The cyclical nature of sport has been borne out right here in rural Mercer County,
In the mid-1990’s a pair of proud programs 3-peated at the PIAA pinnacle in Class A football, turning Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium into area fans’ personal playground.
Led by legendary Lou Falconi, Farrell forged back-to-back commonwealth crowns (’95-96), while Paul Piccirilli skippered Sharpsville to its ’97 Cinderella season. Revisionist historians’ lone regret is that Fort Cherry short-circuited the Steelers’ eagerly anticipated collision course with the Blue Devils for that ’97 season’s western regional crown.
Fast-forward a decade-and-a-half and Farrell and Sharpsville returned to similar status. However, while kingpin Clairton has conquered the Keystone State’s Class A landscape — winning 51 consecutive contests — only the Bears’ roadblock has prevented Farrell and Sharpsville from duplicating those prior successes. In the last 4 seasons both were stopped a step shy of advancing to the statewide stage.
Tonight at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium, one of the Shenango Valley’s better recent Region 1-A rivalries will be renewed.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Sharpsville (3-0, 4-0) at Farrell (1-1, 3-1)
Last week the Steelers and Blue Devils dominated Redbank Valley and Kennedy Catholic, respectively. But blowout wins may not be an accurate barometer.
Two weeks ago Farrell was manhandled by West Middlesex. Meanwhile, Sharpsville has suffered a series of injuries. Reportedly, both Joey Flynn and Greg Popatak are sidelined for the balance of the season. But Sharpsville showed in last week’s win it may have have — barring further injuries — enough depth, coupled with the Blue Devils’ defense, to compensate.
Coach Jarrett Samuels’ return to the Steelers’ sideline has seen some success, sandwiching 4 quarters of underachieving. The best-case scenario for Farrell would be to revisit its opening-night Steel Bowl showing.
A year ago en route to its Final Four berth, Sharpsville spanked the Steelers twice in a 4-week span (36-8 and 36-0 — the latter in the District 10 semifinals). That snapped the 4-year Samuels/Steelers’ stranglehold on the series (26-21; 12-7; 34-7 in the ’09 D-10 title tilt; 49-14 and 21-15).
Grove City (2-1, 3-1) at Greenville (2-1, 2-2)
After an 0-2 start, the Trojans have tallied twin triumphs — though Saegertown and Sharon own just 1 win between them — while the Eagles endured their initial loss last week at Hickory.
Both clubs have been banged up in the early going, which may have contributed to Greenville’s slow start and Grove City’s lone loss. Eagles’ running back Harold Price (sprained knee) sat out last week, while tackle Shaun Smoker suffered an injury (hamstring) against Hickory.
“We’ve just gotta get some kids healthy ... I don’t know who we’re gonna have (this) week, but we’ll have eleven kids out there and they’ll battle,” related Grove City head coach Jeff Bell, who made numerous alterations along his O-line.
In one of Mercer County’s longest-standing rivalries, Grove City has garnered back-to-back 48-7 and 48-0 wins the last 2 years, while the Trojans took the ’09 (38-7) and ’08 (13-7) tilts.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN 96.7 (WLLF FM), with Ryan Briggs and Chris Burtch calling the action.
Kennedy Catholic (1-2, 1-3) at Lakeview (2-0, 3-1)
During last week’s homecoming loss, Kennedy could not contain Sharpsville’s run game, which may not bode well for the Golden Eagles’ defense.
Lakeview is led by the area’s leading ground-gainer, Blake Reddick, and his Sailors’ shipmates Zach Bigley and Zach VanDusen. During last season’s Sailors’ success at KC’s expense, Reddick raced to a 30-carry, 266-yard, 3-TD performance and Bigley broke loose for another 67 yards rushing and also tossed a TD to VanDusen.
If KC can keep quarterback Brennan Wassil upright — he twice was KO’d from last week’s setback to Sharpsville — and his big right arm has time to utilize Jeffrey Thompkins’ athleticism, the Golden Eagles could enjoy some hard-earned success.
However the Sailors have shut out Kennedy the last 4 seasons by a composite 179-0 margin. The Golden Eagles edged Lakeview (25-18) in ’06.
