(Statistical Information Courtesy of NWPASports.com archives, The Herald, MaxPreps and Erie Times-News. Coach quotes from PIC SportsLine on 790 WPIC/Sports Radio 96.7)
WEEK FOURTEEN FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
Three Mercer County teams remain alive in the PIAA football playoffs, with the local area having an entry in Classes 1A, 2A and 3A. For Class 3A Grove City, it's a rematch of last year's state quarterfinals with Martinsburg-based Central. Farrell will face Westinghouse again in the Class 2A playoffs, but one round later than last year's PIAA first round tussle.
Reynolds makes its third straight foray into the state playoffs Friday night when the Raiders head to McKean County to face District 9 champion Port Allegany in the Class 1A quarterfinals.
PIAA CLASS 3A QUARTERFINAL
Central (Martinsburg) at Grove City, 7:00 p.m.
Series History: Central, 1-0
Last Central Win: November 26, 2021 (35-6, PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal at Slippery Rock University)
Last Grove City Win: None
First Meeting: November 26, 2021 (Central won 35-6, PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal at Slippery Rock University)
All-Time PIAA Playoff Record: Central 5-6, Grove City 2-4
For the second straight season, Grove City faces District 6 champion Central in the Class 3A state quarterfinals. Last year, Grove City "hosted" the game at Slippery Rock University. This year's clash will be at the Eagles' Forker Field, marking the first-ever PIAA football playoff game to be held at the East Poplar Street facility.
Grove City (9-3) captured its second consecutive District 10 title last Friday night by rallying for a 42-23 victory over archrival Slippery Rock. The Eagles erased a 17-7 deficit in the title game win. That came a week after Grove City erased a 21-7 hole against Sharon in the semifinals.
It's the first time in program history that Grove City has won consecutive District 10 titles.
"What a great opportunity," Grove City head coach Sam Mowrey said. "We're fortunate to have that opportunity. We're thankful to be playing this week (and) getting the opportunity to practice during Thanksgiving. These are such special times and special moments that these kids will get to have forever."
While Grove City won its second straight district title, Central (11-2) began its second straight PIAA playoff journey by bouncing District 9 kingpin Clearfield, 35-6, at Hollidaysburg. That marked the Scarlet Dragons' 10th straight overall win. Central advanced to the state playoffs the previous week by defeating top-seeded Penn Cambria in the District 6 championship game, 35-6. Central previously lost at Penn Cambria in the third week of the regular season, 42-28.
Central defeated Grove City in last year's state quarterfinals, 35-5. The Scarlet Dragons welcome back four offensive starters and five starters on defense from last year's meeting. Grove City has eight total starters back from the 2021 game, including five on offense.
Both teams return their quarterback, a top rushing threat and leading receiver on offense from last year's meeting. Grove City junior quarterback Hunter Hohman ran for 58 yards and four touchdowns in the title game win over Slippery Rock. He also completed 10 of 13 passes for 150 yards.
Hohman has thrown for 1,895 yards and 17 touchdowns this year while completing 61.1 percent of his pass attempts. He has added 549 rushing yards and a team-leading 14 rushing touchdowns. Hohman now has 5,037 career total offensive yards and has accounted for 60 total touchdowns.
Senior running back Anthony Nemec took over as Grove City's starter during last year's postseason run and leads the Eagles with 967 rushing yards this season. He led Grove City with 88 rushing yards against Slippery Rock.
Junior wide receiver Gavin Lutz caught five passes for 88 yards in the D-10 title game while sophomore Nathan Greer had five catches for 62 yards. Lutz led Grove City with a county-high 59 pass receptions in 2021. He has 47 catches this year, second on the squad to Greer's 53 receptions.
Central features prolific senior quarterback Jeff Hoenstine, who has thrown for 3,450 yards and 46 touchdowns this season. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has also rushed for a team-leading 647 yards and 12 touchdowns. For his career, Hoenstine has thrown for 9,650 yards and 141 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,622 yards and 29 touchdowns. His 11,272 total offensive yards equate to 6.40 miles.
Senior wide receiver Eli Lingenfelter leads Central with 83 receptions for 1,434 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also surpassed the 1,000-yard mark last year, gaining 1,034 yards on his 50 catches. He caught seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns against Clearfield.
Junior running back Hunter Smith has 47 catches for 545 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has 459 rushing yards and six scores. In 2021, Smith ran for 551 yards and caught 38 balls for 386 yards.
Overall, the Dragons average 405.3 offensive yards per game, along with 37.3 points per game.
