NEW WILMINGTON – So many components factor into winning – or losing – a high school football game. It’s truly a mind-body-soul investment.
In avenging a regular-season setback to Hickory, Grove City High football team dominated the physical, but the Eagles enjoyed an emotional edge, as well.
Six weeks ago Grove City’s 23-game regular-season win skein was snapped at Hickory (21-19). But led by Logan Breese’s 207-yard, 4-TD passing performance and Colby Nelson’s 34-carry, 186-yard rushing, 1-TD contribution, the Eagles eased to a 34-13 win in Saturday’s District 10 Class 3A semifinal.
For the 2nd straight season Grove City will square off with Sharon – a 24-14 winner over previously undefeated Harbor Creek – next week for the D-10 title. Sharon is the reigning 2-time titlist, and the game will be the Grovers’ 4th consecutive championship game appearance.
Grove City (9-2) suffered back-to-back Shenango Valley setbacks at mid-season (also at Sharon) before winning its last 3 games. And Head Coach Sam Mowrey did not doubt his club could return to the district championship game.
“To be honest with you, there wasn’t (doubt). Those are things that happen in a football season,” Mowrey mused. “It was just the fact our kids hadn’t had to deal with that (losing). But that’s a good thing. In life, things aren’t going to go your way all the time, and how’re you gonna respond in those situations? And I think you see how our boys have responded since those mid-season, tough two games.
“Grove City and Hickory, it’s two great teams. Hickory has a lot of weapons and they do a great job,” Mowrey praised. “I’m not going to say it’s an advantage or a disadvantage; it was just (Saturday), we played a really solid game.”
As great as Grove City’s offense – 396 total yards, with Breese breaching the single-season, 2,000-yards passing plateau – the Eagles’ defense devoured Hickory. Sophomore end Jacob Blair brought down quarterback Michael Henwood a trio of times, Sayyid Muhammad pilfered a pair of passes (a 76-yard Pick-6 was negated by personal-foul penalty), and Jake Reddick recorded another interception (and caught a 9-yard, 4th-period TD pass).
“That’s our defense, and it starts with (Coordinator Brad) Trezona and that defensive staff,” Mowrey explained. “He got ‘em ready all week. Bottom line: That’s the players out there makin’ plays. Coach always preaches, ‘Do your job,’ and they did their jobs (Saturday). They played with six X’s of effort. Plays were breakin’ down, and that quarterback (Henwood) is a handful to keep in the pocket; he does a great job of extending plays.
“But our defense just kept on runnin’, gettin’ to the ball. We had (Hickory) in good down-and-distances. They would sometimes convert a third-and-long, and then the defense would make a play and get a stop when they needed to. They just played a phenomenal game,” Mowrey added.
Coming off a 600-plus-yard performance against North East, Hickory (7-4) had only 209 total yards (76 rushing). Henwood hit Hunter Stoots and Nathan Richards with 7- and 14-yard, 4th-frame TD tosses, but the Hornets could not hurdle a 27-point deficit.
“Our offense let us down (Satur)day,” admitted 1st-year Hickory Head Coach Bill Dungee. “I never thought we’d get beat in man-to-man coverage – that’s basically what they played us, Cover-one, with a high safety. I thought we’d win those battles. ... Grove City, they beat us in man-to-man, and if you do that, crowd the box and take away the run and the pass, that’s what happened.”
Every coach has a theory as to meeting the same opponent twice in the same season. Dungee detailed his take:
“I told the kids, there’s three advantages in each game: Number one, a psychological advantage -- we have that in a rematch, because we beat them; number two, there’s a physical advantage -- we were faster; they were bigger. But then I think there’s the emotional advantage, and in a rematch the emotional advantage goes to the team that lost prior.
“And,” continued Dungee, who last season served as a Sharon assistant for a team that avenged a regular-season setback to Grove City by winning the D-10 championship game. “ ... Definitely, in that rematch, the emotional advantage goes to the team who lost. And schematically also. Because human nature says, ‘We do the same thing, we should be fine,’ (but) when you lose you say, ‘We need to change some things.
