SLIPPERY ROCK — There was an old movie, a western, from television’s grainy, black-and-white 1950’s era: “Bad Day at Black Rock.”
For Hickory High’s football team, Saturday’s matinee at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium was a bad day at Slippery Rock.
That’s not intended to be trite. Hickory hardly knew what hit it, such was the ambush.
The Hornets were on their heels, in a 13-0 hole, approximately 5 minutes into the PIAA Class AA quarterfinal-round meeting, and District 6 champion Richland routed Hickory, 38-12, at Slippery Rock University.
“We’ve got a lot of kids, a lot of great athletes, and we just keep throwing it and runnin’ where they ain’t — that’s our simple philosophy,” summarized 11th-year Rams’ head coach Brandon Bailey.
The Rams (14-0) commenced the contest with a 14-play, 79-yard, 5-minute, 9-second series, culminated by the 1st of quarterback Matt Shaffer’s pair of 1-yard plunges.
However Hickory mishandled the ensuing Bobby Colvin kickoff, and the bounding ball was recovered by Richland’s Nick Rager. Four plays later Shaffer scored his 2nd touchdown, and the Ram roared to a 13-0 lead at the 4:48 mark of the 1st frame.
“We were fortunate we were able to get the ball, and go punch another one in,” Bailey related. “We knew we wanted to force them to play from behind, and we were able to do that.”
“We talk about, ‘Start fast, finish faster,’ and unfortunately the other team did that (Satur)day,” assessed Hickory head coach Bill Brest. “They kept us off-balance in all three phases of the game. ... It started right off the get-go, the first two kicks we lost field position, and that was critical to us. You get down 13-0 to a team like that, and it’s just tough to come back on.”
After Richland’s physical front coerced a punt, the Rams’ fast-break, no-huddle offense ran to another two tallies. Tanner Solarczyk’s 8-yard run — part of his game-high 26-carry, 153-yard, 2-TD afternoon — culminated a 6-play, 50-yard drive. Then the Rams’ Jared Hoover recovered a DeShawn Coleman fumble at Hickory’s 28-yard line. Four plays later, Shaffer and Solarczyk collaborated on a 15-yard scoring strike. Colvin’s conversion raised Richland’s lead to 28-0 with 3:49 remaining to intermission.
The early 4-score deficit neutralized the Stingers’ strong suit — speed.
“Our goal coming in was to try to tackle them before they could get out, ’cause we knew they had tremendous team speed, and we were able to achieve that (Satur)day,” summarized Bailey, whose Rams have recorded the best single season in program annals.
Colvin’s 1st half-concluding 38-yard field goal extended Richland’s rout to 31-0 at halftime. Conversely, Hickory — owing to 2 lost fumbles, an interception and the special teams’ mistakes — did not record its initial 1st down until the 3:27 segment of the 1st half.
“ ... We just didn’t play well (Satur)day and got beat by a better team, unfortunately,” admitted Brest. “We knew they had the size, but they were a lot more physical than we thought they would be. That’s a credit to them ... and I think they’re gonna be able to play with this team (Aliquippa) next week.”
Coleman commenced the 2nd half — and, in effect, concluded his career — as the Stingers’ speedster’s 45-yard scoring sprint had Hickory on the board at 31-6 with 10:36 left in the 3rd quarter.
It was his 71st touchdown during the last 2 seasons (58 rushing), and his 10-carry, 85-yard outing elevated his yards rushing total to 4,070 according to available archives at The Herald.
In the 4th frame the teams traded scores. Solarczyk’s 3-yard run was offset by a 24-yard TD toss from Matt Voytik to Anthony Cannone. Suffering his initial setback as the Stingers’ starting signal-caller, Voytik vindicated himself with a 15-for-33, 185-yard passing performance.
While Richland readies for WPIAL champion and undefeated Aliquippa Friday night at Wexford’s North Allegheny High, Hickory (11-2) had its season halted.
Hickory’s seniors included Coleman, Dionté Pope (team-high 4 receptions for 41 yards), Calvin Pryts, Michael Nardone, Michael Palumbo, Zach Bair, Austin Aikins, Jeremy Orlik, Joe Hines, Mike Mazon, Jaylan Sharper, Daniel Cathcart and Mark Wagner. Nardone and Sharper shared a sack, and Coleman collected an interception, as did Pope.
“Thirty-one and seven, the winningest senior class in the history of Hickory High football. What a run they had for three years!” Brest praised. “Who knows what’s gonna happen to any of us in the future, but we are so proud of these seniors — just how they’ve grown from sophomores. ... Two district (10) championships, a district runnerup, two berths in the state playoffs, we can’t be any more proud of these guys. Just love those guys and it’s all about these seniors here. So proud of the (assistant) coaches and what they’ve done. ... These seniors, we’ve gonna miss them so much. We’ll just see what happens tomorrow.
“(Back-to-back District 10 titles) is something nobody can take away from us,” Brest noted. “Our philosophy is, it’s all about these kids. We’ve got people on the outside who might not be rooting for us, we’ve got people, maybe internally, that don’t root for us. But it’s all about these kids, and they’ll never be able to take those two trophies away from those kids. We can’t be happier. I’d rather be in that locker room (Hickory’s), than over there (Richland).”
PIAA CLASS AA QUARTERFINALS
RICHLAND 13 18 0 7 38
HICKORY 0 0 6 6 12
R — Shaffer, 1 run (Colvin kick)
R — Shaffer, 1 run (run failed)
R — Solarczyk, 8 run (Pecora run)
R — Solarczyk 15 pass from Shaffer (Colvin kick)
R — Colvin, 38 field goal
H — Coleman, 45 run (kick failed)
R — Solarczyk, 3 run (Colvin kick)
H — Cannone, 24 pass from Voytik (pass failed)
20 First downs 9
177 Rushing yards 91
171 Passing yards 185
28-13-2 Att-comp-int 33-15-1
349 Total yards 276
0-0 Fumbles-lost 4-3
10-72 Penalties-yards lost 5-44
Rushing: RICHLAND — Solarczyk 26-153, Shaffer 13-33, Farina 1-3, Fesko 1-1, Pecora 2-(-11); HICKORY — Coleman 10-85, Tindall 3-12, Palumbo 1-4, Pope 1-3, Lewis 1-0, Voytik 7-(-13).
Passing: RICHLAND — Shaffer 27-12-2, 142; Pecora 1-1-0, 30; HICKORY — Voytik 33-15-1, 185.
Receiving: RICHLAND — Flick 4-64, Shertzer 3-41, Pecora 3-37, Solarczyk 3-21; HICKORY — Pope 4-39, Tindall 4-26, Palumbo 3-47, Coleman 2-40, Cannone 2-31.
SLIPPERY ROCK — There was an old movie, a western, from television’s grainy, black-and-white 1950’s era: “Bad Day at Black Rock.”
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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