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?
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