ProfessorBriggs.com Mercer County H.S. Football Week Four Previews:
Written by: Billy Splain on Thursday, September 12th, 2019
(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs’ archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK FOUR FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Coming off a Week Three in which no local teams played each other nor region opponents, Week Four provides a welcome change as 11 of the 12 teams will play region games. Five of this week’s seven games are all-local meetings. Hickory visits Conneaut, which borders Mercer County.
Grove City, the odd team out this week in five-team Region 5 Class 3A, will visit Brashear in non-conference play. The Eagles will open conference play next week. All seven games involving local teams are Friday night.
West Middlesex at Farrell, 7:00 p.m.
It’s a rematch of the 2016 and 2018 District 10 Class 1A title games Friday night as Farrell hosts West Middlesex in both teams’ Region 1 Class 1A lidlifter. While West Middlesex (2-1) has the better record, Farrell (1-2) is the team coming off of a home victory last week as the Steelers blanked Union City, 35-0. West Middlesex, meanwhile, dropped a 39-12 decision to visiting Maplewood.
Senior quarterback Ray Raver made his first start for Farrell and went 6 of 9 for 70 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 35 yards. Jaden Harrison paced Farrell’s ground game with 104 yards and two touchdowns while Anthony Stallworth added 57 rushing yards. Farrell finished with 245 rushing yards.
Brice Butler caught four passes for 58 yards while Brian Hilton pulled in a touchdown catch. Defensively, Farrell limited Union City to 100 total yards.
Stallworth ranks fourth in the county with 294 rushing yards while Harrison leads the county in yards per carry (13.7). Harrison has 164 yards this season, along with a team-high 10 receptions.
Farrell has committed a county-high six turnovers this year. West Middlesex is tied for 11th locally in turnover margin (minus-3) and takeaways (2) this year, however.
West Middlesex owned the county’s top-ranked defense through the first two weeks of the season but Maplewood accumulated 424 total yards in last week’s win over the Big Reds. West Middlesex allowed 323 rushing yards.
Still, the Big Reds rank third locally in total defense, yielding 191.0 yards per game. West Middlesex is one of two local teams (Grove City) to not allow a touchdown pass.
West Middlesex also features the area’s top rushing attack as the Big Reds average 270.0 yards per game. The Big Reds also lead the county with 139 rushing attempts as a team. Fullback Zeb Rubaker leads the way with 228 rushing yards and wingback Jason Davis has 224 yards. Ian Smith rushed for a team-high 71 yards against Maplewood and now has 182 yards on the season.
Rubaker and Davis are ninth and 10th, respectively, on the county’s rushing leaderboard.
Versatile junior Alex Rea caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ty Tate last week. Rea has played both wide receiver and wingback this year. Rea also has an 85-yard kickoff return at Lakeview on his ledger this season.
The teams have split their last 12 meetings. Farrell has won the last five games, however. Farrell won the regular season meeting last season, 40-0, and then picked up a 50-6 win in the District 10 title game. Farrell outgained West Middlesex, 471-50, in the title game victory.
West Middlesex is the last team to defeat Farrell in league play. The Big Reds pulled out a 21-14 home win September 16, 2016. Farrell avenged that defeat with a 22-12 win over West Middlesex in the D-10 title game. Farrell’s last home loss in a league game came October 23, 2015, when Sharpsville picked up a 26-8 win at Paulekas Stadium. Farrell bounced back to defeat Sharpsville in the D-10 Class A title game that year with a 26-20 overtime win.
Mercer at Reynolds, 7:00 p.m.
Off to its best start in 14 years, undefeated Reynolds concludes a season-opening four-game homestand by hosting Mercer (2-1) in the Region 1 Class 1A opener for each team.
Reynolds owns the county’s most explosive offense through the first three weeks of the season as the Raiders lead the area in scoring average (42.3) and total yards per game (411.7). The Raiders also average a county-best 9.0 yards per play.
While punishing rushing attacks have been synonymous with the Reynolds football program since the 1960s, the Reynolds passing game has emerged in 2019. Senior quarterback Bryce McCloskey has completed 24 of 30 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns. He owns a 245.8 passer rating and leads the county in completion percentage (80.0) and yards per attempt (14.5).
Senior wide receiver Marketis Stevens leads the county with 226 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions. He is averaging 37.7 yards on his six receptions. Aidan Mull, Sean O’Hara and Cole Toy all have five catches.
Although the passing game has taken off, the Reynolds offense still features a powerful rushing attack that averages 266.7 yards per game. The Raiders ran for 368 yards in last week’s 61-6 win over visiting Saegertown, led by a 118-yard effort from Jordan DeCarmen. DeCarmen missed the first two games due to injury this season after leading Reynolds with 971 yards in 2018.
