District X Playoff Primer for ProfessorBriggs.com
Written by: Billy Splain on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs’ archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK ELEVEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
The District 10 playoffs begin fully this weekend with eight games involving local teams. The area is guaranteed to have a local team play for a District 10 title in both Class 1A and Class 3A next weekend. Four squads begin their playoff journey in Class 2A while Grove City kicks off its playoff run in Class 5A.
CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
West Middlesex vs. Farrell, 7:00 p.m. at Wilmington High School, Thursday Night
Farrell begins defense of its District 10 Class 1A title Thursday night when the Region 1 champion Steelers face local rival West Middlesex in the district semifinals. Farrell had a bye into the semifinal round while West Middlesex advanced past Cochranton, 16-2, in the quarterfinals.
Farrell enters the postseason on a three-game win streak, including a 62-0 win at Cochranton in the regular season finale October 20. Junior Jourdan Townsend caught seven passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown, which marked his Mercer County-best fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season.
Townsend leads Mercer County with 1,003 receiving yards, 16 touchdown receptions, 21 total touchdowns and 134 points. His 42 receptions rank second in the county.
After serving primarily as a blocker for most of the season, junior fullback Tymir Green has emerged as a key ballcarrier for Farrell in recent weeks. He ran for two touchdowns in the win at Cochranton, giving him six touchdown runs this season. Junior tailback Christian Lewis — Farrell’s leading rusher on the season with 752 yards — caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Isaac Clarke and also returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown.
Defensively, Farrell recorded its fourth shutout of the season. Three of Farrell’s four shutouts came on the road this season. The home shutout came September 15 when Farrell earned a 58-0 win over visiting West Middlesex. Farrell held West Middlesex to 58 offensive yards and two first downs.
Lewis ran for 190 yards and three touchdowns while Brandon Chambers added 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Chambers also caught six passes for 55 yards. Clarke completed 12 of 14 passes for 148 yards. Clarke continues to lead the county with 22 touchdown passes, along with a 229.7 efficiency rating. He has thrown for 1,586 yards, second-most in the area while his 176.2 passing yards per game leads the area.
While Farrell features the area’s leading passer, West Middlesex has the county’s leading rusher in junior Clayton Parrish. Parrish has rushed for a Mercer County-best 1,113 yards on a county-high 226 carries. When the teams met in Week Four, West Middlesex still utilized an option-based offense. Since then, West Middlesex has morphed into a power-based stack-I offense.
Against Cochranton, the Big Reds produced a pair of 15-play touchdown drives in the second half that consumed a combined 15 minutes, 24 seconds. Cade Franks capped both drives with one-yard touchdown runs. West Middlesex finished the game with 227 total yards, all rushing. Parrish led the way with 114 yards on 27 carries. Defensively, West Middlesex limited Cochranton to 110 yards of offense.
Senior quarterback Marshall Murray has thrown for 404 yards and six touchdowns. Senior tight end Chase Staunch leads West Middlesex with eight catches while junior split end Kaz Hoffman has seven catches for a team-high 187 yards.
The last time Farrell lost in the playoffs to a team that it defeated during the regular season came 16 years ago. Farrell defeated Rochester on September 15, 2001, 12-9, but lost to the Rams in the District 7 Class A semifinals, 19-8, at North Allegheny.
Farrell defeated West Middlesex in last year’s D-10 title game, 22-12. That marked Farrell’s first win over West Middlesex in postseason play. The Big Reds earned a 42-0 win in 2012 and then downed Farrell in 2014, 34-6. West Middlesex is 18-7 all-time in District 10 playoff action while Farrell is 26-9 in the D-10 playoffs.
The winner will play Cambridge Springs or Union City in the D-10 title game next Thursday.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS
Wilmington vs. Maplewood, 7:00 p.m. at Slippery Rock University, Friday Night
Defending District 10 Class 2A champion Wilmington enters the postseason as one of four undefeated teams in the district. At 9-0, Wilmington owns Mercer County’s top rushing offense, top total defense and top scoring defense.
The “Hounds Hammer” defense produced a memorable regular season by allowing only 30 points in the regular season, including no points in the third or fourth quarter. Wilmington held foes to 69.1 rushing yards and 118.4 total yards per game. Wilmington’s defense scored four touchdowns and allowed only four touchdowns in nine games.
Wilmington’s defense also benefited from a Greyhound offense that committed a county-low six turnovers this year. The Wilmington offense features a balanced rushing attack and an efficient passing game under the guidance of junior quarterback Robert Pontius.
