NEW WILMINGTON – If your scholastic football team wants to win like Wilmington, seemingly year after year, Weston Phanco furnishes a succinct scheme:
“We were vicious and violent, humble and hungry,” summarized Phanco, following Wilmington’s 12th consecutive season-opening win, 26-14 over Sharon Friday night at Greyhounds Stadium.
Phanco – the lone returning regular along the offensive line – helped the ‘Hounds dominate the line of scrimmage. The Greyhounds’ ground game garnered 290 yards, as Ethan Susen and Darren Miller mustered 126 and 123, respectively, including 28- and 49-yard 1st-half scoring sprints. Additionally, Susen’s 70-yarder in the 2nd stanza was negated by a penalty.
“ ... Wilmington is always the premier team, up front in the trenches, in the (Shenango) Valley,” 1st-year Tigers’ taskmaster Jason McElhaney praised.
Caelen Bender bulled in for a pair of 2nd-half 1-yard plunges, the latter after Sharon surged within 19-14 with 7:21 remaining on Lane Voytik’s 4th-down, 6-yard TD toss to Trey Jones.
Wilmington advanced to the 2018 PIAA Class 2A championship game, but the Greyhounds’ graduation losses were significant. However, as with Reynolds wrestling, Kennedy Catholic basketball, and Hickory High track & field, Wilmington’s football program – cliche as it sounds – does not re-build, but re-loads.
“We talked about replacing five out of six on that offensive line, (but) the one guy we didn’t have to replace is Weston Phanco,” Greyhounds’ Head Coach Brandon Phillian began. “Weston Phanco’s a big-time offensive lineman. There’s no doubt about it, he’s the rock of that offensive line, and when push comes to shove, he’s the guy that we want to get our running backs behind.
“The guys (assistant coaches) in the headsets kept tellin’ me, ‘Weston’s doin’ a great job tonight,’ and he certainly didn’t disappoint us as a returning starter up front,” Phillian added, also praising O-line Coach Dave Welch and another assistant, Sean McConahy.
Marcus Tokar, Jon Takash, Connor Vass-Gal, Morgan Whiting, and Jake Chimiak, along with tight end Junior McConahy, joined Phanco up front.
“There’s no doubt about it, the key (Friday) night was the offensive line,” Phillian said. “I thought they were physical from the word ‘Go’ and they were just aggressive and physical all night long. ... You know the name Ethan Susen, but who’s a guy (the media) should keep their eyes out for? That’s Darren Miller, and Darren Miller came up in a big way.
“The thing to me that’s so special about Ethan and Darren is, they run hard, of course, but what to me makes them so special is when their number’s not called, they block for one another, they carry out their fakes, they’re total team players. That’s what makes me so proud about guys like Darren Miller,” Phillian added.
“The offensive line did really well. We worked together, we pushed the ball, we got on our blocks. We were humble and hungry, we were vicious and violent on the line,” Phanco explained. “There’s no pressure on me. We are all together; we’re a brotherhood on this team. I do have to lead them, but I feel like they know what they’re doing. They’re steppin’ up really well.”
With former Greyhounds’ great Cam Marett on hand to congratulate Phillian, Miller remarked, “ ... Cam Marett ... I remember last year against Steel Valley, he just looked like the toughest running back I’d ever seen. He kept takin’ hits and just got up again and again. From all those guys you just learn that you’ve got to keep fightin’ throughout the game, never give up, and play to win.”
Though struggling at times on offense – 17 yards rushing, while Voytik completed just 15 of 34 pass attempts for 162 yards before exiting with what appeared to be a sprained left ankle – Sharon seemed one play from getting the Greyhounds.
The Tigers trailed 13-0, but capped an 8-play, 75-yard drive with C.J. Parchman producing a score via a double-reverse. Jake Auchter’s conversion kick drew Sharon within 13-7 at intermission.
“We kept competin’ and I liked that. I thought we had a chance to get off the field down there at the end in a one-score game; we just didn’t capitalize,” McElhaney lamented. “We had the turnover down deep that we didn’t convert in the first half (Noah Weese’s recovery of Bender’s fumble at Wilmington’s 39-yard line) ... our defense kind’ve righted itself after a little bit, got a couple turnovers. We needed to capitalize on that.
“I thought we left two touchdowns on the field in the first half. But, you know, that’s first-game stuff, and we’re gonna work on those things and we’re gonna get better,” McElhaney promised.
Meanwhile, the goal for the Greyhounds?
“Go as far as we can ... see what happens,” Miller mused.
Note: During the past 11 years the ‘Hounds hammered Sharon (42-12 in 2018; 21-7 in 2017; 30-13 in 2016); Grove City (38-28 in 2015 and 28-18 in 2014); West Middlesex (28-10 in 2013 and 13-10 in 2012); Slippery Rock (36-14 in 2011 and 40-12 in 2010), and Brentwood (43-0 in 2009 and 42-7 in 2008). Wilmington’s last loss on opening night occurred in 2007 at Ford City (24-0). Ironically, following that setback those Greyhounds garnered 13 consecutive wins before bowing to Terrelle Pryor-led Jeannette (41-21) in the PIAA Class AA western regional finale.
SHARON 0 7 0 7 14
WILMINGTON 7 6 6 7 26
W — Susen, 28 run (Winters kick)
W — Miller, 49 run (kick failed)
S — Parchman, 13 run (Auchter kick)
W — Bender, 1 run (run failed)
S — Jones, 6 pass from Voytik (Auchter kick)
W — Bender, 1 run (Hartwell kick)
10 First downs 19
17 Rushing yards 290
162 Passing yards 0
36-15-0 Att-comp-int 2-0-0
179 Total yards 290
4-1 Fumbles-lost 3-2
5-27 1/2 Penalties-yards lost 5-50
Rushing: SHARON — Parchman 3-31; Voytik 7-4; Ortiz 4-3; Richardson 3-(-6); Team 1-(-15). WILMINGTON — Susen 17-126; Miller 16-123; Bender 14-22; Edwards 4-19.
Passing: SHARON — Voytik 34-15-0; Salsgiver 2-0-0; WILMINGTON — Bender 2-0-0.
Receiving: SHARON — Jones 4-56; Eilam 4-43; Parchman 4-28; Ortiz 2-18; Smith-Austin 1-28.