(Statistical Information Courtesy of NWPASports.com archives)
SHARON TIGERS 2022 FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Jason McElhaney, 4th season (17-13 at Sharon,
54-42 in eight years as a head coach)
Last Year: 6-4 overall, qualified for District 10 Class 3A playoffs
With several returning two-way starters, an All-Region quarterback and numerous other veterans back in the fold, the Sharon Tigers have plenty of reasons to be excited for the 2022 season. Fourth-year head coach Jason McElhaney will look to mix those ingredients into a team that challenges for Region 3 and District 10 Class 3A supremacy this fall.
"We're excited. The kids are working hard," McElhaney said. "We're competitive with each other. The installs are going well. The kids are grasping what we're doing. We've made some changes, specifically on defense, and the guys are picking up what we are doing."
Sharon has overhauled its defensive scheme and added a couple of offensive wrinkles. But what has not changed is who will be piloting the Sharon offense in 2022 -- senior quarterback Mikey Rodriques.
Rodriques earned First Team All-Region honors in 2021 after throwing for 1,541 yards and 14 touchdowns. He added 204 rushing yards and six scores as Sharon boasted Mercer County's most balanced offensive attack, averaging 155 rushing yards and 154 passing yards per game.
"That's such a great advantage to have a quarterback coming back," McElhaney said. "We don't have to teach him as much. We are still teaching but he has a good grasp of things. He's an authoritative kid who has a good 'take charge' personality and he manages the huddle well."
Two familiar names join Rodriques in the Sharon backfield at running back. Senior Jayveerh White and junior Cortez Nixon are expected to handle the bulk of the ball-carrying duties this season after playing extensively last year.
White averaged 10.8 yards per carry while leading Sharon with 613 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He earned Second Team All-Region recognition. Nixon added 400 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his sophomore season.
"Jayveerh is a little more elusive and is a home-run hitter. He has breakaway speed and had an absolutely incredible offseason," McElhaney said. "Cortez is more of a physical runner and runs a little more downhill. Both of those guys have good experience."
Sharon also features an All-Region selection at wide receiver as junior C.C. Harrison returns for his second year as a starter. A dangerous kick and punt returner, Harrison caught 23 passes for 363 yards last year in seven games played. Fellow junior Lamont Austin will also pursue an increased role in the passing game after catching four passes in 2021.
McElhaney noted that junior Angelo Fromm, converted junior quarterback Mister Ham and 6-foot-2 freshman Bishop Root are also competing for time at wide receiver. "We're excited about the group of guys that we have out there," McElhaney said.
Ham and sophomore Bryson Roberson are the leading candidates at tight end or H-back. Roberson played offensive line as a rookie and will be counted on for his blocking ability.
Sharon's depth on the offensive line allowed the coaching staff to move Roberson to tight end. The Tigers return senior tackles Mike Mazurek and Ryan Resele, along with junior center/guard Austin Perlik as starters up front. Mazurek earned All-Region First Team recognition last year.
Several players are competing for the two vacancies, including junior Ondreaous Norris, sophomore Shaun Bulick, sophomore Brodie Miller and freshman Stone Root, among others.
"We expect the offensive linemen to compete hard with each other," McElhaney said. "Obviously, you want to five guys with continuity, but I think that we have seven or eight guys who can play and that we trust. I'm excited about those guys."
New defensive coordinator Ed Roberson has replaced Sharon's traditional 4-3 defensive alignment with a 3-5-3 stack scheme. "It's a bigger learning curve for the coaches than it its for the players," McElhaney said. "It's a fun challenge and we're excited about how it fits with our personnel."
The Tigers plan to rotate several men in the three defensive line spots, with Miller, Mazurek, Norris and Stone Root among the front-runners to start.
Nixon, Bryson Roberson and sophomore Isaac Friday are the leading candidates to start at inside linebacker. Ham, All-Region selection Labron Wilder and Bryson Root are battling at outside linebacker. McElhaney noted that Rodriques could also see time at linebacker if needed.
All-Region honoree White and Harrison are penciled in at cornerback. Austin will man the free safety position. Austin and White both intercepted two passes last season, helping the Tigers to a plus-11 turnover margin in 2021.
Sophomore Rayvion Wilbon-Venable, a two-way starter last season at Kennedy Catholic, will also push for a starting spot in the defensive backfield and is expected to be the nickelback in passing situations. He had two interceptions as a freshman.
Nick Schimp returns at kicker after accounting for 27 points last season. Rodriques, who averaged 33 yards per punt last year, will compete with Bryson Root for the punting chores.
Sharon will be joined in Region 3 by traditional Class 3A rivals Grove City, Hickory and Slippery Rock. Class 2A foes Farrell, Greenville, Sharpsville and Wilmington comprise the other half of the eight-team league. Sharon's longest road trip this season will be a Week Seven jaunt to Slippery Rock.
Sharon will play Farrell for the first time in nine years. The Tigers will also renew long rivalries with Greenville and Sharpsville as each series dates back 100 years or more.
"I'm excited for our kids," McElhaney said. "There are going to be good crowds. It's good for the communities.
"People are going to come out," he continued. "The fan who doesn't have a dog in the fight is going to come out and watch. And, we get to play teams that we haven't played for a while. It will be fun and it will be super competitive."