Fall’s first day arrived recently, but tonight could serve as a prelude to the weekend of Nov. 8-9 and the District 10 Class 3A football semifinals.
Don’t tell that to Bill Dungee.
“To be honest, we’re just tryin’ to get into the playoffs,” declared Dungee, Hickory High’s 1st-year head football coach.
Tonight’s Hickory homecoming has the Hornets hosting undefeated Grove City. Also, reigning 2-time D-10 3A titlist Sharon sets course for Crawford County to confront Conneaut Area.
Interestingly, Hickory’s lone loss occurred 2 weeks ago in Linesville to CASH, while Sharon suffered a Week-2 setback at Hermitage – its last loss. And Grove City last lost approximately 10 months ago, to Sharon, in the 2018 D-10 championship game.
“I was joking with somebody. I told ‘em (District 10 Region 5) is the SEC of (PIAA) triple-A football,” Dungee related. “Literally, from first place to last place there could be a difference of seven points separating those teams.”
The November Final Four reference made Dungee decidedly uneasy.
“I don’t know ... we can’t look at it like that. Right now we’re just focused on tryin’ to get a win. If we can get our second (Region 5) win, we’ll be in pretty good shape. But we’re just tryin’ to get another win in the region,” Dungee emphasized, though admitting,
“We’re excited about the opportunity. It should be a great atmosphere for homecoming. ... When I looked at the (2019) schedule when I got the job, I remember ... figuring Grove City’d be comin’ in undefeated. That was my thought.
“We’re just gonna put our best foot forward,” added Dungee, who as a former assistant at both Farrell and Sharon has some experience in game-planning for Grove City.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Grove City (1-0, 5-0) at Hickory (1-1, 4-1)
To borrow on old-school cliche, this is the irresistible force versus the immovable object – Grove City Coach Sam Mowrey’s offense pitted against Hickory Coordinator Ed Roberson’s defense.
After a season-opening 16-point performance in defeating Fort LeBoeuf, the ‘Grovers have generated 151 points and 1,591 yards in 4 consecutive conquests. Conversely, Hickory had a season-best performance in last week’s win against Greenville, giving up only 152 yards (123 rushing).
However Hickory had its hands full in its lone loss – 2 weeks ago against Conneaut Area – and the Crawford County Eagles enjoyed an edge in size similar to what Grove City’s Eagles enjoy.
Logan Breese, Colby Nelson, Zack Martin, Jake Reddick and Curtis Hovis energize the Eagles’ balanced offense. Hickory’s Michael Henwood has a handful of playmakers at his disposal, including receivers Nate Richards, Matt Cannone, Ramarion Whitehead, backs Hunter Stoots and Kam Fisher, and tight end Jackson Pryts.
“Coach Mowrey does an outstanding job,” praised the well-versed Dungee, who then offered a term not normally associated with analyzing a high school football opponent: Infrastructure.
“With the winning culture he’s established, you don’t win 23 straight without an infrastructure in place that allows you to do that,” Dungee observed. “The (offensive) tempo they run is kind’ve a shock to some teams. ... We’re not at that level yet, but it’s something we’re trying to get to.”
Dungee delineated all of the aforementioned offensive standouts, then added “defensively, they’re very sound. (The Eagles) sit in that 4-4 and play a cover-3 and just don’t make many mistakes. They force you to beat them, so you have to be on your game.”
The game will be broadcast on Sports Radio 96.7 (WLLF FM) with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg on mic.
The game also owill be streamed live, sponsored weekly by Joanow Legal Group.
Sharon (1-1, 3-2) at Conneaut Area (1-0, 4-1)
Since a season-opening setback at Oil City (28-24) CASH has crushed Meadville (40-7), North East (52-12), Hickory (38-12) and Gen. McLane (36-14).
Engineering the Eagles’ offense is Tanner Niemann (65 carries, 631 yards, 9.7 per-carry, 8 TDs, and 74 completions in 107 pass attempts for 852 yards, 11 TDs and only 3 interceptions). He is complemented by Devin Neal’s rushing (72-487, 6.8, 3 TDs) and his aerial go-to guys have been Noah Richardson (34 catches, 447 yards, 13.1 per-catch) and Nathan Bortnick (17-177, 10.4), who have evenly divided 8 scoring receptions.
Since season-opening setbacks in New Wilmington and Hermitage, Sharon has shut out Fairview, Slippery Rock and Sharpsville. The Corte Williams-led Tigers’ defense has mauled its last 3 opponents. Sharon has not surrendered a point since the 4th frame of that Week-2 loss at Hickory.
However, perhaps a prolific offense such as Conneaut Area’s could be slowed by remaining on the sideline, meaning the Lane Voytik-orchestrated offense, including Ty Eilam, C.J. Parchman and Brady Ortiz, could play keepaway from Conneaut.
