ProfessorBriggs.com D10 Playoff Preview: Farrell, Sharon and Wilmington
Written by: Billy Splain on Thursday, November 30th, 2017
(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs’ archives, The Herald, D9Sports.com and Erie Times-News. Quotes from Bob Greenburg interviews)
WEEK FIFTEEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Mercer County Statistics
For the first time since 2000, the Mercer County area will have three teams playing in the state semifinals. Farrell, Sharon and Wilmington are one step away from returning to the state championship round. Farrell has made four previous trips (1990, 1995, 1996, 2015) while Sharon (1994, 1995) and Wilmington (1988, 2008) have both gone twice. The 1995 season marks the only time that multiple area teams have advanced to the final round. Will 2017 be like 1995 (multiple teams in the finals) or like 2000 (Mercer County going 0 for 3 in the state semifinals)?
CLASS 1A PIAA SEMIFINALS
Farrell vs. Jeannette, 7:00 p.m. at Seneca Valley High School, Harmony
District 10 champion Farrell faces another longtime western Pennsylvania small school powerhouse Friday night as the Steelers meet District 7 champion Jeannette. Farrell blanked Ridgway in last week’s quarterfinals, 36-0, while Jeannette outlasted Imani Christian in the District 7 title game Saturday, 35-34. The Jayhawks (13-1) stopped a two-point conversion with 2:15 left to preserve the victory.
While Jeannette needed a late stop to advance, the Farrell defense dominated Ridgway for 48 minutes last Friday night. Farrell yielded only four first downs and 68 offensive yards. Farrell also intercepted three passes and allowed the Elkers to run only nine plays in Farrell territory.
Farrell’s balanced and explosive offense generated 457 yards and 23 first downs. Junior wide receiver Jourdan Townsend caught passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, including a 73-yard touchdown catch on the first play from scrimmage. He now has 67 catches for 1,506 yards, which is a District 10 record for single-season receiving yards.
Senior quarterback Isaac Clarke threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-16 accuracy. He has 30 touchdown passes and needs three to pass Grove City’s Kameron Patterson for the Mercer County record. Patterson threw 32 touchdown passes last year. As a team, Farrell has 33 touchdown passes, which matches the record set by Grove City last season.
Farrell’s ground game also chewed up 215 yards. Christian Lewis led Farrell with 115 yards and has a county-high 1,336 yards this year. Tymir Green ran for two scores against Ridgway and now has 11 rushing scores this year.
Farrell continues to lead Mercer County in scoring offense (43.3) and yards per play (9.5). Farrell averages 369.5 yards per game. The Steelers have been the area’s most balanced team this year, with 2,469 rushing yards and 2,335 passing yards.
Jeannette trailed Imani Christian, 12-0, after the first quarter last week before rallying for the win. In the District 7 semifinals, Jeannette avenged a 40-7 regular season loss to Clairton by eliminating the Bears, 18-7. Jeannette opened the playoffs with a 49-0 win over Monessen. In the quarterfinals, Jeannette edged Rochester, 30-26. Jeannette, Imani Christian and Clairton all shared the Eastern Conference title with 6-1 records.
Versatile senior Robert Kennedy has rushed for 1,112 yards and 23 touchdowns. He has also thrown for 24 touchdowns this year. Kennedy has been supplanted at quarterback by Seth Howard, however, since the regular season loss to Clairton. Howard threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the D-7 title game. Marcus Barnes has caught a team-high 10 touchdown passes.
Defensively, Kennedy leads Jeannette with 10 interceptions.
“(Kennedy) is definitely a special player,” Farrell head coach Jarrett Samuels said. “He’s a Division I prospect for those guys. He makes that team go. That team really rallies around him. When a play needs to be made, they point to him. He’s not the only guy that they have. They have a lot of really good skill players. But we feel that he is the key to the gameplan on both sides of the ball. He’s also a great defensive back. He’s a guy that we have to account for at all times.
“But like I told our guys, I really feel that we have the better overall team. I feel that as long we come into this game and be more disciplined and play a clean game for 48 minutes, our success is going to skyrocket. When we’ve played a clean game (this year), we’re undefeated.”
