Pennsylvania (Week 14)
The past two weeks have been games in the Keystone State again. My reasoning is simply there’s more games available than in Ohio with the lone single game on Friday night and single game on Saturday night.
In Week 13 it was three games in District 10. The District was holding their semifinals for A, AA, and AAA playoffs. On Friday night was the two 3A and two 1A semifinals. Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock hosted Slippery Rock vs. General McLane in one 3A game. While Erie’s Veterans Memorial Stadium hosted Erie Cathedral Prep vs. Warren. In 1A, four Mercer County schools were still alive and played at two Mercer County high schools. Sharpsville played Lakeview at Grove City HS’s Forker Field. And West Middlesex played Farrell at Wilmington HS’s Greyhounds Stadium.
Farrell is from the southside of Sharon, while Sharpsville is from the north side. West Middlesex is southeast of Sharon. Lakeview, though is on the eastern edge of the county serving the towns of Stoneboro and Sandy Lake, hence the name. I felt Sharpsville-Lakeview would be the closer game, despite Sharpsville and West Middlesex being overwhelming favorites.
Grove City is like several towns in the Mercer County area that have both a college and a high school. Grove City College’s stadium is mere blocks away from Grove City High School’s stadium. Sitting in a residential area, Forker Field has field turf with black endzones and a golden flying eagle at midfield. The seating is an older homeside stand that is very compressed and spread out down the field. The visitor side appears to have new aluminum bleachers. To the east of the stadium is a large open area behind the endzone with the restrooms and concessions at a building along the perimeter near the gates.
The Lakeview Sailors wear all-black with white numbers and a single red helmet stripe. Sharpsville wore all white with Princeton-style white helmets with blue wings with blue numbers and blue side panels on the pants.
Now, Lakeview was the underdog, but were seeded as the home team in this round. They jumped out to a startling 15-0 lead only 5 minutes into the game. The Blue Devils of Sharpsville roared back with three straight touchdowns to make it 19-15 one play into the second quarter. That’s when Lakeview composed themselves and drove for a touchdown to retake the lead, 21-19 for halftime.
After halftime, they traded scores and Sharpsville held the lead 34-28 after three. Lakeview then drove the field to score tie it, but Sharpsville blocked the extra point to keep it knotted at 34-34. It was at this point the nature of the teams changed slightly and Lakeview was content to hold on for overtime. Sharpsville, though, caught them flat-footed and got a long pass deep into Sailors territory. A 2-yard touchdown pass with 24.8 seconds left made it 41-34. Lakeview couldn’t put up the firepower needed to drive the field and fell short of their upset bid.
Sharpsville advanced to play West Middlesex in a rematch of last years District 10 1A championship game. In 3A, Erie Cathedral Prep and General McLane won. McLane in a back-and-forth seesaw contest just a few miles south of Grove City in their win over #2 Slippery Rock. They moved on to face eachother at Erie Veterans Memorial Stadium.
And on Saturday, Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock hosted a doubleheader of the two 2A teams. The first game was at 1pm while the second game kicked off at 7pm.
Mihalik-Thompson Stadium is a great college venue for high school games. It seats about 10,000 with ample seating for both home and away fans. Plenty of parking near their sports complex which includes the football stadium, the baseball stadium (which hosts the Slippery Rock Sliders of the Prospect League), and their arena. And, parking is free. The tickets for District 10 contests are $5 for all games.
District 10 3A this year was made up of three great teams, and 5 good to average teams. Hickory, Grove City, and Wilmington in Region 3 were the great teams. The rest were Greenville (the other Region 3 team), and the four Region 4 teams (Corry, Northwestern, North East, and Fairview). In a cross-regional first round, all four Region 4 teams fell to Region 3. Including Greenville’s upset over Region 4 #1, Corry at General McLane’s Linden Field.
Now, District 10 alternates game start times. Hickory and Grove City both had night games in Week 1 while Greenville and Wilmington had day games. This time, they were flipped around.
Grove City played host to Hickory at 1pm while Greenville played host to Wilmington at 7pm.
Hickory’s DeShawn Coleman was a beast, as he was the previous week, and routed Grove City easier than the score indicated, 35-13.
After that, I walked over to the Quaker Steak and Lube on campus before returning later for the Greenville-Wilmington matchup.
Now, both teams have had some history in the District 10 playoffs. Going back to 1985 in the program, Greenville had made the District 10 final 8 times, going 3-5 and advanced to the state semifinals twice (both times losing to Blackhawk). Wilmington, on the other hand, made it 13 times, going 10-3 in those games, and winning a state championship in 2008.
