SLIPPERY ROCK — Disrespecting a defending district champion?
Whether factual, contrived or a combination of the two, the Hickory High football team felt it had a point to prove during Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship game with Wilmington.
“It’s amazing when a number-three seed pulls off three major upsets and becomes the District 10 champion,” related Hickory headmaster Bill Brest, following his Hornets’ 39-7 humbling of the ‘Hounds at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Hickory, Grove City and Wilmington shared the regular-season Region 3-AA crown, but the Hornets had to ease past the Eagles in the semifinals, then hurdle the ‘Hounds in the title tilt en route to claiming their 2nd consecutive crown.
“We’re the District 10 champs,” Brest said, noting, “We had the longest, hardest row to hoe, but we truly believe: We take it one practice at a time, one game at a time, both our kids and our coaches do, and we’re looking forward to … who knows what’s going to happen in the future?”
By virtue of the victory, Hickory (11-1) will meet Richland (13-0), a 27-0 winner over Forest Hills, next weekend at a site and time to be announced.
The Hornets held a 12-7 margin at intermission, but Matt Voytik vaulted Hickory to a 25-7 lead through 3 periods as the Hornets hammered the Hounds for a pair of scores.
After taking a 15-yard sack on the 2nd half’s opening series, Voytik scrambled 46 yards on 3rd-and-11 just 2 minutes in, hoisting Hickory to an 18-7 edge. Then after the Hornets coerced a punt, Voytik’s 21-yard option keeper set up DeShawn Coleman’s 16-yard sprint, extending his own Hickory High career touchdown record and also surpassed the 4,000-yard career rushing mark.
“We came out with the two-minute and started running the no-huddle offense,” Voytik related. “Third-and-long they gave me the ball and it worked out. Once you get plays like that, you get the momentum, and DeShawn took it all the way, and these guys (center Joe Hines, guards Daulton Linton and Jaylan Sharper, tackles Alonzo Scott and Dylan Brenneman and tight end Calvin Pryts) blocked hard.”
The title tilt contrasted with Wilmington’s 35-28 regular-season win in which the Greyhounds dominated the line of scrimmage.
“We had trouble moving the football,” acknowledged Hounds head coach Terry Verrelli, “and you can’t make those kinds of mistakes (5 lost fumbles) like that against a good football team, no matter who it is. That killed us.”
“First game, we didn’t win the line of scrimmage; (Satur)day night, we felt we were the more physical team on the football field, and we knew our offensive and defensive lines could do it and we did it (Satur)day night,” Brest assessed. “I think we also won in all three facets of the game: Special teams, offense and defense.”
The Hornets tallied twice within a span of only a few seconds at the outset of the 4th frame.
A shanked punt set up Michael Palumbo’s 1st-and-goal 8 yard burst. Then on the ensuing kickoff, DeQuan Lewis lent a 30-yard return of a fumble as the Hornets harvested a 39-7 lead with 10:32 remaining following the 3rd consecutive Jordan Wombacker PAT.
Hickory held a 12-7 halftime lead, though the Hounds harvested a significant edge in time of possession during the 1st half – 18:31 to 5:29. However the Hounds handed the ball over twice, with Joey Hines recovering both for the Hornets. Hines’ initial recovery set up the game’s initial score.
The Stingers sandwiched Wilmington’s lone score on Voytik’s 25-yard, 1st-quarter TD toss to Coleman and Voytik’s 1-yard, 3rd-and-goal plunge. However the Hornets had a pair of missed conversion attempts -- the latter on a Coleman option pass attempt.
After Jimmy Pitzulo recovered a Coleman fumble, Wilmington went 37 yards in 13 plays and 7 minutes and 35 seconds, with Tyler Donati driving in from 2 yards out on 4th-and-goal. Slavi Pontius produced the PAT, giving the Greyhounds a 7-6 edge with 8 1⁄2 minutes remaining to intermission.
For Wilmington (9-3), seniors Jake McGhee, Alex Patton, Nic Pugh, Slavi Pontius, Brandon Ryder, Jon Robison, Steve Muscarella, Donati, Jeremy Miller, Jon Yohman, Xavier Coulter, Keith Fulkman, Nasir Watson, Zack McCluskey, Chris Welch and Donnie Watson.
Wilmington was seeking the program’s 11th District 10 title since 1994.
“I’m proud of these guys, and to get this far is a great honor on their part,” Verrelli, the district’s all-time winningest grid coach, related. “It’s not quite acceptable, but I guess that’s the beauty of the beast – people expect it, and the kids expect more of it. They played hard, but you make those kinds of mistakes, you’re not gonna win.
