From a local perspective, there’s no better drama than Sharon versus Farrell with the prestigious Steel Bowl trophy on the line.
So, short of a season-ending showdown in a snow-covered setting — as was the case back in the day — there’s no better kickoff to the start of a new scholastic football season than the Tigers tusseling with the Steelers on Labor Day weekend.
A year ago in Jarrett Samuels’ return to the sideline, the Steelers staggered to a second straight 6-win season that culminated in a District 10 Class A semifinals shutout.
Similarly, Sharon has struggled since securing the 2010 D-10 AA championship, suffering through consecutive 2-8 and 1-9 seasons.
Tonight’s 7 p.m. tilt at Tiger Stadium also will serve as the return of Mercer County Hall-of-Famer Jim Wildman as Tigers’ taskmaster following his 11-year hiatus. During his previous Sharon stint Wildman was the architect of 208 triumphs in a quarter-century, including 103 wins and a pair of PIAA title-tilt appearances during the 1990’s.
Tonight’s game also will serve as head-coaching debuts for newcomers in Reynolds’ Josh Mull and West Middlesex’s Ed Roberson, while former West Middlesex mentor Jason McElhaney begins new duties as Hickory’s offensive coordinator.
Hickory and Sharpsville are the reigning AA and A District 10 champions.
The Steel Bowl will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action, beginning with a 6:30 p.m. pre-game show.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
North East at Greenville
This has become one of opening night’s best long-distance rivalries.
With 4 consecutive wins from 2006-09 (27-24, OT; 22-18; 12-10, 14-7) Greenville gained a 4-3 purchase on the series. But the ’Pickers have posted 17-7 (2010), 48-21 (2011) and 33-14 (2012) victories the last 3 years.
Last season North East notched a 7-4 slate, but bowed to Grove City (56-14) in the D-10 Class AA opening round.
Twenty-year head coach Matt Shesman (105-90-1) will have to rebuild his backfield, having lost a pair of 1,000-yard rushers to graduation. Jordan Bryan, who saw limited duty last year, looks to fill a void, while QB Mike Macaulay (319 yards passing, 2 TDs) will look to make his mark.
The game will be broadcast on WGRP (940 AM), with Stever Folmer and Karl Rupert calling the action.
Hickory vs. Strong Vincent
(at Vets Memorial Stadium, Erie)
A trio of 2012 season-opening setbacks cost the Colonels, who, despite a 3-game mid-season win streak, ended 3-7 under Scott White (15-16, 3 seasons).
But Vincent could vault back into playoff contention this season, led by quarterback Chris Starocci (905 yards passing, 7 TDs) and running back Jared Carlson (78 carries, 443 yards, 4 TDs). Carlson (9 for 197, 1 TD) also could be utilized as a pass-catching threat. But defensively, Vincent was victimized last year, surrendering 72 combined points in losses to region rivals Cathedral Prep and Gen. McLane. And this year’s Colonels return only Mark Akerly among their top 9 on the 2012 tackle chart.
The Hornets humbled Vincent, 44-22, a year ago in Hermitage.
Wilmington at West Middlesex
These were two of Mercer County’s crown jewels in 2012, but both suffered the same fate: Falling to county counterparts in D-10 championship games. For Middlesex, it was a 2nd straight setback to Sharpsville in the Class A title tilt, while Wilmington was hammered by Hickory in AA.
Wilmington won last year’s lidlifter, 13-10, in New Wilmington.
Terry Verrelli (271-113-3), entering his 35th season at the Greyhounds’ helm, continues to pad his area career coaching wins record.
The game will be broadcast on SportsRadio 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch calling the action.
Eisenhower at Mercer
Eisenhower erupted from contender to region titlist last year, before losing to Lakeview (36-6) in the D-10 AA quarterfinals. The Knights notched an 8-3 mark under Jim Penley (42-50, 10th season at the helm).
Having lost some record-setting skill-position performers to graduation, Ike may have to rely on its defense early in the season, led by 1st-Team All-Region linebacker Alex Johnson, defensive back Rob Wilston, and lineman Jake Spetz.
Wilston will be Eisenhower’s answer on offense, too, whether at quarterback, carrying (641 yards rushing, 6 TDs) or catching (13 for 145 yards, 3 TDs) the ball as he did last year. Also, Carter Farrell finished with 250 yards rushing and a score in limited action.
Maplewood at Reynolds
A year ago Maplewood was manhandled by the Raiders, 44-0, in the lidlifter, and the Tigers tumbled to a 2-8 record.
The Tigers’ tale this season could be based on its line play, as no less than a half-dozen regulars return on both sides of the ball. Austin Binkert, Ron Baldwin and Marcus Hays are expected to be two-way starters for 2nd-year Maplewood mentor Bryan Borkovich.
However graduation losses claimed a 1,000-yard running back, an 800-yard passer, and Maplewood may have no more experienced returning receiver than 5 catches and no running back with more than 25 yards rushing a year ago.