West Middlesex (2-0, 3-1) at Mercer (0-3, 1-3)
Middlesex’s momentum has been building, and the tipping point may have been last season’s District 10 semifinals. That night the Big Reds avenged a 42-6 regular-season setback to the Steeds by outmuscling Mercer in the rematch (44-34).
Since a season-opening setback at perennial power New Wilmington, the Big Reds have roared to wins over Moniteau, Farrell and Conneaut Area by an aggregate 97-21 margin on Trey Staunch’s arm, Luke Patten’s legs and a humungous line.
Middlesex is honorably mentioned in both of this week’s statewide polls.
Mercer, meanwhile, is in the midst of a 3-game malaise, as the Mustangs have been outscored 74-40 by Sharpsville, Kennedy Catholic and Lakeview. And unless they can effect a turnabout, the Mustangs’ skein of a 6th straight postseason berth for mentor Pat McClearn will be jeopardized.
Saegertown (0-3, 0-4) at Wilmington (2-1, 3-1)
The Greyhounds hurdled into the top 10 in this week’s Patriot-News poll (no love, yet, from Pennsylvania Football News). Conversely, the Panthers have posted 31 points all season. However Greyhounds’ headmaster Terry Verrelli has never been one to embarass an opponent.
Wilmington won at Titusville’s Carter Field, 32-7, last week, and Verrelli told The (New Castle) News, “ ... It’s not easy to come back the next week and play at the top of your game. After beating Hickory, you think you’re better than anybody then. That isn’t the case at all, I told (the Hounds) that we’re only as good as the way we play in the next game. I think we got through to them. You have to be patient. You can’t expect to run over (the opponent) to start. That’s why the game is four quarters. They came through and that was key."
According to The News, Cody Llewellyn lent a 5-for-5, 153-yard, 2-TD passing performance (Alex Patton, Doonie Watson) to Tyler Donati’s trio of rushing TDs, including a 68-yard scoring sprint.
Hickory (2-1, 3-1) at Titusville (1-2, 2-2)
The Hornets harvested one of 3rd-year coach Bill Brest’s benchmark wins last week over state-rated Grove City (41-13), a big bounce-back from Week 3 in New Wilmington.
DeShawn Coleman served notice — as if it already was not common knowledge — that he can score from anywhere on the field. Witness his 92-yard, 1st half-concluding interception return.
The Rockets’ resurgence from an 0-10 2010 season continues. Titusville tallied a trio of triumphs last year, and has split its 1st 4 games thus far this season. However the Rockets were routed (32-7) last week by Wilmington, and Titusville taskmaster Scott Salvo told The (Titusville) Herald,
“(If) you take away three big plays in that first half, it might be a totally different ball game. ... It’’s should have, would have, could have, I know, but I think we could have hung with this team. ... This (wa)s week four now that we’ve made the same types of errors.We've got to to something. Something has got to be done to fix those errors.”
Jayce Corklin quarterbacks the Rockets, who were toppled in Transfer by Reynolds, but rallied past Sharon.
Reynolds (2-1, 3-1) at Sharon (1-2, 1-3)
Last week the Raiders rolled to their 3rd win, exceeding 2-win totals of each of the past pair of seasons. Dating back to 2011 Reynolds has won 4 of its last 5 games.
The Raiders are off to the program’s best start to a season since ’05, when that club captured its 1st 5 games and set a single-season standard with 11 victories.
Sharon routed Reynolds (35-14) last year in Transfer, continuing a recent trend (50-7, 63-6, 41-0, 55-6, 27-12, 26-12). Reynolds’ last success against Sharon occurred in ’04 (6-0).
But tonight’s tilt at Tiger Stadium starts a suffocating skein for Sharon, which will meet Hickory, West Middlesex, Wilmington, Grove City and Sharpsville, who are a combined 16-4.
The game will be broadcast on NewsTalk 790 (WPIC AM), with Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg calling the action.
Brookfield (5-0) at Western Reserve (2-3)
At the midway mark, the Warriors were ranked among the OHSAA’s elite, including the top of the Division IV, Region 13 rankings, as well as a top-20 berth — including all divisions — in the Buckeye State.
Coach Randy Clark’s contingent has copped 14 of its last 15 regular-season contests, last losing at Niles in Week 6 a year ago (13-9).
Aside from a slow start at Struthers 2 weeks ago — the lone occasion in which the Warriors have trailed this season — Brookfield has bullied 5 foes by an aggregate 227-52 scoring margin, while outgaining opponents 401 to 163.6.