Twice, Greenville and Wilmington had faced off in the final (Greenville won both), but today was just a semifinal.
Both teams wear predominantly blue and yellow, with Greenville wearing a lighter blue with Wilmington featuring a darker navy color.
The Greenville Trojans wore blue helmets, jerseys, and yellow pants. Yellow numbers, gray facemasks and a two-color Trojan head on the helmet. The Wilmington Greyhounds wore navy helmets, white jerseys, and yellow pants with navy numbers and yellow facemasks. A Wisconsin-style white W was on their helmets outlined with yellow.
Now, this game was windy and cold. Neither team could break through the others defenses. In the regular season matchup, Wilmington had won easily 26-0. They got their regulation shutout again, however Greenville also pitched a shutout. First time I had ever seen a game go four quarters without a score. The previous closest was a 7-0 contest between Boonville and Moberly (both of Missouri). In Pennsylvania, overtime starts at the NFHS standard ten yards out.
In Overtime, Greenville had the ball first and ran for 3 and 4 yards on the first two plays. On third down, the runner slipped which forced a field goal try that was good. Wilmington then mirrored Greenville by running for 3 and 4 yards on their first two plays before throwing incomplete on third down. Another field goal tied it at 3-3 after the first overtime.
In Second Overtime, Wilmington run three straight plays for 3 yards, 4 yards, and 4 yards for the touchdown to make it 10-3. Greenville started slow with a sloppy incomplete pass on first down. A 9 yard run setup a short 3rd-and-1. A 1-yard dive pulled them within one. And that’s as close as it would get. Greenville’s extra point attempt was short, although there was some debate on whether it was tipped at the line or not. The kicker was slipping as he put foot to ball.
Wilmington 10, Greenville 9 (2OT)
The next week it was 6 high school games and one NFL game. Venturing into enemy territory, I drove to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field to watch the WPIAL (District 7) finals. Aired live by Root Sports, they do tend to go over their allotted time quite often. I had considered going to the 8 title games in Detroit on Friday and Saturday, but was taking my dad to the Browns game Sunday and figured that would be too tough a haul Saturday night through Sunday morning.
Parking was the standard $5 with $10 tickets. No in-and-out privileges allowed. In a change of scheduling the past two years, they now had the 4A game after the 1A game, and the 2A and 3A games to close out the night .Last year, the had flipped the 2A and 3A games from the traditional 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A lineup.
In the first game, Clairton secured their 60th straight win by clobbering Sto-Rox. In the 4A marquee game, North Allegheny secured their three-peat by defeating Woodland Hills. In 2A, Aliquippa won their second straight and record 15th overall WPIAL title. In the night cap, West Allegheny beat West Mifflin to advance to face #1 in the state in 3A, Erie Cathedral Prep.
1A Clairton 58, Sto-Rox 21
4A North Allegheny 21, Woodland Hills 14
2A Aliquippa 34, Washington 7
3A West Allegheny 34, West Mifflin 8
While those games were going on, Friday night was the 1A and 3A games. As eluded to earlier, Erie Cathedral Prep thumped General McLane for the 3A title. In 1A, Sharpsville won for the second straight year over West Middlesex. This time, winning 28-0 at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
On Saturday, the PIAA and District 10 had a doubleheader at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium. The matinee featured two 4A schools competing in a subregional final. Because northwest and central PA (between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg) have so few 4A teams, they compete in subregionals. This is where multiple districts will pit their teams against one another for a spot in the state title.
For instance, District 5 has 0 4A football-playing schools. District 6 has 4. District 8 has 3. District 9 has 1. And District 10 has 1.
Because of this, two subregionals are formed with their winners facing off in what is traditional the District Final weekend. District 6 holds a title game between their two best, this case State College and Central Mountain. Meanwhile DuBois (District 9) awaits the winner. In the other subregional, District 10 representative (Erie McDowell) awaits the outcome of the Pittsburgh City League to determine their highest ranking 4A school. This year, Perry was the best thanks to their outright title over Pittsburgh USO.
In the previous week, Erie McDowell crushed Pittsburgh Perry, 61-14 at Fairview HS outside Erie. Meanwhile, State College won in Altoona over DuBois, 35-13. This setup a subregional/cross-regional final between the 6/9 and 8/10 champions.
The game was chosen to be hosted at Slippery Rock. On a very cold day with snow falling and accumulating on the field, Erie McDowell (6-5) had little trouble holding off State College (9-3) by a 42-0 score. The field conditions contributed to the score, but despite McDowell’s meat-grinder schedule, they were the more prepared team.
