SHARON – It already had the makings of a disappointing day for Jason McElhaney and Bill Dungee – even before they took their respective teams onto the field for Saturday's Region 3 season-opening showdown.
Their favorite college football team, Ohio State University, had suffered an upset loss to Oregon earlier in the day, so neither wanted to endure a daunting double-dipper of defeats.
Unfortunately, in the athletic arena, someone has to lose. This time, it was Dungee's defending District 10 Class 3A champion Hickory High football team.
Mikey Rodriquez's 10-yard TD run and his subsequent 2-point conversion pass to Ja-on Phillips – all with 23.9 seconds remaining – staked Sharon to a 14-7 win.
From Tiger Stadium's turf, McElhaney admitted, "I felt like we kind've got buried. We had, like, six great years in-a-row; we had one off-year in a COVID year, and it's like Sharon doesn't exist anymore. So hey, we're back! You guys (the media) keep pickin' against us. We like that. We post it up. That's good for us."
A year ago McElhaney was not amused, admitting a 2-win season at Sharon is not acceptable. Three weeks into this season his Tigers have tallied 2 wins. And Saturday's was the biggest since the program's 2019 District to title.
McElhaney and Dungee coached together for 2 seasons at Sharon as assistants to legendary Jim Wildman. Now each is in his 3rd season as the respective head coach of the Shenango Valley rivals.
"He's had my number," McElhaney admitted regarding Dungee, who directed the Hornets to a pair of wins last year (48-16, 41-28) and another in 2019 (28-21). He's a great coach. He gets 'em motivated, they play hard, they're athletic, they're fast ...
"Bill and I don't talk as much during the season – it's more off-season stuff – but he's had my number, so this feels good," McElhaney continued, emphasizing, "but it's not about me, it's not personal thing, it's about our guys playin' against each other. But it feels good for Sharon to get a win here."
"We have a mutual respect there," Dungee echoed. "And we have a rooting interest for Ohio State – (the Buckeyes) went down (Satur)day. So we text back-and-forth about that. But hats off to him. I was three-and-oh against him; now I'm three-and-one, so I'm sure he'll let me hear about that."
Saturday, Hickory (0-1, 1-2) had the game's lone score for 38 1/2 minutes – and that occurred in the first 14 seconds.
On the game's opening play from scrimmage Hickory signal-caller Logan Woods hit Nash Porada on a hitch for a short gain ... before Porada pitched to trailing Keenan Scullin.
One of District 10's fastest athletes on a synthetic surface track, he even looked fast running on Sharon's sod as Scullin sprinted approximately 69 yards on the hook-and-lateral. Lukas Jones' subsequent PAT had Hickory ahead 7-0 at the 11:36 juncture. However the Hornets did not score again.
"You can't ask for a better start. We talk about 'fast and physical,'" Dungee related. "We designed that play, and I thought (Scullin) had a good level of success and we executed it well. But from that point on, really, just didn't execute. We were movin' the ball, runnin' the ball down their throat and killin' clock, but you can't fumble there. We preach two hands on the ball.
"We just can't turn the ball over and give a good team an opportunity. And hats off to them, they took advantage of it."
Hickory had a 7-6 lead with approximately 3 minutes remaining. However the Hornets' Sean Kennedy was stripped on a 1st-down carry from Sharon's 21-yard line. Labrae Norris and Connor Krecek were credited with making the play.
Subsequently, Sharon – aided by a trio of pass interference penalties assessed against Hickory, the last on a 4th-and-7 play from the Tigers' 48 – ultimately advanced to the Hornets' 10.
On 1st down Rodriquez was flushed from the pocket, but sprinted to his right and reached the pylon with the go-ahead score. He then shoveled a pass to Phillip's for the 2-point PAT.
"I just thought that was the best (option) for my team, so I just took it," related Rodriquez. "Freshman year we lost, last year we lost twice (to Hickory), so this year it's a big to-do."
Hickory was penalized 9 times for 113 lost yards.
"I just don't understand it ... but I've gotta look at the film," Dungee explained. "Obviously, some of them were on us; the other ones, I don't know ... the fourth-down (play), we looked at it on the I-pad right in front of the referee and it wasn't even close. (The ball) hit the kid in the chest, then he pushed Ja-on (Phillips) down after (the play).
