An interesting phenomenon takes place every offseason when two or more Mercer County-area football aficionados discuss upcoming prospects.
Ask a fan, opposing coach or media type: Who is expected to be included among the region’s better teams? Invariably, almost instinctively, “Wilmington” is one of the first responses to surface.
As Herald sports writer Rob Malsom noted in a preview story, since exiting the WPIAL and joining District 10 in 1994, veteran Terry Verrelli’s Greyhounds gridders have set a standard few programs can replicate. Wilmington has won 10 D-10 titles and the 2008 commonwealth crown.
Verrelli (264-110-3 in his 34th season at the Hounds’ helm) is on the verge of eclipsing the district’s career coaching victories mark.
So it surprised few last season when Wilmington — thought to be in somewhat of a retooling mode — handed eventual District 10 titlist Hickory its lone regular-season setback, 28-27 in New Wilmington. Ironically, Gen. McLane, which gave the Greyhounds the gate in the D-10 tourney semis, was handled by Hickory in the title tilt.
So tonight, it’s dejâ vu all over again: Hickory is ranked in the top 6 in Class AA by a pair of statewide polls, while Wilmington is flying under the radar.
Or is it?
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Hickory (1-0, 2-0) at Wilmington (0-1, 1-1)
Beginning in 2000, Wilmington handed Hickory 8 losses, including 5 straight (2004-08) by a composite 249-49 margin that included an infamous 69-28 stunner in ’05.
But with back-to-back 21-14 and 35-19 wins over Wilmington in ’08-09 it seemed Hickory had halted that hex ... until last season in New Wilmington.
Hickory had a 14-0 1st-quarter lead before the ’Hounds hammered home 4 consecutive scores for a seemingly safe 28-14 lead through 3 quarters. But Stingers’ signal-caller Michael Nardone tossed 2 fourth-frame touchdowns, and only a game-tying PAT attempt tipped by Tyler Donati secured Wilmington’s win. Earlier, Donati recovered a fumble in the end zone to help the Hounds’ comeback.
While the Greyhounds graduated numerous starters, Hickory has several standouts returning from its 2011 PIAA playoff team led by DeShawn Coleman. In last season’s setback Coleman cruised to a 15-carry, 210-yard rushing performance that included 60- and 86-yard scoring sprints (he also hauled in a 10-yard TD toss). He seems ideally suited to Greyhounds Stadium’s fast synthetic surface.
But as Malsom’s earlier article noted, Wilmington’s program doesn’t rebuild; it reloads.
The ’Hounds have a win over West Middlesex (13-10), last season’s D-10 Class A runnerup, and are coming off a Region 3-AA setback to defending AAA district titlist Grove City (19-7). While the Greyhounds’ ground game has generated 181.5 yards/game, the offense has produced only 99 yards passing in 2 tilts.
Conversely, in spite of the incomparable Coleman’s contributions, Hickory has a more balanced attack (218.5 yards/game rushing; 69.5 passing) with Matt Voytik orchestrating the offense in Nardone’s absence owing to a high ankle sprain. Voytik has completed more than half his pass attempts (14 of 27) with only 1 interception.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
Reynolds (1-0, 2-0) at Grove City (1-0, 2-0)
While Grove City also reloaded from last season’s District 10 championship, Reynolds is rebuilding. Led by head coach Jerry Pacifico, the program is seeking its first 3-0 start since ’05 — the most successful season in its annals.
Since that school standard 11-win season the Raiders have recorded just 5 wins during the last 4 years. But that ’05 season also coincides with Reynolds’ last victory over Grove City (19-12). The schools have not met on the gridiron since Grove City’s back-to-back wins in ’07 (12-6) and ’06 (33-0).
Pulling another page from the program’s past, Reynolds has relied on its run game en route to routs of Maplewood (44-0) and Titusville. Led by Kellen Gursky, Mike Millero and Austin Matthews the Raiders have rambled for 500 yards rushing, but have attempted only 5 passes without a completion.
Grove City’s graduation losses from an 11-win PIAA playoff club were significant, but Harold Price, Foster Reznor and Chad Williams have more than compensated, averaging 7.9, 5.0 and 7.3 yards/carry.
