McElhaney, Salsgiver

Sharon Coach Jason McElhaney talks to quarterback Brett Salsgiver during last Friday’s game against Hickory at Hornet Stadium. The Tigers visit Grove City tonight.

This weekend may serve as the regular-season finale for some Mercer County-area football teams – at least, for those that have qualified for the playoffs.

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, District 10 recently announced its postseason tournament brackets will be finalized this Sunday. The semifinals and championship in Class 2A are slated for Oct. 23 and 30, respectively; in 1A and 3A the semis and finals are set for Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, respectively.

Thus far, regular-season champions Reynolds (Region 1), Wilmington (2) and Hickory (3) already have qualified. This weekend will determine what other area aggregations are playoff-bound.

Ironically, one of those is Farrell, the 5-time Class 1A District 10 titlist and reigning 2-time PIAA commonwealth kingpin. The Steelers suffered setbacks to Wilmington in the home-and-home regular-season Region 2 rivalry. But a win this weekend probably puts the Steelers opposite Northwestern in the district semifinals.

Tonight’s Games

(All games begin 7 p.m.)

Region 3

Sharon (1-4, 1-4) at Grove City (2-3, 2-3)

Eleven months after these programs met for a 2nd straight D-10 Class 3A title, both are situated at sub-.500 and in jeopardy of missing the postseason.

Last week the Tigers took Hickory to the final 5-plus minutes before bowing (41-28) – arguably Sharon’s best performance of the season. Sharon speedster Ja’on Phillips flourished via an 80-yard punt return TD, pair of pickoffs, and an end zone strip that prevented an apparent Hickory score.

“He’s a great player. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s good, and he’s hard to cover, too,” praised Hickory senior standout Michael Henwood.

Sharon seems to be easing into its wing-T offensive scheme. Quarterback Brett Salsgiver scored a trio of TDs at Hermitage, and Tyvell Richardson ran for 102 yards – just 4 shy of his previous season best.

“Brett’s played two very good games in-a-row, and you have to keep in perspective that’s really starts (number) four and five for Brett – his entire life. I think he’s doin’ a great job,” praised Tigers’ taskmaster Jason McElhaney.

The Logan Breese-less Eagles endured a 17-14 overtime setback at Slippery Rock last week. Zach Rodgers responded with a 13-for-26, 157-yard passing performance that included an 18-yard TD toss to Zack Martin. Also, Curtis Hovis gave Grove City a 25-carry, 125-yard ground game that included a 40-yard TD run. However the ‘Grovers were guilty of 2 turnovers and victimized by Bubba Mokel’s 24-for-44, 279-yard, 1-TD passing performance.

Breese missed last week’s game owing to a knee infection.

In the teams’ earlier meeting this season, Breese blistered Sharon for 267 yards passing, including 75-, 40- and 30-yard scoring strikes to Anthony Pereira and a 67-yarder to Martin. Breese also sprinted 30 yards for a score against the Tigers.

Region 2

Wilmington (5-0, 5-0) at Sharpsville (2-3, 2-3)

Danny Henwood had a season-best 27-carry, 190-yard, 2-TD (1, 12) rushing performance against Greenville, while Chris Roth rushed for another 61 yards, including a 4-yard score. In sweeping the home-and-home regular-season series against Greenville Sharpsville surrendered just 26 points; in its other trio of tilts the Blue Devils’ defense has permitted 134 points.

Earlier this season at McCracken Field Wilmington won (42-0). The Greyhounds’ ground game generated 318 yards, led by Caelan Bender (100, including a pair of 42-yard scoring sprints), Ethan Susen (92 yards, including an 80-yard TD), and Darren Miller, who mustered a 47-yard touchdown run.

The ‘Hounds Hammer defense has yielded just 34 first-half points this season – all against Farrell – and just 46 overall.

Greenville (0-5, 0-5) at Farrell (3-2, 3-2)

For the second time the Trojans will tangle with a Steelers’ squad smarting from a setback. Earlier this season in Greenville, the Steelers secured a 47-7 win. 

Last week Farrell fell at Wilmington (21-20). Steelers’ speedster Anthony Stallworth scored a trio of TDs, rushing for 166 yards, including 16- and 8-yard TDs, and collaborating with Christian Hartley for a 76-yard TD toss.

Hartley had his best game of the season, completing 5 of 8 pass attempts for 156 yards and rushing for another 65 yards.

