By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
In the athletic arena the number 56 is iconic — Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive games hitting streak, which has spanned 7-plus decades.
Closer to home the number 56, while impressive, could be erased in 3 weeks.
The Mercer County area (including Slippery Rock) has annexed 56 District 10 football championships since the tournament’s 1985 inception. Hickory and Sharpsville will seek 3-peats as the annual event begins this weekend.
Eight county contingents will compete for the 6-county-wide crowns, including Hickory, Greenville, Sharon and Grove City in Class AA and Sharpsville, Lakeview, Mercer and West Middlesex in A (Slippery Rock in AAA).
In D-10 tourney annals, among area aggregations Wilmington won 4 consecutive AA crowns twice (1994-97) and (2006-09), while Sharon secured 4 straight (1998-2001), also in AA. In single-A, Sharpsville (1999-2001) and Farrell (2008-10) 3-peated.
Sharon can surpass Wilmington (10 titles apiece). The tandem trails only Cathedral Prep (18) in District 10 football championship trophies. Sharpsville is seeking No. 9; Hickory, No. 6; Greenville, its 5th, West Middlesex, No. 4, and Grove City, its 3rd.
All games tonight begin at 7 p.m.
Lakeview (9-1) vs. Maplewood (5-5)
Wilmington High Greyhounds Stadium
The only means by which the Sailors’ record-setting season can be surpassed would be with the program’s 1st District 10 championship.
Lakeview’s last pair of playoff appearances (2012, 2010) ended in the tournament semifinals (Sharpville, 41-34; Farrell, 34-7). Lakeview last advanced to a D-10 title tilt in 1986, when Coach Bernie Davis skippered the Sailors to 8 wins before bowing to Reynolds (41-7) in the then-Division II championship game.
Last week Lakeview logged its 9th win — according to available archives at The Herald, a single-season standard — and running Blake Reddick roared past the 2,000-yard plateau for the 2nd straight season.
Reddick has rushed for 4,172 yards (9.1 yards/carry) and 43 TDs the past 2 years. The Sailors’ senior speedster is averaging 12.1 yards/carry this year. He posted a Mercer County single-game record 391-yard performance in an earlier conquest of Cochranton.
Lakeview’s lone loss occurred in Week 4 at Mercer (19-8). Since then the Sailors have outscored 6 straight foes by an aggregate 241-39 margin. To date, 14th-year Head Coach Dan York’s (72-70) yeomen have outscored (36.8 to 6.6) and outgained opponents (398.5 to 179.8).
The Tigers tumbled twice in the season’s first 2 weeks to Reynolds (41-7) and Eisenhower (33-6). Maplewood has mustered wins over Union City (28-19), Youngsville (39-8), Mercyhurst Prep (35-14), Saegertown (54-31) and Kennedy Catholic (25-12). Coach Brian Borkovich’s bunch also have bowed to Iroquois (18-12), Cambridge Springs (35-21) and Cochranton (48-6).
Dual-threat Dane Barker is equally adept throwing (72 of 144, 760 yards, 6 TDs, 6 interceptions) and running (120 attempts, 548 yards, 9 TDs). Miller Peters also is productive ground-gainer (86-632, 5 TDs).
Mercer (8-2) vs. Cambridge Springs (8-2)
at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Erie
The Mustangs of 9th-year mentor Pat McClearn (61-37) return to the postseason following a 1-year hiatus. Prior to that, Mercer had a 5-year skein, highlighted by the 11-win ’07 season that ended in a D-10 title tilt loss to Mercyhurst Prep (21-19).
The Steeds are seeking the program’s 1st District 10 football crown.
Led by linchpin Logan Clarke Mercer has mustered 4 consecutive conquests entering the postseason, outscoring that quartet of opponents, 160-91.
Clarke’s collective passing numbers during the last 2 seasons are 204 completions in 409 attempts for 3,161 yards and 36 TDs. He has been intercepted just 7 times in 239 tosses this season.
Mercer’s midseason mini-slump included back-to-back setbacks to playoff participants West Middlesex (17-14) and Conneaut Area (21-14).
Coach Clint Rauscher’s Spa has spanked Saegertown (68-0), Cochranton (42-12), Youngsville (59-6), Iroquois (36-14), Union City (30-6), Maplewood (35-21), Mercyhurst Prep (48-13) and Union-Rimersburg (40-20), while suffering back-to-back setbacks to Eisenhower (21-14) and Fort LeBoeuf (47-27).
