By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
NEW WILMINGTON — Pat McClearn lived Lakeview High football program’s previous gridiron glory days. Unfortunately for him on Friday night he was on the business end of the current Sailors’ resurgence.
McClearn and his Mercer High Mustangs were eliminated by Lakeview from the District 10 Class A semifinals, 52-21.
Mercer and McClearn will have to wait until 2014 to bid for their program’s 1st D-10 football championship. However Lakeview is in line for its initial district crown, though the Sailors will have to surpass Sharpsville (a 40-3 winner over West Middlesex), the 2-time reigning kingpin.
“It’s tough walkin’ off after a game like this ... I see all these people I know. But I said it before the game and I honestly mean it,” McClearn emphasized, “I wish them well.
“I wish they would finish in second place every year behind us,” mused a ruefully smiling McClearn, “but (Friday) night they were a better team, so I wish ’em luck next week.”
McClearn, Lakeview ’84, played on the 1982 French Creek Valley Conference co-championship team as a junior for former Sailors’ skipper Joe Sass; now his alma mater will make only its 2nd District 10 title tilt appearance since 1986.
Marquis Spence sparked the Sailors with a career night as he tallied 4 touchdowns on runs of 4, 4 and 9 yards and hauled in Zach Bigley’s 7-yard TD toss — all occurring in the 1st half as Lakeview led 34-7.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had a game like this,” Spence said. “Teams keying on Blake (Reddick) helps a lot. And after the loss to Mercer during the regular season (19-8 in week 4) we all had to turn it up. And I guess I just started showin’ more than people thought I would. This feels amazing! I’m so excited!
“We had pretty high expectations going into this year; we wanted to go undefeated,” Spence continued. “But I think that loss (to Mercer) really helped us, motivated us, and we started to play a lot better than everybody thought.”
Reddick roared past the District 10 single-season yards rushing mark (Mercyhurst Prep’s Aaron Horton, 2,444) on his 2nd carry, a 7-yard sprint. By evening’s end he put himself into position to surpass former Sharon standout T.J. Phillips (6,241, 1995-98) as the district’s career rushing leader.
Unofficially, Reddick has rushed for 6,158 yards to date.
According to Lakeview High, entering the game Reddick had rushed for 6,005 career yards. He ended his evening with a 20-carry, 153-yard performance. That included a 49-yard, 3rd-quarter scoring sprint mere moments after his fumble set up the 2nd Steeds’ score.
After Logan Clarke collaborated with T.J. Peters on their 2nd scoring strike of the 3rd quarter — from 4 yards with 22.4 ticks to play — Lakeview led 34-21. On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Reddick raced to his 31st rushing TD of the season, staking the Sailors to a 40-21 edge.
With 8:13 remaining in the 4th frame center fielder Reddick reeled in Clarke’s 3rd-and-5 pass from Lakeview’s 21-yard line and returned it 94 yards for another score.
“I’m so proud,” said Sailors’ skipper Dan York. “We faced adversity — (the Mustangs) beat us the first time that we played them, and you always have that weighing on your mind. You know, are you good enough? But (the Sailors) came out and played ‘lights out’ football, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. It’s a great group of kids.”
While the Mustangs’ main concern may have been shackling Reddick as they did in the team’s initial meeting (61 yards on 18 carries), it created opportunities for Spence, as well as Bigley, who completed only 3 passes, but 2 scores — shortly before Spence’s score, Bigley and Zach VanDusen collaborated on a 40-yard scoring strike as the latter beat a pair of defenders on a post pattern.
“Zach VanDusen’s been makin’ big plays for us for four years ... Zack Bigley’s been makin’ big plays for us for four years ... and Marquis Spence, this is his time to shine, too. Marquis came in and played a heckava ballgame,” York praised.
“As soon as Blake took a step, (the Mustangs) were going with Blake, and we just undercut them with Marquis,” York related.
The Sailors (11-1) coasted to 350 total yards on 45 snaps (7.7 yards/play), with Lakeview’s lone loss occurring on the game’s final play when Bigley took a knee in the waning seconds. Leading Lakeview’s ground game were center Austin Hostetler, guards Sam Breese and George Hooker, tackles Marcus Bowser, Hunter Armstrong and Stan Mellott, and tight end Jarrett Troy.