Farrell (1-0, 2-0) at West Middlesex (0-0, 1-1)
Teams mere miles apart, but coming from divergent directions from Week-2 wins.
After an emotional season-opening Steel Bowl win over Sharon, Farrell nearly fell in a trap game before conquering Kennedy Catholic (6-0). Meanwhile Middlesex manhandled Moniteau (27-8) by a 330-67 total yardsage edge, including a 218-17 margin on the ground as the Big Reds rebounded from that season-opening setback.
Luke Patten produced 132 yards rushing, including a 45-yard scoring sprint, and Trey Staunch scored 2 TDs rushing and passed for another 112 yards.
In the head-to-head rivalry Farrell has forged 5 consecutive wins, including last season (18-13). During Jarrett Samuels’ previous 4-season Steelers’ stint Farrell fashioned a 123-13 differential. Conversely, Middlesex mentor Jason McElhaney is seeking his initial success against the Steelers.
En route to the ’06 District 10 title and PIAA championship game berth, Middlesex outmuscled an undermanned Farrell squad (28-0) in West Middlesex.
The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch calling the action.
Conneaut Area (0-1, 1-1) at Sharpsville (1-0, 2-0)
Sharpsville vs. Linesville had evolved into one of D-10’s better long-range rivalries.
However Linesville has merged with Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Valley schools, and has met mixed results during the program’s inaugural season. The Eagles erupted during the 2nd half of a season-opening win at Girard (35-22), but lost last week to Lakeview (28-14).
The Eagles edged Lakeview, 299-276 in total yards, but were whipped at the line of scrimmage, 248-108, as Blake Reddick and Zach Bigley broke loose for 127 and 116 yards rushing, respectively.
Last week’s 7-point Blue Devils’ deficit at halftime to Mercer was wiped out as Sharpsville shut out the Mustangs during the 2nd half. Four different Devils scored.
Sharpsville’s stable of backs — Ross Llewellyn, Joey Pagliaroli, Derrick Odem and Bryan Stafford — are averaging between 4 and 10.2 yards/carry, and Stafford has completed 73.6 percent of his passes (14 of 19) without an interception for 257 yards and 2 TDs.
Brookfield (3-0) at Struthers (3-0)
Coach Curt Kuntz’s Wildcats have whipped Campbell Memorial (27-20), Cortland-Lakeview (32-14) and Field (28-14).
According to The (Warren) Tribune-Chronicle, running back David Stewart steers Struthers’ success. The 6-foot, 210-pounder posted respective 19-carry, 147-yard, 1-TD, 29-210, 3-TD, and 29-197, 2-TD rushing performances in the trio of triumphs. He also threw a 7-yard scoring strike to Vince Fandozzi in the latter.
Stewart had help in the season-opening Wildcats’ win as Gary Munteam tossed a 53-yard TD to Tommy Kimbrough, Tameko Holmes’ had a 20-yard scoring sprint, and Frankie Serrano secured a Pick-6 interception return.
Jeremy Quinlan is the area’s leading passer, Collin Harkulich the leading receiver, Ryan Mosora the 2nd-leading rusher, and Mosora, Quinlan and Joey Clark, with a dozen TDs between them, are the area’s 1st-, 2nd- and 4th-leading scorers. Coach Randy Clark’s Warriors are averaging a staggering area-best 55.4 points and 399.4 yards/game.
Titusville (0-1, 1-1) at Sharon (1-0, 1-1)
Titusville turned Tiger Stadium topsy-turvy a year ago with a 14-6 upset, shutting out Sharon during the 2nd half. But a 2nd straight Tigers’ triumph tonight could equal last season’s 2-win output.
Last week Sharon shut out Saegertown in building a 27-0 halftime bulge, ultimately amassing 441 total yards in a 40-13 mauling. Jesse Rodgers rifled 12 of 13 passes for 246 yards and a trio of TDs.
Titusville was toppled in Transfer last week, though the Rockets actually outgained resurgent Reynolds, 242-237. Titusville QB Jayce Corklin connected on 10 of 21 passes for 136 yards and also rushed for another 45.
