ERIE — Life goes on and so do the Sharon Tigers. But not until next season!
The Tigers played with heavy hearts Monday night in their District 10 Class AA playoff opener against Girard, delayed from Saturday after the tragic fatal crash that killed two players and left two others in the hospital. Corey Swartz and Evan Gill were killed in the accident and the Osmon twins, Greg and Craig, both hospitalized with injuries.
But school officials said the families were “adamant” that the game be played and the Tigers and coaching staff voted to play it in honor “of those who couldn’t be here.”
But even in losing a heart-breaking 22-19 game to Girard at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Tigers still came away as WINNERS in the eyes of their fans and the Shenango Valley community.
“We fought hard and I’m proud of these kids,” said Coach Jim Wildman. “This is a resilient group. And I’m especially proud of my seniors. … We’ll use this game as motivation for the future. … And this week, we’ll bury two of our own.”
The Tigers suffered a much bigger loss than a game last Friday night when four senior starters and team leaders, were involved in a tragic fatal accident. And they played it well. The Tigers were leading 19-14 with about 21 seconds to go and Girard had a 4th down and no timeouts at the 22-yard line. Quarterback Joe Dunn hit Cody Pound with a pass at the 7, and Pound broke a tackle and went in to score. A 2-point pass followed with 13 seconds left and Girard had the victory.
“We were one tackle away from winning,” said Wildman. “If we make a tackle, the game is over. But Girard is the second-ranked team from up here and some people didn’t think we belonged. But despite everything that happened over the weekend, on Sunday when we held practice, these kids were ready to play.”
Sharon held Girard on the opening series of the game and it only took slightly more than 2 minutes before the Tigers were up 7-0. Carnell Hawkins, who ripped off a brilliant 51-yard run on the drive, scored the first TD on a 5-yard burst over the right side. Andrew Tomko booted the point after.
But the Tigers’ defense was tested immediately after Yellow Jacket speedster Bryan Divido returned the ball to the Sharon 12. Four plays later, Nason McCall carried 1 yard into the end zone. A 2-point PAT run by Cody Dinger on a broken play off an attempted kick jumped Girard into an 8-7 lead.
“You can’t give up 70-yard kick returns, especially in the playoffs,” lamented Wildman.
Sharon went right back to work on offense as Hawkins ripped off a 42-yard run on the first play from the Sharon 31. Six plays later, fullback Da’mon Rudolph plowed to paydirt on an 8-yard run. A run for points after failed, but Sharon was back on top, 13-8.
With snow starting to cover the field early in the 2nd quarter, Girard marched back down the field into the lead. Dunn carried 22 yards over the left side for the score, but the PAT kick went off the upright and the margin for the Yellow Jackets was 14-13.
That score held until halftime, but it wasn’t without a tense moment.
With about 29 seconds left in the half Sharon had the ball at its own 13 and 4th down. Rather than punt into the heavy wind, “Gamblin’ Jim” Wildman called Tomko’s number on a quarterback sneak and Tomko picked up the 1st down and the Tigers ran out the clock.
At halftime, a snow-plow driver was hard at work clearing snow off the yard lines. But it was a futile effort as the white stuff continued to fall.
Sharon controlled most of the 3rd quarter and appeared to score on a 38-yard interception return by Trenton Mosley, but a penalty moved the ball back to the 20. Four plays later, Rudolph carried 3 yards for his second score. A pass for PAT failed, but Sharon was back on top, 19-14.
But late in the game, Girard pulled out the victory and will move on to face unbeaten Greenville next Saturday at a site to be determined.
Notes: Four Tigers wore the numbers of the players lost to the accident. Troy Hejazi wore 9 (Corey Swartz); Beau Dignal 67 (Evan Gill); Kendall Sheffield 73 (Craig Osmon); Jay’Quan Jackson 70 (Greg Osmon). A moment of silence was held prior to the game for Swartz and Gill as well as John Zdelar of Brookfield who was also killed in the crash.
CLASS AA QUARTERFINALS
SHARON 13 0 6 0 19
GIRARD 8 6 0 8 22
S — Hawkins, 5 run (Tomko kick)
G — McCall, 1 run (Dinger run)
S — Rudolph, 8 run (run failed)
G — Dunn, 22 run (kick failed)
S — Rudolph, 3 run (pass failed)
G — Pound, 22 pass from Dunn (Dinger pass from Dunn)
10 First downs 9
202 Rushing yards 102
11 Passing yards 96
2-1-0 Att-comp-int 14-7-1
213 Total yards 198
1-0 Fumbles-lost 0-0
7-55 Penalties-yards lost 3-35
Rushing: SHARON — Hawkins 21-162, Rudolph 11-43, Tomko 5-(-3); GIRARD — Dunn 11-63, Barnes 12-38, McCall 1-1, Edder 1-0.