“But hat’s off to Coach Mowrey and everything they did. They had a great game plan,” Dungee praised, adding, “And like I told our guys, ‘We don’t need to hang our heads. We got beat (Satur)day. It wasn’t anything that we did; we just got beat.’”
Nelson is a senior, and Mowrey related, “Colby is just a ‘blue-collar’ kid. Just the way he handles himself with a quiet enthusiasm. He gets fired up out there, for bein’ such a quiet kid. This is what we’ve talked to him about: This is his ‘ride,’ this is his last show. We’ve told him. ‘You’re not comin’ out of the game unless you take yourself out of the game.’ He gets the ball and just keeps gettin’ positive yards.”
Paving paths for Nelson and protecting Breese from being sacked were center Matt Howard, guards Blair and Lance Craig, tackles Nate Wadsworth and Gage Dlugonski, and tight end Zack Martin. The latter latched onto a 19-yard, 3rd-period TD pass from Breese.
And for the second time this season Daveion Say scorched Hickory for 100-plus receiving yards. Saturday, Say secured a game-high handful of catches for 115 yards, including 54- and 32-yard scoring strikes in the 2nd stanza and 4th frame, respectively.
Regarding another rematch and opportunity for vindication, Mowrey diplomatically said, “We’re excited to be able to practice again this week. We’re lookin’ forward to gettin’ better this week and lookin’ for a great game next weekend. We’ve talked to the team: It’s not about who we’re playin’; it’s about the guys they have around them,’ so that’s what we’re gonna focus on.”
Note: Hickory’s seniors include Stoots, Richards, Braelin Stewart, Kam Fisher (sidelined from Saturday’s game by the flu), Matthew Harris, Braedon Allen, Cole Myers, and Bailey Phillips.
“ ... I told our seniors, ‘Great job,” Dungee related, “ ... a small senior class, but they gave me everything from day one. I remember I walked in(to the first team meeting) in March, and I told ‘em what we needed to do to change our record (2 wins in 2018). And from day one they gave it to me. From the integrity ... to the hard work ... the discipline, every day, they did it. So it was successful from that standpoint in settin’ the culture. But also for the underclassmen to not be cryin’ after this game, but be celebrating and gettin’ ready for a District 10 championship. Yes, I’m happy.”
CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
MEADVILLE – When you’re figuratively punched in the mouth, you have two choices: quit or fight back. The Sharon Tigers seemed to say: “Is that all you got?”
It pretty much was!
Undefeated Harbor Creek took the opening kickoff in the District 10 Class 3A semifinal game against Sharon and marched 68 yards in 14 plays to take a 6-0 lead against the vaunted Tigers defense. Some teams might have folded. Not the two-time defending D-10 champs Sharon.
Undaunted, the Tigers of Coach Jason McElhaney scored the next 24 points en route to a 24-14 victory to set up a rematch with Grove City for the D-10 title Saturday.
“Sometimes it takes some time to adjust to the speed of the game and they have good speed as well,” said McElhaney. “We had to adjust to their size and physical play. We had a bye and then Girard (which was no test) in the last two weeks, but this was a really good team we were facing.”
And while the defense turned up the heat the rest of the way and made some changes to adapt to a potent Huskies attack, on offense it
was business as usual – All-State quarterback Lane Voytik passing to a talented group of receivers.
Voytik hit on 24 of 30 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns to Marcel Smith-Austin (53 yards) and Trey Jones (5 yards). Brady Ortiz scored on a 1-yard run, while Jake Aucher hit 3 PAT boots and a 21-yard field goal on the last play of the half.
Ty Eilam caught 9 passes for 101 yards and Smith-Austin 4 for 95. The both had interceptions on defense
Sharon moved to 8-3 on the season, but has been strong since starting the year 0-2. Harbor Creek finished 10-1. — By Lynn Saternow, Herald Sports Editor.
MEADVILLE – While Farrell saw it’s long defensive scoreless game-streak ended, the one streak that really counts is still intact – District 10 Class 1A championships.
Farrell outlasted a tough Maplewood team, 35-20, Friday night at Meadville High’s Bender Field to notch a fifth straight D-10 title, but the first with former assistant Anthony Pegues as head coach.
