The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Sports

November 28, 2013

Hickory focused on winning PIAA opener

MERCER COUNTY AREA — 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.

While Hickory has dominated D-10 for 3 consecutive seasons, the statewide stage has been a struggle. In back-to-back PIAA playoff appearances Hickory has been handed 38-12 and 40-28 opening-round setbacks by Richland and Tyrone, respectively. In spite of a trio of titles and 42 wins in his first 50 games at Hickory’s helm — and practicing on Thanksgiving Day for a 4th straight year — would a victory validate Brest?

“One of the things I’ve always had a saying for over the years is: ‘Take it to the next level.’ That next level for us is to win in the state quarterfinals, then see what happens. But in order to get past this game, we’re going against a very good football team,” Brest cautioned.

Central secured the D-6 championship last week, upsetting previously undefeated and top-seeded Richland (27-22). From 2011 to the present Richland had been 8-2 in the postseason and 36-4 overall. Conversely, after previously appearing in only 3 playoff games in 3 years, Central secured the program’s 1st district championship since ’08.

“I wasn’t surprised — Central-Martinsburg was the much better team,” related Brest, who watched a segment of the game live. “The Achilles heel Richland had this year was they graduated so many offensive linemen. Central-Martinsburg won the line of scrimmage, and that was a key, key thing in that game.

“ ... Their offensive line ... just solid-looking kids, strong ... physical,” Brest praised.

Central has scored 60-plus points 3 times this season. Against Richland it recorded 404 total yards and 23 first downs. Quarterback Austin Cunningham accounted for 293 total yards (154 rushing, 139 passing) and a trio of TDs.

“It all starts with (Cunnigham). To date, he’s the best quarterback we’ll have faced,” Brest began. “Some of the comparisons with this kid is that he’s the high school version of (Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner) Johnny Manziel. He’s not overly big, but passes and runs. ... We just have to bring him down.

“Conceptually, we have a good feel for what he does tendency-wise. But he’s such a good runner, a good scrambler. ... He’s the total package,” Brest boasted.

Against Richland, Central jump-started its upset with an early fake punt from its own 18-yard line to sustain a scoring series. Later, after Central secured possession via an interception the Scarlet Dragons eschewed running out the 1st-half clock. Cunningham connected with Adam Frederick for 24- and 17-yard pass plays, setting up Zach Slagenweit’s 24-yard field goal that gave Martinsburg a 9-8 margin at intermission. Cunningham also connected with Justin Helsel for a 23-yard scoring strike on a 3rd-and-7, third-period play.

“I thought Cunningham was great,” Central-Martinsburg Head Coach Dave Baker told The (Altoona) Mirror. “I thought our whole team was outstanding, but Cunningham was great. He got first downs, touchdowns ... and just made all the right decisions. The tide could have been turning there, and then we went right down the field.”

Prolific — and versatile — Bradi Moore emerged as an 1,100-yard rusher and also doubles as Cunningham’s primary aerial target.

Third-year Martinsburg mentor Baker brought an old-school scheme from his prior coaching stint with Williamsburg. His Scarlet Dragons’ defense utilizes a 6-2 alignment Baker learned in the 1960’s, according to The Mirror.  Richland ravaged opponents for 47 points per game; however against Martinsburg it managed only 272 yards on 44 snaps and committed a trio of turnovers.

Baker coached 31 seasons at Class A Williamsburg. His only prior appearance in the D-6 title tilt, according to The Mirror, occurred in 1989 — a 15-7 loss to Laurel Valley. The win over Richland was his 150th, career-wise.

“I'm generally a pretty conservative person,” Baker told The Mirror.  “We’re still doing the same things we did (at Williamsburg) — that it’s easier to have a good defense than a good offense. Maybe we couldn’t score, but we could really try to play good defense. It’s a little easier to coach.

“If you're not very good at offense, you're not very good; but on defense, you can keep working at it and get better.”

Brest said a 6-2 could be considered similar to a 4-4.

“A lot of teams up here run that (4-4). ... Wilmington uses a 6-man box in certain situations,” Brest began, noting, “But the one thing (Martinsburg-Central) does quite a bit more is they’re more active. They’ll use ‘cover-zero’ with man concepts ... edge blitzes. They take a lot of chances defensively. So (offensive coordinator) Jason McElhaney and our coaches have worked hard to zero in on their tendencies in order to try to put our kids in better position.”

