady Greyhounds garnered almost twice as many points as runner-up Lakeview (236-5 to 133.5).
Roundup: WM diamondmen edge Reynolds, 6-4
ä West Middlesex 6, Reynolds 4 — At Transfer, the Big Reds snapped a 4-all tie by plating a run in the 4th inning and another in the 7th in a 2-run win over the Raiders.
Mark Colella earned the mound win in a relief appearance for WM. No pitching stats were submitted.
Roundup: Hickory, Wilmington softball teams win
Paced by Chelsea Marriott’s muscle, Hickory High hammered 4 home runs Saturday afternoon en route to a 19-1 rout of Sharon.
At Wengler, Marriott mauled 2- and 3-run round-trippers to right-center and straightaway center field, respectively. Her Lady Hornets’ teammates Hannah Gallagher and Morgan McBride mustered 3-run bombs, also.
Fired coach in Mankato unjustly accused of visiting porn sites
Minnesota State University-Mankato officials wrongly accused former football coach Todd Hoffner of viewing pornography sites on his work computer before firing him last May, a state arbitrator has disclosed.
Roundup: Hickory track coaches to step down following season
Hickory High track & field co-head coaches Barb Dzuricsko and Mark Slezak announced they will step down at the season’s conclusion.
Dzuricsko and Slezak, who led the Lady Hornets to the 2012 PIAA Class AA crown, jointly made the announcement via e-mail late Wednesday.
Roundup: Devil diamondmen roll past Sharon
An old-school baseball bromide states that, early in any season, pitching is always ahead of hitting. However Sharpsville shunned that axiom Wednesday afternoon.
The Blue Devils banged 15 hits, and Sharpsville short-circuited Sharon, 16-4, in 5 innings.
Roundup: Hounds, Hornets notch track sweeps
ä Wilmington 116, Reynolds 44 — At New Wilmington, the host Lady Hounds were led by Rikki Brumbaugh (4x8, 4x4 relay legs, 400- and 800-meter runs); Hannah Drake (long, triple jumps, 4x4 relay); Allison Baldwin (4x8 and 4x4 relay legs); Lexi Brumbaugh (1600-, 3200-meter runs, distance-relay leg), and Tessa Sikora (high jump, 200-meter dash, sprint-relay anchor).
SPORTVIEW: Pirates, Indians fans looking for big things this year
LIFE IS GOOD if you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Cleveland Indians. At least for now!
Heading into Saturday, both teams were 3-1 and looking pretty sharp. Since both made the playoffs last year, there are high expectations for both clubs. But in baseball, every year is a new season and there are no guarantees.
Still, it’s always nice when your favorite teams get off to a good start. In too many seasons, Pittsburgh and Cleveland fans were only talking about the NFL draft because hopes were bleak for their baseball teams.
Hickory's Arbanas 1st team All-State; KC's Hood 3rd team
ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — Teams from the WPIAL won three of the four PIAA girls basketball championships this year, and southwestern Pennsylvania is turning out to be just as dominant when it comes to postseason honors.
Pittsburgh-area programs produced seven of the eight major award winners on this season’s Sports Writers Pennsylvania High School Girls Basketball All-State Team, including all four players of the year.
WM's Staunch named 2nd team All-State
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Finishing on the winning side in a championship game — or coming mighty, mighty close — scored plenty of points with the panel that selected Pennsylvania’s all-state boys’ basketball team.
Especially when it came time to choose those — whether players or coaches — who claimed the top individual awards.
Roundup: Hickory, Mercer, Reynolds, WM baseball teams earn wins
ä Hickory 12, Sharpsville 10 — At the McCullough Run Complex in South Pymatuning Twp., the visiting Hornets improved to 4-0 with the win.
Brady Leunis went 2-for-3 for Hickory with a double and 3 RBI, Tommy Cannon belted a 2-run homer, Noah Orndorff was 2-for-4, Nate Mastrian ripped an RBI-double, Ethan Davis was 2-for-4 with a double and a run driven in and Jake Andrzjewski doubled.
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