“(The seniors) came through, and to get this far wasn’t an easy chore, you know?” Verrelli rhetorically asked.
“I’m so proud of the kids and I’m so proud of the coaching statf, because they put the time in,” Brest related. “It’s about time, time, time, preparation, and not only during the season, but during the offseason, and we can’t be happier for these boys and these coaches.
“I want to thank God, I want to thank my wife and my kidsk, and I want to thank our school and community,” Brest summarized, adding, “We just hope we can keep this rolling for many weeks to go.”
DISTRICT 10 CLASS AA
WILMINGTON 0 7 0 0 7
HICKORY 6 6 13 14 39
H — Coleman, 25 pass from Voytik (kick failed)
W — Donati, 2 run (Pontius kick)
H — Voytik, 1 run (pass failed)
H — Voytik, 46 run (run failed)
H — Coleman, 17 run (Wombacher kick)
H — Palumbo, 8 run (Wombacher kick)
H — Lewis, 30 fumble return (Wombacher kick)
18 First downs 11
223 Rushing yards 162
15 Passing yards 91
5-2-0 Att-comp-int 6-4-0
238 Total yards 253
5-5 Fumbles-lost 1-1
6-58 Penalties-yards lost 5-35
Rushing: WILMINGTON — Donati 24-104, Patton 16-53, Bloise 13-52, Llewellyn 5-14; HICKORY — Coleman 14-75, Voytik 7-58, Palumbo 7-21, Tindall 1-8, team 2-0.
Passing: WILMINGTON — Llewellyn 4-2-0-15, Patton 1-0-0-0; HICKORY — Voytik 6-4-0-91.
Receiving: WILMINGTON — Miller 1-13, McGhee 1-2; HICKORY — Coleman 2-39, Tindall 1-48, Pope 1-4.
SLIPPERY ROCK — Disrespecting a defending district champion?
Breese defends heavyweight title at PIAA Championships
HERSHEY, Pa. — Move over Rod Wright!
Lakeview senior heavyweight star Sam Breese had a goal coming into the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships this weekend at Hershey Giant Center — besides winning a second state crown, that is.
WM knocks off Neshannock in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — The notion of Trey Staunch sneaking up on opposing teams is laughable. At 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds, the stout Staunch is not sneaking up on anyone.
However after posting a game-high 31-point, 18-rebound performance in West Middlesex High basketball team’s 76-66 PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Neshannock Saturday night, Staunch said opponents may have been overlooking the Big Reds.
Hickory girls 26-0, oust Johnstown
SLIPPERY ROCK — At Morrow Field House Saturday evening, the Hickory Lady Hornets kept the perfect season alive with a 63-37 state playoff first round win over the Greater Johnstown Trojans from District 6.
“It feels great to get the win (Saturday),” said veterans Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “We’ve been at this place over the last few years and we’ve been sent home in the first round so it was a huge win for us. I’m very proud of our team effort."
KC girls roll past California in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team was in the ’hood Saturday afternoon.
Led by senior Taylor Hood, the Lady Golden Eagles eased past California, 53-34, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Lakeview's Breese to defend PIAA title
HERSHEY, Pa. — If you are Major League Baseball player, a .333 batting average is great. But in wrestling at the state tournament — not so much!
Out of the dozen wrestlers that Mercer County sent to Hershey for the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships, only four (.333) will reach the medal stand today — led by Lakeview senior Sam Breese who shoots for a second straight gold medal.
Farrell edges Montour, 60-57, in PIAA opener
Montour High boys’ basketball coach Adam Kaufman lamented another season-ending setback. However there are several hundred coaches across the Commonwealth who envy his program’s recent success and would trade places with him in a heartbeat.
But during Friday night’s PIAA Class AAA playoff opener, Kaufman & Co. could not overcome those streaky Steelers ... those survivin’ Steelers.
“ ... Hey, survive and move on,” summarized Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse following Farrell’s 60-57 win at Sharon High.
GCC ousts Mercer in 1st round of PIAAs
The Mercer Lady Mustangs were outscored 16-4 in the final quarter of the first round of the state playoffs by the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions, ending their season Friday night 56-31 at Sharon High School.
Senior Lexie Arkwright had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double performance for the Lady M’s. She also snagged three steals. Adelyn Cook and Haylie Glass each added 4 points for Mercer.
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.
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