"They have a lot of pieces returning," Mowrey said of Central. "They're a great football team. Offensively, they are really explosive. (Hoenstine) does a great job of getting the ball down the field. His receivers make some great plays. They can also move the ball on the ground and the quarterback runs quite a bit. They present a lot of challenges"
Smith leads the defense with 113 tackles and Hoenstine has made 109 stops from his free safety position. Senior defensive end Jason Clark leads the Dragons with 11 sacks. Smith has six of Central's 27 sacks as a team. Lingenfelter leads Central with five interceptions.
"Defensively, they're really aggressive," Mowrey said. "They make a lot of big plays with the pressure that they put on the opposing team's offense."
The Grove City defense has scored six touchdowns this season, three interception returns and three fumble returns to the end zone. Greer has added two kickoff returns for touchdowns while Lutz's 61-yard punt return to the end zone last week gave Grove City a 21-17 lead in the final minute of the first half against Slippery Rock.
Central ran for 280 yards in its 35-6 win over Grove City last year at snow-covered Slippery Rock University. Smith ran for 65 yards and also caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Hoenstine. Hoenstine completed 5 of 12 passes for 63 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Hohman completed 9 of 22 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, which Lutz caught. Central held Grove City to nine first downs and a 2-for-12 effort on third down.
Grove City is 1-2 all-time against District 6 teams. The Eagles edged Tyrone in the 2004 Class AA state semifinals, 21-17. Five years ago, Hollidaysburg edged Grove City in the Class 5A first round, 30-27.
Central is 2-2 against District 10 teams in the PIAA playoffs. The Dragons fell to eventual state champion Wilmington, 21-19, in the 2008 Class AA quarterfinals. Hickory defeated Central, 37-27, in the 2013 "AA" quarterfinals. Two years later, Central downed Hickory in the Class AA quarterfinal round, 30-21. The Dragons are 3-2 in state quarterfinal games.
Central went 8-2 this season in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference. The Dragons opened the season with a 21-20 win over Bishop Guilfoyle, which plays Southern Columbia in a Class 2A quarterfinal Friday night in Altoona. In addition to the Penn Cambria setback, Central's other loss came to LHAC champion Richland (11-1, 10-0 LHAC) in Week Two, 35-28.
The Grove City-Central winner will play Avonworth or Belle Vernon in the state semifinals. Those teams will play in the District 7 Class 3A title game Friday at 5 p.m. at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh. Grove City lost at Avonworth in the season opener, 27-7.
The game will be broadcast on Sports Radio 96.7. Live Stats available here.
PIAA CLASS 1A QUARTERFINAL
Reynolds vs. Port Allegany at Bradford, 7:00 p.m.
Series History: First Meeting
All-Time PIAA Playoff Record: Port Allegany 1-2, Reynolds 2-3
Allow Reynolds Raiders head coach Josh Mull to give the best description of his team's opponent in Friday night's state quarterfinals, Port Allegany: "They look like us."
Two district champions with powerful rushing attacks and stingy defenses collide when the Raiders and Gators clash for the first time ever at Parkway Field. Reynolds (11-1) won the District 10 title last Saturday afternoon by securing a come-from-behind 28-14 victory over previously-undefeated Eisenhower. Reynolds trailed 14-6 in the second quarter but scored the final 22 points of the game.
Port Allegany won its third all-time District 9 crown last Friday night by rallying past Brockway, in the title game, 21-14. The Gators trailed 14-7 in the fourth quarter but Noah Archer's two touchdown runs put Port Allegany ahead.
Led by a 264-yard outing from senior running back Jalen Wagner, Reynolds amassed 302 rushing yards against Eisenhower. Wagner tied the game 14-14 with a 39-yard touchdown run with 1:40 left in the first half, then put Reynolds ahead to stay with a 57-yard touchdown sprint nine seconds into the fourth quarter.
Wagner leads Reynolds with 2,698 rushing yards. He needs 277 to break the Mercer County single-season record of 2,974 yards, set by Lakeview's Blake Reddick in 2013. Wagner is not the only Reynolds player who has surpassed the 2,000-yard mark this season, however.
Senior quarterback Brayden McCloskey has accounted for 2,041 total offensive yards this year, including a Reynolds-record 1,669 passing yards. He has 15 passing touchdowns, along with 372 rushing yards and eight touchdown runs. Senior Haydin McLaughlin has amassed 823 receiving yards on his 21 catches, an average of 39.2 yards per reception. He has added 211 rushing yards. Five of McLaughlin's 18 total touchdowns have come on the ground.
Reynolds leads Mercer County in scoring offense (46.4), rushing yards per game (333.6) and total yards per game (486.7). The Raiders have scored 72 total touchdowns this year and average 9.9 yards per offensive play.
Reynolds also leads the area in rushing defense, allowing only 104.5 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry. The Raiders defense will be tested by Port Allegany's senior backfield duo of Archer and Blaine Moses.
Archer ran for 150 yards on 20 carries in the district title game against Brockway while Moses ran for 98 yards on 16 totes. Moses leads the Gators with 988 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Archer has 869 rushing yards and 11 scores. Quarterback Drew Evens, another senior, has rushed for 469 yards. Evens has thrown for 1,189 yards this year. Archer has 46 catches for 602 yards and six touchdowns.
"They spread the field to run the football. They're definitely run-first," Mull said. "On film, they look extremely big."
Moses leads Port Allegany's defense with 121 tackles. The Gators have 18 interceptions this year and have allowed only 9.3 points per game. Evens and Nick Wilfong each have five interceptions.
Port Allegany's lone loss came in Week Two, when District 9 Class 2A champion Central Clarion downed the Gators, 29-24. Port Allegany highlighted the regular season October 14 with an 8-7 win over defending state runner-up Redbank Valley. The Gators received a quarterfinal bye in the six-team District 9 tournament, then picked up an 18-6 win over Keystone in the semifinals.
"They've been in battles, when you look at the games that they have been involved in," Mull said. "That's definitely something that I think gives them a great advantage in the playoffs. When you're in games that you have to fight, you find ways to win. That's a big thing for them. We're definitely going to have our hands full."
Reynolds is 4-0-1 all-time against District 9 foes. Two years ago, the Raiders defeated Redbank Valley in the state quarterfinals at Brockway, 19-14. In 2005, Reynolds defeated Brockway in the Class AA quarterfinals, 41-16, at frigid Clarion University. In 1963, the Raiders blanked Moniteau, 27-0. Reynolds earned a 14-0 win over DuBois in 1988. The next year, the teams played to a 12-12 tie at Reynolds.
Port Allegany is 1-1 against Mercer County teams. Sharpsville defeated the Gators, 35-33, in the 2011 Class A state quarterfinals at Slippery Rock University. The next year, Port Allegany earned a 28-21 win over Sharpsville in the state quarterfinals at Bradford. That is Port Allegany's lone state playoff win.
The Reynolds-Port Allegheny winner will play the District 7 champion in next week's Class 1A state semifinals. Bishop Canevin and New Castle Union play at 11 a.m. Friday at Acrisure Stadium for the District 7 crown.
PIAA CLASS 2A QUARTERFINAL
Farrell at Westinghouse, Cupples Stadium, Pittsburgh, 1:00 p.m.
Series History: Farrell, 1-0
Last Farrell Win: November 20, 2021 (24-7, PIAA Class 2A First Round at Cupples Stadium)
Last Westinghouse Win: None
First Meeting: November 20, 2021 (Farrell won 24-7, PIAA Class 2A First Round at Cupples Stadium)
All-Time PIAA Playoff Record: Farrell 24-8, Westinghouse 1-3
The Farrell High School football team has one primary goal remaining: to win the Class 2A state title. The Westinghouse High football squad also currently has one goal: winning the Class 2A state title. One set of state title aspirations will evaporate Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh when the District 10 champion Steelers visit Westinghouse.
It is the second straight season that the teams have met in the postseason. Farrell ended Westinghouse's title hopes last year with a 24-7 victory in the first round of the state playoffs.
"Coach (Donta) Green has those guys well coached," Farrell head coach Amp Pegues said. "I think they've been waiting for this for a year. We have our hands full. They're a team with a lot of speed. They look just like us."
Westinghouse earned its first-ever state playoff win last Friday night with a 44-8 home win over District 9 champion Central Clarion. Then, the Bulldogs learned the next night that they would get their rematch with Farrell after the Steelers blanked Sharpsville, 26-0, in the District 10 Class 2A title game.
Farrell limited Sharpsville to 137 offensive yards on 55 plays, an average of 2.5 yards per play. The Steelers also forced three turnovers last week. Junior cornerback Brandon Chambers opened the scoring by returning a fumble 59 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter. That marked Farrell's sixth defensive touchdown of the season.
Chambers also ran for 121 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts. Chambers leads Farrell with 971 rushing yards this season.
"He's a lockdown cornerback, a great running back and he catches the ball well," Pegues said of Chambers. "The kid has been playing dynamically. When Kylon (Wilson) went out, he showed that he can handle the load."