Kennedy Catholic (0-1, 0-2) at Mercer (0-1, 1-1)
While KC could not score in last week’s Region 1-A opening loss at Farrell, Mercer was shut out at state-ranked Sharpsville during the 2nd half of a 28-14 setback.
Coach Pat McClearn’s Mustangs have manhandled the Golden Eagles in the programs’ last handful of meetings by an aggregate 218-21 margin, including 50-8 last season in the county seat.
Kennedy last claimed a win over Mercer in ’06 (31-7), the program’s last winning season when it won 7 games — 2 more than the last 5 seasons combined.
Lakeview (1-0, 2-0) at Franklin (0-2)
Sharpsville skipper Paul Piccirilli has gone on record saying Lakeview will be the team to beat in 2013, but Sailors’ skipper Dan York has his club ahead of schedule led by the area’s leading ground-gainer in Reddick.
It may be perhaps premature, but Reddick’s running may remind Lakeview’s long-time faithful of former Sailors’ speedster Deke Ison. Reddick roared into the D-10 record book with a 33-carry, 365-yard season-opening performance against Union City.
The Knights have lost 14 consecutive games spanning 2 seasons. However, a familiar Franklin face is Forrest Wested, formerly Farrell’s signal-caller. He has moved to wide-out for Franklin.
In last week’s loss to DuBois, Nights’ quarterback Kyle Ritchey rifled 12 of 22 attempts for 318 yards and a trio of TDs, with Wested hauling in a handful of receptions for 121 yards, including a 31-yard scoring strike. Defensively, he also picked off a pass.
However, Franklin was held to minus-9 yards rushing, according to Penny Weichel’s web site, and it was another in a record-setting series of setbacks.
According to Weichel’s web site, including losses to Titusville (41-27) and DuBois (61-21) — the Knights were nicked for 6 second-stanza TDs and trailed 55-0 at halftime — Franklin has yielded 50 or more points 11 times since ’09.
Though Sandy Lake/Stoneboro and Franklin are mere miles apart, this is the first time in the modern era the programs have met on the gridiron. According to available archives, Franklin faced Sandy Lake in 1932.
Greenville (0-1, 0-2) at Saegertown (0-1, 0-2)
Since a 1st-quarter 7-all stalemate in its season-opener at North East, the Trojans have trailed in setbacks to the Grapepickers (33-14) and Hickory (35-10). However injuries have depleted the depth of an underclassmen-laden lineup.
Both Jacob Riffe and Matt Jones has seen action under center thus far, but Greenville’s ground game, led by Tyler Fattman and Luke Houpt, has shown signs of returning the Trojans’ power-toss type ball control.
Both Cambridge Springs and Sharon have pounced on the Panthers — both had substantial success on the ground — so this could prove to be an opportunistic road trip for the Trojans. Also of note: Greenville commenced the 2011 campaign 0-2, before winning 4 of its final 7 regular-season games en route to a playoff berth.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.
An interesting phenomenon takes place every offseason when two or more Mercer County-area football aficionados discuss upcoming prospects.
Herald-Tamie junior tourney set Thursday-Friday
THEY SAY THAT “The best things in life are free.” Well, one of those “best things” is the annual Herald-Tam O’Shanter Junior Golf Championships every summer.
The event, which has been free to boys and girls in the Shenango Valley since it’s inception in 1949, will be held Thursday and Friday at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Hermitage.
It has been the premier youth tournament for decades and some of the top players ever to come out of this area have participated. But you don’t have to be a great young golfer to take part. It’s a wonderful opportunity for every youngster to get a free round of golf on a great course, which is in immaculate shape this season.
Hickory lists 2013 scholar-athlete award winners
Hickory High Athletic Director Barb Dzuricsko recently announced that a total of 213 students (grades 9-12) earned Don McKay Scholar-Athlete awards.
To be eligible, students must maintain an A (93 percent or higher) grade-point-average through the academic year’s third 9-week grading period and compete in a PIAA-sponsored sport.
A total of 375 students competed in athletics this past year, Dzuricsko noted, meaning almost 57 percent qualified for the McKay Scholar-Athlete Award. Since the award’s inception, this is the highest total number of students to earn the honors, she reported.