Senior halfback Bryson Verrelli leads Wilmington with 596 rushing yards while junior halfback Cameron Marett has 591 rushing yards and a team-best 12 rushing touchdowns. Senior fullback Jack Patton has added 535 yards rushing. Pontius has rushed for 243 yards and six touchdowns. He has also thrown for 644 yards and five touchdowns.
Wilmington closed the regular season with a come-from-behind 24-14 win at Slippery Rock in Week Nine. Pontius completed passes to five different receivers and also ran for two touchdowns.
Maplewood (6-4) closed the regular season win consecutive non-conference wins over Cambridge Springs (29-25) and Girard (26-0). Against Cambridge Springs, quarterback J.D. McFadden threw for a season-high 258 yards and three touchdowns on 6-of-17 accuracy. He also ran for 68 yards and a score.
McFadden, who wears No. 23, has thrown for 1,515 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 575 yards and nine scores. Chevy Blake leads the Tigers with 632 rushing yards and Kor-jonn Henderson is third on the team with 418 yards and six touchdowns. Jacob Roser and Raheem Young have each caught 25 passes.
Maplewood also went 6-4 in the regular season last year before falling to Sharpsville in the D-10 quarterfinals, 28-7. McFadden threw for 793 yards as a freshman last year. Blake led the Tigers with 574 rushing yards in 2016.
Sixth-year Maplewood head coach Bryan Borkovich played at Westminster College from 2004 to 2007 under head coaches Jerome Schmitt and Jeff Hand. He is a Blackhawk High School graduate.
Maplewood High School formed in 1973 after the merging of Townville and Randolph-East Mead High Schools. Maplewood’s first football win came in its debut, September 8, 1973, when the Tigers earned a 19-0 win over Venango Christian. Maplewood’s lone playoff win came November 6, 1993 in the Class A semifinals — a 24-6 win over Kennedy Christian. The Tigers are 1-6 all-time in the postseason.
The winner will face either Reynolds or Iroquois in the semifinals next week.
Greenville vs. Northwestern, 7:00 p.m. at Hickory High School, Friday Night
While Greenville currently owns the longest active streak of consecutive playoff appearances in the county (12), the Trojans have not captured a District 10 title since 1999. The Trojans’ quest for that elusive D-10 title begins Friday night against a surprising Northwestern team that reached the playoffs after going 1-9 last season.
Greenville closed the regular season with consecutive road wins at Reynolds (21-7) and Mercer (56-21) to clinch second place in Region 2. Against Mercer, senior kick returner Josh Christner returned the opening kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown to spark the Trojans. Christner’s runback marked the fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season for Greenville.
Offensively, senior quarterback Nate Bell ranks fifth in Mercer County with 968 passing yards. Senior Michael Blaney has caught
First-year Northwestern head coach Mark Brooks has engineering a four-win improvement from last season. Brooks, who spent five years as an assistant coach at both Harbor Creek, his alma mater, and Erie Cathedral Prep, has implemented a multiple-spread offense that features dual-threat quarterback Killian Cooper. Cooper has thrown for 1,167 yards and has rushed for 1,016 yards.
Cooper has accounted for 26 total touchdowns (14 rushing, 12 passing). He threw for 276 yards and five touchdowns September 22 against Saegertown, then ran for 256 yards and three touchdowns the next week at Maplewood. Senior Aaron Hull is Northwestern’s leading receiver with 24 catches for 568 yards and six touchdowns. Hull has also rushed for 466 yards, second-best on the team.
Cooper earned Second Team All-Region at quarterback last season.
Northwestern’s losses this year came to Class 5A squads Fort LeBoeuf and General McLane, undefeated Seneca, and 7-2 Iroquois. In the regular season finale against Seneca, Northwestern battled the visiting Bobcats to a 22-22 tie at halftime. Seneca scored the final 14 points, however, to clinch the Region 2 title. Cooper accounted for 284 yards of total offense.
Northwestern’s last playoff appearance came three years ago, when Greenville handed the Wildcats a 41-7 setback in the District 10 Class AA quarterfinals. Northwestern’s last playoff win came November 9, 2013, when the Wildcats earned a 28-7 winover Grove City in the D-10 AA quarterfinals at Veterans Stadium in Erie.
Northwestern is 7-14 all-time in the playoffs. The Wildcats won the first of their two D-10 titles in 1985, the first year of District 10 playoffs. Northwestern won the Division II title that year, then earned a 7-6 win over Mercer in the 1993 Class AA title game.
The winner will meet Sharpsville or Seneca in the District 10 semifinals.