Sharpsville at Moniteau
A year ago Moniteau mustered only 1 win, losing 9, but returns several skill-position players, including versatile Dustin Geagan (973 yards rushing, 11 TDs; 144 yards passing, 1 TD) and Taylor Shaffer (335 yards rushing, 1 TD).
Coming off an 11-2 ledger and another District 10 Class A title, Sharpsville skipper Paul Piccirilli reportedly had to suspend 4 regulars for this game.
In last year’s opener, the Blue Devils drilled Moniteau, 35-0.
Carrick at Grove City
Carrick has collected only 3 wins in the last 3 seasons (none a year ago), but 1st-year head coach Craig Aguglia (a 10-year assistant at Brashear) has returning Pittsburgh All-City League defensive tackle Jessie Reed, 2-time leading rusher Joe Kalsek, and 6-foot, 200-pound running back/linebacker Hakeim McKenzie III, a transfer from Pasadena, Calif., according to The (Pittsburgh) Post-Gazette.
Quarterback Davon Cruse, academically ineligible a year ago according to The (Pittsburgh) Tribune-Review, will return under center, protected by Reid and another 4-year starter, tackle Keith Davis.
Springfield Local at Brookfield
Coach Randy Clark’s Warriors are coming off the program’s best season in a generation — 12-1 and a berth in the OHSAA Division IV regional finals. The 2013 Warriors will compete in Division VI as part of the Buckeye State’s realignment.
Sophomore signal-caller Augustus Necastro will orchestrate the spread offense, that will include “pistol” principles. Joey Clark (60 carries, 351 yards, 5.8 yards/carry, 9 TDs) is the leading returning rusher.
Springfield was sporadic in 2012, essentially trading wins and ending 4-6 overall, 3-4 in the Tri-County League Tier I. However Tigers’ taskmaster Sean Guerriero gets back 17 lettermen, including quarterback Hunter Snyder and running back Ryan Kohler. Gabe Crowe, a 6-foot-1, 315-pound left tackle, will afford Snyder passing protection while providing paths for Kohler and Chris Wells in Springfield’s spread offense. Defensively, 7 Springfield starters return.
Lakeview at Union City
According to The (Erie) Times-News, Union City actually had to forfeit a 2012 tilt owing to sparse numbers and injuries. However, 15th-year head coach Randy Gunther guided Union City to a 3-7 ledger.
The Bears boast a backfield that includes quarterback Brody Mangel (538 yards, 8 TDs passing; 479 rushing yards, 5 TDs), fullback Shane Russell (345 yards rushing), and running back Brett Reynolds.
Ultimately, however, who from the Bears can begin to bring down a bigger Blake Reddick of Lakeview?
Bradford at Kennedy Catholic, 1 p.m.
Bradford’s Owls only ended 4-6 a year ago, but advanced to the D-9 title tilt before being clocked by Clearfield (49-0).
As preseason camp commenced, 5th-year head coach Jeff Puglio (21-19) had not promoted 2012 backup Zach Bartlebaugh as this season’s starting signal-caller. If Bartlebaugh is throwing the ball, he probably will look to wide-out John Siffrinn (9 catches, 157 yards) and tight end John Pantuso (7-61, 1 TD). Both of them also start defensively — Siffrinn as a linebacker (48 tackles) and Pantuso as an end, joining returning ’backer Ryan McCammon (2 quarterback sacks, 1 interception last year). Another talented athlete bolstering Bradford is Justin Fishkin, who notched 3 sacks as a linebacker and also rushed for 291 yards and a trio of TDs.
A trio of top performers transferred from Kennedy, including Jake Leipheimer (Reynolds) and Brennan and Ethan Wassil (Hubbard).
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview, some provided by The (Erie) Times-News’ Summer Huddle.
From a local perspective, there’s no better drama than Sharon versus Farrell with the prestigious Steel Bowl trophy on the line.
2013-14 hoops season begins with tipoff tourneys
Farrell Julius McCoy Tipoff Tourney
ä Kennedy Catholic 48, Imani Christian Academy 40 — The Golden Eagles set up an all local rematch with host Farrell by pulling away in the fourth quarter in a tight battle.
For KC, Gerald Zachar and Sam Crow each scored 13 points to pace the victory, Brown had 14 and Southerner 12 for Imani.
Brookfield boys win season-opener against Py Valley
It was a typical season-opener: Too many turnovers, some questionable shot selection, and careless personal fouls. But for Brookfield High boys’ bench boss Bill Kovach, “ ... always happy with a win.”
The Warriors were 7-for-10 from the free-throw line during the 4th frame, and held off Pymatuning Valley, 59-48, Tuesday night.
Hornets advance to semis with win over Central
DuBOIS, PA. — Some people could say the “third time is a charm.” For the Hickory High Hornets it was much more than that. In fact, it was glorious.
After losing in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs the last two years, the Hornets finally nailed down a victory with a 37-27 triumph over the Central Dragons from Martinsburg.