SCHOLASTIC NOTEBOOK: Hearns to continue golf career in college; Petty to be honored
RECENT HICKORY High alumna Rosy Hearns will continue her education and golf careers at the State University of New York-Albany. Hickory links coach Craig Antush said Hearns recently signed a letter-of-intent.
Hearns’ Hickory career concluded as one of the finest on the links — male or female — in Mercer County annals.
Bowlers compete in Senior Games
The bowling portion of the annual Mercer County Senior Games was held Wednesday at Grove City Bowlodrome. That followed horseshoes and shuffleboard competitions earlier in the week.
Following is the rest of the schedule:
COLLEGIATE NOTEBOOK: Ex-Hickory great Richards has great spring track season
FORMER HICKORY HIGH standout Morgan Richards enjoyed a successful spring season for the University of North Carolina-Charlotte track & field team. The female 49ters won the Atlantic 10 Conference outdoor track & field team title.
“Morgan kept her stride as she transitioned into the outdoor season, running top times in several events among (Atlantic 10) freshmen and on Charlotte’s all-time top 10 lists,” assistant coch Edwin T. Schlichter wrote in a recent e-mail to The Herald. “Morgan finished just one spot (9th) out of scoring at the 2013 A-10 Championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase, despite this being her first year ever attempting the event, and running 11:02.22 which was 2nd among all freshmen in the A-10 and 5th all-time for UNC-Charlotte.”
SPORTVIEW: Hickory tri-athletes deserve special recognition
EVERY YEAR we receive a photo from the Hermitage School District of a group of student-athletes that I am thrilled to receive and run in the paper.
The photo is of Hickory High School “tri-athletes,” boys and girls who participate in sports during each of the fall, winter and spring seasons. But there is more to it than that. Each of these athletes also must maintain an 85 percent B average during the first three 9-week grading periods of the year.
TIDBITS: Scurpas make college choices; Matthews, Norris, Bonner part of great Clarion recruiting class; Lewis earns national medal
SHARPSVILLE HIGH volleyball standouts Kristen and Paige Scurpa, who are cousins, will continue their education and athletic careers at California University of Pa. and Penn State-Behrend, respectively.
The duo, both of whom were named to the All-State team in Class A by the Pa. Volleyball Coaches Association, led the Blue Darlings to the District 10 title game in November. Sharpsville, Region 1 champs the past 4 years, suffered a 3-1 loss to Cochranton in that match and finished the season 16-4.
Sharpsville falls in D-10 title game
SLIPPERY ROCK — Monday was a pretty good day for Saegertown High School.
Just mere hours after the Lady Panthers won the District 10 Class A softball championship, the Saegertown baseball team (19-2) captured its third straight D-10 Class AA title with a convincing 10-3 victory over Sharpsville (15-6) at Slippery Rock University’s Jack Critchfield Park.
“We knew going into the game that Saegertown’s a pretty good team and they’ve been a pretty good team for the past few years,” Blue Devils coach Mike Sikorski said. “I think they’ve been in the District 10 Championship the past four years. They’re a solid team, a very good team. They’re very patient at the plate and when they get their pitches, they hit them.”
STATE TRACK NOTEBOOK: WM seniors leave legacy of greatness
WEST MIDDLESEX High always has had a proud athletic heritage, and this past weekend’s PIAA Class AA Track & Field championship will only add lustre to that legacy.
According to available archives at The Herald, only the 1954 boys’ basketball team and Coach Bob Morris’ boys’ cross country team from earlier this decade previously had won commonwealth crowns.
Allen wins 4 gold medals to lead WM to PIAA team title
SHIPPENSBURG — Clay Allen said he had to explode out of the starting blocks for his 100-meter dash showdown with Hickory’s DeShawn Coleman. But Allen — all afternoon — was getting the jump on his competitors during the annual PIAA Track & Field Championships.
By approximately 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Shippensburg University, Allen annexed 4 gold medals — 100- and 200-meter dashes, long jump, and as part of the sprint-relay. The workload West Middlesex High’s senior exhibited enabled the Big Reds to record the Class AA commonwealth crown.
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