Toy added 92 yards and two touchdowns. He leads Reynolds with 268 rushing yards, a total that ranks sixth in the county. O’Hara has added 188 rushing yards.
Mercer closed a three-game home stretch last Friday with a come-from-behind 20-14 win over visiting Eisenhower. Senior fullback P.J. Boggs scored on a one-yard touchdown with two minutes left to break a 14-14 tie. Boggs finished with 63 yards while junior halfback Aidan Bright led the Mustangs with 90 rushing yards and a score. Quarterback Ethan Wiley also scored on a one-yard sneak.
Wiley also threw for 81 yards on 3-of-6 passing. He ranks second in the county in yards per completion (17.8). Bright leads Mercer with 199 rushing yards. He also has five catches for 98 yards.
Reynolds owns a plus-6 turnover margin while Mercer is plus-5 this year. Each team has turned over the ball only once this season.
Reynolds secured a 20-7 win last year at Mercer, giving the Raiders their fifth consecutive win in the series. DeCarmen ran for 123 yards and a touchdown while O’Hara added 56 rushing yards and a score from the quarterback position.
Mercer’s last win over Reynolds came in 2013, 32-28.
Sharpsville at Greenville, 7:00 p.m.
A rivalry that dates back 109 years will be renewed Friday night when Greenville hosts Sharpsville in the Region 4 Class 2A opener. Both teams are 2-1 and are coming off one-sided road wins in Erie County last week. Greenville drilled Iroquois, 56-14, while Sharpsville downed homestanding Seneca, 48-12.
Nine Greenville backs combined for 354 rushing yards and five touchdowns in last week’s win at Iroquois. Kaleb Achuff ran for 74 yards and a touchdown while Levi Swartz added 73 yards and two scores. Blair Paxton caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Jon King. Paxton also returned an interception for a touchdown and Isaac Sasala returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Greenville owns the county’s No. 2-ranked rushing attack, averaging 269.0 yards per game. Swartz leads a balanced attack with 236 rushing yards while Sasala (190) and Achuff (166) have been primary contributors. Paxton ranks third locally with 10 receptions. He is fourth with 159 receiving yards.
Defensively, Greenville leads the area with 10 takeaways. Greenville leads the county with a plus-8 turnover margin.
While the Greenville defense has generated turnovers, the Sharpsville defense has stonewalled opponents. The Blue Devils have allowed a county-low 26 points this year and yield only 150.7 yards per game. Sharpsville has held opposing quarterbacks to an 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) performance this season.
Last week, Sharpsville held Seneca to four first downs and 129 offensive yards. Offensively, Sharpsville amassed 339 rushing yards, led by a 94-yard effort from Tristan Besser. Kaleb Gorichky ran for 92 yards while Chris Roth added 87 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Danny Henwood also scored two rushing touchdowns.
Friday’s game will be Sharpsville’s first regular season game on artificial turf since Week Two of 2018 (at Iroquois). This ends a stretch of 10 straight games on grass. This is the fourth of six straight games on turf for Greenville.
Sharpsville also owns a 21-0 home win over Iroquois in Week Two at McCracken Field.
According to Bob Greenburg, Sharpsville leads the all-time series 41-32. The teams first met in 1910. Sharpsville has won four straight regular season meetings, including a 61-6 win last season. Greenville earned a 21-14 win over the Blue Devils in the 2017 District 10 Class 2A semifinals. The Trojans’ last regular season win over Sharpsville came October 31, 2014, 42-27.
Sharpsville and Greenville competed against each other in the Northwest Conference from 1971 to 1980. Sharpsville began play in the Mercer County-centric Keystone Football League in 1982 while Greenville remained in the Northwest Conference through the 2001 season. The 2016 season marked the teams’ reunion as league foes.
Wilmington at Lakeview, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Wilmington visits Lakeview in both teams’ Region 4 Class 2A opener Friday night in Stoneboro. It is Wilmington’s second straight road game while Lakeview returns home after a trip to Conneaut, Ohio, last week.
Wilmington moved to 3-0 last Friday with a 42-14 victory at Northwestern in a non-conference battle between 2A teams. Junior halfback Ethan Susen ran for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Caelan Bender. Bender went 10 of 19 for 150 yards and a career-best three touchdown passes.
Senior split end Junior McConahy and senior tight end Shane Cox both caught touchdown passes from Bender. McConahy had five receptions for 84 yards and Cox grabbed three balls for 34 yards.
Susen shares the county lead with seven touchdowns and 42 points this year. He also ranks second locally with 313 rushing yards. Fellow halfback Darren Miller is seventh in the area with 238 rushing yards. Bender now ranks third in the county in pass efficiency (186.0).
Wilmington’s Wing-T offense continues to operate at a high level in 2019. The same can be said for the famed “Hounds Hammer” defense, which leads the area in total defense (139.3), yards per play allowed (3.5) and yards per carry (1.8). The Greyhounds have allowed 28 points this season.