After hanging out in Slippery Rock for a few hours, it was back to Mihalik-Thompson Stadium for the night cap. The District 10 2A final between Hickory and Wilmington. Because this was still a District 10 game, the tickets were again $5. The earlier PIAA game was $6.
Hickory, and DeShawn Coleman, had little trouble putting away Wilmington, as they won easily, 39-7.
The next day, it was off to Cleveland Browns Stadium with my dad. Eight turnovers and enough coaching idiocy to make it close, the Browns held on 20-14.
And then in Week 15, it was off to Canton and Massillon for the OHSAA title games. This was the fifth straight year going to games in Stark County. Despite some of the outcomes, it was a much better weekend than most. One of the issues, to me, is the way HS football is cyclical, there’s not as much new blood. And those that are new, tend to be grossly overwhelmed.
In Pennsylvania, three of four District 10 teams fell. Sharpsville fell in the most improbably way to Port Allegany. The game in Bradford was all wrapped up with a minute to go and Sharpsville was running out the clock before inexplicably fumbling it away to the all-time leading passer in PIAA history, Brodamer. Port Allegany didn’t take long to win it. Hickory got blindsided at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium by District 6 champion Richland, 38-12. And in 4A, Erie McDowell got smoked by WPIAL champion North Allegheny, 56-6 at Seneca Valley HS’s NexTier Stadium in Harmony, PA (where I was for the Seneca Valley-Pittsburgh Central Catholic game earlier this year on a Thursday). The lone District 10 team to survive was Erie Cathedral Prep, who defeated West Allegheny. District 7 did quite well, as 3 of their 7 made the semifinals.
Next week, I’ll be at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey for two games on Friday night and then four games on Saturday. New Jersey has four games on Friday night. A doubleheader at Metlife Stadium, and two single games at Kean University and Rowan University. Then, there’s five quadruple-headers in the Garden State on Saturday. Metlife Stadium, Kean University, Rutgers University, College of New Jersey, and Rowan University each with four apiece on Saturday.
And incase people are unfamiliar with New Jersey. The state does not, based on their bylaws, allow state-wide playoffs. So, the state is broken down into four geographic regions and one non-public group. Then, the four geographic regions are broken down into 5 groups (equivalent to classifications, divisions, or levels). And teh Non-Public is divided into four. Meaning New Jersey will have 24 winners with nothing left to play for after next week. The four geographic regions are North 1, North 2, Central and South. The South now plays all their title games at Rowan University. The North 1 and North 2 regions tend to play their games at Metlife Stadium and Kean University. Rutgers hosts a mix of North and Central. While College of New jersey tends to host Central and Non-Public games.
The only reason they’re playing this week rather than the same time as the OHSAA titles is due to Hurricane Sandy postponing their entire schedule a week. I could got either of the four quadruple-headers, however I will stick with Metlife Stadium to check out the Giants and Jets new home. It will be the sixth NFL venue I’ve been to for a game (HS, college, or pro) along with Cleveland Browns Stadium, Heinz Field, Cowboys Stadium, Georgia Dome, and Metrodome.
Friday, December 7, 2012
5pm (North 2, Group 1) Hoboken v. Roselle Park
8pm (Non-Public Group 4) Bergen Catholic v. Paramus Catholic
Saturday, December 8, 2012
10am (Central, Group 2) Carteret v. Weequahic
1pm (North 1, Group 1) Cedar Grove v. Pompton Lakes
4pm (North 2, Group 3) Palisades Park v. Summit
7pm (North 1, Group 5) Bloomfield v. Montclair
And immediately following those games, I will drive overnight to Cleveland for the Browns-Chiefs game. Somewhere in there, I’ll attempt to sleep for a few minutes.
I’ll try to write up a good, timely recap for the New Jersey games. I’m interested to see how the crowd dynamic is given that this really isn’t a title game. And also put to bed some thoughts on whether anyone there even cares that the publics and privates do not compete for the same titles.
The following week, I’ll be in Hershey, Pennsylvania for the four PIAA state championship games. I had been there two years ago. Last year, in Week 17, I was at Cowboys Stadium. It will be quite a shock going back to Hersheypark Stadium.
This week’s semifinal matchups are as follows:
12/7 7pm Clairton (14-0) vs. Port Allegany (13-0) at Lancer Stadium, Cheswick
12/7 7pm Bellwood-Antis (13-1) vs. Dunmore (13-1) at Don Malinak Stadium, Mill Hall
12/7 7pm Aliquippa (14-0) vs. Richland (14-0) at Carl Newman Stadium, Wexford
12/8 1pm Imhotep Charter (13-0) vs. