By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
Perhaps it’s not payback, per se — the tides of talent turn over from year to year in scholastic football — but since Sharon shut down Hickory for a 14-6 win in the 2010 District 10 Class AA championship game,. the Hornets have humbled the Tigers.
Two years ago at Tiger Stadium the ’Stingers stuck it to Sharon, 43-7; then last year in Hermitage the Hornets harvested a 49-7 win.
And while Sharon still has a stranglehold on the all-time series, tonight’s return to Tiger Stadium makes for a pivotal Region 3-AA showdown between the neighboring rivals.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Hickory (3-1, 4-1) at Sharon (3-1, 3-2)
Since suffering the aforementioned setback in Bill Brest’s initial season at Hickory’s helm the Hornets have more than made amends. Hickory has won back-to-back D-10 titles by posting identical 11-2 ledgers the last 2 seasons; conversely, the Tigers triumphed only 3 times during that span.
However this season has seen the return of legendary Tigers’ taskmaster Jim Wildman. During his previous stint at Sharon, Wildman went 19-1-1 in head-to-head meetings with Hickory.
Fast-forward to this season’s Sharon squad, which has become relevant once again. After mauling winless Saegertown and Titusville the Tigers traveled to Transfer last week and wrecked Reynolds.
And whereas Hickory has had the edge on Sharon in terms of speed the last 2 seasons, Carnell Hawkins has restored the g-r-r-r factor in the tradition of talented Tigers’ tailbacks. Though that’s not to suggest that the holdovers from the Hornets’ D-10 Class AA track & field championship squad who put the pads on Friday night are lacking in that department.
A week ago Hickory trumped Titusville for 70 tallies. The only other commonality thus far this season is that both the Hornets and Sharon suffered home-field setbacks to Region 3-AA leader Greenville.
The last time the Tigers tumbled into a 2-year tailspin of not qualifying for the postseason were the 2004-05 teams. Hurdling Hickory would not guarantee the postseason, but certainly would restore the roar.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
West Middlesex (3-0, 4-1) at Sharpsville (2-2, 3-2)
Those residing beyond Mercer County’s borders probably cannot fully appreciate the pride in this area’s programs. So simply stated, consider the fact that this is a rematch of the last two District 10 Class A championship games.
However much in Middlesex has changed since Nov. 23, 2012, when Sharpsville secured a 28-0 rout. First-year head coach Ed Roberson’s Big Reds have reeled off 4 consecutive conquests, highlighted by last week’s win over previously unbeaten Mercer.
Particularly noteworthy has been the Reds’ resolve, evidenced by pivotal defensive plays made in the waning moments of wins at Farrell (19-14) and over Mercer (17-14).
“They gutted it out,” Roberson related following last week’s win. “Things didn’t go well sometimes. They made a lot of mistakes, but they never gave up. And that’s one of the things that we came into this year focused on. When things didn’t go well in the past, we sort’ve didn’t play well. ... But they just did what they had to do, they grew up (last Friday) night.
“These kids do what they have to do when they need to get it done.”
As if this rivalry isn’t already ratcheted up, consider that a Blue Devils’ defeat would dent their playoff hopes. Sharpsville has scored just 6 points in Region 1-A setbacks to Mercer (6-0) and Farrell (7-6) and had to rally from an early deficit against Conneaut Area. But as history has shown, particularly since Paul Piccirilli has presided over the program: Sharps-ville is resilient. Last year West Middlesex mustered a 21-14 midseason win; approximately 6 weeks later Sharps-ville shut out the Big Reds as the Blue Devils defended their crown.
The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch on the mic.
Lakeview (2-1, 4-1) at Farrell (2-1, 4-1)
This will serve as the start of the Sailors’ stretch drivefor the postseason.
Beginning tonight at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium Lakeview faces 4 consecutive opponents (Farrell, Cochranton, Sharpsville, West Middlesex) with an aggregate 14-6 won-loss ledger.
Last week Farrell forged a 7-6 win at Sharpsville’s McCracken FIeld, as the Steelers stopped a potential game-winning, 2-point, 4th-frame conversion.
In his last two forays with Farrell, Lakeview’s Blake Reddick has run roughshod — 33 carries, 166 yards last year; 24 for 165, plus 2 TDs, in 2011. However the Steelers secured respective 28-6 and 40-30 successes in those games.
Three years ago the Sailors stunned the Steelers, 20-0 in Stoneboro, as Reddick ran for 59 yards, including a TD. But when the teams met in the D-10 semifinals Farrell forged a 34-7 win, limiting Reddick to 21 yards on a handful of carries.
One of the key questions for Steelers’ skipper Jarrett Samuels tonight is who will be his quarterback: RayShon Johnson led a rout of Redbank Valley (40-24) 2 weeks ago, but Rob Guelledge guilded the Steelers to last week’s win.
Conneaut Area (0-3, 2-3) at Mercer (3-1, 4-1)
In spite of its 4-0 start, Mercer is in must-win mode following last week’s loss at West Middlesex. At least 3 drives that did not produce points left Mustangs’ mentor Pat McClearn in no mood for listening to alibis.
“Now we see what kind of mettle we have, how we respond,” McClearn mused, relating a post-game remark to his Mustangs. “If we get into the playoffs, I don’t care who we play; but we’ve gotta get there first,” he added, with emphasis.
Logan Clarke concluded with a 15-for-33, 270-yard, 2-TD passing performance and also rushed for a team-high 32 yards at Middlesex.
“That was a gutty performance by Logan — he was a little banged up ... I’ve got nothing but respect for Logan. He’s playing hard, doing what he can do. He wasn’t at his top, physically ... but he’s still going out there making plays for us,” McClearn said.
CASH short-circuited a 3-game skid, and outlasted Gen. McLane, 41-40.
According to The (Meadville) Tribune, the Lancers led 40-27 with approximately 9 minutes remaining before Hunter Merritt mustered 5- and 20-yard scoring sprints — the latter with 85 ticks to play. On the ensuing series following CASH’s score, a McLane miscue proved pivotal. Jace Pardee produced a fumble by quarterback Zach Fox and Chris Richardson recovered to elevate the Eagles.
Merritt’s monstrous performance included 127 yards rushing on 20 totes and 5 TDs (also 26, 34 and 4 yards), and tossing a 20-yard TD to Taylor Williams, while Elijah Anderson added 83 yards rushing on 10 carries. However the Eagles allowed more than 400 total yards to McLane.
Reynolds (2-2, 3-2) at Wilmington (2-2, 3-2)
Two teams trending in opposite directions.
After dropping 2 of its first 3 games, Wilmington has whipped Titusville and Saegertown the past 2 weeks by a combined 96-0.
Through 3 games it appeared as though the Raiders were primed for the playoffs; now Reynolds is reeling and needing a road win to keep its hopes viable. Reynolds was routed at home by Sharon (32-7) last week, 7 days after going down to Grove City, also at home.
In the last 7 seasons Wilmington has ripped Reynolds 324-7, including 6 shutouts (35-0 last year).
The last time a Reynolds team defeated Wilmington occurred in the 2005 District 10 Class AA championship game (21-0), which avenged a regular-season setback (16-7) and vaulted the Raiders to the PIAA Final Four.
Titusville (0-4, 0-5) at Greenville (4-0, 5-0)
This is a renewal of an old Northwest Conference rivalry.
Greenville is off to the program’s best start since ’04; Titusville has been outscored 228-49, surrendering 70 in last week’s loss at Hickory.
In the series’ last handful of meetings (2008-12), the Trojans have triumphed on each occasion by an aggregate 157-39 margin, though only 19-13 last year at Titusville’s Carter Field.
The game will be broadcast on WGRP (940 AM), with Steven G. Folmer and Karl Rupert on the call.
Saegertown (0-4, 0-5) at Grove City (2-2, 3-2)
After a 3-0 start the Eagles have endured back-to-back losses to Hickory (37-7) and Greenville (34-13), so this should serve as an opportune time for a big bounce-back.
Opposing teams have pounced on the Panthers by a composite 286-14 differential, so it would be one of this season’s unsurpassed upsets if Saegertown should shock Grove City.
The Eagles soared, 55-15, a year ago.
Kennedy Catholic (0-5) at Union-Rimersburg (1-4)
While not resulting in wins, Kennedy has continued competing.
Last week with approximately 3 minutes remaining and losing to Lakeview, 42-0, the Eagles ended the game with a 93-yard TD toss from Khaliq Ragster to Tyrell Adkins.
The Golden Eagles were without at least 4 players — Jacob Feeney, Sam Crow, David Cathey, and Joey Ivan. However, KC has refused to quit, despite being outscored 190-34.
Rimersburg was routed by Clarion (62-0) last week. Similar to KC, Union was without starting quarterback Lane Cicciarelli (ankle) and lost starting running back Dylan Shirey (hamstring) in the game, according to D9.com. Consequently, Rimersburg amassed only 52 total yards.
Undefeated Clarion’s Ian Corbett (86 yards rushing, 3 TDs; 2 receptions, 1 TD) and Damien Slike (15-carry, 145-yar, 3 TDs) ripped Rimersburg. According to D9.com, Corbett has collected 10 rushing TDs on only 29 totes.
Brookfield (4-1) at Hubbard (5-0)
Last week Coach Brian Hoffman’s Eagles eased to a 31-7 win over Struthers — which dealt Brookfield’s Warriors their lone loss.
L.J. Scott tallied 2 TDs for Hubbard as part of a 16-carry, 179-yard rushing performance. Also, George Hill had 95 yards on 16 totes, padding the Eagles’ total of 328 yards, 290 of which came on the ground.
Former Kennedy Catholic QB Brennan Wassil was under center for Hubbard.
Struthers had been allowing only 163.3 yards and 8.5 points per game, but the Wildcats were whipped, while gaining only 183 total yards.
Brookfield bounced back from its lone loss, rallying from a 14-7 halftime deficit to dominate Warren-JFK, 28-14. Joey Clark’s running, Augustus Necastro’s passing, and the Jamar Tarver-led defense paced the Warriors’ win.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.