Lakeview fell to 0-3 last week with a 56-7 setback at Conneaut, Ohio. The Sailors accumulated a season-high 16 first downs. Quarterback Gavin Murdock ran for a team-high 46 yards and a touchdown for the Sailors.
Wilmington is 5-0 against Lakeview since the teams’ series resumed in 2014, including a 67-0 win last year. According to available records, Wilmington is 13-1 all-time against Lakeview. The teams first met in 1966, Lakeview’s first year of varsity football. Wilmington earned a 37-7 win. Lakeview’s lone win came in 1969, 25-6.
Prior to 2014, the teams last met September 13, 1975, when Wilmington earned a 40-12 win at Lakeview. In 1974, Wilmington entered its October 19 game against Lakeview with a 1-2-3 record. Wilmington won that game 27-6.
Slippery Rock at Sharon, 7:00 p.m.
Slippery Rock plays the first of consecutive Region 5 Class 3A games Friday night as the Rockets visit Sharon. It is Slippery Rock’s league opener while Sharon aims to even its region record after falling to Hickory in Week Two.
Both teams earned one-sided home victories in Week Three. Slippery Rock held Franklin out of the end zone in a 35-6 triumph while Sharon picked up a 42-0 whitewash of visiting Fairview. Sharon gave head coach Jason McElhaney his first victory as Tiger head coach last Friday night.
Friday’s game features a pair of prolific senior quarterbacks who are each in their third year as a starter. Sharon’s Lane Voytik has 6,051 career passing yards and needs 109 yards to pass Mercer’s Logan Clarke (2011-14) as Mercer County’s career passing leader. Voytik already owns the county record with 67 career touchdown passes. He currently leads the county with 535 passing yards and seven touchdown passes this season.
While Voytik has done the bulk of his damage from the pocket, Slippery Rock’s Vito Pilosi is one of D-10’s top dual-threat quarterbacks. He ranks fourth locally with 335 passing yards and his 164.8 rating (NCAA formula) also ranks fourth in the area. He is averaging 9.9 yards per pass attempt. Pilosi has also rushed for 184 yards this year.
Last year, Pilosi led Slippery Rock with 893 rushing yards. He also threw for 1,202 yards, earning All-Region recognition.
Pilosi has been a key cog in Slippery Rock’s balanced rushing attack that averages 247 yards per game. Nathan Hyatt leads Slippery Rock with 308 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He shares the area lead with seven total touchdowns while also ranking third in rushing. David Duffalo ran for 181 yards against Franklin and now has 224 yards this year.
Hyatt has a team-high eight catches while Duffalo has a team-high 100 receiving yards on his seven receptions.
Slippery Rock has allowed an area-high 195.3 passing yards per game this season. No team has attempted more passes this season than Sharon, which averages 178.3 passing yards per game.
Voytik threw for 192 yards and four touchdowns in Sharon’s win over Fairview. Ty Eilam caught a pair of scores while Marcel Smith-Austin and Jaon Phillips also had touchdown catches. Smith-Austin had a career-high six receptions for 88 yards.
Eilam and Smith-Austin respectively rank first and second locally in receptions. Eilam leads the county with 12 catches and Smith-Austin has 11 receptions. Eilam shares the county lead with four receptions and his 174 receiving yards rank third.
With Sharon attempting the most passes in the area, it comes naturally that the Tigers have attempted the fewest rushing plays (67) among the area’s 12 teams. Brady Ortiz leads Sharon with 135 yards on 20 attempts this year. Slippery Rock allows only 3.8 yards per carry, second-best in the area.
Sharon leads the all-time series 24-6. Sharon won the first 15 meetings from 1988 to 2002. However, Slippery Rock defeated Sharon in the District 10 title game in 2002, 17-7. In 2008, Sharon defeated Slippery Rock in the regular season, 17-10, but dropped a 27-10 decision to Slippery Rock in the D-10 semifinals.
Sharon pulled out a 30-27 victory last year at Slippery Rock. Sharon outgained the Rockets, 416-212, but need a late onside kick recovery to preserve the win. Voytik threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a season-high 60 yards. Hyatt and Duffalo both caught touchdown passes from Pilosi, who threw for 153 yards on 9-of-14 accuracy.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Hickory at Conneaut, 7:00 p.m.
Friday night, Hickory makes its first-ever trip to Conneaut (2-1) as the Hornets resume Region 5 Class 3A play. Hickory (3-0) earned a 28-21 win over Sharon in Week Two in the league opener. Conneaut will open its region schedule Friday night.