Passing: SHARON — Tomko 2-1-0-11; GIRARD — Dunn 13-6-1-83, McCall 1-1-0-13.
Receiving: SHARON — Ali 1-11; GIRARD — Dinger 3-43, Pound 1-22, Little 1-20, Divido 1-7, McCall 1-4.
ERIE — Life goes on and so do the Sharon Tigers. But not until next season!
5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
Coach Chad Mild's Big Reds are road warriors
West Middlesex High boys basketball team did not play its first home game until after the first of the year, but competing at New Castle, Farrell and Youngstown’s Covelli Centre has served it well.
Witness West Middlesex’s 55-54 win over Fairview in last weekend’s District 10 Class AA championship game — at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Boys PIAA basketball preview boxes
Who: Farrell (22-3) vs. Montour (16-8).
What: Opening round.
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Sharon High’s Tiger Gymnasium.
Hickory, Mercer, KC girls PIAA playoff boxes
Who: Hickory (25-0) vs. Greater Johnstown (11-14).
What: PIAA Playoffs, 1st round.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Slippery Rock University.
Shannonhouse's Steelers set for statewide stage
With the approaching spring, a young man’s fancy turns to ... what else? The PIAA playoffs. And when Shenango Valley scholastic basketball aficionados think of the postseason they think of Farrell.
Recently at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the banners above were blowing in the breeze — ’52 ... ’54 ... ’56 ... ’59 ... ’60 ... ’69 ... ’72 — swaying as sprinting players created a vacuum of air rising from the floor. Melodramatic maybe, but there’s a feeling at Farrell that harkens back to the heyday when playoff success was a rite of passage.
Breese eyes repeat at state mat tourney
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: It's a young group of county matmen headed to state
THERE’S definitely a youth movement in Mercer County wrestling as demonstrated by the group of 11 matmen who are advancing to the PIAA State Class AA Championships on Thursday.
Eight of the locals are underclassmen. The only seniors are Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285), Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai (182).
Breese and Stoyer are the only returning state place-winners. Breese, who has verbally committed to Kent State University to wrestle next season, won the heavyweight class and is seeking a second gold medal. Stoyer placed 7th at 145 and wants to climb much higher on the medals stand.
Kennedy boys forfeit win, are out of playoffs
The PIAA basketball playoffs do not begin until Friday, but Mercer County already lost a team.
Kennedy Catholic High disclosed Monday the discovery of an academically-ineligible player, who competed in last Friday’s District 10 Class A consolation contest.
Kennedy Catholic edged Eisenhower in double-OT, 66-62, earning a berth in the statewide tournament. The Golden Eagles were to meet District 9 champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium in the opening round; instead, Eisenhower will represent D-10 as its 3rd-place team.
Raiders win 17th region title; 11 locals to Hershey
When Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer came off the mat after his 145-pound championship at the Northwest AA Regional Championships, he wasn’t celebrating his second straight crown. Instead, he turned to head coach Casey Taylor and said, “I did it for the team.”
And the team needed it!
Stoyer defeated Brookville’s Zach Vroman, 3-0, and sent Reynolds on its way to the school’s 17th region team title Saturday night at Sharon High School. Reynolds finished with 147 points, to Brookville’s 138.
Hickory girls capture 1st district title since 1983
MEADVILLE — Depending upon peoples’ perceptions, 31 years can seem like a lifetime ... but so can 16 minutes.
Hickory High girls’ basketball program’s District 10 drought ended Saturday afternoon as perennial power Villa Maria virtually vanished from the 2nd-half scoreboard.
The Lady Hornets erased a 7-point halftime deficit by yielding just 4 second-half points en route to a 39-24 victory over Villa Maria in the District 10 Class AAA championship game.
KC beats Cochranton for 4th straight D-10 crown
MEADVILLE — Everybody is on April Bocian’s bandwagon — and rightly so. But Tatum Kress helped keep Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program atop District 10’s Class A competition.
Kress connected for all 14 of her points during the 2nd half Saturday afternoon, keying the Kennedy Catholic to a 49-38 conquest of Cochranton.
McLane rallies to beat Mercer in AA title tilt
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
WM captures 3rd straight D-10 crown
EDINBORO — The West Middlesex Big Reds did it again! For the third straight year, the Big Reds, under the leadership of head coach Chad Mild, the winningest coach in West Middlesex school history, won the District 10 title with a thrilling 55-54 victory over the Fairview Tigers on Friday night at McComb Field House.
Farrell beats East for D-10 Class AAA title
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Raiders hold lead at Northwest AA Region Tourney
Reynolds coach Casey Taylor had a simple, but fitting comment after the opening night of the Northwest AA Region Wrestling Championships at Sharon High School Friday:
“So far; so good!”
The defending champion Raiders, who are seeking a 17th region crown in school history, jumped into the team lead with 45 points Friday, heading second place Brookville with 35.
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