To Josh Mull’s mind there’s a distinct difference between confidence and arrogance. And while his Reynolds High football team is off to the program’s first 2-0 start in 6 seasons, there’s no way he’ll allow his Raiders to become over-confident.
Mull’s minions (2-0) meet Saegertown (0-2) in a District 10 regional cross-over contest tonight at 7 p.m. in Transfer.
After the Raiders rallied past Slippery Rock (25-21) last week, Reynolds’ program is enjoying its first 2-0 start since 2013, Mull’s 1st season at the helm.
Saegertown suffered a 20-6 setback to Cambridge Springs last week.
“It’s about being humble. That’s the one thing I know about traditionally great football programs,” related Mull, who competed scholastically against legendary George Curry’s Berwick powerhouses. “You see teams that do roll into a football game with a lot of confidence, but they also know that they can be beaten at any time.
“That humble attitude will force our kids to maintain that work-ethic and take every, single opponent seriously,” Mull continued. “That’s the reason you play the game on Friday nights – anything can happen. I’ve seen it in high school, seen it in college, seen it in the NFL ... where teams that shouldn’t have won go up against a team that never should’ve been beaten – and win.
“That’s the beauty of sports.”
Reynolds’ run has been the result of remaining injury-free – quarterback Bryce McCloskey (79 percent passing for 318 yards and 2 TDs, plus the game-winning rushing TD last week) is a prime example – and disciplined. McCloskey’s go-to guy has been Marketis Stevens, who leads all area receivers, averaging 34.3 yards/catch with a trio of TDs.
“Last year we were the most penalized team in Mercer County,” Mull recalled. “To go from 13 (flags) a game to six is a great feat. I told the kids we have to be under five.”
Last week against the Rock – twice in 4th-down punting situations – Mull gambled, and Cole Toy and McCloskey made the most of Mull’s maneuvers. McCloskey’s score occurred with 1:38 remaining.
Reflecting, Mull summarized, “The kids are doing exactly what I asked of them at the beginning of the year: We preached doing the little things right –– staying penalty-free –– and our kids have taken that to heart. They’ve been working together, and they’re starting to come together as a team, relying on each other. Things are falling together very nicely.
“It was a great team effort,” Mull praised, noting his club’s offensive balance – 190 yards rushing and 189 passing.
Reynolds program’s signature season occurred in 2005 – 11 wins and a berth in the PIAA Class AA regional finals (losing to South Park). That was the last time the Raiders rolled to 3 consecutive season-opening wins.
“One of the biggest things we’ve been preaching year in and year out is facing adversity,” Mull related. “Great leaders don’t lead only when things are going easy.
“We were down (to Slippery Rock) 21-19 with 10:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. But McCloskey found a way. He and Toy and the rest of the cast. ... Bryce put us on his shoulders ... he was not gonna be denied.”
Concluding, Mull admitted, “A coach can only ask for and hope that his kids buy into what he says and work together. To have a team do this and win for each other is an awesome thing to see!
“It’s wonderful! And,” Mull later added, “the one thing our kids have going now is a little bit of confidence. But we still have to be disciplined and execute our game plan.”
Reynolds’ program is on the uptick, having won 6 games, including a D-10 playoff opener, a year ago. So realizing it’s the first week of September, Mull maintains a demeanor of stoicism.
“It’s a long road ahead, that’s all I know. But I think our kids’ll definitely step up to the challenge and play hard. I’m sure there are teams out there just as good or better, but (the Raiders will) fight and try to stay alive.”
Mercyhurst Prep (1-1) at Hickory (2-0)
Coach Bill Dungee’s Hornets have harvested the program’s first 2-0 start since 2016 and already equalled last season’s win output.
QB Michael Henwood helped the Hornets double their opening-week point output in last week’s Region 5 win over Sharon. Henwood had 149 yards rushing and 109 passing, accounting for a trio of TDs (2 passing, 1 rushing). His go-to guy was Nate Richards (4 catches, 47 yards). Defensively, Matt Cannone contributed an interception, Hunter Stoots a fumble recovery, and Bailey Phillips a sack and several QB pressures.
Prep posted a 21-13 conquest of Corry last week.
Leading the Lakers have been speedster Steve Smith (387 yards, 9.9 yards/carry, 3 TDs) and Iyan Baker (12-121, 10.1). QB Matt Luce has attempted only 19 passes for 57 yards in 2 games, hitting Nate Helsley 3 times for 43 yards.
Maplewood (2-0) at West Middlesex (2-0)
Coach Mark Means and Middlesex’s Big Reds have rolled to routs of Eisenhower (32-0) and Lakeview (39-9). Jason Davis did his damage in the opener (155 yards on 81- and 66-yard scoring sprints), and Zeb Rubaker ran roughshod last week against Lakeview (167 yards) while Davis donated another pair of TDs.
The Tigers’ twosome of Kaleb Donor (13-220, 16.9) and Sam Wright (19-133) has helped Maplewood move on the ground. The pitch-catch combo of JD (12 for 21, 301 yards) and Jesse McFadden (5 catches, 112 yards) lends balance.
Almost a year ago to the day Middlesex mustered a 41-27 shootout in Guys Mills by pouring in 23 fourth-period points. In last year’s loss JD McFadden fired a pair of TDs – including an 80-yard scoring strike to Jesse – and also rushed for 104 yards and 2 TDs.
Wilmington (2-0) at Northwestern (1-1)
A team cannot do much better than this: In opening-week wins over Sharon (26-14) and Farrell (40-0), Wilmington won over a pair of defending D-10 champions, one of which (Farrell) won the 2018 PIAA Class 1A title. In the process the ‘Hounds Hammer has permitted just 263 total yards (46 rushing), and the Greyhounds’ ground game has garnered 597.