Brest broached the cliché “get the monkey off our back” regarding past PIAA playoff losses.

“I really think that first year (2011, Tyrone), it was just an eye-opening experience. This year, the respect for District 6 is through the roof. They play outstanding football there. But we did not get to see Richland live last year, and that’s difficult. Sometimes when you see a team on film, they’ll show a couple different things when you face them live.

“But I think the (Hornets’) perspective this year is one of all business,” Brest continued. “Their attitude, demeanor this (past) Monday, compared to last year on Monday. ... They’re more business-like and they’re focused moreso than the previous two years.”

Focus is foremost for Brest, his assistants’ and  players’ preparedness. And while he may not completely appreciate or be fully able to reflect until the campaign has concluded, Brest admitted.

“I’m always excited. But I’ll tell you where the excitement lies — it’s with the kids. ... Right now my excitement’s for the kids and the coaches, the school district and the community. But the excitement is more for the kids; that’s what keeps me pushing,” Brest added.

Perhaps no one more succinctly summarized the statewide stage scenario better than C-M senior Austin Conrath, who told The Mirror  following the Scarlet Dragons’ defeat of Richland,

“It's pure ‘awesomeness.’ To get (Baker) his first district championship is just awesome. It goes out to him.”

For Brest, practicing on Thanksgiving Day is “pretty neat,” and takes the edge off the annual turkey-carving and tree-trimming chores. And he’s hoping the bountiful benefits of playing the next day will continue.—Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Celebrate! Hickory track coaches near finish line

    While the Shenango Valley lionizes legendary gridiron greats and hardwood heroes, the sport of track & field at Hickory High has resonated its relevance throughout District 10 and commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
    For the better part of the last 3 decades that was due, to a great extent, to the efforts of Barb Dzuricsko and Mark Slezak.
    More than 200 dual-meet victories combined between the girls’ and boys’ programs, 9 district championships (7 girls, 2 boys), 2 statewide runners-up berths and another pair of 3rd-place finishes, culminating in the Lady Hornets’ 2012 PIAA Class AA championship.
    Their collective resumé would be envied by any coach, regardless of sport. Which makes this recent revelation regrettable: Dzuricsko and Slezak simultaneously will step down at this season’s conclusion.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPORTVIEW: Cavaliers are example of how an owner impacts a team

    WHEN LEBRON James vacated Cleveland for South Beach a few years ago, angry Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert declared that the Cavaliers would win an NBA championship before James and the Miami Heat.
    How’s that working out, Dan?
    Miami is seeking a third straight title this postseason while the Cavaliers are headed for the golf courses. Pretty sad.

    April 20, 2014

  • Roundup: Trojans, Hounds win team titles at WM Invitational

    Wilmington High girls and Greenville boys dominated the annual Big Red Track & Field Invitational Thursday afternoon in West Middlesex.
    A half-dozen girls’ and 7 boys’ teams competed.
    Wilmington overwhelmed the female field, as the Lady Greyhounds garnered almost twice as many points as runner-up Lakeview (236-5 to 133.5).

    April 18, 2014

  • Aaron Webb Roundup: WM diamondmen edge Reynolds, 6-4

    ä West Middlesex 6, Reynolds 4 — At Transfer, the Big Reds snapped a 4-all tie by plating a run in the 4th inning and another in the 7th in a 2-run win over the Raiders.
    Mark Colella earned the mound win in a relief appearance for WM. No pitching stats were submitted.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Roundup: Hickory, Wilmington softball teams win

    Paced by Chelsea Marriott’s muscle, Hickory High hammered 4 home runs Saturday afternoon en route to a 19-1 rout of Sharon.
    At Wengler, Marriott mauled 2- and 3-run round-trippers to right-center and straightaway center field, respectively. Her Lady Hornets’ teammates Hannah Gallagher and Morgan McBride mustered 3-run bombs, also.

    April 13, 2014

  • Fired coach in Mankato unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    Minnesota State University-Mankato officials wrongly accused former football coach Todd Hoffner of viewing pornography sites on his work  computer  before firing him last May, a state arbitrator has disclosed.

