SLIPPERY ROCK – Perhaps, since they’re already in the area this weekend, the Los Angeles Chargers’ chances against Farrell High’s football team would have fared better than Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s Chargers.
Well, the L.A. Chargers are the concern of the NFL’s Steelers on Sunday night. But OLSH was overmatched from the outset of Friday’s PIAA Class 1A semifinal, as the Steelers of Farrell forged a 41-10 victory.
By virtue of the victory at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium Farrell (14-0) will face Lackawanna Trail at 1 p.m. Thursday at Hersheypark Stadium for the PIAA championship. The Steelers swept back-to-back crowns in 1995-96, but lost in 1990 and 2015.
“Gotta win a state championship. The mission is to win a state championship,” Steelers’ skipper Jarrett Samuels responded to the question of validation for his 11-year coaching career at his alma mater. “Tymir Green ... Kyi Wright ... Jourdan Townsend ... Christian Lewis ... Kobe Hilton ... Vinnie Purdie ... Dashon Sims ... Elijah Harper. These guys deserve it. They were there as freshmen (when Farrell fell to Bishop Guilfoyle, 35-0, in 2015).
“We didn’t get it done then; now we have unfinished business,” Samuels emphasized.
During his coaching career, Samuels was 0-for-6 in head-to-head postseason meetings against WPIAL competition, so he admitted,
“The pressure was this game. I had King Kong on my back. King Kong gone now,” a smiling Samuels said, adding with a chuckle, “We can have fun now. It’s the whole WPIAL thing. In my coaching career, I haven’t been down against another district, ever, until the WPIAL continued to ‘bull-whip’’ us. Being a player in the WPIAL, I told our guys, ‘Listen ... they have a high swagger about themselves, and we’ve gotta come in here and knock that swagger off of them.
“Friday night we came in with a game plan to run right at them, and we knew we had the upper hand,” said Samuels, sticking with aforementioned metaphor, when he added, “I’ve got ‘hogs’ this year, I’ve got ‘dogs’ this year ...
“It’s a great feeling to finally break through,” Samuels added.
Lewis led Farrell. At times running out of a Wildcat formation and taking a direct snap, he sprinted 69 and 56 yards to 2nd-half scores en route to a game-high 21-carry, 187-yard performance that enabled him to surpass 4,000 yards for his career. He also competed in the PIAA Track & Field Championships last spring, and when he hit the edge of Bob DiSpirito Field’s turf Friday night, it resembled his sprinting at Shippenburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium last spring.
“Yes, sir. That was one of my most patient runs,” Lewis allowed. “I was patient, and then once it opened up I just hit it with the full speed.”
“ ... Kyi Wright ... we told him we’ve been savin’ him up all year for these moments, the playoffs. He’s our money guy,” Samuels assessed. “And Christian was outta sight. But Kyi’s gotta be able to carry the load for us. And once Kyi softened them up, Christian’s speed took over.”
During the 1st half Wright went for 1- and 2-yard TD runs, preceded by Lewis’ 5-yarder and Jourdan Townsend’s 13-yard scoring sprint. Wright ended with 91 yards rushing on 15 totes.
Lewis, Wright and Townsend ran behind the line composed of Kobe Hilton, Gary Satterwhite III, Sims, Gary Hopson and Melvin Hobson.
“(Friday) night we just played a dominant game on both sides of the ball. It was just a great team win, and we’re all excited to get back to Hershey. But,” Wright emphasized, “this time we want to finish the job. We definitely have to win this (coming) week to validate everything that’s happened this season, and that’s our goal: To focus the rest of this week ... and go down there and get the job done.”
The Steelers coerced a pair of 1st half OLSH turnovers, and Chargers’ senior standout signal-caller Tyler Bradley was sacked twice, by Kobe and Brian Hilton, respectively. Also, Elijah Harper – despite wearing a cast on his left arm – pilfered a pass, returning it 30 yards to set up Wright’s 2nd score.
OLSH sabotaged itself, twice failing to convert 4th-down gambles – once on a fake punt that resulted in an incomplete pass; the other on downs. Both times, the Steelers capitalized.
During the 1st half the Steelers secured a 176-46 edge in total yards, checking the Chargers – one of the WPIAL’s most prolific scoring teams (led by Bradley’s 8,000-plus career yards passing) – to just Ryan Gehring’s 23-yard 1st-frame field goal. That, with 7:34 remaining in the opening quarter, was OLSH’s lone lead, and it did not last long.
The Steelers responded with their most sustained series, an 11-play, 81-yard, 4-minute, 32-second sequence that resulted in Townsend’s tally.
Ultimately, Bradley was sacked a handful of times (Kobe Hilton twice, and Hobson and Sayvion Thomas, in addition to Brian Hilton).
With frosh Jaymar Pearson providing 22-, 14- and 16-yard runs, the WPIAL-champion Chargers (12-2) churned out their lone score on the 2nd-half’s opening series. Actually, on a goal-to-go play from the 5 Pearson run 2 yards, fumbled, and teammate Andrew Schnarre scooped up the bouncing ball and carried it the remaining 3 yards OLSH’s only TD.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves that, even when something goes wrong or something goes bad – we have a defensive breakdown – we can still pick it up and finish the job,” Wright said.
Echoed Samuels, “We got great play on all three levels from our defense. ... We had four-man rush goin’ and we were able to get to (Bradley). The Hiltons, Hopson, Hobson, Thomas. Those guys have been stout all year. I told you from the (season’s) very start, physicality, that’s our formula on both sides of the ball ...”
Samuels said of Farrell’s opportunity for immortality – Mercer County’s first undefeated state championship football team – “Stay tuned. We’re on our way. We comin’, we comin. Farrell High, baby We comin’.
“This is all about these kids and our coaching staff,” Samuels praised. “What an awesome job all year, keepin’ these guys on task. We’re one game away from our mission. One game.”
PIAA CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
FARRELL 7 21 7 6 41
OLSH 3 0 7 0 10
OLSH –– Gehring, 23 field goal
F — Townsend, 13 run (B.Hilton kick)
F — Lewis, 5 run (B.Hilton kick)
F — Wright, 1 run (B.Hilton kick)
F — Wright, 2 run (B.Hilton kick)
OLSH — Schnarre, 3 run (Gehring kick)
F — Lewis, 69 run (B.Hilton kick)
F — Lewis, 56 run (kick failed)
16 First downs 11
336 Rushing yards 52
14 Passing yards 108
4-2-1 Att-comp-int 22-10-1
350 Total yards 160
00 Fumbles-lost 3-0
10-77 Penalties-yards lost 5-44
Rushing: FARRELL — Lewis 21-187, Wright 15-91, Townsend 4-33, Harrison 7-19, Hartley 1-7, Stallworth 1-0; OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART — Pearson 13-72, Wigley 6-6, Banks 1-6, Mazzarese 1-0, Bradley 6-(-32).
Passing: FARRELL — Wright 4-2-1, 14; OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART — Bradley 21-10-1, 108; Schnarre 1-0-0.
Receiving: FARRELL — Townsend 2-14; OLSH — Schnarre 4-27, Banks 4-17, Tate 1-40, Wigley 1-23.