Pegues is also blessed with some pretty talented players, including sophomore running back Anthony Stallworth who put on a show. Stallworth, the first sophomore in Farrell history to rush for more than 1000 yards in a season, carried the ball 15 times for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ray Raver also had 2 TDs and Jaden Harrison 1.
Meanwhile, the game was a contest of Farrell’s ground attack against the passing of Maplewood’s great JD McFadden. McFadden passed for 301 yards in the game, connecting with young brother Jesse 8 times for 196 of the yards.
Farrell (10-2) will take on the District 5 champion at 1 p.m. Saturday at Slippery Rock U.
Meanwhile, a great career of McFarland and the great season of Maplewood (10-1) comes to an end. McFadden is the all-time passing leader in Crawford County history and finishes with more than 6,000 career passing yards. The Tigers have never won a D-10 title and this was only their second appearance in the finals.
HERMITAGE – The stadium lights glistening off another District 10 championship trophy put to rest the theory Wilmington High’s football team may have been rusty.
Ethan Susen scored a trio of touchdowns and Darren Miller added another pair in a 45-7 win over Greenville for the 2A crown at Hickory High’s Hornet Stadium.
With the win Wilmington (10-0) will meet Chestnut Ridge – a 41-20 winner over Berlin Brothersvalley – in next week’s PIAA playoff opener at 7 p.m. at Somerset High Stadium.
The Greyhounds’ almost 3-week hiatus from their regular-season finale to Friday night’s title tilt appeared to have little-to-no effect as Wilmington won its 4th consecutive crown (14th since joining D-10 in 1994).
Despite sustaining a midseason knee injury that cost him 3 games and part of a 4th, Susen showed no ill-effects against Greenville. Susen scored on a 6-yard run, 61-yard punt return, and 36-yard pass from Caelan Bender.
Greenville (6-6) won a quartet of District 10 titles during the decade of the 1990’s – the last in ‘99 – but none since.
Levi Swartz sprinted 50 yards for the Trojans’ TD in the 3rd quarter, and Michael Chrastina ran 9 yards for Coach Brandon Phillians ‘Hounds in the 4th frame. Daniel Hartwell hammered a handful of PATs for Wilmington, also.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 3A
HICKORY 0 0 0 13 13
GROVE CITY 7 7 7 13 34
GC — Nelson, 18 run (Hake kick)
GC — Say, 54 pass from Breese (Hake kick)
GC — Martin, 19 pass from Breese (Hake kick)
GC — Reddick, 9 pass from Breese (pass failed)
H — Stoots, 7 pass from Henwood (Allen kick)
GC — Say, 32 pass from Breese (Hake kick)
H — Richards, 14 pass from Henwood (pass failed)
HICKORY GROVE CITY
14 First downs 19
76 Rushing yards 189
133 Passing yards 207
26-11-3 Att-comp-int 22-15-1
209 Total yards 396
0-0 Fumbles-lost 1-1
5-70 Penalties-yards lost 8-80
Rushing: HICKORY — Stewart 12-31, Henwood 17-31, Stoots 5-10, Cannone 1-0; GROVE CITY — Nelson 34-186, Breese, 2-3.
Passing: HICKORY — Henwood 26-11-3, 133; GROVE CITY — Breese 22-15-1, 207.
Receiving: HICKORY — Richards 3-21, Iacino 2-40, Cannone 2-6, Stewart 1-22, Whitehead 1-19, Pryts 1-16, Stoots 1-7; GROVE CITY — Say 5-115, Reddick 46, Nelson 3-10, Martin 2-26, Muhammad 2-11.
SHARON 0 10 7 7 24
HAR. CREEK 6 0 0 8 14
HC — Ryan Whitman, 9 pass from Ca. Smith (kick failed)
S — Ortiz, 1 run (Auchter kick)
S — Auchter, 21 field goal
S — Smith-Austin, 53 pass from Voytik (Auchter kick)
S — Jones, 5 pass from Voytik (Auchter kick)
HC — Co. Jones, 16 pass from Ca. Jones (East run)
SHARON H. CREEK
14 First downs 12
110 Rushing yards 85
258 Passing yards 53
30-24-0 Att-comp-int 18-9-2
368 Total yards 202
0-0 Fumbles-lost 0-0
11-108 Penalties-yards lost 10-104
Rushing: SHARON — Ortiz 13-58, Richardson 7-52, Voytik 1-1; HARBOR CREEK — East 18-41, Ca. Smith 9-39, Williamson 6-26, Bauer 1-3, Team 2-(-19).