"But it is what it is," Dungee admitted. "We still had opportunities after that to make plays and we didn't make plays. Our corners battled all day, we play a lot of press man. And basically – besides a couple plays here and there – they held up really well.
"I told our guys ... I'm really proud of the way they played and battled. But once again," Dungee reiterated, "it was in our hands. We never get to that play (pass interference) if we don't fumble. We just drive and kill clock or get it in the end zone and you're up two scores. It never should've been there, we never should've fumbled."
Phillips finished with a game-high 8 catches for 85 yards for Sharon (1-0, 2-1). Rodriquez ran 10 times for a team-high 29, hard-earned yards.
"I told Mike, 'That's just guts, gettin' in(to the end zone for the game-winning score)," an admiring McElhaney praised. "He's a tough kid, he really is. He's a 'Sharon kid' – just a nails-tough, take-a-beating, but keeps comin' and keeps comin' and keeps comin'"
Defensively, Sharon stung the Hornets. In addition to the fumble, the Tigers tallied a trio of take-aways on Woods' passes – 2 from Phillips, the latter ending the game – and another from Jayveerh White. Jayden Robison also sacked Woods once, while Hickory's All-State receiver Ramarion Whitehead was limited to 2 catches for 21 yards.
Joey Fazzone and Collin Richards logged sacks for Hickory.
While gratifying to defeat Dungee, McElhaney admitted if he had his 'druthers it would be "the big trophy at the end of the year. You get judged on what happens in November. And in November, if this happens again, people are gonna remember that one. But this is a great memory; these guys (the Tigers) are gonna remember this for a long time, especially the seniors – the last time on this field against Hickory. But, yeah, we want the big trophy in November, for sure.
"We try and tell these guys, 'Pressure's a privilege,'" McElhaney continued. "We had a little bit of pressure (Satur)day. Sittin' at one-and-one, it was hard to tell who we are. So (Satur)day was really pivotal for us movin' forward. We'll see what happens ... we're in the meat of our schedule. But this is really big for our confidence, movin' forward."
"I told our guys," Dungee related, "I've been on two teams that started one-and-two in a season and won District 10 championships. So that's our focus. We've got three straight games at home, and we've gotta get better. It's as simple as that."
* Farrell 58, Lakeview 6 - At Stoneboro, the Steelers stayed undefeated but watched their shutout streak end at 144 minutes.
After Anthony Stallworth scored on a 4-yard carry early in the first quarter, Farrell's defense scored on three straight possessions in just over 2 minutes of action to carry a 30-0 lead over the Sailors (0-2, 1-2).
Moments after Stallworth's touchdown, Anthony Jackson returned a Lakeview fumble 12 yards for the first defensive score. Brandon Chambers followed with a 38-yard pick-6 and less than minute later, Kylon Wilson intercepted a deflected ball 97 yard for the score.
Stallworth scored his 46th and 47th touchdowns to pass 2010 Farrell graduate Kevin Brodie (45) into third place in Steelers annals behind Christian Lewis (66) and Jourdan Townsend (75).
The current Farrell standout scored his 48th career touchdown in the 3rd quarter on a 91-yard scamper around right end.
In between the Stallworth scores, Wilson returned the second half's opening kickoff 84 yards.
Moments after Anthony Bonanni's knee was ruled down making a catch at the Steelers' 1 with 3 seconds left, Gavin Murdock bulled into the end zone to end the Farrell scoreless streak.
Farrell was led by Stallworth's 9-carry, 227-yard, 4-touchdown performance. Lakeview was led by Murdock, who finished with 40 yards on 15 carries and completed 5-of-15 passes for 47 yards - Information submitted by Herald Sports Correspondent Corey J. Corbin.
* Liberty-Benton 35, Wilmington 14 - At Findlay, Ohio, the Hounds' 22-game regular season winning streak came to an end on Saturday night.
Liberty-Benton took a 7-0 lead in the 1st quarter on a 71-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Garlock to Connor Boyd. Cason Doolittle booted the extra-point.
The Eagles went up 14-0 in the 2nd quarter on an 18-yard TD pass from Garlock to Boyd (Doolittle kick).
Wilmington cut the lead to 14-7 on an 80-yard touchdown run by Luke Edwards and James Winters' PAT.
Liberty-Benton led 21-7 at halftime after a 10-yard TD run by Garlock and Doolittle's kick.