Chambers and his teammates will again have to handle the load this week as the Steelers will be without versatile senior Kylon Wilson. Wilson received a personal foul penalty and ejection after a post-play kerfuffle against Sharpsville. The ejection and supplemental punishment carry a two-game suspension, meaning that Wilson would also miss the state semifinals, should Farrell advance.
Wilson leads Farrell with 46 catches for 927 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has rushed for 523 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has also scored on a fumble return, kickoff return and punt return this season.
Farrell still has a well-stocked lineup, however. Junior quarterback Kabron Smith leads Mercer County in completion percentage (68.6) and passer rating (203.97). He has thrown for 1,818 yards and 22 touchdowns while only having five of his 159 attempts intercepted. He has also rushed for six touchdowns.
Senior Lamont Samuels owns 27 catches for 442 yards. Freshman wide receiver Danny Odem III has a dozen catches. Chambers has pulled in 11 passes, as has sophomore Julius Phillips.
The Farrell defense allows a county-low 3.5 yards per play and 172.6 yards per game, also the No. 1 figure locally. The Steelers allow only 11.1 points per game. Junior linebacker Marion Norris leads the Farrell defense with 93 tackles while defensive end Malachi Owens has 8.5 quarterback sacks. Overall, the Steelers have a plus-20 turnover margin.
"We still have a lot of firepower to get this thing done," Pegues said.
Westinghouse (12-0) also features ample firepower, most notably on offense. Senior quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo has thrown for 2,234 yards and 39 touchdowns this season. The 6-3, 185-pounder has also rushed for 662 yards and 16 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Sincere Smith leads the Bulldogs with 36 catches for 1,144 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs recorded five quarterback sacks in the first half against Central Clarion and led 20-0 at halftime. Westinghouse amassed 285 rushing yards in the win. Kahlil Taylor led Westinghouse with 69 rushing yards. Morsillo completed 10 of 17 passes for 168 yards. He also rushed for 52 yards.
Ten of Westinghouse's 12 games have been at Cupples Stadium, the home field for the five Pittsburgh City League teams. In Week Two, Westinghouse earned a 39-18 win at District 3 Class 1A titlist Steelton-Highspire. Westinghouse's other road trip came November 10 in the District 5-8 subregional title game, when the Bulldogs defeated Berlin-Brothersvalley, 59-7, in Somerset.
"To win championships, you have to go play in hostile environments and get the job done," Pegues said. "We really welcome the challenge. When you play here at Farrell, this is what you expect: to play in these types of games. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Westinghouse opened the season with a 40-8 win over perennial powerhouse Clairton. The Bulldogs also own a non-league win over Class 6A Butler, a 39-7 home triumph October 7. Westinghouse won the City League title October 29 with a 40-8 win over Allderdice.
Westinghouse earned its 600th all-time win September 22 when the Bulldogs downed Allderdice in regular season play, 38-7.
Farrell went 7-0 in Region 3, a Class 2A-3A conference that featured District 10's four Class 3A semifinalists, along with D-10 Class 2A finalist Sharpsville. "I think our league has prepared us for these situations," Pegues said.
Wilson ran for two touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass in last year's meeting. Norris recorded two of Farrell's five sacks. Farrell outgained Westinghouse, 300-259. Farrell went 3 for 11 on third down while Westinghouse converted only one of its nine third-down opportunities.
Including last year's loss to Farrell, Westinghouse is
2-7 all-time against Mercer County teams. The Bulldogs went 2-2 against Hickory
from 2016 to 2019, with the home team winning all four games. Sharon defeated
Westinghouse in 2006 and 2007. In 1995, Sharon defeated Westinghouse, 34-0, in
the PIAA Class AAA first round at South Stadium (now Cupples Stadium). The next
year, Greenville defeated the Bulldogs, 29-6, in the PIAA "AAA" first round at
Sharon Tiger Stadium.
Farrell is 12-0 in PIAA playoff openers. Farrell is 7-1 in the City of Pittsburgh all-time. The lone loss came November 26, 1988 at Three Rivers Stadium when Farrell fell to Wilmington, 10-7, in the District 7 Class A title game.
Farrell won D-7 titles at Three Rivers Stadium in 1990, 1995 and 1996. Farrell defeated Brentwood at Pitt Stadium for the 1976 District 7 Class AA title, 14-8. In 2017, Farrell picked up a 62-0 win at Carrick. Four years ago, Farrell opened the season with a 40-16 win at University Prep.
The Farrell-Westinghouse winner will play the District 7 champion in the state semifinals. Steel Valley will play Beaver Falls in the D-7 title game Friday at 2 p.m. at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.
The game will be broadcast on Sports Radio 96.7. Live Stats available here.