Jeannette is 2-0 all-time in the state semifinals. Led by Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette defeated Wilmington in the Class AA semifinals in both 2006 and 2007. Jeannette won the state title over Dunmore in 2007 after falling to Wilson in the 2006 title game. Farrell is 4-4 in the state semifinals.
Farrell won the most recent postseason meeting between the programs, 37 years ago. On November 8, 1980, Farrell went to Jeannette and upset the heavily-favored Jayhawks, 13-7, in the District 7 Class AA quarterfinals. Farrell trailed 7-0 in the third quarter but tied the game when Tony Claiborne blocked a punt and Mark Harvey returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Tom Falconi scored on a one-yard run with less than two minutes left to give Farrell the win. That marked the first postseason win for first-year head coach Lou Falconi.
The winner will face Steelton-Highspire or Homer Center in next Thursday’s state championship game.
The game will be heard on Sports Radio 96.7.
CLASS 2A PIAA SEMIFINAL
Wilmington vs. Washington, 7:00 p.m., Slippery Rock University
Undefeated Wilmington (13-0) meets undefeated District 7 champion Washington (13-0) in Friday night’s state semifinals. Both teams are coming off 27-point victories Saturday. Wilmington eliminated previously-unbeaten Clarion, 33-6, while Washington earned a 37-10 win over then-undefeated Steel Valley in the District 7 title game Saturday night at Robert Morris.
The school names are somewhat similar and each team’s respective performances throughout 2017 are also very congruent. Wilmington has piled up 541 points this season while Washington has amassed 554 points. Wilmington has six shutouts this year while Washington has three shutouts.
There are some noticeable differences, however. Wilmington relies upon a balanced running game out of the Wing-T that has produced two 1,000-yard rushers and a third back with 875 yards. Washington features 195-pound senior halfback Nick Welsh, who has rushed for 2,083 yards and 28 touchdowns. Washington quarterback Zack Swartz has thrown for 1,855 yards and 27 touchdowns while Wilmington has nine touchdown passes and 821 yards as a team.
In last Saturday’s win over Clarion, Wilmington recorded its ninth touchdown pass via an unusual source as junior halfback Cameron Marett threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to senior split end Colton Marett, his older brother, in the second quarter. The Marett-to-Marett connection gave Wilmington a 20-6 lead.
Fullback Jack Patton and halfback Bryson Verrelli both went over the 1,000-yard mark on the season in last week’s win. Patton ran for a career-high 219 yards on 14 carries while Verrelli rambled for 142 yards on 16 attempts. Verrelli scored on an 85-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Quarterback Robert Pontius scored on a pair of one-yard sneaks. Wilmington finished with a season-high 473 rushing yards.
Patton leads Wilmington with 1,108 yards while Verrelli has 1,010 yards and a team-leading 17 rushing touchdowns. Cameron Marett has 875 rushing yards. Verrelli leads Wilmington with 17 catches and Colton Marett has 14 receptions.
Defensively, Wilmington blanked Clarion over the final three quarters and allowed only 118 yards on 42 offensive plays. Wilmington did have a season-high 15 penalties for 112 yards.
“Obviously, it’s great to be in the position that we’re in,” Wilmington head coach Terry Verrelli said. “We made some mistakes, penalty-wise, but we played a good game Saturday. We’re looking forward to playing Washington.”
Washington produced a pair of 100-yard rushers in last week’s 37-10 win over Steel Valley. Welsh ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries while fullback Curtis Garner ran for 109 yards on two carries. Washington ran for 339 yards as a team.
Washington outscored Steel Valley, 27-0, in the second half. A blocked punt return for touchdown by Daniel Walker opened Washington’s second-half scoring.
Isaiah Schoonmaker, a Miami (Ohio) linebacker recruit, leads Washington with 31 catches for 696 yards and 12 touchdowns. Walker has 25 receptions for 514 yards and eight touchdowns.
“As you go deeper into the playoffs, the teams get better and better,” Terry Verrelli said. “(Washington) has good speed and a quarterback that can run. Their linemen are big. It will be a challenge, that’s for sure.”