    April 11, 2014

  • Roundup: Hickory track coaches to step down following season

    Hickory High track & field co-head coaches Barb Dzuricsko and Mark Slezak announced they will step down at the season’s conclusion.
    Dzuricsko and Slezak, who led the Lady Hornets to the 2012 PIAA Class AA crown, jointly made the announcement via e-mail late Wednesday.

    April 11, 2014

  • Nikolo Lima Roundup: Devil diamondmen roll past Sharon

    An old-school baseball bromide states that, early in any season, pitching is always ahead of hitting. However Sharpsville shunned that axiom Wednesday afternoon.
    The Blue Devils banged 15 hits, and Sharpsville short-circuited Sharon, 16-4, in 5 innings.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Haley Boyd Roundup: Hounds, Hornets notch track sweeps

    ä Wilmington 116, Reynolds 44 — At New Wilmington, the host Lady Hounds were led by Rikki Brumbaugh (4x8, 4x4 relay legs, 400- and 800-meter runs); Hannah Drake (long, triple jumps, 4x4 relay); Allison Baldwin (4x8 and 4x4 relay legs); Lexi Brumbaugh (1600-, 3200-meter runs, distance-relay leg), and Tessa Sikora (high jump, 200-meter dash, sprint-relay anchor).

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPORTVIEW: Pirates, Indians fans looking for big things this year

    LIFE IS GOOD if you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Cleveland Indians. At least for now!
    Heading into Saturday, both teams were 3-1 and looking pretty sharp. Since both made the playoffs last year, there are high expectations for both clubs. But in baseball, every year is a new season and there are no guarantees.
    Still, it’s always nice when your favorite teams get off to a good start. In too many seasons, Pittsburgh and Cleveland fans were only talking about the NFL draft because hopes were bleak for their baseball teams.

    April 6, 2014

  • Nikki Arbanas Hickory's Arbanas 1st team All-State; KC's Hood 3rd team

    ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — Teams from the WPIAL won three of the four PIAA girls basketball championships this year, and southwestern Pennsylvania is turning out to be just as dominant when it comes to postseason honors.
    Pittsburgh-area programs produced seven of the eight major award winners on this season’s Sports Writers Pennsylvania High School Girls Basketball All-State Team, including all four players of the year.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Trey Staunch WM's Staunch named 2nd team All-State

    HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Finishing on the winning side in a championship game — or coming mighty, mighty close — scored plenty of points with the panel that selected Pennsylvania’s all-state boys’ basketball team.
    Especially when it came time to choose those — whether players or coaches — who claimed the top individual awards.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brady Leunis Roundup: Hickory, Mercer, Reynolds, WM baseball teams earn wins

    ä Hickory 12, Sharpsville 10 — At the McCullough Run Complex in South Pymatuning Twp., the visiting Hornets improved to 4-0 with the win.
    Brady Leunis went 2-for-3 for Hickory with a double and 3 RBI, Tommy Cannon belted a 2-run homer, Noah Orndorff was 2-for-4, Nate Mastrian ripped an RBI-double, Ethan Davis was 2-for-4 with a double and a run driven in and Jake Andrzjewski doubled.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jordyn Allen Roundup: WM, Wilmington, Mercer softball teams win

    ä West Middlesex 11, Grove City 1 (5 inn.) — At the Richard J. Kritz Softball Complex in West Middlesex, Jordyn Allen fired a complete-game 2-hitter with 8 strikeouts and no walks as the Ms. Reds (1-1) rebounded from a tough loss to Lakeview on Monday.
    Offensively, Allen doubled and ripped 2 singles for WM, Abby McAdams and Aly Andrusky doubled and singled, Macy Siefert collected 4 singles and Hannah Havens, Megan Hazlett and Oivia Slater added 2 singles each.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • In control Hickory girls, Farrell boys win Guerino titles

    The Hickory girls and Farrell boys captured championships on Saturday night at the 17th annual Buddy Guerino Underclassmen Basketball Tournament at Sharpsville High School.
    The Hickory girls beat Kennedy Catholic, 41-29, for the crown while the Farrell boys topped Mercer, 76-35, for the title.
    In the consolation games, Sharpsville defeated Sharon, 35-15, in girls hoops while the Sharon boys beat Hickory, 57-33.

    March 30, 2014 1 Photo

Top 25 (AP Poll)
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Facebook