Lakeview falls to Clarion Area in PIAA quarterfinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — In the scholastic athletic arena, “mercy rule” — while not politically correct in hyper-sensitive 2013 society — is a relatively accepted term.
Clarion High’s football had mercy-ruled all 13 prior opponents this season. And the Bobcats seemed bent on continuing their commanding conquests during Saturday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal-round meeting with Lakeview.
Hickory focused on winning PIAA opener
The calendar reminds us that Thanksgiving arrives a little later than usual this year. But as holiday traditions go, this one has been pretty productive for Hickory High head football coach Bill Brest.
“My wife always has me put up our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving ... and the next day, we’ve won. So I’ll be more than happy to help my wife put up the tree this Friday,” Brest related.
During the past 2 years Hickory has won District 10 titles on Thanksgiving weekend. But this year the Hornets harvested their 3rd consecutive crown last week, jettisoning Girard (21-10). Now Hickory (11-1) has a 1 p.m. date in DuBois Saturday against surprising Central-Martinsburg (11-2) in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.
Smart move by PIAA to schedule games early this weekend
Congratulations to the PIAA for making a good move that helps teams and fans of high school sports.
Wow, I haven’t been able to say that often enough!
But many of the high school football games this coming weekend will be played in the afternoon which is a real plus for traveling on possibly snow-blown highways at this time of the year.
Hornets 3-peat as D-10 champs with win vs. Girard
EDINBORO — When legendary coach Vince Lombardi said “the only good thing that comes from losing is the desire never to lose again,” he could very well have been referencing the future for Coach Bill Brest and his Hickory Hornets.
Since Hickory lost to Sharon, 14-6, in the 2010 District 10 finals in Brest’s first year at the helm of the team, the D-10 Class AA title game has belonged to Hickory. And Saturday afternoon at Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium, it was no different as the Hornets topped Girard, 21-10 for a third straight crown.
Sailors beat Devils to capture 1st District 10 title
NEW WILMINGTON — Lakeview may have a long way to go to equal Sharpsville’s success in the sport of football, but the Sailors jump-started the process Friday night.
With Blake Reddick roaring into the record book, the Sailors shut out Sharpsville, 27-0, in the District 10 Class A championship game at Greyhounds Stadium.
Hornets seek 3-peat Saturday vs. Girard
Bill Brest ... buffer?
Hickory High’s head football coach has broad shoulders and that’s necessary, because he’s taking on all distractions as his Hornets prepare for Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship game.
Hickory (10-1) will attempt to hoist the D-10 trophy for a 3rd consecutive season when the Hornets journey to Girard’s backyard — Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium — to meet the Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m.
Hickory rolls past Northwestern in D-10 semifinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — They say that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” You can bet the Northwestern Wildcats are feeling a bit of the latter for the Hickory Hornets!
For a third straight season Hickory eliminated the northerners from the District 10 Class AA playoffs, this time by a 52-14 score in the semifinals Saturday night at Slippery Rock University’s Thompson-Mihalik Stadium.
Greenville falls to Girard in D-10 semifinals
ERIE — District 10 was destined for a Class AA championship game between reigning 2-time titlist Hickory and Greenville.
But no one informed the Girard High football team of the plans.
“ … This is pretty cool … I’m pretty fired up about it,” admitted 4th-year Yellow Jackets’ head coach Jim Funk after Girard jolted Greenville, 16-14.
SPORTVIEW: Season fate could be decided today for Browns, Steelers
IT MAKES NO sense to say that one game determines the rest of the season. That’s why I’ll simply say: Today’s one game determines the rest of the season.
Since when did my predictions make sense anyhow?
The Cleveland Browns’ visit to Cincinnati today will go a long way to deciding if the Browns have a shot at making the playoffs — and even winning the AFC North title — or if they should start planning for the NFL draft.
GCC tops Thiel in OT to win Mercer County Cup
The Grove City and Thiel College football teams closed out their seasons on Saturday with a thrilling game at Alumni Stadium in Green-ville as Grove City posted a 50-44 overtime win in the 30th annual Mercer County Cup Game.
Quarterback Brian Pell scored on a 13-yard run for the Wolverines (3-5, 5-5) to give GCC the win in OT.
Devils beat WM; will play for 3rd straight D-10 title
Two-time defending District 10 Class A champion Sharpsville is returning to the D-10 title game for a third straight year and Coach Paul Piccirilli has a simple explanation for the team’s success:
“We believe. Kids in Sharpsville believe.”
A lot of people are believing as well after watching the Blue Devils dismantle West Middlesex, 40-3, Friday night at Hickory High Hornets Stadium.
Spence, Sailors roll past Mercer, 52-21
NEW WILMINGTON — Pat McClearn lived Lakeview High football program’s previous gridiron glory days. Unfortunately for him on Friday night he was on the business end of the current Sailors’ resurgence.
McClearn and his Mercer High Mustangs were eliminated by Lakeview from the District 10 Class A semifinals, 52-21.
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