The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM) with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch making the calls.
Farrell (1-0, 3-2) at Mercer (0-1, 2-3)
Coach Anthony “AMP” Pegues’ Steelers, in succession, have shut out Union City, West Middlesex and Cambridge Springs by a composite 131-0 margin as Jaden Harrison and Savion Thomas tallied 2 TDs apiece and Raymond Raver Jr. rifled a pair of scoring strikes last week; conversely, Mercer has mustered only 13 markers in each of back-to-back losses to Reynolds (40-13) and Union City (32-13).
A year ago the Steelers shut out the Steads (47-0); however, in the series’ last 9 meetings Mercer emerged with wins in 2013 (26-14), 2012 (10-7), 2011 (42-34) and 2008 (20-0).
Recent Steelers’ series wins: 36-0 (2015); 19-7 (2014); 35-0 (2010); 21-14 (2009).
Reynolds (1-0, 4-1) at West Middlesex (0-1, 3-2)
Both teams suffered setbacks to Maplewood. Reynolds had its 4-game season-opening win skein snapped at Guys Mills last week (25-14), while West Middlesex won back-to-back opening games before bowing at Big Reds Stadium to the visiting Tigers (39-12).
Coach Mark Means’ Middlesex minions made amends for 2 straight setbacks by crushing Cochranton last week (35-0) as Chase Tomko took over under center. The Alex Rea-led Big Reds ran for 347 yards – 2 off their season high. Rea raced for a career-high 99 yards, including a 47-yard scoring sprint, and Jason Davis darted for another career night, 157 yards – 2 more than his season-opening performance, including an 84-yard TD run. Tomko tallied a TD, and ran for 39 yards while passing for 67 more markers.
Greenville (1-0, 3-2) at Wilmington (1-0, 5-0)
Since the program’s last win over Wilmington – 41-21 late in the 2013 season – Greenville has suffered both regular-season and D-10 tournament losses (2017 championship; 2018 and ‘16 semifinals) each of the last 3 years.
Coach Brandon Phillian and state-ranked Wilmington remain the area’s highest-scoring (40.2) and stingiest squad (8.4), while out-gaining opponents 361.6 to 136 on a nightly norm.
The Greyhounds humbled previously-unbeaten Buckeye State Conneaut (51-14) last week, while the Trojans were toppled at home by Hickory (28-7).
Lakeview (0-1, 1-4) at Sharpsville (0-1, 2-3)
The visiting Sailors will look to spoil Sharpsville’s homecoming.
Last week the Sailors spanked Seneca (29-0) as Dominic Leonard led Lakeview with 86 yards rushing, including a touchdown, and Gavin Murdock mustered a pair of rushing TDs. In securing the program’s 1st win in a calendar year Coach Bill Hickman’s Sailors secured a season-best 328 total yards.
The injury-depleted Blue Devils were shut out by Sharon. Including a 48-12 win at Seneca’s expense, Sharpsville has scored just 85 points this season. The trio of Chris Roth, Kaleb Gorichky and Tristan Besser will look to bolster the Blue Devils’ offense.
Titusville (3-2) at Slippery Rock (2-3)
This much is certain: The Rockets will win this game, but which one remains to be seen.
Slippery Rock has sustained back-to-back setbacks at Sharon and Grove City, scoring just 16 points after averaging 30 in winning 2 of its first 3 games. The Vito Pilosi-Nathan Hyatt-David Duffalo-fueled Rockets were limited to a season-low 242 total yards – owing to a handful of turnovers – in last week’s loss to backyard rival Grove City.
After a 3-0 season’s start, Titusville’s Rockets were grounded by Mercyhurst Prep (56-0), then last week Corry toppled Titusville (13-10). Charlie Nicholson (108-594, 5.5 per-carry, 6 TDs) and Garrett Knapp (414 yards) fuel Venango County’s Rockets. But Knapp has notched only 32 percent of his pass attempts and has been picked off more times (5) than he has thrown TDs (4).
Newton Falls (1-3) at Brookfield (1-0, 3-1)
As the Buckeye State’s midway mark arrives, this has been a big bounce-back for bench boss Randy Clark’s Brookfield bunch.
Last week the Warriors whipped Liberty (39-0) as Hayden Gibson tossed a quartet of TDs (Dakota King 5- and 14-yarders) and Gage Emery (5- and 15-yarders) and run for another, part of a 71-yard output. Also, burly Tyler Briggs bull-dozed Liberty for 130 yards as the Warriors went for 432 total, while surrendering only 72.
Tigers’ taskmaster Mike Gillespie and Newton Falls have fallen to Jackson-Milton (26-21), Mineral Ridge (26-14) and Crestview (49-14) the last 3 weeks after a season-opening win over Waterloo (28-18).
Herald Sports Writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.