This could prove to be the regular season’s most interesting week since Labor Day weekend’s openers.
Entering the year’s 3rd trimester, District 10 region affairs are on the schedule, but with a different flavor —some Shenango Valley venues will feature Class A versus AA matchups — and there also is a AA vs. AAA eastern county encounter.
However inter-region does not equate to a respite, not in week 7 with postseason berths at stake. Rather, because of the season’s late stage, tonight’s tilts may be more meaningful than mere bragging rights; in the larger scheme, the difference between playoffs and Week-10 lame-duck finales.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
West Middlesex (4-2) at Sharon (3-3)
This marks the return to Tiger Stadium of Ed Roberson.
West Middlesex’s 1st-year mentor was a senior — playing for Tigers’ taskmaster Jim Wildman — in 1994, the first of back-to-back seasons in which Sharon met Berwick for the PIAA Class AAA championship.
Roberson’s Reds now are a roadblock as Sharon seeks a return to the postseason from a 2-year hiatus. Both teams suffered setbacks last week; consequently, both are back on the bubble.
A 4-game West Middlesex win skein was snapped by a sub-par half of football as the desperate Sharpsville Blue Devils surged from a 12-point deficit at home to rally past the Reds (20-12).
Meanwhile, the Tigers tumbled for the 3rd time on their turf (Farrell, Greenville and Hickory — a combined 15-3)).
In last week’s loss to Hickory, defense enabled Sharon to stay within striking distance of the ’Stingers — Dan Vanderslice recovered a pair of fumbles, Jeff Price produced a pair of sacks and Beau Dignall another — but they spent too much time traversing Tiger Stadium’s sod during the 2nd half of the contest.
The game will be broadcast on Talk Radio 790 WPIC (AM) with Ryan Briggs and Scott Clary on mike.
Hickory (5-1) at Farrell (4-2)
Presently, no Mercer County contingent is playing better ball than Hickory. which, for Farrell, is not welcomed news.
Since being outscored 22-0 in the 2nd half of a Week-2 home-field loss to Greenville, Hickory has humbled Wilmington, Grove City, Titusville and Sharon by an aggregate 188-33 differential. Conversely, the Steelers were shut out during the 2nd half of an eventual 39-10 loss to Lakeview. That seems inexplicable, considering the Steelers stymied Sharpsville (7-6) at McCracken Field a week earlier. However, that has been Farrell’s 1st and only win against an opponent with a winning record.
Hickory held Sharon speedster Carnell Hawkins to a season-low 22 yards rushing last week, so it will be interesting how the Hornets handle the Steelers’ Dewayne Burns.
In the last 2 seasons the Hornets have handed Farrell 50-0 and 28-6 losses.
In 2010, Bill Brest’s 1st year at Hickory’s helm and the conclusion of Jarrett Samuels’ initial 4-year reign as Steelers’ skipper (4 District 10 Class A championships, 3 PIAA western regional finals) — the Steelers’ spanked Hickory, 28-6.
Northwestern (6-0) at Greenville (6-0)
Stewart Field is the setting tonight for a playoff precursor.
Last week the Wildcats mauled Fort LeBoeuf (33-3) by permitting only 63 total yards (59 rushing). According to The (Erie) Times-News, Northwestern’s Sebastian Rinehardt had 2 sacks and recovered a fumble, while Brandon Reiser rushed for 192 yards, including 40-, 51- and 57-yard scoring sprints. Austin Miczo added 51 yards rushing, including a 23-yard tally, while Nate Noe notched a 9-yarder.
Last year the Wildcats whipped Greenville (42-7) at Albion’s Rogers Field, led by Reiser (19 for 163, 2 TDs), but Greenville got the better of the previous pair of high-scoring meetings in 2011 (32-29) and 2010 (35-22).
The game will be broadcast on WGRP (940 AM), with Steven G. Folmer and Karl Rupert on the call.
