By Corey J. Corbin
Allied Sports Correspondent
SLIPPERY ROCK – Country music legend Kenny Rogers famously crooned about ‘The Gambler’ many decades ago and who knows maybe he was talking about the Grove City Eagles.
The Eagles (9-2) rolled the dice on special teams with several fake punts and onside kicks to varying results in a demoralizing 35-13 loss to rival Hickory (10-1) in the District 10 Class AA semifinals Mihalik-Thompson Stadium Saturday afternoon.
“You might as well roll the dice,” Grove City coach Jeff Bell said. “That’s how we’ve played all year. We’ve been playing like that for the last three or four years. We onside kick it. We fake punt. It makes us hard to prepare for. I don’t have any second thoughts about any of that.”
The Eagles’ special teams woes came back to haunt them Saturday when a Kyle Trinch pass to quarterback Jared Graham was foiled for no gain and a Trinch punt sailed exactly one-yard. On another fake punt, Trinch ran for a short gain.
“Things just didn’t go our way,” Bell said. “We took some chances. Some of them paid off and some didn’t. We really don’t have a punter. Our top two punters weren’t with us. Kyle Trinch had a couple nice punts a couple (not so good punts). If you’re not going to gain any field position, you might as well throw in a few wrinkles. We don’t punt very often, so my hat’s off to them, they forced us to punt a couple times.”
With the loss, the Eagles will say good-bye to seniors Mackenzie Patterson, Chad Williams, Trinch, Tom Kosick, Ethan Yalch, Harold Price, John Michael, John Lamarca, Shawn Seybert, Stephen Boyle, Devan Smoker, Steve Christie, Braden Rust and Kenny Shoulders.
“In four years (at the varsity level), I think they’ve only lost four or five games,” Bell said. “That’s a tribute to them and the kids that have come before them. It’s a great group of kids. I can’t say enough about them. They all worked hard. A lot of people thought we weren’t going to be in this position this year, because of all the kids that we lost. It’s a tribute those (the seniors) that we had the success we did. Going 9-2 isn’t bad. They left a mark and they won’t be forgotten. We’re real lucky to have had the opportunity to coach them.”
But the cupboard is hardly bare in Grove City. The Eagles will return eight offensive starters and six defensive starters in 2013.
“We’ve got some kids coming back that got a good amount of playing time this year,” Bell said. “We’ll get started in the weight room in December and hopefully, we’ll be (back in the District 10 playoffs) next November. It’s nice to know the cupboard isn’t bare. It depends on what (the underclassmen do in the offseason). If (the Eagles) really want to work, we can maybe get back here or maybe take it a bit further next year. It takes a lot of work, because there’s other teams out there that have the same goals and are willing to work hard.”
Going into the game, Grove City knew it would have to put forth an offensive effort to the one it got when the Eagles upset then state ranked rival Slippery Rock earlier in the season by possessing the football and winning the time of possession battle.
Well, the Eagles won the time of possession battle 34:03 to 13:57 and moved the ball at times, but just couldn’t cross the goalline.
Despite having such a lopsided edge in time of possession, the Eagles were outgained by the Hornets Saturday 402-269, including a 395-264 advantage on the ground.
“I thought we moved the ball well at times,” Bell said. “We just didn’t get points off it, especially there in the first half. That really hurt. “I thought our kids hung in there and battled. Up until the end of the third quarter or early in the fourth, we were still in the game, but we lost. It wasn’t our day today. It wasn’t for lack of effort or lack of trying. Our kids gave it everything they had.”
To prove his point, Bell mentioned the Eagles’ final first half possession that ended inside the Hickory 10 that kept the score intact at 14-0. Had Grove City scored there, they would’ve really made a game of it after quarterback Jared Graham capped the second half’s first possession with a 4-yard score.
“What really hurt was not getting in(to the end zone) at the end of the first half,” Bell said. “That hurt. ‘Cause we came out in the second half and took it down the field to make it 14-6. That made it a game.”
Hickory speedster and West Virginia University recruit DeShawn Coleman made sure it wouldn’t be a game for much longer by scoring on 60- and 75-yard jaunts – the later coming one play after a GC drive was thwarted deep in Hickory territory and put the Hornets up 28-6.
“That’s the problem playing against a back like him, you miss a tackle and he’s gone,” Bell said. “We had a little bit of momentum there (after cutting the deficit to 14-6), but we lost it. (Coleman’s touchdown) was a back breaker. That hurt.”
The Eagles also had issues containing Hornet quarterback Matt Voytik, who finished with 112 yards on 8 carries. Voytik was the benefactor of the Eagles biting heavily on a pitch on the game’s first offensive play and raced 62-yards for an early 7-0 Hickory lead.
“The quarterback causes problems, too,” Bell said. “When you’re gearing up to stop Coleman, that opens up things for (Voytik) and he made a couple real nice plays. First play of the game, (Voytik) goes 60, 70 yards for a touchdown. He had a pretty good lane to run in. I think that’s what happened. It wasn’t like we didn’t have anyone on him. I think we overplayed the pitch and he made a heck of a run. He’s made plays all year.”
Foster Reznor led Grove City with 84 yards on 15 carries and 3-yard touchdown run, while Williams closed out his high school career with 79 yards on 23 totes. Graham (49) and Tanner Lucido (37) also had solid rushing efforts.
Both teams were heavily penalized. Grove City was whistled six times for 33 yards, while Hickory had 13 penalties – many were of a 15-yard variety – for 113 yards.
“We were trying to help them (get whistled for penalties),” Bell said with a laugh. “It’s how you react to things like this is what people will remember. I thought our kids held it together pretty good. Sometimes in these games when the score gets out of hand, the kids will do some dumb things.”
Notes: Coleman also scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter and finished with a game-high 194 yards on 14 carries. … Davon Tindall also had 4 carries for 76 yards. … Grove City held a 18-14 cushion in first downs. … Hickory will play Wilmington at 7 p.m. Saturday evening back at SRU.
GROVE CITY — The Lakeview Sailors are going to spend a lot of time this offseason playing the woulda, coulda, shoulda game.
The Sailors (7-5) lost four fumbles, had two extra points blocked and allowed Sharpsville to recover an onside kick in a heartbreaking 41-34 loss to the Blue Devils (10-1) Friday in the District 10 Class A semifinals at Grove City High School’s Forker Field.
“We needed turnovers tonight, because we were having trouble stopping them,” Sharpsville coach Paul Piccirilli said. “We’re just thankful for what happened. Our defense broke a lot tonight, but they came up big in the later stages of the game. That’s all we can ask for.”
Despite being embarassed 42-0 by Sharpsville about a month ago, the Sailors came out swinging Friday night.
After forcing the Devils into a three-and-out to open the game, Lakeview scored on its first play from scrimmage on a 68-yard burst by Blake Reddick, who added a 41-yard touchdown run on Lakeview’s very next possession for a 15-0 edge.
“They got a helmet on helmet,” Piccirilli said. “We told our guys they had to slide and no one heard it. We had no idea what they were coming out with. When you get beat the first time, you make some changes to help your team out. We basically stayed in what we normally do.”
Those two runs set the stage for a 23-carry, 243-yard effort for Reddick, who also scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter, after being bottled up in the teams’ first meeting back on Oct. 20 in Sharpsville.
“I don’t know that anything changed,” Lakeview coach Dan York said. “This is the second time that we’ve played them and it’s hard to get up for a team the second time. We just happened to take advantage of it. We just came out on the short end of the stick.”
In their first meeting, Lakeview had difficulties containing Sharpsville standout Tyler Luchey.
Not much changed in that regard Friday with the Blue Devil receiver hauling in 2 touchdown passes and returning a fumble recovery for 55 yards and another TD.
This time around, though, Luchey got help from teammate Derrick Odem, who led Sharpsville with 5 catches for 114 yards and tacked on 11 totes for another 48 yards on the ground.
“Tyler Luchey is a heck of an athlete, but what people don’t know is (Odem) catches the ball just as well,” Piccirilli said. “We exploited it tonight. He made a heck of play off a simple pass. That’s something we have. We’re fortunate to have some great athletes.”
With the teams in a 34-34 deadlock late in the fourth quarter, the Devils got a little lucky when Zach VanDusen’s punt went 6 yards off the side of his foot, allowing Sharpsville to start the eventual game-winning drive at the LHS 35.
After a Brandon Rice sack of Sharpsville’s Bryan Stafford on first down and Stafford to Ross Llewellyn hook up for 4 yards on second down, Odem somehow, someway managed to come down with a 37-yard bomb despite perfect coverage from VanDusen to the Sailor 2 with just under 30 seconds left in the game.
After Stafford spiked the ball to stop the clock, the Sharpsville signal caller was able to find his favorite receiver, Luchey, in the corner of the endzone for the game-winning 2-yard score.
“Through heart and adversity, our kids found the will to win,” Piccirilli said. “We got big plays when we needed them. (Luchey is) something special. We’re blessed to have someone like him. The best way to sum up our kids is they don’t think they’re out of the game until you tell them the clock has all zeros. That’s a special quality.”
After Lakeview shocked the Devils scoring twice in three plays to open the game, Sharpsville rallied on the back of Luchey, who scored on a 43-yard pass from Stafford and returned a Kokoski fumble 55 yards for a score, to pull within 15-13 after 12 minutes of play.
Sharpsville grabbed its first lead of the game six ticks into the second quarter on Joey Pagliaroli’s 1-yard plunge, but the Sailors regained a 21-19 lead on a Kokoski 1-yard run.
Lakeview extended its lead to 28-19 with a Reddick 2-yard run, but Sharpsville answered with Odem scoring runs of 8 and 1 yard with the later coming after a botched snap made its way into his hands on fourth and goal from the 1.
With Sharpsville now leading 34-28, it was the Sailors’ turn to rally — and they did by marching 42-yards in 10 plays with Kokoski bulling his way into the endzone from 1-yard out to knot the score at 34-all.
“This is the first time (Sharpsville’s second string center) played all year,” Piccirilli said. “It slipped out of his hand and fortunately it went back to the halfback, who was in motion, saw it. He picked it up and made a heck of a play to get it in. I don’t think he got it by much.”
With the loss, Lakeview must now say good-bye to seniors Andrew Parimuha, Brandon Persch, Kokoski, Dylan Taylor, Jon Knapp and Jake Lewis.
“It’s a tough loss, but the kids played hard,” Lakeview coach Dan York said. “I’m proud of them. We had some things not go our way. We had some turnovers and against a good team like Sharpsville, you can’t do that.”
Sharpsville will get another crack at Region 1 champion West Middlesex (10-2) — who beat the Devils 21-14 back in Week 6 — Friday at Slippery Rock U.
Notes: Kokoski had 55 yards rushing for Lakeview, while Zach Bigley had 36. ... Lakeview lost all 4 of its fumbles. ... Sharpsville center and linebacker P.J. Campoli had to be carted off the field with a reported leg injury early in the first quarter. ... Rice and Sam Breese had sacks for Lakeview, while Persch and Marquis Spence had fumble recoveries. ... Odem had two fumble recoveries for Sharpsville, while Zach Stafford, Bryan Stafford and Luchey also pounced on loose balls for the Devils. ... Luchey had three receptions for 53 yards and completed his only pass of the evening for 25 yards.
SLIPPERY ROCK – Looks can be deceiving.
Slippery Rock quarterback Ryan Currie threw for a pair of touchdowns on his first three pass attempts and Frank Conlon went over the 100-yard mark in the first three minutes of Friday’s game against General McLane.
Yet, somehow, someway the Rockets (9-2) dropped a 46-42 slugfest to the Lancers (10-2) in the District 10 Class AAA semifinals at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
As the final score suggests, neither defense showed up for most of the game.
The teams combined for four touchdowns through the game’s first 8 minutes, but the Lancers got a pair of crucial stops from defensive back Zachary Fox, who broke up a fourth down pass and intercepted another pass in the final 3 minutes of the game.
The Rockets, who finished with 436 yards of total offense, let 21-12 and 35-26 leads slip away.
With Slippery Rock leading 42-39, General McLane took a lead it wouldn’t relinquish when Michael Suminski bolted 49 yards for a touchdown with 7:02 remaining.
McLane had several chances to ice the game after recovering a Rock fumble about a minute later, but a pair of Lancer touchdowns were called back owing to GM miscues, keeping Slippery Rock in the game and setting up Fox’ late-game heroics.
Conlon opened the game with an 83-yard score and set up Currie’s 6-yard score a few minutes later with a 67-yard run.
McLane answered with touchdowns runs from UConn recruit Quinn Thompson (6 yards) and Suminski (28 yards) as the Rockets held a 14-12 lead after 12 minutes of play.
Currie’s arm was showcased in the second quarter with scoring passes to Chris Reeseman (14 yards) and Jake Whitmer (57 yards).
General McLane countered with Aiden Graham and Suminski scores as the teams went into the lockerroom with SR up 28-26.
Conlon opened the second half scoring by racing 71 yards for a 35-26 lead before allowing McLane to score 3 of the next 4 touchdowns with Currie’s 2-yard score being the only reprieve.
Suminski scored on 2- and 49-yard runs, while Thompson also scored on a 4-yard run.
Conlon finished the game with a game-high 284 yards on 15 totes, while Currie completed 4-of-11 passes for 102 yards. Reeseman reeled in 3 of those passes for 45 yards.
General McLane nearly got 100 yards rushing from three different players – Suminski (195 yards), Thompson (145) and Graham (95 yards).
Notes: General McLane had 21 first downs to SR’s 13. … Slippery Rock had just one penalty. … General McLane had two fumbles, losing one, while the Rockets lost its only fumble. ... Phone calls by Allied News to coach Brendan Hathaway for comments on the game and his players were not returned.