Reynolds vs. Iroquois, 7:00 p.m. at Fairview High School, Friday Night
This quarterfinal will be a rematch from last year’s quarterfinal round, when then-undefeated Iroquois pulled away from injury-riddled Reynolds for a 41-24 win at Veterans Stadium. Both teams enter this year’s clash with momentum as Reynolds won four of its last six games while Iroquois is on a five-game winning streak.
Reynolds secured the third seed from Region 2 by knocking off Hickory in Week Nine, 27-13, in Hermitage. Austin Carrera ran for a season-high 202 yards and three touchdowns while Reynolds’ rising defense forced two turnovers. After giving up 90 points in the first three games of the season, the Raiders have allowed only 90 points over the past six games.
Reynolds owns the county’s third-ranked rushing attack as the Raiders average 205.7 yards per game. Carrera is third in the county with 875 rushing yards. He also averages 6.6 yards per carry. Senior Cole Matthews has added 367 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
In recent weeks, Reynolds has utilized a rotation system at quarterback with seniors Dalton Daniello and Tylir Shannon splitting time. Senior Noah Fuchs leads Reynolds with 13 catches for 107 yards.
The Reynolds defense allows an average of 158.8 yards per game, which is fifth-lowest in Mercer County. That unit will be tested by Iroquois’ Wing-T offense, which averages 328.7 rushing yards per game. Tarrel Clark leads the Braves with 1,353 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns while Koby McClean has added 683 yards and seven touchdowns.
Clark earned First Team All-Region as an all-purpose back and defensive back last year while McLean earned First Team honors at offensive lineman and at linebacker.
Iroquois closed the regular season with a 63-26 win over North East. The Braves ran for a season-high 447 yards as a team. The Braves’ two losses came to Class 3A playoff participant Harbor Creek (17-15) and undefeated Seneca (34-28).
Reynolds is 11-5 all-time in the District 10 playoffs, having won titles in 1986 (Division II), 1987 (Division II), 1989 (Class AAA) and 2005 (Class AA). Reynolds’ last playoff win came in 2005, when the Raiders advanced to the state semifinals.
The Braves are 9-15 all-time in the playoffs. Iroquois won District 10 Class A titles in 1990, 1991 and 1995. The 1990 team remains the only D-10 team to win multiple overtime games in the district playoffs in one year. The 1990 Iroquois team is also the last D-10 Class A champion to not participate in the state playoffs due to the point system used then. Smethport (District 9) and state runner-up Farrell (District 7) played for the West title.
The winner will play either Wilmington or Maplewood in the semifinals next week.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Sharpsville vs. Seneca, 7:00 p.m. at Harbor Creek High School, Friday Night
Two programs with contrasting playoff histories will meet in the Class 2A semifinals Friday night along Lake Erie. Sharpsville’s 36 District 10 playoff wins ranks third-best in district history while Seneca pursues its first-ever playoff win.
Sharpsville opened the season 3-0 but the Blue Devils have dropped five of seven entering the playoffs. Last week at undefeated South Range (Ohio), the Blue Devils held a 7-6 lead at halftime. However, three turnovers helped foil Sharpsville’s upset bid.
Senior Bobby Besser led Sharpsville with 103 rushing yards and a touchdown. Besser leads Sharpsville with 864 yards and 12 touchdowns. After rushing for 1,290 yards last year, Besser needs 136 yards for his second straight 1,000-yard season.
Junior Kobe Joseph has added 566 rushing yards while junior quarterback Nick Alexander has thrown for 781 yards and six touchdowns.
Sharpsville has outscored opponents 154-77 in the first half. The opposition owns a 113-82 edge in the second half. Defensively, Sharpsville has forced a county-high 23 turnovers this year. However, Sharpsville has also turned over the ball 19 times.
One thing to keep in mind: Like Sharpsville, Iroquois runs the Wing-T. Iroquois ran for 363 yards against Seneca September 15 in the Bobcats’ 34-28 win.
The 2017 season has already been history-making for Seneca (9-0), which won the Region 3 title this season. That marked the first-ever conference title in school history. Seventh-year head coach Dave Frank (35-35) has guided the Bobcats to a 28-12 record and three playoff berths over the last four seasons.
Junior quarterback Joey Scarabino has thrown for 2,073 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder also leads the Bobcats with 735 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. In 2016, Scarabino threw for 1,281 yards and ran for 1,025 yards. As a freshman, he threw for 1,305 yards and ran for 391 yards, giving him 6,810 career yards of total offense, along with 88 combined touchdowns. Scarabino earned First Team All-Region last season.
