HERMITAGE – Some scholastic student-athletes compete four years in their chosen sport and never win a district championship.
Meanwhile, in New Wilmington, winning is a way of life – not taken for granted, but expected, nourished, and passed on from each generation.
This season Brandon Phillian took a handoff from Terry Verrelli, and the great Greyhounds’ grid program seamlessly sprinted to the program’s 13th District 10 championship Friday night, 50-7, over Sharpsville in the Class 2A title tilt.
It annexed a district 3-peat for the proud program.
“Coach Verrelli mentored me for eleven years. I spent tons of time with him. And there’s no doubt, for him to be able to watch us executing his offense, the wing-T offense – the Wilmington way – I know that he was in the stands very proud and very happy with what transpired here (Friday) night,” Phillian summarized.
At Hickory High’s Hornet Stadium, the Greyhounds’ ground game garnered 379 yards, led by Cameron Marett’s 16-carry, 153-yard performance – all during the 1st half, by which time the ‘Hounds had a 36-0 lead – and Ethan Susen, who sprinted for 44- and 47-yard touchdowns to open each half and finished with 104 yards on only 6 totes.
Even gargantuan Greyhounds’ lineman Colton Richards received a carry, and scored on a 1-yard dive, his 1st of the year.
Quarterback Robert Pontius confessed afterward that when he awoke Friday morning the thought occurred to him that he might be playing his last scholastic football game that night. He needn’t have lost any sleep.
Pontius passed for 94 yards – including a 40-yard TD toss to Junior McConahy – ran for 35, including a 1-yard plunge, and also hauled in a 27-yard pass from Caelen Bender. Pontius actually hauled in a 39-yard scoring strike from Bender, but the play was negated by the first of back-to-back ineligible receiver penalties assessed against the ‘Hounds.
Also, Darren Miller mustered a 1-yard TD run in the 4th frame – setting up his score with 21- and 16-yard carries – and Ethan Winters whacked a 22-yard field goal for the 1st half’s final score.
Wilmington (10-1), which advanced to the 2017 PIAA championship game in Verrelli’s swan song at the ‘Hounds helm, will meet Chestnut Ridge next weekend at a site and time to be announced in its state tournament lidlifter.
Phillian cited his sextet of captains – Pontius, Marett, Richards, Noah Hunt, Alex Ramirez and Jimmy Reed – for their leadership.
“Each of us needs all of us, one heartbeat,” Phillian said. “They stayed together and they played as one (Friday) night. I thought that was the key.
“It’s surreal right now, a whirlwind, a dream come true to win a district title in my first year being a head coach,” Phillian continued. “But you know something? I’m one small piece of the puzzle for what makes this thing go. I want to give a lot of credit to our coaching staff. The assistant coaches, those guys do a great job, week in and week out, coachin’ the players on the field, developing the game plan.
“So I want to give a big shout-out to the coaching staff, all of the assistants, for what they’ve done and what culminated in a District 10 championship.”
The Hounds’ assistants include Robb Shimrack, Dave Welch, Bob Mitcheltree, Mike Crawford, Mark Shenker, Casey Hilton, Sean McConahy, Mike Neurohr, Josh Phillian, Pat Matsook, Dom Johnjulio, Kyle Jones, Zack McCluskey, and Anthony Berardi. Brandy Sanford serves as trainer and athletic director.
Despite the Blue Devils’ defeat, it was another stellar season for Sharpsville (8-3), which lost twice to Wilmington and early in the season to OHSAA power Akron-Manchester. That, despite the Devils’ plethora of injuries. Kobe Joseph carried 14 times for 107 yards and scored Sharpsville’s TD on a 1-yard 3rd-period plunge against the Greyhounds.
Seniors for Sharpsville skipper Paul Piccirilli included Joseph, Max Messett, record-setting quarterback and receiver Nick Alexander and Luke Levis, Michael Herman, Tyler Layman, Ben Henwood, Drew Gordon, Joseph Bornes, Kevin Evans, and JaQuay Hubbard.
But Friday night was Wilmington’s. Now all Phillian must do is continue to coach another 4 decades, win approximately 300 more games – including a PIAA championship – plus a dozen more D-10 titles to place himself on a pedestal alongside Verrelli.
Chuckling at the suggestion, Phillian seriously said, “I’ll tell you what: I’ll be here at Wilmington for as long as they’ll have me. I have no plans to leave. It’s my home, where I grew up. So if God blesses me and I’m fortunate enough to do it as long as Coach Verrelli, that would be my dream.
“What Coach Verrelli has done is unprecedented, the career that he had. I just feel very blessed, very fortunate to have had him as a mentor and a role model, and I hope to continue the tradition that he’s made Wilmington football, and hope to be able to keep in rolling,” Phillian concluded.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 2A CHAMPIONSHIP
SHARPSVILLE 0 0 7 0 7
WILMINGTON 19 17 7 7 50
W — Susen, 44 run (kick failed)
W — Susen, 3 run (run failed)
W — McConahy, 40 pass from Pontius (Winters kick)
W — Richards, 1 run (Winters kick)
W — Pontius, 1 run (Winters kick)
W — Winters, 22 field goal
W — Susen, 47 run (Telesz kick)
S — Joseph, 1 run (Herman kick)
W — Miller, 2 run (Telesz kick)
9 First downs 21
80 Rushing yards 379
71 Passing yards 121
15-6-1 Att-comp-int 9-5-0
151 Total yards 500
2-1 Fumbles-lost 3-1
5-35 Penalties-yards lost 8-85
Rushing: SHARPSVILLE — Joseph 14-107, Stevens-Luchey 3-15, Besser 2-2, Tedrow 1-0, Ja. Townsend 1-(-5), Alexander 3-(-18), Team 1-(-19); WILMINGTON — Marett 16-153, Susen 6-104, Guth 7-43, Miller 4-41, Pontius 5-35, Edwards 2-9, Hunt 1-4, Richards 1-1, Behm 1-0, Bender 3-(-2), Team 1-(-11).
Passing: SHARPSVILLE — Alexander 14-6-1, 71; Evans 1-0-0; WILMINGTON — Pontius 6-4-0, 94; Bender 1-1-0, 27; Team 2-0-0.
Receiving: SHARPSVILLE — Levis 3-8, Besser 2-57, Bornes 1-6; WILMINGTON — McConahy 3-86, Pontius 1-27, Hanssen 1-8.