MERCER – As with many of his scholastic football coaching brethren, West Middlesex mentor Mark Means is not given to presumption.
The Big Reds rolled over Mercer, 31-0, in Friday night’s regular-season finale. Almost simultaneously in the post-game celebration at midfield Middlesex learned Union City had defeated Iroquois, 26-20. With the Erie County Braves bowing, it should solidify a Big Reds’ playoff berth.
“Well ... I hope so,” Means haltingly responded when asked if Middlesex merits District 10 Class 1A postseason status. “We’re gonna wait until (the D-10 committee) picks it. I know we put ourselves in a good position (Friday) night to, hopefully, sway that vote, with the shutout (Friday) night of a good football team. And with Union City winnin’, I think it puts us in a good position to be in the playoffs.
“But we’re gonna wait to find out (D-10’s committee meets Sunday). I’m not one of those to say, ‘Yeah, we earned it, and this and that,” Means emphasized, though he added, “The kids earned it (Friday), I thought. A hundred percent.”
Ty Tate tallied 2 TDs and tossed a 3rd for West Middlesex (4-2 Region 1, 4-2 overall), which swept the regular-season home-and-home series against Mercer. Tate rushed for 67 yards, including a 20-yard 2nd-stanza scoring sprint, and added a 3rd-period 1-yard plunge. Also, on a 4th-and-6 play with 27 ticks to play in the 1st half he tossed a 20-yard TD to Colby Johnson, moving Middlesex’s margin to 21-0 at intermission.
A slender senior signal-caller, Tate’s 17 attempts resulted in 10 completions for 131 of West Middlesex 369 total yards.
“Ty came in and he did well,” Means praised. “Throwin’ the football, just orchestrating the offense. We had good drives, chewed up a lot of clock, and really no turnovers and (2) penalties. You can’t get any better than that. That’s what we’ve been lookin’ for on offense ALL YEAR LONG, and they’re comin’ around at the right time.”
The Big Reds rushed for 238 yards, led by Tate, Ian Smith (63) and Johnson and Alex Rea (41 apiece). Also, Chris Smith snared a handful of Tate’s aerials for 71 yards, and Eli Asche added 4 PATs and a 28-yard field goal.
The Big Reds’ lone losses this season occurred to Reynolds (27-20, 36-14), and Means observed, “We put ourselves in that position. We lost twice to Reynolds, so the kids are fightin’ hard and they’re fightin’ back. So let’s hope so on Sunday ... “
Despite the twin-killing suffered to Reynolds, however, Means emphasized that the Big Reds would relish another opportunity to match up with the rugged Raiders, who conclude their campaign at 1 p.m. this afternoon against winless Kennedy Catholic at Butala Stadium in Hermitage.
“Absolutely! Absolutely. Hopefully, the third time would be a charm for us,” Means mused. “We had ‘em in the fourth quarter both times. Last time it was twenty-two to fourteen goin’ into the fourth quarter ... and the first one was, pretty much, the same way – twenty-one to twenty with two minutes and somethin’ left in that game ‘cause we missed an extra-point.
“So, yeah. We took ‘em to the fourth quarter both times. I think that should say a lot that we can contend and compete with Reynolds,” Means continued. “They’ve got a great program, great coaching staff, just a great ball club. But I think that I would like to see that rematch.”
For Mercer (2-4, 2-4), seniors Aiden Bright, Ryan Winner and Austin Carothers will be missed by Mustangs’ mentor Jeff Lockard, who praised,
“I couldn’t ask for three better seniors to have in my program than those three that I have. Those three seniors, I just can’t say enough. They stuck it out, they’ve helped our young kids come along, and I think that’s big for them – that’s the goal. I’m gonna miss all three of them. All three of them, I’m gonna miss.”
Notes: Big Reds recording sacks included Nick Kobielus and Kaleb Turcotte. A 6-foot, 230-pound senior, Kobielus carried twice for 14 yards in the waning minutes. Also, Rea pilfered a pass. ... Mercer’s Jesse Watkins and Tristan Barr logged QB sacks, while quarterback Ethan Wiley collaborated with Bright on 4 passes for a game-high 90 yards.
MIDDLESEX 7 14 7 3 31
MERCER 0 0 0 0 0
WM — Rea, 2 run (Asche kick)
WM — Tate, 20 run (Asche kick)
WM — Johnson, 20 pass from Tate (Asche kick)
WM — Tate, 1 run (Asche kick)
WM — Asche, 28 field goal
22 First downs 6
238 Rushing yards 39
131 Passing yards 150
18-10-0 Att-comp-int 18-6-1
369 Total yards 189
1-0 Fumbles-lost 1-0
2-19 Penalties-yards lost 3-15
Rushing: WEST MIDDLESEX — Tate 11-67, I.Smith 12-63, Johnson 9-41, Rea 6-41, Kobielus 2-14, Snyder 4-12, Team 2-0; MERCER — Bright 12-41, Swartz 2-1, Haines 2-1, Wiley 7-(-4).
Passing: WEST MIDDLESEX — Tate 17-10-0, 131, Team 1-0-0-0; MERCER — Wiley 18-6-1, 150.
Receiving: WEST MIDDLESEX — C.Smith 5-71, Johnson 3-39, Rea 1-14, Lowe 1-7; MERCER — Bright 4-90, Pugh 1-36, Haines 1-24.