Mike Shearer leads Seneca with 41 catches for 686 yards and eight touchdowns. Seneca averages 41.8 points per game.
Last season, Seneca dropped a 29-22 decision to Greenville in the District 10 quarterfinals.
Sharpsville is 36-12 all-time in the District 10 playoffs. The 36 wins are second most by a Mercer County program (Sharon is 37-15). Only Sharon and Erie Cathedral Prep (37) have more D-10 playoff wins. Sharpsville is 26-5 against non-Mercer County teams in the District 10 playoffs. Sharpsville’s last D-10 loss to a team outside of Mercer County came November 19, 2010, when the Blue Devils fell in the Class A semifinals to Mercyhurst Prep, 56-33.
The winner will play either Greenville or Northwestern in the semifinal round next week.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.
CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
Sharon vs. Slippery Rock, 7:00 p.m. at Wilmington High School, Saturday Night
Saturday night’s Class 3A semifinal features a rematch from Week Five when Sharon meets Slippery Rock. Sharon received a bye into the semifinal round while Slippery Rock earned a trip to the second round with a come-from-behind 38-14 win over Harbor Creek last Saturday night.
Slippery Rock forced four second-half turnovers last week while erasing a 14-7 halftime deficit. The Rockets held Harbor Creek to a 2-for-11 effort on third down.
Junior quarterback Jacob Shaffer came on in relief of starter Vito Pilosi and threw for 116 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-high 68 yards. Senior Seth Slater added 61 rushing yards and also caught a touchdown pass.
Slater leads the Rockets with 396 rushing yards. He is also second on the team with nine catches for 107 yards. Junior Patrick Shea caught three passes for 50 yards against Harbor Creek and now leads the team with 11 receptions.
Defensively, Slippery Rock ranks fourth among the area’s 12 teams in both yards per carry allowed (4.2) and yards per play allowed (4.8).
Sharon returns to action after an off week in Week 10. The 6-3 Tigers won their last five league games to clinch the top 3A spot from Region 2. Sharon allowed 40 total points in those five games. Sharon edged Sharpsville, 21-20, in the regular season finale by stopping a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute.
Sharon ranks fourth locally in scoring defense, allowing 14.3 points per game. Offensively, the Tigers also rank fourth in scoring offense (30.7). Sophomore quarterback Lane Voytik leads the county in completions (108) and attempts (182). His 1,516 yards are third-most in the county. Junior tailback Jordan Wilson has rushed for 722 yards while senior wide receiver Ziyon Strickland has caught a Mercer County-high 49 passes. He is second locally with 665 receiving yards.
Sharon pulled away for a 24-7 win at Slippery Rock in Week Five. Sharon forced five turnovers and limited Slippery Rock to 181 yards on 57 offensive plays. Voytik threw touchdown passes to Strickland and James McKinney, while Wilson added an eight-yard touchdown run. Kicker Aaron Nichols added a 38-yard field goal.
Slippery Rock is 8-10 all-time in the District 10 playoffs while Sharon is 37-15.
Sharon leads the all-time series 22-6. Sharon head coach Jim Wildman is 17-1 against Slippery Rock, with the lone loss coming at Slippery Rock in 2014, 28-13. 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 title game.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
Hickory vs. Mercyhurst Prep, 7:00 p.m. at Erie McDowell High School, Saturday Night
Six-time defending District 10 champion Hickory finds itself in an unusual situation entering Saturday night’s Class 3A semifinal against undefeated Mercyhurst Prep. Hickory (5-5) is considered an underdog against the 9-0 Lakers, ranked No. 3 in the Commonwealth by the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
After struggling down the stretch of the regular season, Hickory rebounded last Saturday night by earning a 41-7 win over Corry in the District 10 quarterfinals. Hickory charged out to a 13-0 lead before running an offensive play. Senior Will Gruber, back from injury, returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. Senior cornerback Darren Mitchell then returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown.
Gruber also caught two touchdown passes from junior quarterback Hayden Gallagher. Gallagher also tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Michael Filardi. Gallagher completed 5 of 10 passes for 94 yards while Gruber had four catches for 81 yards.
Gruber has caught 28 passes for 577 yards and six touchdowns in seven games. Mitchell and Filardi both have 20 receptions this year. Mitchell has six touchdown catches and Filardi has five scoring receptions. Gallagher leads the county with 1,587 passing yards while his 17 touchdown passes rank third. Gallagher has also thrown a county-high 12 interceptions this season.