Meanwhile Greenville was defeated by the Blue Devils in Sharpsville (24-14). Greenville was out-gained just 259-238, but by a 258-85 margin on the ground. Mason Dickens’ 2-yard run and Jalen Ritzert’s 17-yard scoring strike to Cole Karpinski accounted for the Trojans’ TDs. Ritzert rifled 6 of 10 pass attempts for a season-best 153 yards passing.

Region 1

West Middlesex (3-2, 3-2) at Mercer (2-3, 2-3)

Ty Tate traded TD runs with teammate Ian Smith in last week’s shutout of Kennedy Catholic (26-0). The Big Reds rushed for 166 yards, led by Smith’s 89 and Tate’s 65.

Earlier this season Middlesex mustered a 35-7 win over Mercer as 5 different players tallied TDs, including kick-returner Eddie Lowe. The Mustangs managed just 57 total yards in that loss.

Thus far this season it’s been feast or famine for the Mustangs. The ‘Steads have scored 46 and 26 in sweeping the season series with Kennedy Catholic; however in its other 3 games Mercer has mustered just 1 TD and been blanked twice by Reynolds. Aidan Bright has accounted for all 9 of the Mustangs’ TDs.

Region 4

Lakeview (2-3, 2-3) at Cambridge Springs (4-1, 4-1)

In last week’s win at Cochranton (15-0), Trent Wheeler sparked the ‘Spa with a 10-for-20, 117-yard, 2-TD passing performance. Wheeler went 27 yards to Jake Dies and 21 yards to Asa Henderson, according to The (Meadville) Tribune. Defensively, Wheeler pilfered a pair of passes and Bennett Carico recovered a fumble to lead Coach Nathan Liberty’s Blue Devils. Also, Ethan Counasse carried 12 times for 46 yards rushing.

Lakeview’s loss last week to Northwestern (31-14) was due, in part, to allowing 250 yards rushing (375 total). The Sailors were stalemated at 7 after 12 minutes; however, Lakeview yielded 24 points during the 2nd and 3rd periods.

Gavin Murdock manufactured 207 total yards, including an 11-for-17, 159-yard passing performance and 42-yard scoring strike to Lane Barber. Also, Calogano Wilkins went 45 yards for the Sailors’ first score. Lakeview’s 276 total yards were offset by a trio of turnovers.

Saturday’s Game

Region 3

Slippery Rock (2-3, 2-3) at Hickory (5-0, 5-0)

The Hornets allowed a 28-7 lead dissipate into a 28-all 4th-quarter deadlock against Sharon; however Henwood hoisted the Hornets on his back, tallying 2 TDs in the final 5:20.

After sweeping the regular-season series with Sharon by an aggregate 89-44 margin, Henwood said, “I was struggling a little bit through the air, but got it done with the legs. We match up well (with Sharon). Everybody does their job. It’s all a team thing.”

Henwood has accounted for 1,646 total yards (405 rushing, 1,241 passing) and 22 TDs (14 passing, 8 rushing).

“After last year didn’t end the way we want(ed), this feels good and we’ve gotta keep it goin’ – one game at a time,” though,” Henwood cautioned.

In the win, however, Hickory was hit with 7 penalties

“The (penalties) gotta be a concern; some of them are questionable,” Hickory Head Coach Bill Dungee said, admitting, “But they’re at inopportune times – that’s the thing that’s worrisome. I never worry about aggression penalties, because if you’re an aggressive team you’re gonna have some of those, especially with sixteen-, seventeen-, eighteen-year-olds kids in a rivalry game. But when it’s fourth down-and-seven and we’re getting penalties, that’s where it’s disheartening, and we’ve gotta clean those up.”

In Week 3 at Slippery Rock Henwood hurled a half-dozen TD tosses in a 45-0 rout.

But last week Coach Larry Wendereusz’s Rockets recorded a gratifying upset of Grove City (17-14) on Alex Duffalo’s 27-yard field goal in OT.  Late in regulation, Duffalo drilled the game-tying PAT – from 36 yards – after the Rockets had been penalized. Grove City out-gained Slippery Rock, 368-338; however, the Rockets coerced a pair of Eagles’ turnovers. In addition to Mokel’s passing performance, including a 5-yard TD toss to Ethan Plesakov, Shane Thompson tallied a 26-yard TD run to fuel the Rockets’ offense.