Farrell High's football team is en route to a business trip. And business has been good for Farrell.
The Steelers (13-2) will seed a second straight PIAA Class 1A crown when they meet Bishop Guilfoyle (12-2) at 1 p.m. Thursday at Hersheypark Stadium.
Since a pair of season-opening setbacks, Farrell has forged 13 consecutive conquests. Included in that Steelers' skein were the program's fifth straight District 10 championship while snapping a four-time skid to WPIAL perennial power Clairton for the regional title.
The first-year Steelers skipper immediately dismissed any notion of a hangover for Farrell after it exorcized the demon of four defeats to Clairton.
" ... My brain has shifted to the next game," Pegues politely pointed out earlier this week when asked if he and his squad were still celebrating.
Thursday's title tilt will serve as a rematch of the 2015 finale, when Bishop Guilfoyle shut out the Steelers 35-0 as the Marauders manhandled both lines of scrimmage (a 251-125 advantage on the ground). But Pegues said that affair is ancient history.
"The only thing that factors in is that (the Marauders) do a lot of the same things as back then," Pegues began. "But they're not the same team. Back then that group up front were 300-pounders across the board; now, maybe they've got one (300-pounder) and the rest are smaller."
Farrell's front includes seniors Gary Hopson Jr. and Melvin Hobson Jr., Gary Satterwhite III, Preston Williams and Adrian Daniels. Collectively, they average 292.4 pounds. They have enabled Farrell to outscore (539-98, including 10 shutouts) and outgain opponents (5,190-2,438, or 346 to 162.5).
Dubbed the "Heart and Soul," the O-line has provided paths for running backs Anthony Stallworth (160 carries, 1,656 yards, 10.3 per-carry, 16 TDs) and Jaden Harrison (95-984, 10.3, 12 TDs).
Quarterback Raymond Raver Jr. orchestrates the offense, and in today's parlance embodies the run-pass option. Raver has rushed for 537 yards (5.6 per-carry, nine touchdowns) and passed for 942 yards (16.8 per-completion) and 14 touchdowns. Raver has rifled 56 of 98 attempts (57.1). His top targets include Brice Butler (19 receptions, 479 yards, 25.2 per-catch, six touchdowns), Brian Hilton Jr. (20-236, 11.8, four touchdowns), and Harrison (15-170, 11.3, three touchdowns). Christian Hartley has contributed 239 yards and two touchdowns passing and 114 yards and other pair of scores when rushing.
"For sure. We have a lot of speed there, and up front we should have an advantage," Pegues said.
Led by ninth-year head coach Justin Wheeler, District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle – contingent upon down and distance – employs a pair of quarterbacks, according to Pegues, out of " ... a direct shotgun snap ... two tight ends, and they try and run it right at you."
Konner Kiesewetter has completed 61 of 108 attempts (56.4) for 790 yards, but only three touchdowns with seven interceptions. Also, Kiesewetter has carried 96 times for 453 yards (4.71 per-carry) and eight touchdowns – all despite missing a pair of games due to injury.
Guilfoyle's ground game is led by Keegan Myrick (243-1,695, 6.9, 23 TDs), Cooper Rother (102-564, 5.5, four touchdowns), and Zach McCloskey (76-507, 6.6, two touchdowns). Kesenwetter's connections through the air include Ryan Negola (19-275, 14.4, one touchdown), Myrick (21-243, 11.57), tight end Andrew Yanoshak (13-172, 13.2, one touchdown) and Sam Homan (14-172, 12.2, one touchdown).
"Defensively, they're a 4-4 or 4-3 team ... sometimes two high safeties," Pegues related. "They don't do a lot of blitzing – just their base defense – and they're tough up front."
As a rush-end Yanoshak has logged 58 solo (plus 66 assisted) tackles, including 19 quarterback sacks, while Myrick has pilfered six passes.
Not unlike Farrell, Bishop Guilfoyle lost long ago – Aug. 31 to Westmont Hilltop (27-7) and Oct. 4 to District 6 Class 2A champion Richland (36-0).
But the Marauders manufactured wins over Saltsburg (47-18) and Juniata Valley (36-17) to annex the program's fourth district crown in six seasons (though the program's fist since 2016). The aforementioned D-6 tournament wins also served as PIAA opening- and quarterfinal-round contests. Subsequently, Guilfoyle garnered a win over D-2 champion Lackawanna Trail (11-7) – Farrell's foil en route to last season's commonwealth crown (55-20) and a 15-0 finish, the first for a Mercer County football state champion.
The Marauders outlasted Lackawanna Trail in the state semifinal last week. Deven Wyandt's 20-yard, fourth-quarter field goal (set up by Myrick's 52-yard run) gave Guilfoyle the lead, but it had to coerce three consecutive incomplete end zone pass attempts by Nico Berrios. Ultimately, tackled Adrian Johnson sacked Berrios on the game's final play.
Once again, the Steelers seek to make a statement on the statewide stage. This will be the proud program's sixth (losing in 1990 to Marian Catholic (21-14); sweeping Southern Columbia in '95 (6-0) and '96 (14-12) at Altoona' Mansion Park Stadium; losing to Guilfoyle, and defeating Lackawanna Trail. The latter pair occurred at Hersheypark Stadium, and Pegues asserted, " ... just the experience of playin' in that stadium in a big game last year, that'll be really beneficial to us."
However, the Steelers' skipper acknowledged that competing for a commonwealth crown is not an annual occurrence.
"We know how hard it is; it's very hard," Pegues said. "This is our, what? – sixth time since 1988? You don't get there all the time, so we're definitely not taking this for granted and we're definitely not overlooking this team. And," Pegues emphasized, "we're definitely up for it. ... we just have to come out and do what we've been doin' all year – play hard, play 'Farrell football,' control the ball, limit the turnovers ... "
Reflecting back to the Steelers' 0-2 season's start, Pegues said, "No, I never lost faith in that. I knew we'd get rollin' once this young group got situated and got things goin' for us. I knew, for sure, we'd get back to this game. That's our goal every year, to get (to the PIAA championship game)."
According to Pegues, for Farrell, while the players have come and gone, many members of the coaching staff are still with the Steelers from that 2015 squad.
"This game actually means a lot," Pegues admitted, "(Bishop Guilfoyle) shut us out back in 2015, and we've been preachin' that all week. This is revenge for us, a chance to get back at them. So we're gonna come out and play hard."
Herald Sports Writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.