Sep. 23—While COVID concerns made 2020 a lost season for many scholastic football teams, it was particularly painful for Sharon High's proud program.
"Twenty-twenty was a tough year for everyone, and a 2-5 record just simply isn't good enough at Sharon," Tigers' taskmaster Jason McElhaney said in the preseason.
At this season's midway mark, it may be presumptuous to say Sharon has righted the ship; however it appears the Tigers have returned to their accustomed position of relevance in District 10.
The Tigers' turnabout will be tested Friday night, as Sharon welcomes Fort LeBoeuf to Tiger Stadium for an interesting inter-region affair.
(All games begin 7 p.m.)
Fort LeBoeuf (3-0) at Sharon (3-1)
Sharon is off to the program's first 3-1 start since 2018 — the last season of Jim Wildman's 2nd stint at the helm — when the Tigers took the D-10 Class 3A title and a PIAA quarterfinal-round win en route to a 10-4 overall ledger.
"Feels good to be 3-1, but there is a lot of work to be done," McElhaney admitted after last week's overwhelming win at Oil City (23-0). "I thought our team played well. Oil City is a very different team from the three we have played against thus far in terms of their offensive approach. Coach (Dan) York always has big and physical teams that come right at you and challenge your ability to stop the run.
"I thought that our team did a good job accepting that challenge," McElhaney continued. "We were able to prevent explosive plays and force (the Oilers) to drive the ball. Our defense was also able to turn Oil City over three times. Offensively, we got off to a good start — scoring on our first two possessions — but were only able to generate nine points after the first quarter."
Sharon's Labrae Norris and Cortez Nixon notched 70 and 67 yards rushing, respectively, and Mikey Rodriques and Ja-on Phillips partnered on a pair of TD passes (36 and 3 yards)
"We need to do a better job of getting points on the board when the opportunities present themselves," McElhaney admitted. "We really liked the effort of the offensive line and running backs. The run game has been a struggle for us this year, so to be able to run for close to 250 yards (against Oil City) was great to see."
Fort LeBoeuf's Bison bullied North East last week (42-6), as Tristin Harris had a 9-carry, 185-yard, 3-TD (55, 55, and 40 yards) rushing performance, according to The (Erie) Times-News. He, Dominic Stearns and Raphael Blose pilfered passes in the win. Also, Justin Leuschen lent a 21-yard scoring sprint and Isaac McGuire and Dominic Gentile collaborated on a 20-yard TD toss. The 6-foot-3 Gentile was blanketed by North East's Zane Strong; however, Gentile trapped the ball on Strong's back as he backpedalled into the end zone, according to The Times-News.
In Fort LeBoeuf's back-to-back region routs Harris has 346 yards rushing and 5 TDs and the Bison boast an average of 357 rushing yards/game.
LeBoeuf Head Coach Jeff Nichols told The Times-News, "We're really proud of what those guys did. Our line came off the ball better than they did last week (against Mercyhurst Prep). and when you have (multiple) backs who can run behind that line, and (the opposition) isn't sure who's going to get the ball on the next play, it makes life easier."
"We have a very good Fort LeBoeuf team coming to Sharon," McElhaney cautioned. "(The Bison) run the wing-T really well, with very good players. They have a win over Grove City (17-14 in Waterford) this year and blowouts of Mercyhurst Prep and North East.
"They are certainly — along with Fairview — the teams to beat up north in AAA, so this will be a great measuring stick for us to determine where we are. We're excited to get back in front of the home crowd and under the new lights," McElhaney mused.
Corry (0-4) at Slippery Rock (3-0)
Coach Larry Wendereusz and the Rockets are off to the program's first 3-0 start since 2018, according to ProfessorBriggs.com. Slippery Rock recorded a 7-4 overall record that season, according to Briggs' web site. Slippery Rock started the season with wins over Gen. McLane (27-14), Reynolds (24-6) and Franklin (52-12). Wendereusz's club hammered Harbor Creek (44-3) in the D-10 quarterfinals before bowing in the semifinals to Grove City (26-9).
Coach Brendan Hathaway's 2014 Rockets rolled to 11 consecutive conquests to commence the campaign before losing to Hickory (35-27) in the D-10 semifinals.
Slippery Rock also started 1980, 1984, 2003, 2008 and 2012 with 3 straight wins. In 2013, the Rockets started 10-0 before losing to Gen. McLane in the D-10 Class 3A semifinals, according to ProfessorBriggs.com. The 2012 Rockets started 6-0 before losing to Grove City (34-14), then McLane (46-42) in the D-10 3A semifinals.
Last week the Rockets rolled over backyard rival Grove City (34-7). William "Zip" Mokel manufactured a 16-for-26, 216-yard passing performance that included 37- and 2-yard scoring strikes to Brenden Earl and a 21-yard TD toss to John Sabo.
Corry's 4 losses (including Sharon) occurred by a composite 148-34 differential.
