By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
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.
With John Katis connecting for 1- and 6-yard touchdown tosses to Damien Slike and Cody Hearst, Clarion claimed a 14-0 edge just 6 seconds into the 2nd stanza.
However no one sent the Sailors the mercy-rule memo.
Led by Blake Reddick’s rushing and a defense that coerced a quartet of turnovers, Clarion led Lakeview 28-20 with 7:03 remaining before the Sailors’ spendid season was short-circuited, 35-20.
“We held tough ... even when we were down one score, these kids don’t quit. We’re not gonna quit,” assessed Sailors’ skipper Dan York from Bob DiSpirito Field at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Clarion (14-0) continues on to the Western Regional championship game, where it will meet WPIAL champion North Catholic next weekend at a site and time to be determined.
“That’s a very talented team. They’ve got a lot of speed at a lot of positions. That’s what hurt us,” York commented regarding Clarion.
No sooner had the Sailors surged within one score on Marquis Spence’s 1-yard 4th-frame burst, then the Bobcats bounced back.
Katis-led Clarion collaborated on a 5-minute, 17-second drive that covered 69 yards in 13 plays. Slike slithered in from 2 yards out and Antonio Troese toed the last of his 5 consecutive conversion kicks for a 35-20 Bobcats’ bulge.
“ ... We hadn’t been facing that kind of adversity all year, and our kids responded well to it,” acknowledged Clarion Head Coach Larry Wiser.
Down 14-0, the Sailors squared the slate with 4è minutes remaining to intermission.
Reddick roared for 48 yards on 1st play to jump-start the Sailors’ 6-play, 73-yard, 2-minute, 28-second series, culminating it with a 3-yard run over the left side.
Subsequently, Katis — who connected on his first 7 passes — misfired on his 4th straight, the latter on a 4th-and-4 attempt from Lakeview’s 33-yard line.
Seven plays and 3è minutes later the Sailors scored. Zach Bigley connected on a 2nd-and-goal, 8-yard scoring strike to Brandon Rice, then tossed a game-tying 2-point conversion to Reddick, whose 46-yard sprint set up the score.
But Clarion claimed a 21-14 margin at intermission as the Bobcats benefitted from a bobble to complete a 9-play, 58-yard, 3-minute sequence.
On a 2nd-and-10 from Lakeview’s 17-yard line, Katis keyed in on Hearst — who hauled in a game-high 7 receptions for 130 yards — for a jump ball in the right corner of the end zone. It appeared Sailors’ senior Zach VanDusen deflected it; however, as he and Hearst headed to the carpet, Hearst had the concentration to hang onto the ball.
“ ... Unfortunately, we went into the half down. That was a big play, with (Hearst) laying on his back,” York asserted.
Clarion collected the 3rd quarter’s lone score as the Bobcats brokered a 28-14 lead at the 2:39 mark following the game’s pivotal play.
The Sailors, on a 4th-and-1 from their own 31-yard line and trailing 21-14, called Reddick’s number, but he was stopped for no gain. Subsequently, Ian Corbett, countering to the right off Katis’ ball fake, sprinted 27 yards down the Sailors’ sideline as Clarion claimed another 2-score edge.
“I was kind’ve talked into that,” York said regarding the gamble. “It was a mistake, and that’s my fault. It might’ve been the wrong play to call, (Clarion) might’ve had too many people there at the point of attack.”
Reddick rushed for a game-high 225 yards on 29 carries, extending his season and career totals — unofficially — to Mercer County and District 10 records of 2,963 and 6,541, respectively.
“He’s one of the best backs I’ve coached against, and over the years I’ve seen some good ones, and I’ve been around long enough (25 years overall) to have seen some pretty good ones,” Wiser said of Reddick, adding with a smile, “ ... He’s gonna have a good college career someplace, wherever he goes. I, for one, am happy to see him go.”
This served as a single-season standard for the Sailors (12-2), who won the Region 1-A regular-season and District 10 tournament championships for the first time in program annals. In addition to Reddick, Bigley, Brandon Rice and VanDusen, Sailors seniors included Sam Breese, Connor Stankovich, Matt Sterling, Kyle Cannon, Doug Hawks, Stan Mellott and Larry Yoder.
“Great bunch of kids,” York praised. “They’re all great kids, and I’m proud to coach ’em.
“ ... I’ve enjoyed a lot of years,” reflected York, who has led Lakeview for 15 years. “The Danny VanDyke/Tyler Shearer year, I enjoyed that year ... the Treven Stoops/Scott Shilling years, I enjoyed those years ... (2013) is a good group of kids, and I’m happy to coach ’em.
“It was a good year, but we expected it to be a good year when we had so many kids coming back,” York continued, concluding, “Expectations were made. We won the region ... we won District 10. ... Unfortunately in the first round of the PIAA playoffs we hit a very good Clarion team, and things didn’t go our way.”
PIAA CLASS A
CLARION 7 14 7 7 35
LAKEVIEW 0 14 0 6 20
C — Slike, 1 pass from Katis (Troese kick)
C — Hearst, 6 pass from Katis (Troese kick)
L — B.Reddick, 3 run (VanDusen kick)
L — B.Rice, 8 pass from Bigley (B.Reddick pass from Bigley)
C — Hearst, 17 pass from Katis (Troese kick)
C — I.Corbett, 27 run (Troese kick)
L — Spence, 1 run (kick failed)
C — Slike, 2 run (Troese kick)
20 First downs 14
198 Rushing yards 283
178 Passing yards 53
18-12-1 Att-comp-int 16-5-2
376 Total yards 336
4-3 Fumbles-lost 2-1
1-10 Penalties-yards lost 7-62
Rushing: CLARION — I.Corbett 17-165, Slike 13-32, T.Corbett 3-16, Hearst 1-4, Katis 6-(-6), Team 1-(-15); LAKEVIEW — B.Reddick 29-225, Spence 9-35, Bigley 4-31, Team 1-(-7).
Passing: CLARION — Katis 18-12-1, 178; LAKEVIEW — Bigley 16-5-2, 53.
Receiving: CLARION — Hearst 7-130, Slike 2-23, Troese 1-11, I.Corbett 1-9, Allen 1-8; LAKEVIEW — B.Reddick 2-24, B.Rice 2-23, Spence 1-6.