FARRELL – In this pandemic-truncated scholastic football season, quality may trump quantity – fewer games, perhaps, but more meaningful meetings.
For example, Wilmington vs. Farrell, part I.
Ethan Susen scampered for a game-high 18-carry, 212-yard rushing performance – almost half of the Greyhounds’ 440-yard ground game – as Wilmington went for 21 unanswered 2nd-half points en route to a 41-20 Region 2 road win.
Last season in Week 2 Wilmington walloped Farrell, 40-0; however, the Steelers subsequently stormed to 14 consecutive successes en route to the commonwealth crown.
Farrell, the reigning 2-time PIAA Class 1A champion, was bumped up to 2A this season, where Wilmington has won 4 consecutive District 10 championships and advanced to last season’s statewide Final Four.
“It’s a very different feel this time around, playing them,” commenced Greyhounds’ headmaster Brandon Phillian. “Last year was kind’ve one-and-done and got this one out of the memory bank and you moved on. But now I think there’s a very good chance there will be two more games between Farrell and Wilmington this year. And I expect them to be as it was (Friday) night – super competitive.
“I think it’s a great thing for Mercer County sports fans, when you get two heavyweights like this, with the potential to duke it out three times this year,” Phillian forecasted.
At Lou Falconi Field at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium Friday night, Wilmington’s wing-T went to more deceptive, misdirection and counter-oriented looks, while employing a couple direct snaps. And its bountiful, balanced backfield responded. Caelan Bender, Darren Miller and Susen sprinted 17, 19 and 42 yards, respectively, with 2nd-half scores, snapping a 20-all halftime stalemate.
“ ... I know the (Farrell) players keyed on Darren a little more this week because of (Miller’s 163-yard, 3-TD outing against) Greenville last week. The coaches had the right play-call along our line, and the rest of the team just did what they needed to do, and it showed,” Susen simply summarized.
The Greyhounds return 16 senior lettermen, including four-fifths of the offensive line – guards Weston Phanco and Morgan Whiting and tackles Jake Chimiak and Connor Vass-Gal. Brayden Penwell has anchored the line at center, with birthday boy Jordan Hess handling the tight-end spot.
“We’ve got two-time, three-time seniors coming back. It’s just great leadership all around – us five captains, and every other senior behind them. And even the junior class, they’re still leaders for everybody. So it’s just good all around,” Susen assessed.
The teams traded a half-dozen 1st-half touchdowns, with Farrell forging leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 20-13. Steelers’ senior stalwart Anthony Stallworth scored on a 5-yard 1st-quarter run, then added a pair of 2nd-period scores. Stallworth sprinted 46 yards with Christian Hartley’s screen pass on a 3rd-and-10 play, forging Farrell to a 14-7 lead; then he scored from 4 yards out on an athletic goal-line cutback with 2:22 remaining to intermission.
But the Greyhounds (2-0, 2-0) responded, respectively, on 1-, 5- and 1-yard runs by Bender, Luke Edwards and Susen – the latter with 30.2 ticks to play to intermission. Daniel Hartwell’s conversion kick knotted the count at 20.
Stallworth’s 18-carry, 120-yard rushing performance served as the Steelers’ highlight, and he and Hartley also collaborated on a pair of screen passes for 79 yards.
However Hartley had a pair of passes pilfered – by Susen in the closing seconds of the 1st half, and by Bender from the end zone on a 3rd-and-goal play with 30.5 ticks left in the 3rd period and Wilmington leading, 27-20. Skyler Sholler also sacked Hartley for an 11-yard, 4th-frame loss.
But what troubled Steelers’ skipper Amy Pegues moreso were 13 Farrell penalties for 70 yards in losses.
“A lot of stupid penalties ... not lining up properly ... guys not on the field when they needed to, and then we had to take time-outs. Just a lot of things that usually happen early in the season when you’re not clickin’ and you’re just not havin’ a lot of football playin’. It just showed up (Friday) night. Especially against a good team like Wilmington, you can’t have those,” Pegues assessed.
However as with Phillian, Pegues is aware no championship are won in mid-September, even in a 6-game regular-season schedule.
“I told my team (1-1, 1-1), we don’t win championships this early; we’re lookin to playin’ in late November. As long as we’re playin’ then, we know we’re doin’ somethin’ right,” Pegues said. “We’ll see ‘em (Wilmington) again, and we’ll be better prepared. And, hopefully we’ll see ‘em for a third time.”
“Farrell’s a great team,” Susen said. “They come prepared every game. So I assume next time we play ‘em they’re gonna be just as prepared, just like this game, and the time after that – just as tough. But it’s four quarters, and we worked hard all four quarters; our team’s gonna push through that. But it’s just gonna be a good fight every time we play ‘em.”
“We talked all week at practice about being to handle adversity. Farrell’s a very talented, well-coached football team,” Phillian related. “So, to us, we thought what was going to define this game was our ability to handle adversity and the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows. And I thought our guys did a great job of stayin’ together. When things didn’t go well, they stayed together, they fought hard, and I just thought they did a great job.
“Talkin’ with Coach Pegues before the game, the last two years it was like iron sharpens iron – we were gonna come out here and play each other and make each other better for what we had hoped to be long runs into November and hopefully December,” Phillian continued. “Now there’s a realization that only one of us can make that run, with us both being in 2A now. It’s, no doubt, a very different feel this time around.”
WILMINGTON 7 13 7 14 41
FARRELL 7 13 0 0 20
F — Stallworth, 5 run (Samuels kick)
W — Bender, 1 run (Hartwell kick)
F — Stallworth, 46 pass from Hartley (Samuels kick)
W — Edwards, 5 run (kick failed)
F — Stallworth, 4 run (kick failed)
W –– Susen, 1 run (Hartwell kick)
W — Bender, 17 run (Hartwell kick)
W — Miller, 19 run (Hartwell kick)
W — Susen, 42 run (Hartwell kick)
26 First downs 10
440 Rushing yards 117
24 Passing yards 121
6-3-0 Att-comp-int 13-6-2
464 Total yards 238
1-0 Fumbles-lost 0-0
9-98 Penalties-yards lost 13-70
Rushing: WILMINGTON — Susen 18-212, Miller 20-127, Bender 9-83, Edwards 3-18; FARRELL — Stallworth 18-120, Wilson 1-(-4), Hartley 1-(-11), Chambers 3-2, Team 1-(-5).
Passing: WILMINGTON — Bender 6-3-0, 24; FARRELL — Hartley 13-6-2, 121.
Receiving: WILMINGTON — Susen 3-24; FARRELL — Stallworth 2-79, Wilson 2-12, Stewart 1-22, Butler 1-4.