Mercyhurst Prep (1-1) at Hickory (2-2)
Prep bypassed the first 2 weeks of the season because of COVID-19, but the Lakers landed their 1st win of the season — 28-12 over Girard. QB David Bahm passed for 191 yards and a TD and rushed for 2 TDs, according to The Times-News. Aronde Bridgett rushed for 62 yards and a TD, and Dewey Byrd had 4 catches for 98 yards.
Hickory's Ramarion Whitehead (1,902 career receiving yards) went for 12 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs, while quarterback Logan Woods went 23-of-33 for 235 yards and 4 TDs as the Hornets stung Conneaut of Ohio (41-14).
— Hickory High AD Madeline Hoffman announced tickets for the Senior Night game vs. Mercyhurst Prep will be sold today and Friday from 8 a.m.-noon in Hickory's athletic office. For information, phone 724-981-8750, ext. 1400.
Fairview (4-0) at Grove City (2-2)
Fairview is off to a 4-0 start for the first time in more than a decade, according to The Times-News.
Last week the Tigers trailed Corry 20-13 with 7:12 remaining int he 3rd period; however, Jared Gennuso's TD run knotted the count at 20 entering the 4th frame, then his 14-yarder — his 4th of the game — forged Fairview in front to stay. Also for Fairview, Charles Chevalier sprinted 38 yards for a touchdown.
Grove City was stymied by Slippery Rock (34-7). Although the Eagles ended with 280 total yards (Hunter Hohman, 14 of 24 for 154 yards passing, plus a 23-yard TD run), Grove City gave away 4 turnovers. Curtis Hovis (1,923) is approaching 2,000 career rushing yards.
Maplewood (2-1) at Mercer (1-2)
Mercer is coming off an unexpected bye week owing to COVID cases.
Maplewood — outscored 68-53 — commenced the campaign with a win over Iroquois (35-7) before the Tigers were tamed by Northwestern (54-0).
Last week Maplewood mustered a non-region win over Brockway (18-7). According to The (Meadville) Tribune Dominick Kenney completed only 5 of 17 passes attempts, but 4 went to Connor Palmiero for 64 yards and a TD. Ben Gilliberto garnered a 29-carry, 122-yard, 1 TD rushing performance and added 8 tackles for Maplewood. Also the Tigers' defense was paced by Logan Gross' 8 tackles and Connor Burns' pair of picks.
Reynolds (2-1) at Conneaut, Ohio (2-2)
The Raiders are coming off an unexpected bye week, owing to COVID cases that canceled a game at Farrell. Conneaut came to Mercer County last week, but suffered a 41-14 setback at Hickory.
Brookfield (1-0, 3-1) at Crestview (2-0, 3-2)
After a 1-week COVID-coerced hiatus, Brookfield blew out Campbell Memorial (62-0) last week.
Coach Randy Clark's club collected 523 yards of total offense. A trio of Warriors surpassed the century mark in the ground, including Christian Davis (159, including 95-, 45- and 19-yard scoring sprints), Donovan Pawlowski (135, including 27- and 17-yard TDs), and Teandre Craig (127, including 79- and 17-yard TDs). Also, Donovan and David Pawlowski collaborated on a 57-yard scoring strike.
Crestview has claimed conquests over Southern (28-8), Campbell Memorial (47-7) and Liberty (49-13), while suffering setbacks to Salem (38-13) and United (47-7).
Last week, dual-threat QB Anthony Cusick accounted for 4 TDs. Cusick completed 20 of 32 pass attempts for 234 yards and rushed for 60 yards on 6 carries, according to MaxPreps. The Rebels' run game was led by Roclen Bettura (24 carries, 108 yards, 3 TDs). He also caught a handful of passes for 35 yards and keyed Crestview with a team-high 13 tackles. Cusick's top target in the pass game was Zander Witherow (9 receptions, 77 yards). Also, Dom Yerkey was credited with 11 tackles and Joey Garr pilfered a pair of passes.
Lakeview (0-2, 1-2) at Wilmington (2-0, 2-1), noon
In last week's win at Greenville the visiting Greyhounds' ground game generated 271 yards rushing, led by Gage DeCaprio (124 and 3 TDs, including a 44-yard scoring sprint) and Luke Edwards(121). Edwards ended with a trio of TDs' coming via the ground, air from Tuff McConahy, and an 87-yard kickoff return.
After a season-opening win Lakeview allowed 107 points in back-to-back losses to Greenville and Farrell, then had last week's contest canceled (Sharpsville), owing to COVID concerns. Quarterback Gavin Murdock has compiled 1,847 passing yards and 1,066 rushing yards.
Greenville (1-3, 1-3) at Kennedy Catholic (0-2, 0-3), 1 p.m.
Kennedy Catholic is coming off its best performance in almost a full year — a 14-12 loss to Iroquois last Thursday night in which quarterback Rayvion Wilbon-Venable and wide-out Simeir Wade collaborated 5 times for 93 yards, including a 27-yard scoring strike. Also, Wilbon-Venable connected with Blaze Campbell on a 25-yard TD toss.
The Trojans' traditional ground game has given way to the pitch-catch combo of Jalen Ritzert and Jase Herrick. In the last 2 games they have collaborated 10 times for 229 yards, including 67- and 76-yard scoring strikes.