Sharpsville (4-2) at Wilmington (4-2)
This pair of proud programs are meeting at a pivotal point: Both need a win to proceed toward the postseason.
The Blue Devils dominated the last 2-plus periods of last week’s Region 1 showdown at The Pines with West Middlese, posting their initial 2013 win over a plus-.500 team. The Blue Devils’ defense has yielded only 38 points in the last 4 games, allowing a TD apiece to Mercer and Farrell — though both resulted in setbacks.
Wilmington weathered back-to-back Region 3 losses to Grove City and Hickory, and the Hounds Hammer defense has permitted only 7 points during its current 3-game win skein.
The game pits Wilmington’s venerable Terry Verrelli (275-115-3) — The Herald coverage-area’s all-time winningest grid coach — against Sharpsville’s Paul Piccirilli (158-52), both of whom led their programs to the PIAA pedestal (Sharpsville, 1997; Wilmington, 2008).
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM) with Bob Greenburg and Mark Slezak on mike.
Grove City (4-2) at Slippery Rock (6-0)
Because of its Jekyll-Hyde nature, this season has been uncharacteristic in recent Grove City grid annals.
The Eagles have eased past Carrick, Reynolds and Saegertown, with the latter pair sandwiching samplings of humble pie dished out by Hickory and Greenville. To date, Grove City’s signature win was at New Wilmington (17-13) in Week 2; since then the Eagles are even at 2-2.
Coach Brendan Hathaway has Slippery Rock slaying opponents on a nightly norm, including Brashear (44-0), Meadville (49-16), Central Tech (21-6), Bradford (62-12), Erie-East (66-6) and Warren (55-7). Quarterback Jake Whitmer and speedsters Frank Conlon and Brandon McKnight fuel the Rockets’ prolific offense. Last week in the Rock’s rout of Warren Jared McDowell mustered a 9-carry, 153-yard rushing performance that included 50- and 55-yard scoring sprints. Mark Cessar also secured field goals of 34, 29 and 36 yards.
In this series’ last 7 showdowns, Grove City has garnered 7 wins (34-14 last year) by a composite 237-77 differential.
According to available archives at The Herald, Slippery Rock’s last success against Grove City occurred in Week 2 of ’03 (33-14 at Forker Field).
Mercer (4-2) vs. Mercyhurst Prep (2-4) (at Mercyhurst University)
Two weeks ago Coach Pat McClearn’s Mustangs were mainlining toward the postseason; after back-to-back Region 1 losses to West Middlesex and Conneaut Area, Mercer is in must-win mode on the road.
Versatile quarterback Logan Clarke is the key as the ’Steeds seek a return to the postseason.
Last week Prep was pounded by Maplewood (35-14), as the Tigers tallied 397 yards rushing (Miller Peters, 196 yards on 8 attempts, including a 93-yard TD, and Tyshaun Johnson, 100 yards on 12 totes), according to The (Erie) Times-News.
The Lakers were led by Eric Baer, who burst for a game-high 196 yards, including 83- and 84-yard TDs.
Cochranton (4-2) at Lakeview (5-1)
This is an old-school French Creek Valley Conference rivalry, and both are on the uptick.
The Redbirds routed Region 2-A rival Iroquois (20-7) last time out. According to The (Meadville) Tribune, Garrett Adams annexed a 20-carry, 147-yard, 2-TD rushing performance and caught 4 passes for 104 yards, including a 42-yard TD toss fromThe Trib’s 2012 player of the year, quarterback Chad Eisentooth. Also, Jesse Staudt stuck the Braves for 10 carries and 80 yards rushing, as well as a trio of receptions for another 27 yards. Cochranton collected 430 total yards.
Lakeview is coming off one the program’s best wins in recent memory — at 39-10 blowout of Farrell at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium.
Brookfield (4-2) at Ashtabula-Edgewood (3-3)
This is a rematch of last year’s OHSAA Division IV opening-round playoff game, won by Trumbull County’s Tribe, 38-14.
