Can area aficionados recall the last time Farrell, Sharon and Sharpsville simultaneously suffered setbacks on opening night? Despite all the success those Shenango Valley staples have enjoyed through the years, that troubling trifecta occurred last week.
The reigning PIAA Class 1A champion Steelers lost at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium/Lou Falconi Field. Ditto for the Blue Devils under the McCracken Field pines, defeated in Bill Dungee’s debut as Hickory High’s head coach. And Sharon suffered its 4th consecutive season-opening setback to Wilmington, last season’s statewide Class 2A runner-up.
Tonight, no rest for the weary. Farrell faces Wilmington at Greyhounds Stadium, 8-plus months after they shared the statewide spotlight in Hershey. Meanwhile, Sharon ventures into the Hornets’ nest for Hickory’s home opener in a Region 5 lidlifter.
Hey, why wait for pivotal region games? After all, Labor Day is Monday.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Sharon (0-1) at Hickory (1-0)
During Sharon’s surge to back-to-back PIAA Class 3A regional finals, Dungee served as a Tigers’ assistant, as did new Sharon skipper Jason McElhaney.
In spite of the opening-night loss to Wilmington, McElhaney maintained an optimistic demeanor: “Oh, absolutely! I said, win or lose, we were playin’ a really good football team (Wilmington) and we’re gonna be better for it on the other end –– better as coaches, better as players. ... We’ve gotta do a better job as coaches, all together, gettin’ people ready, preparing for things. Wilmington’s a well-coached team, and we have to match that in the future,” McElhaney summarized.
Hickory had dropped back-to-back openers (Sharpsville, 17-6, last year; Greenville, 27-26, in 2017) until Dungee’s debut; however, the Hornets had only 4 first downs and 174 total yards –– 69 on Michael Henwood’s scoring sprint. But the ‘Stingers were stingy, yielding only 154 yards and staging a game-winning goal-line stand by forcing a 4th-down fumble.
Approximately 365 days ago Sharon escaped with a 27-24 win over the Hornets at Tiger Stadium as Lane Voytik victimized Hickory for 75- and 20-yard TD tosses to C.J. Parchman and Parchman produced a 58-yard Pick-Six. Henwood had Hickory ahead, 24-21, on a 3-yard, 3rd-quarter run before the Tigers tallied late.
Sharon senior signal-caller Voytik twice tweaked his ankle in last week’s loss, and the Tigers were tested along the line of scrimmage, rushing for only 17 net yards.
Regarding Voytik, McElhaney reported, “He’s day-to-day. We’re gonna see what he looks like (in practice) and play it by ear. Lane’ll be in uniform and Lane’ll be ready. We’ll see what he’s able to do, based on what that ankle lets him (do).”
Voytik has thrown for 5,692 career yards and only needs 48 tonight to become the school’s all-time leading passer. Andrew Tomko is the current record-holder. Voytik also has 62 career TD passes. The Mercer County record is 65 by Mercer’s Logan Clarke (2014 grad).
Regarding his virtually new offensive line, McElhaney said, “ ... the evaluation process isn’t over for them. We played a 5A team (Armstrong) with some big kids in a scrimmage, then played Wilmington, which is always the premier team, up front in the trenches, in the ‘valley. So they’ve been thrown into the fire, but we’re gonna keep workin’ with them, and we’ll get better.
“(Wilmington) is so well-coached, so good up front, (the Greyhounds) made us completely one-dimensional, which we didn’t want to be. And they just ate the clock up on the other side of the ball. ... They just dominated the two lines of scrimmage, and they’re gonna be another successful team again.”
at Wilmington (1-0)
This is all new for Farrell Head Coach Anthony Pegues. Though disappointed in his debut as Steelers’ skipper,
See FOOTBALL, page B-2
tonight Pegues’ predicament is preventing Farrell from back-to-back season-opening setbacks for the first time since 2008 (Sharon, 14-7; Mercer, 20-0).
Don’t think that facilitated sleep for Greyhounds’ headmaster Brandon Phillian. His enjoyment in his ‘Hounds win over Sharon was short-lived –– perhaps less than 5 full minutes.
“Wow! ... let me take a second to digest that, I didn’t see that one comin’” said a somber Phillian after being informed Farrell had fallen in its opener. “You know something? That just means they’re gonna be angry as Hornets when they play us. Farrell’s a very, very good, well-coached football team, so a loss or not, they’re gonna have our attention.”
Last season’s Steelers’ springboard to state was a Week-2 win over Wilmington (31-19), as Farrell forged 31 unanswered points. That was Wilmington’s lone loss until Southern Columbia in December.
