Professor Briggs Mercer County H.S. Football Previews For Week 12
Written by: Billy Splain on Thursday, November 9th, 2017
(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs’ archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News)
WEEK TWELVE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
Five District 10 playoff games this weekend involve Mercer County teams, including three championship games. Of those five games, four are rematches from league play during the regular season. Many times in Hollywood, the sequel is inferior to the original movie, but some sequels have proven to be just as good or even better than the original.
Will this weekend’s rematches be classics like “The Godfather: Part II” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” or stinkers like “The Sting II,” “Jaws 3-D” and “Caddyshack II”?
CLASS 1A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Cambridge Springs vs. Farrell, 7:00 p.m. at Greenville High School, Thursday Night
Farrell will look to earns its seventh all-time District 10 title Thursday night but the Steelers will have to again defeat Region 1 foe Cambridge Springs in the championship game. Farrell closed its home schedule October 13 by pulling out a 20-13 winover Cambridge Springs at Paulekas Stadium.
Many expected that game to feature plenty of offensive output but both defenses emerged that night. Both teams averaged less than four yards per play (Farrell 3.9, Cambridge Springs 3.3). Farrell outgained Cambridge Springs, 228-165.
Both defenses neutralized the opponent’s prolific quarterback. Farrell held Cambridge Springs dual threat Noah Reisenauer to 97 passing yards and 20 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Cambridge Springs held Farrell quarterback Isaac Clarke to a season-low 81 passing yards.
In last Thursday’s semifinals, both quarterbacks played pivotal roles in their team’s respective wins. Clarke completed 8 of 11 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns in Farrell’s 46-12 win over West Middlesex.
Meanwhile, Reisenauer helped Cambridge Springs avenge a regular season loss to Union City by throwing for 172 yards and rushing for 128 more yards in a 24-14 victory over Union City at Edinboro University.
Clarke leads Mercer County with 1,746 passing yards and 25 touchdown passes. He is completing 66 percent of his passes and has been intercepted once in 135 pass attempts. Clarke also leads the area by averaging 12.9 yards per attempt.
Junior wide receiver Jourdan Townsend has been Clarke’s most-frequent target this season as Townsend has caught 47 passes for 1,123 yards and a county-record 18 touchdowns. Townsend leads Mercer County with 1,123 yards and needs 91 yards to surpass Ziyon Strickland’s single-season county record of 1,213 yards, set in 2015. Townsend leads the area with 24 total touchdowns and 152 points.
Tailback Christian Lewis ranks fifth in the county with 842 rushing yards. He has nine touchdown rushes and has also caught three touchdown passes. Offensively, Farrell leads the county in scoring offense (44.1) and yards per play (9.8).
Reisenauer has thrown 20 touchdown passes and only three interceptions in 142 attempts. The 6-foot-2 Reisenauer has thrown for 1,439 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. Running back Carter Babb has added 586 rushing yards. Trent Merry leads Spa with 21 receptions for 383 yards and three touchdowns. Chase Shultz has 17 catches, five of which have gone to the end zone.
Cambridge Springs (7-3) held Union City’s potent rushing attack to 200 yards on 48 attempts last week in the semifinals. The Blue Devils also forced two Union City turnovers. Union City gashed Spa for 487 rushing yards in a 41-32 victory October 6.
Farrell is 6-0 all-time in District 10 title games (1985, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016). 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.
Cambridge Springs owns a 2-2 record in District 10 title games. The Blue Devils downed Saegertown in the 1988 Division III title game, 16-3, as Spa eventually became the first D-10 team to play in a state title game. Cambridge Springs also defeated Sharpsville in the 1996 title game, 13-10 in overtime. Sharpsville edged Cambridge Springs, 7-6, in the 1986 Division III title game. In 1997, Sharpsville earned a 14-7 D-10 title game win over Cambridge Springs.
The Farrell-Cambridge Springs winner will play the District 5 champion, Northern Bedford or Windber, in the PIAA Tournament next Friday at Slippery Rock University. Northern Bedford and Windber meet Thursday night at Somerset.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
CLASS 3A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Sharon vs. Mercyhurst Prep, 1:00 p.m. at Meadville High School, Saturday
Coming off a hard-fought 26-10 win over Region 2 rival Slippery Rock in the District 10 semifinals last Saturday night, the Sharon Tigers are in prime position to capture their first District 10 title in seven years. To capture the D-10 title, Sharon will have to do something that 10 other teams have failed to do in 2017: defeat Mercyhurst Prep.
In last week’s semifinals, Sharon outscored Slippery Rock, 20-7, over the final two quarters to secure its 38th all-time District 10 playoff win. Senior wide receiver Ziyon Strickland scored on a 58-yard shovel pass and added a 14-yard touchdown run in the second half. Strickland matched a season-high with 10 catches and recorded a season-high 182 receiving yards. He also intercepted a pass and finished the game with 226 all-purpose yards.
Junior running back Jordan Wilson added two one-yard touchdown runs for the Tigers, who finished with a 307-245 edge in total offense.
Strickland leads Mercer County with 59 receptions and needs one catch to become the first District 10 player with three seasons of 60 receptions or more. Sharon owns the county’s top passing attack as the Tigers average 187.1 yards per game. Sharon has thrown a county-high 208 passes this year. Sharon also leads the area with 128 completions.
Sophomore quarterback Lane Voytik made his first playoff start last Saturday and completed 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards. He is second in the county in passing yards (1,736) and touchdown passes (20). Voytik leads Mercer County with 123 completions.
Junior Frank Shaffer leads area tight ends with 23 receptions while senior James McKinney has caught 19 balls for 328 yards and five touchdowns. He leads Sharon’s starters in yards per catch (16.8).
Mercyhurst Prep improved to 10-0 last week by ending Hickory’s six-year run as district champion, 28-10. The Lakers ran for 315 yards, led by a 167-yard, three-touchdown outing from junior halfback Zack Helsley. Helsley is third in District 10 with 1,702 rushing yards and second in D-10 with 23 touchdown runs. He has rushed for over 100 yards in all 10 games this year.
Khalil Barnes as added 919 rushing yards and nine touchdowns as Helsley’s counterpart in the backfield. Jesse Luketa, a Penn State commit at linebacker, ran the ball five times for 51 yards and a touchdown against Hickory. Luketa has primarily played wide receiver this season, having caught 19 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns.
Tight end Chris Mottillo leads Mercyhurst with 20 catches for 527 yards. He has a dozen touchdown catches.
Led by Luketa, the Mercyhurst defense has allowed only 58 points all season. Hickory became the only team to break into double digits against the Lakers.
Sharon is 2-0 all-time against Mercyhurst in the playoffs. In 2000, Sharon rolled to a 54-0 win in the Class AA semifinals over Mercyhurst. The next year, Sharon upset heavily-favored Mercyhurst, 14-7, in the semifinals. That Mercyhurst team, which went undefeated in the regular season, featured longtime Canadian Football League standout Jovon Johnson.
Sharon has won nine D-10 titles under head coach Jim Wildman (246-102-7), who is in his 30th overall season at Sharon. This is the fifth season of his second stint. Wildman owns a 9-7 record in D-10 title games. Overall, Sharon is 10-9 in D-10 title games since 1985.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
CLASS 5A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Grove City vs. Meadville, 7:00 p.m. at Greenville High School, Saturday night
For the second straight season, Grove City and Meadville will meet in the District 10 Class 5A championship game at Stewart Field. Last year, Meadville entered the championship game as Region 5 champion and owner of a one-sided road win in the regular season over Grove City. This year represents a 180-degree turn as Grove City (10-0) is the Region 5 champion and owns a 41-13 win at Meadville in Week Nine.
Grove City charged out to a 35-0 halftime lead last Saturday night in a 45-7 win over Fort LeBoeuf in the District 10 semifinals. Junior quarterback Brady Callahan fired a pair of touchdown passes to classmate Logan Lutz and also scored on a four-yard touchdown run. Senior fullback Trey Adams ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Eagles pile up 271 rushing yards.
Defensively, Grove City forced three turnovers and allowed only 149 offensive yards. The Eagles rank second in Mercer County in scoring defense (7.2), rushing defense (79.9), total defense (157.8) and turnovers forced (23).
Callahan leads the county in completion percentage at 77.8 percent. He also ranks second in yards per attempt (10.0) and is third with 1,707 yards of total offense. Lutz is third in the county with 44 receptions and his 649 receiving yards rank fourth. Lutz is also ninth locally with 710 rushing yards and leads the county with 1,359 yards from scrimmage.
Adams leads the county with 21 rushing touchdowns. He ranks sixth with 820 rushing yards. Junior Tyler Greer is 15th in the area with 536 yards and seven touchdowns on only 45 carries.
Meadville earned its second postseason win of the season last week by outlasting General McLane, 19-7. Meadville’s Wing-T offense amassed 395 rushing yards on 53 attempts. Fullback Isaiah Manning ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns while halfback Julius Ream ran for 130 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 21 catches. Halfback De’Shawn Wofford added 80 yards rushing.
Defensively, Meadville limited General McLane to 235 total yards on 50 offensive plays.
Meadville opened the District 10 playoffs with a 33-26 quarterfinal victory over archrival Conneaut. Manning ran for 316 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in the win. Meadville did yield 371 rushing yards and 466 total yards on defense.
Meadville gained 285 yards in the teams’ October 20 meeting at Bender Field, marking the highest total accumulated by a Grove City opponent this season. Meadville ran 62 offensive plays to gain that sum, however. Manning led Meadville with 149 yards on 29 carries.
Manning leads District 10 with 2,363 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns this year. Ream has 811 yards and 11 touchdowns while Wofford has contributed 720 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Ream leads the team with eight receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Manning ran for 267 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s D-10 title game, a 67-27 Meadville win.
This is the third time that Grove City has played the same team in consecutive District 10 title games. In 2009, Grove City dropped a 47-21 decision to Erie Cathedral Prep in the Class AAA title game. The next year, Prep topped Grove City, 28-16, in the D-10 Class AAA title game. In 2011, Grove City blanked the Ramblers, 33-0, in the D-10 Class AAA title game.
Grove City is 2-6 in D-10 title games. Grove City is 0-2 in title games played at Greenville, falling to Wilmington, 21-19, in the 1995 Class AA title game, in addition to last year’s setback.
Grove City is 1-3 in the championship game when facing an opponent that defeated the Eagles during the regular season. In 1987, Reynolds downed Grove City, 16-8, during the regular season before claiming a 33-7 victory in the Division II title game. In 1995, Wilmington edged Grove City, 7-6, in their regular season battle on Homecoming at Forker Field.
Nine years later, Grove City rebounded from a season-opening 34-21 loss at Harbor Creek to defeat the Huskies in the Class AA title game, 33-7. A victory would give Grove City its 11th win of the season, tying the program record. Grove City also won 11 games in 2004, 2010 and 2011.
Meadville is 1-3 all-time in District 10 title games. The Bulldogs dropped the 1990 Class AAAA title game to Cathedral Prep, 21-7. Prep also blanked Meadville in the 1991 Class AAAA title game, 13-0. In 1998, Prep downed Meadville, 34-0, in the Class AAAA title clash.
The Grove City-Meadville winner plays District 6 representative Hollidaysburg next week in a 5A PIAA subregional game. That game will be at a District 6 site.
CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
Wilmington vs. Reynolds, 7:00 p.m. at Slippery Rock University, Friday Night
One week after earning its first postseason win since 2005, Reynolds will look to repeat another feat from the 2005 season: defeat Wilmington in District 10 playoffs after falling to the Greyhounds in the regular season. That year, Reynolds dropped a 16-7 decision to Wilmington in the regular season but rebounded for a 21-0 victory in the D-10 title game.
Reynolds reached the semifinals by rolling past Iroquois, 32-13, as the Raiders took control of the game with 26 unanswered points. Reynolds ran for 349 rushing yards as two backs went over the 100-yard mark. Senior Austin Carrera ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns while senior Cole Matthews added 120 yards and two scores on 10 attempts.
Carrera became the first local player to have two 200-yard rushing outings this year. He went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season last week and now has 1,090 yards. That figure ranks second overall in the county and is tops among players still alive in the playoffs. Matthews has added 487 yards and six touchdowns.
Noah Fuchs caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tylir Shannon against Iroquois and leads the Raiders with 14 receptions. Shannon and Dalton Daniello will both see action again at quarterback this week.
Wilmington (10-0) opened the postseason last week with a 48-14 quarterfinal win over Maplewood. The Greyhounds bolted to a 41-0 halftime lead as Cameron Marett’s 97-yard interception return for touchdown in the second quarter broke open the game.
Marett also finished with 91 yards rushing on seven carries as three Wilmington players ran for at least 90 yards. Senior Bryson Verrelli led the Hounds with 102 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries while senior Jack Patton added 97 yards and two touchdowns on six attempts. Wilmington finished with 369 rushing yards as a team.
Quarterback Robert Pontius threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Marett and a 21-yard scoring pass to Verrelli. Pontius has thrown for 689 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He also has six rushing touchdowns.