Mercyhurst Prep has amassed 4,023 yards of offense and 447 points this season. Running back Zack Helsley has rushed for 1,525 yards and 20 touchdowns while Khalil Barnes has gained 819 yards and nine touchdowns. Helsley has rushed for 100 yards or more in all nine games this season while Barnes had 290 rushing yards at Fairview.
Quarterback Jake Brooks, a transfer from Girard, has thrown for 1,158 yards and 18 touchdowns. His top target, tight end Chris Mottillo, has caught 20 passes for 527 yards and 12 touchdowns. Like Brooks, Mottillo came from Girard in the offseason.
Senior wide receiver Jesse Luketa has caught 17 passes. He is also regarded as one of the nation’s top linebackers and has committed to play at Penn State.
The Lakers own wins over Mercer County squads West Middlesex (45-7) and Lakeview (65-6) this season. Mercyhurst Prep is 5-8 all-time against Mercer County area programs in the District 10 playoffs.
Hickory is 27-5 in the D-10 playoffs, including an ongoing 18-game win streak. That’s the longest playoff win streak in District 10 history. This is the first meeting between Hickory and Mercyhurst Prep since October 26, 2001. Mercyhurst won that meeting, 27-6. In 2000, Hickory defeated the Lakers, 17-7.
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.
CLASS 5A SEMIFINALS
Grove City vs. Fort LeBoeuf, 7:00 p.m. at Slippery Rock University, Saturday Night
Undefeated Grove City meets Fort LeBoeuf in a rematch of the 2016 District 10 Class 5A semifinals Saturday night. Both teams had last week off to regroup in preparation for the postseason.
Grove City clinched its first outright conference title since 2011 in the regular season finale with a 41-13 win at Region 5 nemesis Meadville. Three lengthy touchdown runs gave Grove City a 19-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Two of those touchdown runs came from junior Logan Lutz, who scored on runs of 68 and 73 yards, respectively. Lutz ran for 222 yards on nine carries and also caught five passes for 56 yards. His 222 rushing yards and 278 scrimmage yards are both the highest totals produced by a county player this year.
Lutz leads the county with 1,260 total scrimmage yards. Senior fullback Trey Adams leads the area with 19 rushing touchdowns. Adams, who scored twice at Meadville, has 675 yards.
Junior quarterback Brady Callahan leads the county in completion percentage (76.9) and has thrown for 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns. Lutz leads the team with 38 catches while Adams has 18 receptions. Explosive senior Qadir Muhammad (12) and junior Nick Murawski (10) are also in double digits, reception-wise. Junior tight end Carter Chinn caught 16 passes before being sidelined by a broken leg suffered against DuBois.
Defensively, Grove City’s deep defensive line and inside linebackers Joe Kosick and Tyler Greer have helped the Eagles limit opponents to 2.1 yards per carry this season. Overall, the Eagles allow 73.4 rushing yards per game and 158.8 total yards per game. The 13 points scored by Meadville matched a season high for any Grove City foe this year.
Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Brad Trezona, the Grove City defense has forced 20 turnovers this year, which is the second-highest total in the area.
All-time, Grove City is 13-12 in the District 10 playoffs. This is the 30th anniversary of Grove City’s first playoff team. In 1987, the Eagles defeated Fairview in the Division II semifinals, 28-14, before falling to Reynolds in the title game, 33-7.
Injuries and a rugged schedule have helped contribute to Fort LeBoeuf’s 4-5 record this season. The consolidation of Erie East, Erie Strong Vincent and Erie Central Tech (three teams the Bison defeated in 2016) into Class 6A strengthened the schedule considerably. Fort LeBoeuf also played Erie McDowell and Erie Prep in league play, along with Farrell and Harbor Creek in non-conference play. The Bison handed then-undefeated Harbor Creek a 3-0 setback.
Fort LeBoeuf also lost starting quarterback Corey Shields to injury at midseason. The 6-3, 185-pound Shields had completed 13 of 20 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Cole Dauson moved from wide receiver to quarterback in his place. Dauson has thrown for 221 yards on 20-of-50 accuracy.
A trio of seniors leads Fort LeBoeuf’s ground-oriented attack. Tyler Scott has rushed for 600 yards and seven touchdowns while Greg Proctor has 558 yards and five scores. Fellow senior Brad Waite has added 340 yards as a complementary option.
Senior kicker Eric Scarpino has kicked three field goals this year.
General McLane is the lone common opponent between the teams. Grove City opened the season with a 35-7 win at McLane while Fort LeBoeuf dropped a 49-21 verdict to the Lancers in Week Eight. Fort LeBoeuf is 3-14 all-time in the D-10 playoffs.
The winner will play General McLane or Meadville in next week’s District 10 championship game.
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