“Every week, we try and focus on our vision: We want to be one-and-oh and we want to continue to improve,” Phillian forecasted. “(The Steelers) may have lost (their opener), but I know what kind of opponent Farrell’s gonna be when they show up here –– they’re gonna be high-quality, for sure.”
Greenville (1-0) at Grove City (1-0)
In spite of a brief hiatus –– perhaps owing to differing D-10 regions –– this remains one of Mercer County’s oldest rivalries. The Trojans travel to Forker Field a calendar year removed from losing 60-6 to the Eagles.
In opening-week wins Greenville’s ground game garnered 233 yards (337 total), led by Levi Swartz’s 14-carry, 92-yard performance; Grove City gained 235 (349 total). Twenty-one 2nd-period points enabled the Trojans to knock out Northwestern (21-0) as Jon King passed (to Blair Paxton) and ran for scores. The Eagles etched the program’s 13th consecutive road win (16-3 over Fort LeBoeuf), though in a neutral setting at Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium, as Colby Nelson notched 151 yards rushing.
After yielding yards (and points) aplenty last year, Greenville gave up only 102 total yards to Northwestern’s Wildcats. Similarly, Grove City gave up 160, and the Eagles coerced 4 turnovers.
Slippery Rock (1-0) at Reynolds (1-0)
This could serve as a good barometer for both clubs bent on being relevant come November.
Coach Josh Mull’s Raiders rolled to the program’s 2nd straight season-opening win, blanking Union City (41-0). Reynolds’ run-game (243) was paced by Cole Toy and Sean O’Hara, who evenly divided 172 yards, while Bryce McCloskey mustered another 130 markers through the air.
Slippery Rock recorded one of opening weekend’s most impressive performances (34-21 over Gen. McLane). Vito Pilosi’s passing (189 yards, 1 TD) and Nathan Hyatt’s running (103 yards, 3 TDs) fueled Coach Larry Wendereusz’s Rockets. Pilosi played pitch-catch with David Duffalo (6 receptions for 98 yards) ,and Ethan Plesakov pulled in a 43-yard scoring pass.
The ‘Rock rolled to 405 total yards, but yielded 351; conversely, Reynolds permitted only 134 yards (zero passing) and 7 first downs.
Last year at Slippery Rock the host Rockets rolled (24-6) after edging Reynolds (13-12) in 2017 in Transfer.
Northwestern (0-1) at Mercer (1-0)
New Mustangs’ mentor Jeff Lockard launched his head-coaching career with a conquest of Cochranton (14-12). Mercer mustered a pair of 2nd-stanza scores in a 2:22 span. The Steads surrendered only 188 yards and forced a trio of turnovers. That would not seem to bode well for Northwestern, blanked by Greenville in its opener.
Aiden Bright and Logan Conner collected scores for the Mustangs, and Mercer made the most of miscues, coercing Cochranton into a trio.
Mercer is in the midst of a 3-game season-opening homestand, which could serve as a springboard for success for the ‘Steads.
Iroquois (0-1) at Sharpsville (0-1)
Historically, Coach Paul Piccirilli’s teams improve with each passing week, so Sharpsville should get off the snide. Last week, Iroquois’ Braves were battered by Harbor Creek (48-0). A year ago the Blue Devils dominated Iroquois (64-6) in Erie County.
Chayse Stevens-Luchey led the Blue Devils’ opener with a 118-yard rushing outing, including a 2-yard TD run; however, the Blue Devils netted only 154 total yards and committed 2 turnovers.
Brookfield at McDonald
For the first time in memory, the Buckeye State stages its season-openers a week later than Pennsylvania.
Veteran Warriors’ Coach Randy Clark’s club will look to snap a 4-year season-opening losing skein, including the last two to McDonald (48-14 last year; 27-14 in 2017; plus a pair to Springfield Local).
West Middlesex (1-0)
at Lakeview (0-1)
A telling opening-week number: 72. That includes the win by Coach Mark Mean’s Middlesex minions at Eisenhower (32-0) and Lakeview’ loss to Maplewood (40-0).
Starting his 2nd season, Means’ Big Reds have recorded 10 wins in his first 13 games at the helm –– including 2 losses last year to eventual state champion Farrell; conversely, Lakeview Sailors’ skipper Bill Hickman, also in his 2nd season, is seeking his 2nd win.
• By the way, the answer to the opening trivia question: According to available archives at The Herald, in 1984, Farrell (Erie Academy, 12-6), Sharon (Blackhawk, 12-9), and Sharpsville (Meadville, 33-12) lost their season-openers.