(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives, The Herald and Erie Times-News. Coaches' comments courtesy of Bob Greenburg & interviews)
WEEK SIXTEEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Twelve high school football teams remain alive in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as the six PIAA championships will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Hershey. The first of those six games will feature Farrell as the Steelers face District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle in the Class 1A state title game.
CLASS 1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Farrell vs. Bishop Guilfoyle, 1:00 p.m., Thursday, Hersheypark Stadium
Two programs that have been regular visitors to the state title game will meet Thursday when Farrell meets Bishop Guilfoyle. Farrell is the defending state champion in Class 1A while Bishop Guilfoyle makes its fourth state title game appearance in the last six seasons. Four years ago, the Marauders blanked Farrell, 35-0, in the state championship game to cap a run of three consecutive state titles.
Both teams pulled out low-scoring victories in the state semifinals. Farrell outlasted District 7 champion Clairton, 13-10, while Bishop Guilfoyle edged 2018 state finalist Lackawanna Trail, 11-7, in last Friday's other semifinal.
Farrell forced five turnovers and forced Clairton to turn over the ball on downs three times in Farrell territory. Farrell limited Clairton to a 1-for-5 performance in the red zone - a 24-yard field goal on the last play of the first half being the only score. Farrell also held Clairton to a 1-of-9 effort on third down. Linebacker Sayvion Thomas recorded four sacks and forced a fumble to help lead the defensive effort.
"Everyone was on point," Farrell head coach Anthony "Amp" Pegues said of the Steelers' defensive effort, while also citing assistant coaches Omar Stewart, Bucky Newell and Lamont Samuels. "Those guys are all battle-tested. They're great coaches and even better men. They're great role models for the kids. When they talk, the kids listen. It's working out great."
Farrell had lost four straight games to Clairton in the state semifinals before pulling out last week's victory. "That one was very special," Pegues said. "It's very special for our program. We beat a very good program."
Farrell trailed 10-7 at halftime but took the lead with 1:46 left in the third quarter on Anthony Stallworth's 59-yard touchdown sprint. Stallworth led Farrell with 99 rushing yards on 16 carries while quarterback Ray Raver added 68 yards on 12 carries. Raver opened the scoring with a 56-yard touchdown run on a first quarter option keeper.
Stallworth leads Farrell with 1,655 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He averages 10.2 yards per carry and is the first sophomore in program history to rush for over 1,000 yards. Junior Jaden Harrison has added 913 rushing yards while Raver has 562 rushing yards. Raver has also thrown for 947 yards and 14 touchdowns. Farrell is undefeated since Raver took over as the starting quarterback in Week Three.
"You can't help but be impressed with how hard they play and how athletic the quarterback and backs are," Bishop Guilfoyle head coach Justin Wheeler said. "Stallworth is incredible. He has great vision, speed and cutback ability.
"We are super impressed with how they run the ball," Wheeler continued. "And when they want to throw the ball, they can. It's going to be difficult."
Bishop Guilfoyle (12-2) held Lackawanna Trail to 185 offensive yards on 58 plays last week. The Marauders also forced three turnovers and recorded a safety on defense.
"Over the last eight or nine years, one of the things we've always tried to do is to stress defense," Wheeler said. "Our defense gave up a touchdown on the first drive of the game and then shut them out. It came down to the last four plays. We found a way to make those plays to get the win."
Junior Keegan Myrick intercepted a pair of passes on defense and also ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Myrick leads Guilfoyle with 1,695 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. He also leads the team with 21 receptions for 243 yards, an average of 20.3 yards per catch. He has amassed 2,206 all-purpose yards despite missing two full games and parts of other games due to injury.
"We've had some really good backs and he's the next one," Wheeler said. "He's kept us in games and won games for us. He's the real deal."
As a team, Bishop Guilfoyle averages 264.1 rushing yards per game while also averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Farrell allows only 89.9 rushing yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry.
"They are a well-coached and well-disciplined team," Pegues said. "They have a very good line that plays well together. We're going to count on our guys up front to do what they do best ... control the line of scrimmage. We're going to see who wins that battle."
Junior quarterback Konner Kiesewetter has thrown for 790 yards in 10 games this year. He has three touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Injuries have forced Bishop Guilfoyle to play four men at quarterback, including Myrick.
Defensively, end Andrew Yanoshak leads the Marauders with 19 quarterback sacks this season. Defensive tackle Cameron Maloney has 30 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Myrick has six interceptions.
Farrell also features a devastating pass-rushing duo up front in Thomas (nine sacks) and senior Brian Hilton, Jr. (9.5 sacks). Safety Brice Butler, who shares the team lead on offense with 20 catches, has intercepted seven passes this year. Farrell is plus-13 in turnover margin this season.
Bishop Guilfoyle competes in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, which also features Class 3A state playoff qualifier Bedford, Class 3A playoff qualifier Westmont Hilltop, Class 2A state semifinalist Richland, District 5 Class 2A champion Chestnut Ridge, as well as Class 4A Johnstown.
"It's an extremely difficult conference," Wheeler said. "It's great because it really prepares us. Every week, we get a quality opponent. When it comes to playoffs, our guys seem to be battle-tested."
Pegues feels that Farrell's state championship game experience last year will benefit his team in the 2019 game. "It's a big advantage from going last year. We kind of know what to expect."
There will likely be no surprises from Farrell in Thursday's championship game. "The philosophy is still the same," Pegues said. "We want to run the ball. We want to control the ball and make big plays."
Bishop Guilfoyle defeated Clairton, 19-18, in the 2014 title game. Following the win over Farrell in 2015, Guilfoyle blanked Clairton for the 2016 title, 17-0. The Marauders then lost to state finalist Homer Center in the 2017 District 6 title game, 20-14. Last year, the Marauders fell to Juniata Valley, 9-3, in the D-6 semifinals.
Farrell won consecutive state titles in 1995 and 1996. Pegues started at quarterback for the 1995 team and served as an assistant coach on the 2015 and 2018 Farrell teams that advanced to the championship game. Overall, this is Farrell's fifth appearance in a state championship game. The 1990 team fell to Marian Catholic in the Class A title game, 21-13.
"Their program has been an incredible program for decades now," Wheeler said of Farrell. "You know what you're getting. You're getting tradition, you're getting tough kids and great athletes. They have kids who expect to win.
"We know (that) we are going to have our hands full for sure."
The game can be heard on News/Talk 790 WPIC.