Sparking the Spa is quarterback Devin Walker (39 for 91, 734 yards, 8 TDs passing; 54 carries for 583 yards, 6 TDs rushing). Colton Noble (174-1,518, 22 TDs) and Zach Stafford (81-618, 11 TDs) givee the ground game balance, while Kristofer Silbaugh (11 catches, 284 yards, 4 TDs) is Walker’s primary go-to guy.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch on mike.
Sharpsville (6-4) vs. Eisenhower (7-3)
at Corry High
Last week, in spite of a 357-232 total-yardage edge, Eisenhower was upended at 3-win Cameron County (35-27). According to D9sports.com, Alex Johnson jolted CamCo for 139 yards rushing and an 85-yard kickoff return for a TD, while Rob Wilston went 20 for 31 for 214 yards and 2 TDs. Jarrett Johnson and Logan Bellardo benefitted from Wilston’s wing, hauling in 83 and 73 aerial yards, respectively. However, Wilston was victimized by a pair of Pick-6’s.
“We just missed too many opportunities,” Knights’ Head Coach Jim Penley told D9sports.com. “That won’t work (this) week. We’ve got to play a lot sharper to beat Sharpsville. We left two or three touchdowns out there. We can’t do that, not in the playoffs. ... My hope is that, by getting pushed around (by Cameron County), we’ll get to where we need to be.”
The Knights have notched wins over Maplewood (41-13), Iroquois (42-18), Mercyhurst Prep (29-26), Cochranton (29-28), Cambridge Springs (21-14), Union City (45-8) and Youngsville (56-8). Mercer (41-13) and CASH (35-0) eased past Eisenhower.
Wilston (74 of 133, 1,130 yards, 14 TDs, 6 interceptions) paces the pass game; Alex Johnson (145-1,138, 13 TDs) leads the rushing attack, and Jarrett Johnson (22-391, 7 TDs) is the leading receiver.
Paul Piccirilli (160-54) has skippered Sharpsville to 7 district championships and the 1997 PIAA Class A plateau. The 2-time defending champion Blue Devils have won 6 straight tourney tilts, last losing to Mercyhurst Prep in the 2010 semifinals (54-33).
Sharpsville has secured 4 consecutive double-digit win campaigns, highlighted by the 13-win 2011 season in which it advanced to the western regional championship game before bowing to perennial power Clairton (30-8).
The game will be broadcast on 1470 FAR WLOA with Stephen G. Folmar and Karl Rupert on mike.
West Middlesex (6-4) vs. Cochranton (6-3)
at Hickory High Hornets Stadium
First-year Head Coach Ed Roberson’s Big Reds were runners-up the last 2 seasons, and are in search of the program’s 1st D-10 title since ’06.
Cochranton’s Redbirds have rolled over Seneca (14-13), Mercyhurst Prep (32-21), Union City (42-22), Iroquois (20-7), Youngsville (52-0) and Maplewood (48-6). Cochranton and Coach Nathan Liberty lost to Cambridge Springs (42-12), Eisenhower (29-28) and Lakeview (62-8).
Reigning 2012 Crawford County player of the year Chad Eisenhooth engineers the offense through the air (47 of 87, 814 yards, 10 TDs, 1 interception). Garrett Adams adds the dual-threat of rushing (90-571, 6 TDs) and receiving (16-307, 4 TDs), while Jesse Staudt (12-244, 3 TDs) is another aerial target.
The game wll be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
at Slippery Rock U.’s Thompson-Mihalik Stadium
Greenville (10-0) vs. Fairview (6-3), 7
Trojans’ taskmaster Brian Herrick (7th season, 47-29) hurdled a 5-year hex of opening-round setbacks with last season’s win; now Region 3-champion Greenville wants to graduate to the grid pedestal.
Greenville last won a District 10 title in 1999 under Herrick’s predecessor, Bob Stone..
Coach Jim Brinling’s Tigers have toppled Youngsville (42-0), Corry (38-26), North East (34-20), Seneca (45-7), Harbor Creek (28-6), and Iroquois (51-13), but bowed to Girard (28-7), Fort LeBoeuf (14-13) and Northwestern (35-7).
