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.
In Class AA and A, which affect our local teams Hickory and Lakeview, both games are at 1 p.m. Saturday. Hickory will take on Central Martinsburg at DuBois Area Stadium (much better than the usual horrible trek to Altoona), while Lakeview faces Clarion at Slippery Rock University’s Thompson-Mihalik Stadium.
We got a prime example of the kind of weather that can hit in late November Saturday for the Hickory game at Edinboro. It was a long trip home for many of us, with accidents bringing traffic to a standstill at times and hazardous driving conditions.
However, it would have been worse late at night, rather than the afternoon. And consider that Pa. deer like to play “dodgems” with vehicles on the highways at night, traveling early is a much safer venture.
ä Hickory joined Farrell and Sharpsville as Mercer County teams that have won three straight District 10 titles. Sharon went one better by winning four straight from 1998-2001.
So this year Mercer County sends a veteran team and a novice group into the PIAA fray. Obviously, Hickory has played in two straight PIAA tournaments, while Lakeview is making the state playoffs for the first time in school history after winning the first ever D-10 title.
Hickory lost in the first round of the state tournament to Tyrone and Richland the last two years and will be shooting for a better start this season. It was interesting that after Hickory’s victory over Girard last weekend, Coach Bill Brest related a story about what happened a few days after the loss to Richland last season.
He said that a pair of juniors — Matt Voytik and Daulton Linton — came to him and said that the team was “better than that” and they vowed the Hornets would make it back the following year.
The current seniors were right and now they try to take the next step past the first round and reach the Western Regional finals against the winner of the game between WPIAL champion South Fayette and D-9 winner Karns City.
Meanwhile, Lakeview goes up against a very talented Clarion team in its first ever PIAA game. But the Sailors are also extremely talented with a big front line and superb skill people, led by running back Blake Reddick, the all-time District 10 leader in career and single-season rushing.
ä The Mercer County area (counting nearby Wilmington and Slippery Rock with county clubs) has been the dominating force over northern teams since the District 10 tournaments began in 1985. Those teams have captured 25 Class AA (or Division II) victories out of the 29 chances. In Class A (or Division III), the county area has grabbed 20 crowns.
Locals have also won 13 AAA (or Div. I) crowns, although there are far fewer AAA teams every season and some have moved up and down between AA and AAA.
District 10 titles won by school are: Sharon (10), Wilmington (10), Sharpsville (8), Hickory (6), Farrell (4), Greenville (4), Reynolds (4), Kennedy Catholic (4), West Middlesex (3), Grove City (2), Slippery Rock (2), Lakeview (1).
Since Lakeview’s victory last Friday night, Mercer is now the only school in the county that plays football not to win a D-10 title.
Some of the titles came in bunches. Wilmington won 4 in a row twice — from 2006-2009 and 1994-1997 — while Sharon won 4 from 1998-2001. Streaking to 3 in a row were Hickory (2010-13), Farrell (2008-10) and Sharpsville (1999-2001).
Whether Hickory joins the 4-peat club is yet to be seen, but right now the Hornet concerns are on the upcoming PIAA game on Saturday and winning a state tourney game for the first time since 1991.
Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.