Passing: SHARON — Voytik 24-30-0-258; HARBOR CREEK — Cas. Smith 9-18-2-53.
Receiving: SHARON — Eilam 9-101, Smith-Austin 4-95, Jones 7-65, Phillips 3-3, Ortiz 1-(-6); HARBOR CREEK — Whitman 3-53, Stanyard 2-20, Bauer 1-19, Co. Smith 2-9, Harbursky 1-16.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 1A
FARRELL 7 6 6 16 35
MAPLEWOOD 6 6 8 0 20
F — Harrison, 52 run (Hilton kick)
M — Cox, 11 run (run failed)
F — Raver, 6 run (run failed)
M — Jes. McFadden, 3 pass from JD McFadden (run failed)
M — Donner, 8 run (Jesse McFadden pass from JD)
F — Raver, 5 run (kick blocked)
F — Stallworth, 8 run (Hilton pass from Raver)
F — Stallworth, 59 run (Hillton pass from Raver)
18 First downs 15
466 Rushing yards 88
27 Passing yards 301
9-5-0 Att-comp-int 19-13-0
507 Total yards 389
2-1 Fumbles-lost 2-2
7-55 Penalties-yards lost 8-47
Rushing: FARRELL — Stallworth 15-240, Raver 14-127, Harrison 8-99; MAPLEWOOD — Donor 13-63, Jesse McFadden 3-16, Cox 1-11, JD McFadden 15-(-2).
Passing: FARRELL — Raver 5-9-0-27; MAPLEWOOD — 13-19-0-301.
Receiving: FARRELL — Hilton 2-12, Stewart 1-8, Butler 1-14, Tarver 1-7; MAPLEWOOD — Jesse McFadden 8-196, Donor 4-69, Cox 1-19, Jason McFadden 1-17.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS 2A
GREENVILLE 0 0 7 0 7
WILMINGTON 9 14 14 8 45
W — Safety (McConahy tackled King in end zone)
W — Susen, 6 run (Hartwell kick)
W — Susen, 61 punt return (Hartwell kick)
W — Susen, 36 pass from Bender (Hartwell kick)
W — Miller, 2 run (Hartwell kick)
W — Miller, 1 run (Hartwell kick)
G — Swartz, 50 run (Stuyvesant kick)
W — Chrastina, 9 run (DeCaprio run)
5 First downs 19
64 Rushing yards 213
14 Passing yards 122
7-3-1 Att-comp-int 14-9-0
78 Total yards 335
2-1 Fumbles-lost 5-1
2-10 1/2 Penalties-yards lost 7-71
Rushing: GREENVILLE — Swartz 9-63, A.Sasala 4-6, Dickens 1-5, I.Sasala 6-3, Achuff 2-2, Robertson 2-2, Team 1-1, King 5-(-15). WILMINGTON — Miller 9-65, Bender 5-47, Susen 6-33, DeCaprio 4-24, Edwards 4-21, Chrastina 3-14, McCallister 3-6, Phanco 3-6, Sevachko 1-2, Team 1-(-6).
Passing: GREENVILLE — King 5-1-0, 3; Herrick 1-1-1, 11; WILMINGTON — Bender 13-8-0, 115; McCallister 1-1-0, 7
Receiving: GREENVILLE — Ritzert 1-11, Swartz 1-3; WILMINGTON — Susen 4-62, McConahy 3-31, Cox 1-22, Hess 1-7.
Class 2A: Wilmington vs. Chestnut Ridge, 7 p.m., at Somerset High School
Class 1A: Farrell vs. Tussey Mountain, 1 p.m., at Slippery Rock University
District 10 Championship
Class 3A: Grove City vs. Sharon, 7 p.m., at Slippery Rock University