By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
ERIE — The Sharpsville Blue Devils had never won an overtime game in four previous tries. They picked a good time to break that streak.
The Devils scored a thrilling double-overtime 20-17 win over previously unbeaten Mercyhurst Prep Friday night at McDowell High stadium in the District 10 Class A semifinals to earn a finals berth next weekend against league rival West Middlesex at a site to be determined.
“We had never won in overtime,” said an excited coach Paul Piccirilli in between hugs from well-wishers shortly after the final whistle. “I was a little worried going in. But it sure feels good now.”
Trailing 7-0 at halftime, the Blue Devils dominated the second half and tied up the game in the fourth quarter to set up extra periods where each team gets a set of four plays to score starting at the 10-yard line.
In the first overtime, Sharpsville went on offense and senior running back Aaron Reddix carried for 8 and 2 yards to put the Devils on top. Summers booted the point after for a 14-7 lead. But gutsy Mercyhurst, which had only 1 first down and 20 total yards in the whole second half, bounced back to score on an 8-yard, 4th-down pass from Craig Baniszewski to Jayson Nickson. Ryan Cammidge booted the PAT to deadlock the count at 14.
In the second OT, Mercyhurst had possession first and had to settle for a 24-yard Cammidge field goal. Sharpsville then handed the ball to Reddix three straight times to move within a few inches of paydirt. Summers carried on a quarterback sneak for the win.
“That first half we were trying some different things and kept making mistakes,” said Piccirilli. “At halftime, Coach (Len) Grandy said, ‘We’re going to run what works best for us. It’s up to you seniors.’ ”
What “works best” for Sharpsville is running behind the outstanding line of Ryan Siege, Jared Grandy, Phillip Catrucco, Mike Kudelko, Andy Holsopple and Aaron Biro. So the second half belonged to the Blue Devils.
They took the second half kickoff and marched downfield, but a 7-minute drive was stopped at the 6-yard line as a Jarryd Summers pass fell incomplete.
After an exchange of punts, Sharpsville got the ball back to start the fourth quarter at their own 43. This time they weren’t to be denied. The Devils put together a 14-play drive that ended when Summers scored on a fourth-down sneak that set the tone for the later game-winner. He also booted the point after to tie the score with 4:33 left and set up the overtime frames.
The first half was a defensive struggle as penalties and fumbles broke momentum for both squads. There were 11 total flags thrown.
Near the end of the first quarter, however, Sharpsville had a good scoring chance after quarterback Summers hooked up with wide receiver Josh Taylor on a 39-yard aerial to the Mercyhurst 31-yard line. The drive ended, however, when Summers just missed a 40-yard field goal.
The second quarter was more of the first as neither team could mount a sustained drive. But the Lakers made their own break when a Summers punt was blocked by Andy Napierkowski and recovered by teammate Nick Arrigo at the Sharpsville 32.
Mercyhurst lost four yards on a first down run, but on the next play quarterback Craig Baniszewski fired a strike to wide receiver Arrigo at the 15 and Arrigo raced untouched into the end zone. Ryan Cammidge booted the point after for 7-0 lead with 1:22 remaining before intermission.
“If we would come out and play the first half like we play in the third quarter, I’d be happier,” said Piccirilli. “But these guys always give me 100 percent. Every bit of talent they have, they give you. We have 11 goods kids who work their butt off.”
And you can bet they’re happy to work it off for at least another week.
Notes: Reddix finished with 109 yards on 23 carries. … Joe Joseph had a superb game at linebacker … Jared Grandy recovered a fumble.
SHARPS 0 0 0 7 7 6 20
M.PREP 0 7 0 0 7 3 17
MP — Arrigo, 36 pass from Baniszewski (Cammidge kick)
S — Summers, 1 run (Summers kick)
S — Reddix, 2 run (Summers kick)
MP — Nickson, 8 pass from Baniszewski (Cammidge kick)
MP — Cammidge 24 FG
S — Summers, 1 run
12 First downs 8
196 Rushing yards 112
62 Passing yards 84
12-4-0 Att-comp-int 10-3-0
258 Total yards 196
1-0 Fumbles-lost 2-1
10-65 Penalties-yards lost 6-40
Rushing: SHARPSVILLE — Reddix 23-109, Siege 13-45, Summers 7-27, Taylor 3-8, Joseph 2-7; MERCYHURST PREP — Nickson 16-46, O’Leary 10-45, Kinnear 7-36, Baniszewski 2-(-15).
Passing: SHARPSVILLE — Summers 12-4-0-62; MERCYHURST PREP — Baniszewski 10-3-0-84.
Receiving: SHARPSVILLE — Taylor 2-51, Reddix 2-11; MERCYHURST PREP — Arrigo 2-50, Kinnear 1-26, Nickson 1-8.
By Lynn Saternow