The Trojans toppled North East (21-3), Northwestern (14-13) and Harbor Creek (37-8).
Shannon Jackson (216-1,453, 14 TDs) is one of D-10’s best backs. Last year he rushed for 2,014 yards, including a 23-carry, 93-yard outing in an opening-round loss to Wilmington (which later edged Greenville, 10-9, in double-OT in the semis). Also for Fairview, quarterback Ben Kocan (24 for 52, 503 yards, 9 TDs, 1 interception) adds an aerial dimension.
The game will be carried on WGRP (940 AM) with Stephen G. Folmer and Karl Rupert on mike.
Hickory (8-1) vs.Fort LeBoeuf (7-3), 1
Head Coach Bill Brest (4th year, 38-8) has had the Hornets in the last 3 Class AA district championship games. The Hornets’ last loss in the tourney occurred in the 2010 title tilt to Sharon (14-6).
Hickory has won 7 straight games by an aggregate 367-53 differential, though only 3 of those wins occurred against teams with winning records (Wilmington, Grove City, Sharon).
Coach Jeff Nichols’ Bison have battered Harbor Creek (35-0), Cambridge Springs (47-27), Fairview (14-13), Seneca (27-0), Corry (20-10) and North East (20-14). LeBoeuf lost to Gen. McLane (42-6), Northwestern (33-3) and Girard (21-7).
The Bison bullied winless Erie-East (47-14) last week as Cy Carroll collected a 206-yard 3-TD rushing outing and Collin Fish finished with another 69 yards and 2 TDs. According to The (Erie)Times-News, Fort LeBoeuf boasted a 311-9 margin in rushing.
Vets Memorial Stadium, Erie
Sharon (6-4) vs. Girard (8-2), 1
Rest or rust?
Last week Tigers’ task-master Jim Wildman (26th season, 214-82-6) sat his starters — including speedster Carnell Hawkins and quarterback Andrew Tomko — in a regular season-ending setback to Sharpsville (19-6).
Though this season already has been a success — the Tigers have triumphed twice as many times as their last pair of predecessors combined — will Sharon be sluggish or set for a slugfest?
Sharon suffered setbacks to Farrell, Hickory, Greenville and Sharpsville.
The Tigers took the tournament’s AA title — the program’s 10th (9 led by Wildman, including his last season during his previous stint, 2001) — in its last playoff appearance in 2010.
The Jackets of Coach Jim Funk fashioned victories over Fairview (28-7), Seneca (50-0), Harbor Creek (57-7), North East (33-10), Union City (48-8), Corry (31-14), Fort LeBoeuf (21-7), after losing their season lidlifter to CASH (27-17). Northwestern (35-14) also jolted Girard.
Girard humbled winless Saegertown (55-13) in last week’s regular-season finale. According to The Times-News, Girard quarterback Joe Dunn — following last week’s 195-yard, 4-TD (Jeff Little, 24 yards; Cody Dinger, 11; Bryan Divido, 48, and Nason McCall, 49) passing performance — has thrown for 1,729 yards this season and 4,697 for his career, 5th-best in D-10 annals.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Jeff Wimer and Mike Piddington calling the action.
Grove City (5-4) vs. Northwestern (8-2), 7
The Eagles are enjoying their 8th consecutive postseason appearance, led by veteran bench boss Jeff Bell (17th season, 115-65). Hickory eliminated the Eagles (35-13) in last season’s semis.
This season Grove City gained only 1 win against a team with a plus-.500 record (Wilmington). And after a 3-0 start to the season the Eagles ended with 4 losses in their last 6 games.
To commence the campaign the Wildcats whipped Meadville (31-7), Seneca (25-0), Girard (35-14), Harbor Creek (35-0), Corry (42-7) and Fort LeBoeuf (33-3). Northwestern was knocked off back-to-back at Greenville (14-13) and North East (24-14) before sweeping Fairview (35-7) and Mercyhurst Prep (50-7). Brandon Reiser’s rushing (121-1,091, 16 TDs) is complemented by Jay Clinger’s passing (31 of 67, 490 yards, 4 TDs, 5 int.).
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch on mike.
Note: All games streamed online at www.790wpic.com and www.sportsradio967.com
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.