By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
Jarrett Samuels referenced it as “redemption.”
If that’s the case, he sure has been making up for lost time since his own Farrell High playing days.
Samuels’ Steelers sacked Sharon signal-caller Andrew Tomko 9 times Friday night, and Farrell forged a 12-0 season-opening win at Tiger Stadium.
The 68th annual Steel Bowl marked Farrell’s 5th consecutive win in the Shenango Valley rivalry, though Sharon continues to maintain a 35-26-7 all-time edge.
Farrell’s front four — Derrick Carter, Tyreke Barnett, Brandon Gavins and Tyrone Archie — spent more time in Sharon’s backfield than Tomko, Carnell Hawkins and Anthony Johnson.
Such was the Steelers’ domination that the one time Tomko gained positive yardage from scrimmage — a 4-yard 2nd-stanza run — he fumbled, and it was recovered by Barnett.
“We knew from the film study that our guys up front could handle them — not taking anything away from Sharon,” Samuels explained. “We have a veteran group, and those guys play our scheme really well.
“We were in ‘attack mode.’ Tyrone was really in ‘attack mode,’” Samuels praised.
“My key was preparation, mental preparation before the game ... get my mind right and get my team right,” related the athletic Archie, tapping his temple for emphasis.
In the 2nd stanza a scoreless stalemate was shattered with 5:54 remaining to intermission.
Seconds after gaining a 1st down owing to a Farrell personal foul, Sharon squandered the opportunity. Tomko’s 1st-down pass was tipped by Gavins, and Tionté Davis sprinted 45 yards for the touchdown.
The Steelers’ 6-0 shutout expanded to 12-0 with 6:43 remaining in the 3rd period. On a 2nd-and-16 play, RayShown Johnson jolted Sharon with a 46-yard TD toss to Austin Pickens streaking down Sharon’s sideline.
It appeared as though Sharon scored with a minute remaining in the frame. On 1st down, Tomko tossed to Dan Vanderslice, who threaded through the Steelers’ secondary to complete a 60-yard pass play. However the Tigers were too aggressive, and a block approximately 20 yards from behind Vanderslice negated the TD.
Two plays into the 4th frame the Tigers took it to Farrell’s 13-yard line. However the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Archie sacked Tomko on 1st down, Tomko’s 2nd-down pass fell incomplete, then his 3rd-down pass into the end zone was pilfered by Alex Meyers.
“Fundamentally, a very poor showing up front,” Tigers’ taskmaster Jim Wildman said. “You have to be able to run-block; if you get behind, you better be able to protect your quarterback, and I’m not sure we did a good job of either one of those.
“But my hat’s off to Farrell — they played hard,” Wildman praised. “The name of this game always is, ‘The team that makes plays always wins,’ and they made two big ones; we didn’t make one.”
Farrell finished by almost shutting out Sharon statistically. The Tigers tallied only 44 total yards on 36 plays from scrimmage. The beleaguered Tomko tossed 2 interceptions and Sharon fumbled 5 times, losing a pair.
“That was our achilles heel last year, our defense,” Samuels said. “That was what we focused on all offseason. Our D-line coaches, before the game knew they had to carry the day, and they did. I’m so proud of my guys on defense!
“Tyrone Archie is a ‘beast.’ He plays hard on every play,” Samuels said in praise of his senior, who shared in a sack and logged another by himself. Gavins garnered a pair, and Davis, Carter, and Jesse Robinson registered solos, while Robinson and Deion Saunders shared another.
“We put the big ‘doughnut’ (zero) up there on the board,” Archie said.
“To come out the first game and get this win against Coach Wildman ... this is for my classmates of ’89, the fall season, this is for you guys,” Samuels said, recalling, “That was a 6-6 tie (against Sharon), so this is redemption.”
Wildman’s return from an 11-year hiatus certainly was not what he envisioned, but he said,
“The kids played with great effort. ... I knew our kids had to play well early, to try and get over the hump of what they’ve lived with over the last four years against Farrell. But I’m not sure we did play well the first part of the game. And the longer that game went on, it was like we were waiting for something to happen, instead of making something happen.
“Certainly, playing Farrell gets your attention,” Wildman said. “l’d like to thing that Farrell’s going to be a better football team because they played us, and I know that these kids in here (Sharon locker room) will be a better football team having played (Farrell). We’ll circle the wagons and work for another week to get better.”
Note: DeWayne Burns burst for a game-high 103 yards on 26 totes for Farrell.
FARRELL 0 6 6 0 12
SHARON 0 0 0 0 0
F — Davis, 45 interception return (kick failed)
F — Pickens, 46 pass from Johnson (pass failed)
13 First downs 6
89 Rushing yards -12
93 Passing yards 56
14-6-0 Att-comp-int 10-4-2
182 Total yards 44
8-75 Fumbles-lost 5-50
3-1 Penalties-yards lost 5-2
Rushing: FARRELL — Burns 26-101, Gavins 3-21, Graham 3-1, Johnson 6-(-5), Guelledge 4-(-29); SHARON — Hawkins 11-38, Johnson 5-13, Tomko 10-(-53).
Passing: FARRELL — Guelledge 7-4-0, 35; Johnson 7-2-0, 58; SHARON — Tomko 10-4-2, 56.
Receiving: FARRELL — Burns 3-35, Pickens 2-53, Graham 1-5; SHARON — Vanderslice 2-43, Mosley 1-8, Austin 1-5.