HERMITAGE – There’s no place for a phony in the athletic arena. If you don’t have heart, not only will you not have a chance to win; you won’t even be able to compete.
And that was the theme of Friday night’s District 10 Region 5 Shenango Valley showdown. Displaying its coach’s character, host Hickory rallied from a trio of deficits and edged Sharon, 28-21.
At Hornet Stadium, Kam Fisher funneled 9 yards with 3 minutes remaining to hoist Hickory to its first lead of the contest. Fisher followed Michael Trinchese’s block, then Braedon Allen added the PAT.
The 7-play, 54-yard drive was ignited by Hunter Stoots’ second-effort 13-yard run.
“He’s the heart and soul of the team,” 1st-year Hornets’ Head Coach Bill Dungee said in praise of Stoots. “Just a phenomenal worker. You talk about heart as a kid who beat cancer when he was in seventh- or eighth-grade. He just battles, just works. He’s the heart of the team. He’s our senior leader, he’s our senior captain. When we needed it, he broke a couple tackles and it just energized us and we were able to go on from there.”
Though his Tigers tumbled to 0-2 (0-1 region) no one demonstrated more courage than Sharon senior signal-caller Lane Voytik. Playing on a severely sprained ankle and trailing 28-21, he took the Tigers to Hickory’s 13-yard line in the waning seconds before misfiring on his final 4 passes. The last was intended for C.J. Parchman in the end zone, but 6-foot-3, 180-pound sophomore Jackson Pryts prevented Parchman, a 6-3, 230-pound senior, from making an acrobatic catch.
Voytik established a new Sharon program passing record (set by Andrew Tomko) when he tossed a 22-yard, 3rd-period pass to Ty Eilam. The last of Jake Auchter’s trio of PATs secured Sharon a 21-13 lead with 6:08 remaining in the quarter.
“You hear rumors (about) how bad that ankle was. I had no doubt (Voytik) was going to play in the game,” Dungee said, “because, I’ll tell you, in the locker room with this kid the last two years (as a Sharon assistant) and in games against Mercyhurst Prep – District 10 championships – he does not flinch.
“And that’s why I was bitin’ my teeth to the end, because if Lane Voytik’s got the ball – and C.J. Parchman, Ty Eilam – those guys over there, it’s heart, and that’s what they play with! But that’s why I’m so proud of my team, because we fought through.
“But Lane Voytik, yeah – phenomenal kid, phenomenal heart,” Dungee added.
“We don’t ever question that. Lane’s tough as nails. I mean, I knew all week that he was gonna play,” related 1st-year Tigers’ taskmaster Jason McElhaney. “We prepared just in case (Sharon started the game in a Wildcat formation, with Parchman taking direct snaps). But Lane’s as tough as they come. He’s gonna stand in there, and he’s gonna give us everything like he did (Friday) night. He laid it out there for us.”
According to ProfessorBriggs.com, Voytik ended 14 for 33 for 178 yards with 2 TDs (also a 13-yarder to a slanting Eilam with 1:22 remaining in the 1st half, capping a 12-play, 64-yard, 3-minute, 2-second drive) and 1 interception (by Matt Cannone).
Hickory’s Henwood had a game-high 14-carry, 149-yard rushing outing that included a 57-yard, 3rd-quarter scoring sprint. When he followed up by tossing a 2-point PAT to Cannone, Hickory drew even at 21. Henwood completed 9 of 16 pass attempts for 2 TDs – the first, a 15-yarder to Nathan Richards with 6:31 left in the 2nd stanza, knotting the count at 7, and the 2nd on the half’s final play, a 16-yarder to Richards.
However at halftime Hickory trailed, 14-13, before winning its second straight close encounter.
“We knew it was gonna be a battle. It’s a backyard rivalry, and we just pushed through,” Dungee said. “I think the good teams win the close games and are able to pull ‘em out, and that’s our big thing.
“We try to build our program on hard work, dedication, but the last word is discipline,” Dungee continued. “And discipline is when you win the close games – a 2-point conversion when we needed it ... late game, when you call a time-out and (a player is) given an assignment. And that’s what I tell ‘em: ‘Can you go on the field and execute your assignment?’ That’s discipline. When everything’s goin’ crazy and the crowd’s goin’ crazy, can you execute then? That’s that discipline, and I think that’ll carry over.
“This was a great test, we’re a young team, we’re still growin’, but the discipline is the thing, I think, that wins out in those close games.”
In addition to Voytik, Sharon sustained some other injuries and cramping issues.
“Guys got forced into action, that’s football, man!” McElhaney mused. “Those things happen, and guys gotta step in and play. We had some guys make some plays (Brady Ortiz, a team-high 87 yards rushing; Parchman a 2-yard 1st-quarter TD run; Eilam, Marcel Smith-Austin, and Ja’On Phillips, 6, 4 and 2 receptions, respectively). We just didn’t make enough.
“They’re gettin’ better,” McElhaney continued, referencing his offensive line (which helped Sharon improve from 17 yards rushing in last week’s loss at New Wilmington to 159 against Hickory), and that’s what we ask of our guys, ‘Let’s get better every week,’ and I thought we got a little bit better up front this week.”
Sharon has surged during the 2nd half of the past 2 seasons to statewide Final Four berths. Moving forward, McElhaney said,
“We stay the course. ... We’ll figure out how we can get better and get ready for Fairview. There’s a lot of football to be played. Certainly, nobody ever wants to be oh-and-two, and our backs are against the wall now. But this is where your character is revealed, and we’re gonna figure things out.”
“That’s the two-time defending District 10 champions,” Dungee said in praise of Sharon. “We told (the Hornets) all week, ‘We can match up’ we’ve just gotta play our game.’
“Every year, our number one goal is to beat them (Sharon), take care of home (field). What it means is ... all the work they’re puttin’ in, they’re gettin’ payday,” Dungee continued. “All (offseason), and it pays off in the game. That’s two weeks in-a-row, in the fourth quarter, I feel like we were the fresher team, and we were ready to go: Tough mentally, tough physically. It’s so big for those guys. And it means a lot for me, too, ‘cause I coached with some great guys over there. Coach McElhaney’s a phenomenal coach, phenomenal man.
“But it was good to beat those Tigers, and get this victory.”
SHARON 7 7 7 0 21
HICKORY 0 13 8 7 28
S — Parchman, 2 run (Auchter kick)
H — Richards, 15 pass from Henwood (Allen kick)
S — Eilam, 13 pass from Voytik (Aucher kick)
H — Richards, 16 pass from Henwood (kick failed)
S — Eilam, 22 pass from Voytik (Auchter kick)
H — Henwood, 57 run (Cannone pass from Henwood)
H — Fisher, 9 run (Allen kick)
21 First downs 17
159 Rushing yards 236
178 Passing yards 109
34-14-1 Att-comp-int 16-9-1
337 Total yards 345
2-1 Fumbles-lost 0-0
5-55 Penalties-yards lost 6-60
Rushing: SHARON — Ortiz 12-86, Richardson 12-50, Parchman 7-32, Voytik 3-(-9); HICKORY — Henwood 14-149, Fisher 13-60, Stoots 7-15, Stewart 4-12.
Passing: SHARON — Voytik 14-33-1-178, team 0-1-0-0; HICKORY — Henwood 9-16-1-109.
Receiving: SHARON — Eilam 6-73, Smith-Austin 4-32, Phillips 2-46, Jones 1-20, Parchman 1-7; HICKORY — Richards 4-47, Cannone 2-40, Fisher 2-10, Pryts 1-12.