Last week Ethan Susen secured his 2nd straight C-note, sprinting for 110 yards and 2 TDs (14, 19). QB Caelan Bender bolstered a balanced offense, completing 5 of 6 passes for 112 yards, tossing a 10-yard TD to Susen.
Returning PIAA Class 2A runner-up Wilmington is ranked 7th in the state in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News poll.
Corry (1-1) at Grove City (2-0)
Grove City has given up just 13 points in wins over Fort LeBoeuf (16-3) and Greenville (35-10). The Grovers’ ground game has garnered 477 yards (722 total, while permiting only 411), led by Colby Nelson’s back-to-back C-notes (152, 118).
Corry is coming off a 21-13 loss to Mercyhurst Prep. Landen Weis (40-256, 3 TDs), Nathan Lesher (10 of 24 pass attempts, 106 yards, 3 TDs) and Logan Harrington (6 receptions) bolster the Beavers’ offense.
Franklin (1-1) at Slippery Rock (1-1)
After the Rockets rolled to a 406-total yard output in a season-opening win over Gen. McLane, they were grounded in the decisive final frame by Reynolds.
Vito Pilosi (268 yards passing, 2 TDs, plus 127 yards rushing), David Duffalo and Ethan Plesakov (almost 200 yards receiving between them), and Nathan Hyatt (221 yards, 6.5/carry, 5 TDs rushing) fuel the Rockets’ balanced offense.
The Knights knocked off North East (35-24) in their opener, but bowed to Venango County rival Oil City (27-16) last week.
Record-setting signal-caller Ian Haynes has hit on half of his 34 pass attempts for 298 yards and a handful of TDs. His top targets are Cade Adams (7 receptions) and Dalton Buckley (155 yards, including 4 TDs).
Union City (1-1) at Farrell (0-2)
In what alternate universe would Steelers’ skipper Anthony Pegues have envisioned this scenario? Union City with 1 more win than Farrell. However, would anyone consider the Steelers an underdog to Union City?
Last season Farrell fashioned a 70-6 win at Union City. Thus far this season the Steelers have been outscored 54-12, including the 1st setback via shutout since 2008 (20-0, at Mercer).
Union City was humbled in its opener by Reynolds (41-0), but the Bears bounced back last week against Eisenhower (42-13). The Bears boast the rushing of Logan Kesselring (34-220, 6.5 yards/carry, 1 TD).
Fairview (1-1) at Sharon (0-2)
A tale of two Tigers, one desperately in need of its 1st triumph under new Coach Jason McElhaney.
Last season Sharon slammed Fairview twice – 63-12 in a regular-season game in Erie County and 56-21 in the D-10 playoffs. In those 2 tilts Sharon signal-caller Lane Voytik victimized Fairview for an aggregate 40 completions in 53 attempts for 610 yards and 8 TDs, and C.J. Parchman pulled in 13 passes for 271 yards (TDs of 28, 46 and 77 yards, plus a 4-yard run). Also, Ty Eilam added 10 total receptions for 192 yards, including 40- and 27-yard scoring strikes in the playoff win.
Voytik (5,885 yards) is close to becoming Mercer County’s all-time leading passer. He trails Grove City’s Kameron Patterson (5,886 yards) and Mercer’s Logan Clarke (6,178).
Last week Fairview fashioned a 27-26 win over Girard. Travis Burge (47-257, 5.5/carry; 11 of 20 pass attempts, 165 yards, 1 TD) and Mason Bender (7-89, 1 TD) fuel Fairview’s aerial attack. Also, Eli Larson (38-220 rushing, 5.3, 5 TDs) has lent a trio of TDs.
Greenville (1-1) at Iroquois (0-2)
A year ago Greenville got off an 0-2 snide by battering the Braves (43-14) as Isaac Sasala and Levi Swartz contributed to a 366-yard Greenville ground game with 30- and 14-yard scoring sprints.
Iroquois was shut out by Sharpsville (21-0) last week. Dante Carr (30-110, 3.7) and Antonio Rodriguez (24-110, 4.6) have been the Braves’ leading offensive threats.
Sharpsville (1-1) at Seneca (0-2)
Sharpsville has scored just 27 points and amassed less than 500 total yards. But the Blue Devils’ defense has yielded just 14 points and 323 yards, which does not bode well for the Bobcats. Seneca has been outscored 106-20 in setbacks to Corry and Harbor Creek.
Lakeview (0-2) at Conneaut, Ohio (1-0)
Conneaut crushed Ashtabula-Edgewood in last week’s lidlifter. Sparking the Spartans were Zack Rice (10 carries, 183 yards) and Seth Fedor (3 TDs). Tellus Andrews and Rylan Davison also hauled in scoring strikes. The Sailors have been outscored 79-9, but by a pair of 2-0 teams in Maplewood and West Middlesex.
Eisenhower (0-2) at Mercer (1-1)
Mercer’s 3-game season-opening home-stand ends with Eisenhower. After a season-opening win, the Mustangs were muzzled by Northwestern (28-0) a week ago. The Steads surrendered 304 total yards (226 rushing).
The Knights have been KO’d by West Middlesex (32-0) and Union City (42-13). QB Owen Trumbull (11 of 24, 136 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception) and receiver Dillon Benson (2 catches, 98 yards) are the offensive leaders.
Springfield Local at Brookfield (1-0)
Last week’s Warriors’ win (35-28) at McDonald snapped a skein of 4 season-opening setbacks. Brookfield bulldozer Tyler Briggs (127 yards) and quarterback Hayden Gibson garnered 10- and 5-yard 4th-frame runs – Briggs followed his with a 2-point PAT – as Coach Randy Clark’s club erased a 28-20 deficit. Gibson passed for 148 yards and a TD and ran for 49 yards and 2 TDs.