By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
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.
Mercer and McClearn will have to wait until 2014 to bid for their program’s 1st D-10 football championship. However Lakeview is in line for its initial district crown, though the Sailors will have to surpass Sharpsville (a 40-3 winner over West Middlesex), the 2-time reigning kingpin.
“It’s tough walkin’ off after a game like this ... I see all these people I know. But I said it before the game and I honestly mean it,” McClearn emphasized, “I wish them well.
“I wish they would finish in second place every year behind us,” mused a ruefully smiling McClearn, “but (Friday) night they were a better team, so I wish ’em luck next week.”
McClearn, Lakeview ’84, played on the 1982 French Creek Valley Conference co-championship team as a junior for former Sailors’ skipper Joe Sass; now his alma mater will make only its 2nd District 10 title tilt appearance since 1986.
Marquis Spence sparked the Sailors with a career night as he tallied 5 touchdowns on runs of 4, 4, 9 and 3 yards and hauled in Zach Bigley’s 7-yard TD toss — all occurring in the 1st half as Lakeview led 34-7.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had a game like this,” Spence said. “Teams keying on Blake (Reddick) helps a lot. And after the loss to Mercer during the regular season (19-8 in week 4) we all had to turn it up. And I guess I just started showin’ more than people thought I would. This feels amazing! I’m so excited!
“We had pretty high expectations going into this year; we wanted to go undefeated,” Spence continued. “But I think that loss (to Mercer) really helped us, motivated us, and we started to play a lot better than everybody thought.”
Reddick roared past the District 10 single-season yards rushing mark (Mercyhurst Prep’s Aaron Horton, 2,444) on his 2nd carry, a 7-yard sprint. By evening’s end he put himself into position to surpass former Sharon standout T.J. Phillips (6,241, 1995-98) as the district’s career rushing leader.
Unofficially, Reddick has rushed for 6,158 yards to date.
According to Lakeview High, entering the game Reddick had rushed for 6,005 career yards. He ended his evening with a game-best 20-carry, 153-yard performance. That included a 49-yard, 3rd-quarter scoring sprint mere moments after his fumble set up a 2nd Steeds’ score.
Logan Clarke collaborated with T.J. Peters on a 62-yard scoring strike 56 seconds into the 2nd half. But Reddick fumbled at his own 23-yard line with 2:37 left in the quarter. Seven plays later Clarke connected with Peters on 3rd-and-goal from the 4, and Chase Hoffman’s 2nd PAT with 22.4 ticks to play in the 3rd cut Lakeview’s lead to 34-21.
However on the ensuing play from scrimmage, Reddick raced to his 31st rushing TD of the season, staking the Sailors to a 40-21 edge. Then with 8:13 remaining in the 4th frame center fielder Reddick reeled in Clarke’s 3rd-and-5 pass from Lakeview’s 21-yard line and returned it 94 yards for another score.
“I’m so proud,” said Sailors’ skipper Dan York. “We faced adversity — (the Mustangs) beat us the first time that we played them, and you always have that weighing on your mind. You know, are you good enough? But (the Sailors) came out and played ‘lights out’ football, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. It’s a great group of kids.”
While the Mustangs’ main concern may have been Reddick, as they did in the teams’ initial meeting (61 yards on 18 carries), it created opportunities for Spence, as well as Bigley, who completed only 3 passes, but 2 for scores. Shortly before Spence’s 4th score, Bigley and Zach VanDusen collaborated on a 40-yard scoring strike as the latter beat a pair of defenders on a post pattern.
“Zach VanDusen’s been makin’ big plays for us for four years ... Zack Bigley’s been makin’ big plays for us for four years ... and Marquis Spence, this is his time to shine, too. Marquis came in and played a heckava ballgame,” York praised.
“When (Spence) is your second option, that’s a tough team to beat,” an admiring McClearn mused. “Reddick’s always going to be Reddick, and VanDusen’s always going to be VanDusen. But it’s that third kid, a kid like Spence, that just makes them all the more unstoppable.”
“As soon as Blake took a step, (the Mustangs) were going with Blake, and we just undercut them with Marquis,” York related.
The Sailors (11-1) coasted to 350 total yards on 45 snaps (7.7 yards/play), with Lakeview’s lone loss occurring on the game’s final play when Bigley took a knee in the waning seconds. Leading Lakeview’s ground game were center Austin Hostetler, guards Sam Breese and George Hooker, tackles Marcus Bowser, Hunter Armstrong and Stan Mellott, and tight end Jarrett Troy.
Clarke came into the game with 2,294 yards passing and 25 TDs. He turned in a 25-for-40, 177–yard, 2-TD passing performance, leaving him just shy of the D-10 single-season mark for passing yards (West Middlesex’s Kolten Hoffman, 2,504). Unofficially Clarke concluded his junior campaign with 2,471.
McClearn meted out praise for his seniors, including Luke Leonard, Walter Haines, Brenton Kaster, Jarred Davis, Zane O’Brien, Jon Hennegan, Brian Phillips, Matt and Chase Hoffman, Colton Price, and Ronald Priester.
Mercer missed the playoffs last year after ending 3-7, but posted a complete turnabout, finishing 9-3.
“The only solace we can take out of this is we got ourselves into the playoffs and we’re the one mark on their (record). That’s an awful good football team, and it’s tough to beat them twice in one year,” McClearn said regarding his alma mater.
Meeting Sharpsville a 2nd time this season (Lakeview won 19-13 in week 8 at the Pines) was on York’s mind.
“ ... It’s a shame we have to meet ’em again,” York began. “It is harder to beat a good team twice, and Sharpsville definitely has a good team, so ...
“But I’m very happy, very happy. This is the furtherest since I’ve been here,” York concluded.