By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
With playoff pairings pretty much set for the upcoming postseason, some might question why would a team want to play a “meaningless” week-10 regular-season game?
But if your team is on a late-season surge and is prepping for the playoffs, there are no “meaningless” games when attempting to maintain momentum and mojo. And while the risk of injury always is there, no self-respecting team wants to back into the playoffs or squander its sharp edge honed by the rhythm of 9 previous weeks of competition.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Sharon (6-3) at Sharpsville (5-4)
This regular-season finale pits a pair of proud, playoff-bound programs.
Jim Wildman (214-81-6) has taken the Tigers to 10 titles since the District 10 tournament’s inception, while Paul Piccirilli (159-54) has produced 7 of Sharpsville’s 8 district championships.
Sharon’s 6-win season is its best since the 2010 District 10 Class AA championship campaign.
The Tigers have triumphed twice as many times as the last 2 seasons combined (3).
That total, however, is only two-thirds of the 2001 season (9-4), Tigers’ taskmaster Wildman’s last year at the helm of his initial tenure.
Two-time District 10 Class A titlist Sharpsville’s skein of consecutive double-digit win seasons (4) is in jeopardy, but the Blue Devils are back in the playoffs for the 6th straight season.
The last Sharpsville squad to win only 6 games occurred in 2008, while the program’s last losing season took place the year before (3-7 in 2007).
The Blue Devils defeated Sharon last year (28-6), as well as the programs’ previous pair of meetings (28-0 in ’05; 35-7 in ’04).
The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM) with Ryan Briggs and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
Greenville (9-0) at Harbor Creek (1-8)
The Trojans are treading on somewhat uncharted turf — or that on which they have not trod for quite some time.
According to available archives at The Herald, the last Greenville grid team to win as many as 10 games without a loss occurred in 1999.
That year Greenville garnered 11 consecutive wins and the District 10 Class AAA crown, but bowed to Perry Traditional Academy (27-17) in the PIAA playoffs.
Last year Trojans’ taskmaster Brian Herrick’s team humbled the Huskies (34-13) on Tyler Fattman’s field day.
Fattman forged 70- and 55-yard punt returns for TDs and also ran 13 yards from scrimmage for another. Also, Luke Houpt hauled in a 27-yard TD toss and Cody Nellis notched a 2-yard run.
Previously, the last time the programs met occurred in 2007, with Harbor Creek harvesting a 34-13 win.
The game will be broadcast on WGRP (940 AM), with Steven G. Folmer and Karl Rupert calling the action.
Iroquois (3-6) at Lakeview (8-1)
This season’s Sailors’ success — while not quite unprecedented — is on the verge of establishing a new single-season standard.
According to available archives at The Herald dating back 4-plus decades, 3 previous Lakeview squads enjoyed 8-win seasons: 2010 (8-4, losing to Farrell in the D-10 semifinals); 1986 (8-2, losing to Reynolds, 41-6, in the D-10 Division II championship game), and 1982 (8-1, sharing the French Creek Valley Conference title with Linesville).
Also, running back Blake Reddick can re-write the District 10 record book. According to The (Erie) Times-News, no back in the 6-county district’s gridiron history has posted back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons. Reddick rushed for 2,025 yards (17 TDs on 282 carries) last year, and thus far this season the Sailors’ speedster has sprinted for 1,953 yards (on only 171 carries, 11.42 yards/attempt) and 23 TDs.
Reynolds (4-5) at Mercer (7-2)
Following a 1-year hiatus, Mercer makes a playoff appearance this season; first, however, the Steeds are seeking the program’s 1st 8-win season since the last time the Mustangs made the postseason — 2011 (8-3, losing to West Middlesex, 44-34, in the D-10 semifinals).
With its initial win over a winning team, Reynolds could reach the .500 plateau for the 2nd straight season following last year’s 6-4 ledger.
The Raiders have not recorded back-to-back non-losing seasons since legendary Frank Amato led Reynolds to 8-3 and 9-1 seasons in 1991 and ’92.
En route to its 6th win of 2012, Reynolds ripped Mercer (27-14) a year ago, led by Mike Millero’s monstrous 26-carry, 225-yard, 2-TD (33, 52) rushing performance. However Steeds’ signal-caller Logan Clarke connected on 11 of 28 passes for 175 yards and 2 TDs, including a 34-yarder to T.J. Peters.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM) with Hugh Ringer and Mike Piddington on mike.
Seneca (3-6) at West Middlesex (5-4)
Last season Seneca shocked West Middlesex (21-20) in the regular-season finale, though the Big Reds bounced back to reach the D-10 Class A title tilt for a 2nd straight season.
This season Middlesex — manhandled by Lakeview last week — needs to proceed into the postseason on a positive. Following the loss, Middlesex mentor Ed Roberson referenced his Reds will be ready.
“I got a great text-(message) from Coach McElhaney,” Roberson related, regarding former head coach Jason McElhaney. “He told me, ‘You’re playin’ with ‘house money.’ ... We’re the number two seed going into the playoffs, so we’re still in pretty good position. We’re disappointed (with the 19-2 loss to Lakeview), but going forward, you’ll see a much-improved Big Reds’ football team.”
LaBrae (5-4) at Brookfield (7-2)
A week ago Brookfield bullied Youngstown Christian (28-0) for the Warriors’ 3rd consecutive win. In spite of the shutout, Brookfield’s breathing room has been limited. Thus far the Warriors have outscored (192-148) and outgained opponents (2,559-2,394) by a slight margin, though the only meaningful statistic — W’s — continues to mount.
With a big night Joey Clark could surpass the 1,000-yard rushing plateau, while sophomore signal-caller Augustus Necastro already has done so through the air. They have accounted for 13 (rushing) and 8 (passing) TDs, respectively.
Last week LaBrae outlasted Champion (14-6) in a Trumbull County clash (All-American Conference/National Division). According to The (Warren) Tribune-Chronicle, Justin Jenkins hit Keevon Harris for a 4-yard TD toss, then Jenkins jolted the Golden Flashes by scoring from a yard out with only 2:26 left. Jenkins accounted for 77 (35 rushing, 42 passing) of the Vikings’ paltry 152 total yards.
Brookfield blasted LaBrae (48-17) last season.
Maplewood (4-5) at Kennedy Catholic (0-9), noon
Last week Maplewood was manhandled by Cochranton (48-6) in a rematch of former French Creek Valley Conference competitors. Playoff-bound Cochranton collected a 491-166 edge in total yards.
“I told the kids I didn’t recognize our team,” Maplewood mentor Bryan Borkovich told The (Meadville) Tribune. “That’s not the team that’s been here the last couple weeks. ... ”
However a Tigers’ triumph would secure the Class A bracket’s final playoff berth.
Both Maplewood (41-7) and Kennedy Catholic (49-0) were routed by Reynolds, the teams’ lone common opponent.
KC head coach Archie Donofrio will bid adieu to seniors Jacob Feeney, Zach Zehner, Phil Moroco, Paul Fusco, David Cathey, Jeremy Branca, Brad Nulsen, Vince Caswell, Tyler Moore and Sam Crow.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.