A 32-point first half helped vault Hickory to a 46-26 home win over Class 3A Mercyhurst Prep last Friday night. Junior quarterback Michael Henwood ran for three scores and also returned a kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, senior running back Hunter Stoots charged through the Lakers defense for a career-high 130 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow senior Kam Fisher added 61 rushing yards as the Hornets finished with 281 rushing yards and 399 total yards.
Henwood leads Mercer County with 600 total offensive yards. His 289 rushing yards rank fifth while his 10.3 yards-per-carry average is second-best in the area.
Defensively, Hickory ranks 10th out of 12 teams in yards allowed per game (292.7). However, Hickory is third in yards per play against (4.4) as the Hornet defense has been on the field for a county-high 199 plays this season.
Last week, Conneaut gave 15th-year head coach Pat Gould his 100th win as the Eagles squashed visiting North East, 52-12. Conneaut led 30-0 after one quarter and 52-6 at halftime.
Dynamic senior quarterback Tanner Niemann completed 16 of 22 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win. He also ran for 115 yards and a score. Niemann leads District 10 with 979 yards of individual total offense. He leads District 10 with nine touchdown passes and ranks fifth in D-10 with 613 passing yards.
Niemann took over as Conneaut’s starting quarterback last season and completed 41 of 68 passes for 367 yards. This year, he is 50 of 74 (67.6 percent) passing. Niemann also ranks sixth in the district with 366 rushing yards and averages 11.1 yards per carry. He and Henwood are the top two rushing quarterbacks, statistically, in D-10 this season.
Senior Noah Richardson leads Conneaut with 24 receptions for 358 yards. He ranks second in the district in both categories. Nathan Bortnick has a dozen catches, including a team-best four touchdowns.
Conneaut opened the season with a 28-24 loss at unbeaten Oil City. Conneaut then walloped county rival Meadville, 40-7, in Week Two.
Conneaut won last year’s meeting in Hermitage, 26-10. The Eagles scored the final 18 points of the game and finished the night with 334 rushing yards as a team. Fisher led Hickory with 104 rushing yards.
This is Hickory’s first regular season game in Crawford County since October 24, 2014, when the Hornets earned a 41-20 win at Titusville. Hickory’s last regular season loss in Crawford County came September 6, 2008, when Titusville earned a 20-18 win over the Hornets at historic Carter Field.
Grove City at Brashear, 7:00 p.m.
Undefeated Grove City (3-0) has its final tune-up for region play Friday night when the Eagles face Pittsburgh City League foe Brashear (0-3) at Cupples Stadium. Grove City is in pursuit of its 22nd consecutive regular season victory.
Grove City extended its regular season win streak to 21 and its home win streak to 10 games in Week Three with a 49-14 win over Corry at Forker Field. Grove City turned four first-half takeaways into 28 points as the Eagles led 42-0 at halftime.
Senior wide receiver Jake Reddick caught three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Logan Breese. Breese also threw a touchdown pass to sophomore Anthony Pereira. Senior running back Colby Nelson ran for a pair of scores and senior running back Sam Stanton scored on a two-yard run. Breese finished 9 of 14 for 224 yards. He also ran for 44 yards. Nelson led Grove City with 95 rushing yards while Reddick had four receptions for 147 yards.
Reddick also had two of Grove City’s four interceptions in the first half. Breese and Nelson also picked off passes while Curtis Hovis recovered a fumble. Grove City now shares the county lead with 10 takeaways this season, including a county-best six interceptions. The Eagles are one of two local teams to not allow a touchdown pass this season.
Nelson leads the county with 365 rushing yards while Breese ranks second in passing yards (469), completion percentage (66.7) and passer rating (193.3). Grove City has executed a county-best 169 offensive plays this season.
Class 5A Brashear opened the season with a 30-0 loss to Beaver. The Bulls then dropped their City League opener to Perry Traditional Academy, 26-6, in Week Two. Last week, Brashear dropped a 14-0 decision to Class 5A Albert Gallatin, which withdrew from District 7 this year and is playing as an independent.
Brashear primarily uses a spread scheme on offense, although the Bulls will mix in the I-formation. Sophomore Sincere Kimbrough started the first two games of the season at quarterback while junior left Darrin James started against Albert Gallatin.
Don Schmidt is in his second season as Brashear head coach. The Bulls went 3-6 last year in his first year. Schmidt previously served as Allderdice’s head coach from 2004 to 2008.
Grove City won last year’s meeting at Forker Field, 47-31. The Eagles led 47-7 after three quarters. Nelson ran for two touchdowns while Breese went 4 for 4 with a touchdown in relief duty. Current sophomore Sayyid Muhammad caught Breese’s touchdown pass.
Grove City last lost a regular season game to a school from Allegheny County on August 29, 1997, when Pine-Richland earned a 14-0 win at Forker Field. That game marked the return of former Grove City coach Clair Altemus, who had taken over as Pine-Richland head coach after the 1996 season.
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