Now, can Brookfield bounce back from last week’s humbling at the hands of Hubbard (54-9).
Edgewood eased past Beaver Local (31-10) last week. According to The (Ashtabula) Star-Beacon, Anthonie Magda and Riis Smith sprinted 98 and 88 yards, respectively, as the Warriors from the north went for 507 total yards.
Smith rushed for an 11-carry 195-yard outing that included scoring sprints of 37, 88 and 33 yards, while Magda manufactured a 7-carry, 169-yard outing.
The Warriors won their 3rd consecutive contest after an 0-3 outset, and 1st-year Edgewood head coach Josh Franke told The Star-Beacon, “It’s amazing! It’s almost like a brand new season. The kids are thriving off the fact that every week they’re fighting for a playoff spot.
“We have a big opponent in Brookfield coming in. That’s a very important game ... that’s going to give us a lot of (computer) points if we’re able to beat them.”
Reynolds (3-3) at Kennedy Catholic (0-6), noon
Following its 3-1 start to the season Reynolds is reeling, in the midst of a 2-game skid in which it has been outscored, 52-14. If they harbor hopes for the program’s first postseason berth since ’05 the Raiders need to rally, and this could prove to be an opportune occasion.
KC is coming off a loss on the road at Rimersburg, suffering a 27-0 shutout to Union.
Four of the Golden Eagles’ losses have occurred at Butala Stadium, where KC has been outscored, 140-28 by Bradford, Farrell, Mercer and Lakeview — teams that are a collective 15-9.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 FM (WLLF) with Jeff Wimer and Scott Clary on mike.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.
This could prove to be the regular season’s most interesting week since Labor Day weekend’s openers.
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.
Raiders win 17th region title; 11 locals to Hershey
When Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer came off the mat after his 145-pound championship at the Northwest AA Regional Championships, he wasn’t celebrating his second straight crown. Instead, he turned to head coach Casey Taylor and said, “I did it for the team.”
And the team needed it!
Stoyer defeated Brookville’s Zach Vroman, 3-0, and sent Reynolds on its way to the school’s 17th region team title Saturday night at Sharon High School. Reynolds finished with 147 points, to Brookville’s 138.
Hickory girls capture 1st district title since 1983
MEADVILLE — Depending upon peoples’ perceptions, 31 years can seem like a lifetime ... but so can 16 minutes.
Hickory High girls’ basketball program’s District 10 drought ended Saturday afternoon as perennial power Villa Maria virtually vanished from the 2nd-half scoreboard.
The Lady Hornets erased a 7-point halftime deficit by yielding just 4 second-half points en route to a 39-24 victory over Villa Maria in the District 10 Class AAA championship game.
KC beats Cochranton for 4th straight D-10 crown
MEADVILLE — Everybody is on April Bocian’s bandwagon — and rightly so. But Tatum Kress helped keep Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program atop District 10’s Class A competition.
Kress connected for all 14 of her points during the 2nd half Saturday afternoon, keying the Kennedy Catholic to a 49-38 conquest of Cochranton.
McLane rallies to beat Mercer in AA title tilt
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
WM captures 3rd straight D-10 crown
EDINBORO — The West Middlesex Big Reds did it again! For the third straight year, the Big Reds, under the leadership of head coach Chad Mild, the winningest coach in West Middlesex school history, won the District 10 title with a thrilling 55-54 victory over the Fairview Tigers on Friday night at McComb Field House.
Farrell beats East for D-10 Class AAA title
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Raiders hold lead at Northwest AA Region Tourney
Reynolds coach Casey Taylor had a simple, but fitting comment after the opening night of the Northwest AA Region Wrestling Championships at Sharon High School Friday:
“So far; so good!”
The defending champion Raiders, who are seeking a 17th region crown in school history, jumped into the team lead with 45 points Friday, heading second place Brookville with 35.
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- 5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey