Picking up yards

Grove City’s Colby Nelson runs the ball against Sharon during the District 10 Class 3A Championship Saturday at Slippery Rock University.

SLIPPERY ROCK – Normally the faces change as players come and go, while the uniform remains a the same – a constant symbol of stability for a proud program. But Sharon High’s football team flipped the script for that scenario during Saturday’s District 10 Class 3A championship game against Grove City.

Owing to pre-game miscommunication, both teams were wearing home whites. Realizing the error, an attempt was made to retrieve the Tigers’ road uniforms, but that could not be completed until halftime.

None of which factored into the Tigers’ 33-21 triumph at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.

“That’s a good, talented, well-coached team over there. They executed and were able to convert some of those third downs, which were big – keep the chain’s movin’ and the clock goin’,” Grove City mentor Sam Mowrey said of Sharon. “Their offense did a good job, but I thought our defense really responded when they needed to and made some nice plays and got some really key stops.

“Wish we would’ve been able to turn a couple of those into a few more touchdowns, but hat’s off to Sharon, they did a great job,” Mowrey praised.

Lane Voytik victimized Grove City for a 27-for-37, 286-yard, 3-TD passing performance, staking Sharon to a 3-peat of District 10 titles. Voytik concluded his scholastic career never having lost a D-10 tournament tilt as Sharon’s starting signal-caller.

“Except for my freshman year ... I was a backup back then. But we lost the District 10 championship to Hickory, and I just never forgot that comin’ in as the starter my sophomore year. I just didn’t want to feel that, ever again,” Voytik recalled. 

Voytik targeted Ty Eilam throughout the tilt, and the latter established a Sharon High program single-game record with a 13-catch, 197-yard performance that included an 18-yard, 2nd-stanza scoring strike.

The Tigers converted 10 of 13 third-down opportunities, according to ProfessorBriggs.com. But it was a 4th-down play that secured Sharon’s success.

Leading 26-21 with less than 2 minutes remaining, on 4th-and-1 Tyvell Richardson raced 38 yards down the Sharon sideline. It appeared he had been stopped, but instead surged to the insurance score with 1:39 left.

“They talked me into it ... a little bit,” admitted Tigers’ taskmaster Jason McElhaney. “We’d been practicin’ that thing there, it’s gotta be six or seven weeks. It didn’t really go EXACTLY as planned, by Tyvell just spun out and made the play.”

Sharon started the season with back-to-back losses at New Wilmington and at Hermitage, but for the 3rd consecutive season is playing its best at the most opportune time. The Tigers have advanced to the regional final each of the last 2 seasons.

During the 1st half Voytik vaulted Sharon to a 13-0 lead. He culminated a game-opening, 10-play, 65-yard drive (5 minutes, 24 seconds) with a 1-yard plunge, then extended Sharon’s edge as he hit a slanting Eilam with an 18-yard TD toss on a 3rd-and-5 throw. That capped a 13-play, 82-yard, 5-minute, 24-second drive with 6:36 remaining to intermission.

Voytik surpassed the career 8,000-yards passing play on the series.

The Eagles, on their ensuing drive, edged within 13-7 on Colby Nelson’s 10-yard run. Logan Breese’s 10-yard, 4th-and-9 

pass to Sayyid Muhammad set up the score with 4:29 remaining in the half. It was a 10-play, 55-yard drive that consumed only 2:07.

Grove City maintained its momentum at the 2nd-half’s outset, needing only 1:23 and 6 plays to traverse 59 yards. Breese and Muhammad connected on a 34-yard pass play, and John Hake’s PAT kick elevated the Eagles to their initial lead, 14-13, just a minute-and-a-half in.

But Sharon responded with its own half-dozen-play scoring sequence that required less than 2 minutes. Voytik and C.J. 

Parchman collaborated on a 19-yard TD toss as the Tigers took a lead they never relinquished, 19-14, with 8:26 remaining in the 3rd period.

The teams traded TDs early in the final frame.

Voytik passed to Parchman for an 8-yard TD, culminating a 14-play, 83-yard march that consumed 7:16. Jake Auchter’s conversion kick took the Tigers to a 2-score lead, 26-14.

But a subsequent, short Sharon punt set up Grove City at the Tigers’ 37-yard line with 5:46 remaining. In just 4 plays, aided by a pass interference penalty, the Eagles ended in the end zone on Nelson’s 8-yard run. In his scholastic swan song Nelson notched a game-high 21-carry, 106-yard performance.

“Colby Nelson’s as tough as freakin’ nails, man. He’s a heckava ballplayer,” McElhaney praised. “They’ve got guys (offensive playmakers) all over the place, they’re ready to go. It was a battle, but we just made a couple more plays.

Grove City (9-3) was making its 4th consecutive appearance in the D-10 championship game, also losing last year to Sharon. This year the lone losses occurred at Hermitage and Sharon on back-to-back weeks, but the proud program fell just 1 win shy of a 4th straight double-digit win season.

Grove City seniors include: Daiveon Say, Jake Reddick, Sam Stanton, Nelson, Lance Craig, Challen Estes, and Josh Dever.

“Losin’s never something that’s easy or somethin’ that’s fun, but the reason that it’s so tough is because of these guys right here,” admitted Mowrey, motioning to his minions behind him. “Just the good times that you have with them, and the relationships they have with each other. That’s what makes it tough, is the fact that you don’t get to go back and practice on Monday and share some of those times together again.

“Losin’ a football game is one thing, and is never easy. But the hard part is sayin’ goodbye to the seniors that just finished. A heckava career that they had, and it’s hard for a season to end like that,” concluded Mowrey.

For Voytik & Co., the season for Sharon (9-3) continues next week in the PIAA playoffs against Bald Eagle Area, a team the Tigers took down last year.

 

———

DISTRICT 10 CLASS 3A

CHAMPIONSHIP

GROVE CITY   0    7    7     7     21

SHARON        7    6    6    14    33

Scoring plays

S — Voytik, 2 run (Auchter kick)

S — Eilam, 18 pass from Voytik (kick failed)

GC — Nelson, 10 run (Hake kick)

GC — Muhammad, 34 pass from Breese (Hake kick)

S — Parchman, 19 pass from Voytik (kick failed)

S — Parchman, 8 pass from Voytik (Auchter kick)

GC — Nelson, 8 run (Hake kick)

S — Richardson, 37 run (Auchter kick)

Team stats

GROVE CITY                   SHARON

16     First downs               25

74     Rushing yards           117

167     Passing yards           286

24-16-0     Att-comp-int         37-27-1

241     Total yards              403

4-2     Fumbles-lost             3-1

6-55        Penalties-yards lost     7-67

Individual stats

Rushing: GROVE CITY — Nelson 21-106, Hovis 2-9, team 1-(-17), Breese 5-(-24); SHARON — Richardson 13-89, Ortiz 6-17, Voytik 8-16, Smith-Austin 1-9, Parchman 1-4, team 4-(-18).

Passing: GC — Breese 24-16-0-167; SHARON — Voytik 37-27-1-286.

Receiving: GROVE CITY — Muhammad 7-103, Nelson 3-31, Reddick 5-25, Say 1-8; SHARON — Eilam 13-197, Jones 7-51, Parchman 5-32, Richardson 1-11, Phillips 1-(-5).

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