By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
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.