By Ed Farrell
Herald Assitant Sports Editor
The lyrics from the old song tell us, “The first cut is the deepest,” and perhaps that’s appropos for the Sharon High football team.
Since a disheartening 46-7 Steel Bowl season-opening setback to state-ranked Farrell, the Tigers have mauled Reynolds, Oil City and Slippery Rock by a composite 131-27 differential.
Ronnie Howard hauled 317 yards worth of pass completions, including a trio of touchdowns, as Sharon shut out Slippery Rock 34-0 Friday night at Tiger Stadium in a District 10 Region 3-AA tilt.
Howard hit on 12 of 16 attempts, including scoring strikes of 47 and 68 yards to Louis Brown and a 17-yarder to Steven Bittler. Interspersed were 1- and 3-yard TD plunges from Kevin and Cameron Brown as part of a 375-yard offensive output for Sharon (3-0, 3-1).
“For us, it’s like that, it’s systematic,” Tigers’ taskmaster Bob Fromm explained. “You want to get the ball to the guys who can do things for you. But, also depending on how the defense plays, different people are going to be called upon each night.”
It was a breakout for Bittler, who was the beneficiary of a half-dozen Howard heaves for 89 yards. In addition, Jordan Rearick reeled in a trio of tosses for 90 yards and the brace of bombs to Louis Brown accounted for another 105 yards.
Howard had a 64-yard run to set up Sharon’s 1st score, but otherwise the Tigers’ ground game garnered only 58 net yards. However Howard had a field day utilizing pump fakes to freeze the Rockets’ secondary. His 12 completions averaged 26.4 yards.
At times, in spite of the calendar claiming autumn has just begun, it appeared as though the Tigers’ track team was sprinting past Slippery Rock’s secondary.
“The reason why I’m comfortable is because the line, they do their job, and what else can a quarterback ask for back there? I’ve got time to throw,” Howard replied. “I had time to throw, and I trust my receivers to just go and get it. I can just throw to a spot and they’ll go get it.
“We don’t like to key on one person,” Howard continued. “We’ve got a great team, a great, fast team, and we do more when everybody touches the ball. We like to use our speed out there. We’re a speedy team more than a power team. I think Slippery Rock tried to use a little bit of both, but we used our speed to outrun them.”
Reflecting on wounded pride inflicted by Farrell, Fromm felt it actually may have helped his club.
“ ... Sharon kids should play Farrell kids every year. But we know now that the deepest wounds come when you go out there and don’t perform against a Farrell team, and I think that was the case with us, and I’m proud of the way they bounced back.
“(The loss) certainly got our attention immediately, and said, ‘Hey, look, we’ve gotta evaluate what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, how we’re going about our business,’ ” Fromm related, adding, “From there, we’ve consistently ... they show up week in and week out, they want to work, they want to get better, and that’s the approach we take.”
Howard was so crestfallen following the Farrell loss Fromm had to order his senior signal-caller back to the locker room. Much has happened during that 4-week interim.
“He’s consistently gotten better,” Fromm said of Howard. Four weeks ago we kind’ve talked and I said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna show up on Monday to get you better; you come to get better,’ and he’s done that, and he brings that every time he comes into the locker room. And I think all the guys are kind’ve doing that right now. It’s something we talked about as coaches. This team’s hungry to continue to improve, and we’re trying to do that.”
“We definitely thanked (Farrell) for that,” Howard said with a wry smile. “They brought us back down to earth, showed us what we needed to do, boosted up our confidence for the next week and we knew exactly what we have to do: We’ve gotta blow teams out, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
And while his team is in track mode, Fromm may be doing some sprint intervals, too. He was assessed an unusual sideline interference penalty late in the game, drawing a 5-yard penalty.
“ ... That’s my first (penalty) ever ... ever ... ever!” Fromm emphasized, “so I’ve gotta do some running on Monday with my boys.”
Note: For Slippery Rock (0-3, 0-4), Ryan Gordon pilfered a pair of passes, giving him 3 in the last 2 games.
SLIP. ROCK 0 0 0 0 0
SHARON 14 7 13 0 34
S — K. Brown, 1 run (Sypolt kick)
S — L. Brown, 47 pass from Howard (Sypolt kick)
S — Bittler, 17 pass from Howard (Sypolt kick)
S — L. Brown, 68 pass from Howard (kick failed)
S — C. Brown, 3 run (Sypolt kick)
SLIPP. ROCK SHARON
9 First downs 11
154 Rushing yards 58
13 Passing yards 317
7-2-0 Att-comp-int 17-12-2
167 Total yards 375
3-1 Fumbles-lost 4-1
5-31 Penalties-yards lost 3-21
Rushing: SLIPPERY ROCK — Angerett 17-69, Knight 6-37, Gallagher 12-25, Henry 1-17, McAvoy 5-17, Waryanka 1-(-4), Jeon 1-(-7); SHARON — Howard 8-53, K. Brown 9-13, Ondic 1-3, K. Brown 4-(--2), Martell 1-(-9).
Passing: SLIPPERY ROCK — Gallagher 7-2-0, 13; SHARON — Howard 16-12-1, 317; Bittler 1-0-1.
Receiving: SLIPPERY ROCK — Rensel 2-13; SHARON — Bittler 6-89, Rearick 3-90, L. Brown 2-105, Smith 1-26.
By Ed Farrell