Wilmington’s balanced backfield features three players with at least 600 rushing yards but less than 700. Verrelli has 698 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns while Marett has 682 yards and 12 scores. Patton has rushed for 632 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wilmington features the county’s top rushing offense, averaging 281.0 yards per game, along with an area-best 8.2 yards per attempt.
Wilmington’s “Hounds Hammer” defense continues to lead the area in several statistical categories, including points allowed per game (4.4), rushing defense (70.9), yards per carry (2.2), total defense (130.7), interceptions (16), and pass defense efficiency (61.4 — 100 is considered “average”).
Reynolds enters the game having won five of its last seven games. One of the two defeats came at Wilmington, 42-3, September 29. Wilmington held Reynolds to four first downs and 93 yards of offense. Pontius threw for a season-high 146 yards on 9-of-16 passing. He also ran for a touchdown. Marett ran for 125 yards and two scores.
Wilmington last lost a playoff game to a team it defeated during the regular season in 2012, when Hickory defeated the Greyhounds in the D-10 Class AA title game, 39-7. Wilmington had defeated the Hornets in the regular season, 35-28.
The Reynolds-Wilmington winner will face Greenville or Sharpsville in next week’s District 10 championship game.
Greenville vs. Sharpsville, 7:00 p.m. at Hickory High School, Friday Night
While both Greenville and Sharpsville have been fixtures in the District 10 postseason since the playoffs’ inception in 1985, this is the first-ever playoff meeting between the programs. Both teams enter Friday night’s semifinal game after surprisingly one-sided quarterfinal wins.
Greenville blasted Northwestern, 63-19, as the Trojans posted 56 first-half points. Brady Gentile paced Greenville with 164 rushing yards and four scores while quarterback Nate Bell went 7 of 8 for 137 yards and touchdown passes to Brenden Calvin and Michael Blaney. Connor Gilfoyle added a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown, which represented Greenville’s sixth total touchdown return of the season.
Gentile has taken over as Greenville’s feature back after a season-ending injury to Canyon Eells. Gentile leads the team with 664 rushing yards. Blaney has a team-high 33 receptions for 606 yards and six scores. He ranks fourth in the county in catches and fifth in receiving yards. Bell ranks fifth locally with 1,105 passing yards. He has also taken over as place-kicker for Eells and is 14 of 15 on extra points.
Sharpsville eliminated undefeated Seneca, 56-14, in the quarterfinals as Kobe Joseph and Bobby Besser each ran for three touchdowns. Joseph led Sharpsville with 136 yards and Besser added 99 yards. Besser now has 963 yards and needs 37 yards for his second straight 1,000-yard season. Joseph has 702 yards in 2017. Besser (15) and Joseph (11) have accounted for 26 of Sharpsville’s 42 total touchdowns this year.
Besser ranks fourth in the county in rushing yardage and second with 15 touchdown runs. Joseph leads the team with a 6.6 yards-per-carry average and is 10th locally in rushing yardage. Levis leads local tight ends with five touchdown catches.
The Sharpsville defense forced five turnovers and held Greenville to six first downs September 29 in the Blue Devils’ 21-0 home win over then-unbeaten Greenville. Greenville, playing without Eells for the first time, managed only 45 rushing yards against Sharpsville. Safety Luke Levis recorded two of Sharpsville’s four interceptions. Besser ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns as the Blue Devils scored all 21 points in the second half.
Both teams have intercepted 14 passes this season. Sharpsville has a county-best 26 takeaways while Greenville is third with 20 forced turnovers. Both teams have been relatively generous, as well. Sharpsville has turned over the ball 20 times and Greenville has 17 turnovers in 10 games.
This is the second straight week that Sharpsville has had a first-time opponent in the District 10 playoffs. Last week’s game with Seneca marked the programs’ first postseason meeting. Greenville is the seventh different county school that Sharpsville has played in the playoffs. Overall, Greenville is the 20th different team that Sharpsville has played in the playoffs.
Sharpsville is Greenville’s 17th different all-time District 10 playoff foe. Sharpsville is Greenville’s sixth different county opponent in the playoffs. Wilmington is the only local team that both programs have met in the playoffs.
Sharpsville and Greenville competed against each other in the Northwest Conference from 1971 to 1981. Sharpsville began play in the Mercer County-centric Keystone Football League in 1982. The KFL morphed into the Mercer County Athletic Conference in 1989. Greenville joined the MCAC in 2002 but this is the first cycle that Sharpsville and Greenville have been in the same enrollment classification since then.
The winner will meet Wilmington or Reynolds in the District 10 finals.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
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