Western Reserve outlasted Leetonia (35-14) last week, as Nick Allison connected on half of his 16 pass attempts for 170 yards and 2 TD tosses, according to The (Warren) Tribune-Chronicle.
Western Reserve suffered back-to-back season-opening setbacks to Cuyahoga Heights (31-21) and Malvern (20-3), bounced back to belt East Palestine (27-12), but was outscored by Vienna-Mathews (39-32).
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed research for this preview.
The cyclical nature of sport has been borne out right here in rural Mercer County,
Playoffs: GC, Hounds win; Reynolds, Sharpsville softball advance
The District 10 playoffs kicked off on Tuesday for 4 area baseball teams and 5 softball squads.
In Class A softball, Reynolds edged West Middlesex, 5-4, in an 8-inning thriller while Sharpsville ousted Rocky Grove, 5-0. In Class AA, Northwestern beat Wilmington, 9-5, and Harbor Creek defeated Mercer, 4-3.
Hickory boys edge WM for D-10 Class AA Track team title
HARBORCREEK — Hickory High co-head coach Mark Slezak referenced the term “exponential” in explaining the four-fold heart-felt feeling of having a relay team qualify for the PIAA Championships.
That sentiment seemed to summarize Mercer County’s performance during Saturday’s annual District 10 Class AA Track & Field Championships.
5 area teams qualify for D-10 baseball playoffs
Five area baseball teams have qualified for the District 10 playoffs — Grove City, Kennedy Catholic, Sharpsville, West Middlesex and Wilmington.
In the Class A semifinals, Kennedy Catholic faces Cochranton at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Northwestern High School. Rocky Grove faces Eisenhower in the other semifinal game.
Hickory, WM boys to collide at D-10 AA Track & Field Championships
For the 2nd time this week, a District 10 track & field team title could be decided by a pair of Mercer County contingents.
Just as Hickory and Grove City girls contested the Class AAA crown Wednesday night, so, too, are the Hickory and West Middlesex boys anticipating vying for Saturday’s AA title.
Roundup: Reynolds baseball tops GC; Sharpsville, Wilmington softball teams win
ä Reynolds 4, Grove City 1 — At Transfer, Neal Engstrom fired a complete-game 3-hitter with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks in lifting the Raiders (9-8) past the Eagles (14-6).
Ryan Grace was tagged with the loss for Grove City. He struck out 6 batters, issued no walks and gave up 7 hits in going the distance.
GC girls 3-peat at District 10 Class AAA Track & Field Championships
HARBORCREEK— Some athletes seeded 1st in four events would feel pressure. For Grove City High senior Daniel Jaskowak, it’s an opportunity for name recognition.
“I kind’ve like it. It’s cool, because people know who you are,” related Jaskowak, who won 3 events during Wednesday’s District 10 Class AAA Track & Field Championships.
Hickory, GC girls collide at D-10 Class AAA Track & Field Championships
If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Cliché though that is, it will be borne out today at the annual District 10 Class AAA Track & Field Championships.
Hickory High girls — the defending PIAA Class AA titlists — will test the best from the biggest. And the Lady Hornets hope to give as good as they get from the 6-county competition.
Local tune up for districts at Mercer County Invite
There’s a difference between a warm-up and a warning.
If Saturday’s annual track & field invitational is any indication, Mercer County’s contingent issued a warning for the remainder of District 10: This could be a big year in area annals.
Roundup: Grace, GC beat Sharon, 4-0, in 5 innings
With an impending storm blowing in above Johnny Pepe Field time was limited, so Ryan Grace greedily gobbled up putouts.
Grove City High’s Grace gave up only 3 base hits, and the visiting Eagles eased to an abbreviated 4-0, 5-inning win over Sharon Friday afternoon.
HIGH SCHOOL SPRING SPORTS ROUNDUP: County track meet set Saturday at Hickory
The annual Mercer County Track & Field Invitational will be held at Hickory High’s Hornet Stadium Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m.
Competing are all Mercer County teams, Class AAA and AA, as well as Slippery Rock. The meet serves as a warm-up to the District 10 championships set next week at Harbor Creek High.
- More Sports Headlines
- Playoffs: GC, Hounds win; Reynolds, Sharpsville softball advance