The Eagles pulled away on a 25-yard TD pass from Karson Garlock to Lincoln Garlock and then Toby Collert scored on an 8-yard run.
Wilmington scored in the 4th quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tuff McConahy to Cole McCallister.
Karson Garlock was 14-of-18 for 196 yards and 3 TD passes, plus the rushing touchdown, for the Eagles. Collert carried the ball 17 times for 100 yards. Lincoln Garlock caught 10 passes for 113 yards.
McConahy was 6-of-12 for 34 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception for the Hounds. Edwards had 13 carries for 110 yards and caught 4 passes for 27 yards.
HICKORY 7 0 0 0 7
SHARON 0 0 0 14 14
H — Scullin, 69 run (Jones kick)
S — Norris, 5 run (kick failed)
S — Rodriquez, 10 run (Phillips pass from Rodriquez)
8 First downs 13
117 Rushing yards 56
69 Passing yards 99
19-8-3 Att-comp-int 23-12-0
186 Total yards 157
2-1 Fumbles-lost 3-1
9-113 Penalties-yards lost 2-15
Rushing: HICKORY — Scullin 1-69, Kennedy 14-34, Holland 3-14, Pryts 1-5, Woods 2-(-5); SHARON — Rodriquez 10-29, Norris 4-13, Nixon 9-8, White 2-6, Ham 1-5, Phillips 1-0, Team 2-(-6).
Passing: HICKORY — Woods 19-8-3, 69; SHARON — Rodriquez 23-12-0, 99; Phillips 1-0-0.
Receiving: HICKORY — Pryts 3-33, Whitehead 2-21, Scullin 2-12, Porada 1-2; SHARON — Phillips 8-85, Austin 3-14, Krecek 1-0.
FARRELL 30 14 14 0 58
LAKEVIEW 0 0 0 6 6
F - Stallworth, 4 run (Stewart pass from Smith)
F - Jackson, 12 fumble return (Wilson pass from Smith)
F - Chambers, 38 interception return (pass failed)
F - Wilson, 97 interception return (Stallworth run)
F - Stallworth, 6 run (run failed)
F - Stallworth, 25 run (Smith run)
F - Wilson, 84 kickoff return (Holden run)
F - Stallworth, 91 run (run failed)
L - Murdock, 1 run (not attempted)
8 First downs 6
274 Rushing Yards 49
7 Passing Yards 47
281 Total Yards 96
9-2-0 Att-Comp-Int 15-5-2
1-0 Fumbles-lost 2-1
8-50 Penalties-yards 2-30
Rushing: FARRELL - Stallworth 9-227, Strickland 5-27, Samuels 1-16, Wilson 3-2, Chambers 2-2; LAKEVIEW - Murdock 15-40, Wilkins 8-27, Cole 1-3, Tingley 3-(-1), Osborne 3-(-1), Team 1-(-19).
Passing: FARRELL - Samuels 2-3-0 7, Smith 0-3-0 0, Holden 0-3-0 0; LAKEVIEW - Murdock 5-15-2 47.
Receiving: FARRELL - Allen 2-7; LAKEVIEW - Bonanni 2-33, Tingley 1-15, Cole 1-(-2).
WILMINGTON 0 7 0 7 14
LIBERTY-BENTON 7 14 7 7 35
LB - Boyd, 71 pass from K.Garlock (Doolittle kick)
LB - Boyd, 18 pass from K.Garlock (Doolittle kick)
W - Edwards, 80 run (Winters kick)
LB - K.Garlock, 10 run (Doolittle kick)
LB - L.Garlock, 25 pass from K.Garlock (Doolittle kick)
LB - Collert, 8 run (Doolittle kick)
W - McCallister, 20 pass from McConahy (Winters kick)
10 First downs 13
150 Rushing yards 107
47 Passing yards 196
12-6-1 Att/Comp/Int 18-14-0
197 Total yards 303
1-0 Fumbles-lost 0-0
2-15 Penalties-yards 8-50
Rushing: WILMINGTON - Edwards 13-110, DeCaprio 15-28; LIBERTY-BENTON: Collert 17-100.
Passing: WILMINGTON - McConahy 12-6-1-47; LIBERTY-BENTON: K.Garlock 18-14-0-196.
Receiving: WILMINGTON - Edwards 4-27, McCallister 1-20; LIBERTY-BENTON - L.Garlock 10-113, Boyd 2-81.