In the Class 2A semifinals against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Washington overcame five turnovers in pulling out a 19-14 win. Washington opened the playoffs with a 42-9 win over Freedom. The Little Prexies then blasted East Allegheny, 54-7, in the quarterfinals.
Washington last played a Mercer County team August 29, 2003, when the Little Prexies hosted Farrell. That game ended in a 0-0 tie due to thunderstorms in the first half.
The winner will face an undefeated representative from the East, either Southern Columbia (14-0) or Dunmore (14-0), in next Friday’s state title game.
The game will be heard on WWIZ Z-104.
CLASS 3A PIAA SEMIFINAL
Sharon vs. Quaker Valley, 7:00 p.m. at North Hills High School
For the first time in 17 years, Sharon has advanced to the state semifinals. Friday night, surging Sharon (10-3) meets District 7 champion Quaker Valley (12-1), which is playing in its first-ever PIAA playoff game.
Last Saturday, Sharon rolled past District 6 champion Forest Hills in the state quarterfinals, 45-25. Sharon quarterback Lane Voytik threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns while junior running back Jordan Wilson scored four touchdowns and finished the afternoon with 143 yards. Senior wide receiver Ziyon Strickland hauled in seven passes for 197 yards and a score.
Voytik’s 2,439 passing yards this year are the most by a Mercer County sophomore, as are his 28 touchdown passes. Strickland has a county-record 79 receptions for 1,248 yards. Strickland is District 10’s all-time leader in receptions (235), receiving yards (4,110) and touchdown catches (47). The Pennsylvania record for receiving yards is 4,457, set by Bishop McDevitt’s Brian Lemelle, from 2009 to 2012.
Wilson, who has been somewhat overshadowed by Sharon’s dynamic passing game, has rushed for 1,138 yards and 17 touchdowns. He leads the team with 116 points. Wilson has 2,987 career rushing yards.
Quaker Valley won its first-ever District 7 title by downing Aliquippa, 2-0, in the championship game November 18 at Heinz Field. Quaker Valley had only 55 yards of offense but recorded a safety in the second quarter to take the lead. Aliquippa committed 20 penalties for 190 yards, further aiding the Quakers. Quaker Valley fell to Aliquippa in the regular season, 22-7.
Quarterback Ricky Guss ran for 44 yards on 21 carries. For the season, Guss has rushed for 1,076 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has also thrown for 1,942 yards and 24 touchdowns. Guss accounted for five total touchdowns in a 40-7 semifinal victory over Seton La Salle at North Hills. His top target is Isaiah McNair, who has 43 receptions for 806 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Guss also anchors the defense at inside linebacker in the Quakers’ 4-4 alignment. The Quakers opened the District 7 playoffs with a 51-29 win over Derry.
“The strength is their quarterback,” Sharon head coach Jim Wildman said. “He’s a runner and he’s a thrower. They’re a solid team. They have good athletes.”
Wildman is in the fifth season of his second stint as Sharon’s head coach. His first stint ran from 1977 to 2001. Quaker Valley head coach Jerry Veshio is also in his second stint as the Quakers’ head coach. He went 9-21 from 1984 to 1986. He began his second stint on the first day of practice this season after former head coach John Tortorea unexpectedly resigned at the start of training camp. Veshio has been a longtime track and field coach at Quaker Valley.
Quaker Valley began playing football in 1956 and went 7-0 that year as an independent. Ten smaller districts comprised what was then known as the Quaker Valley Joint School District. Quaker Valley High School is located in Leetsdale, northwest of Pittsburgh.
Sharon is 2-2 all-time in the state semifinals. In 1994, Sharon defeated McGuffey, 14-7, in Class AAA. The next year, Sharon outlasted Belle Vernon in double-overtime, 22-16, in the Class AAA semifinals. In 1998, Sharon dropped a 21-14 decision to Shady Side Academy in the “AA” semifinals. Two years later, Aliquippa topped Sharon, 20-7, in the Class AA semis.
The winner will face Conwell-Egan or Middletown in the state championship game next Saturday afternoon.
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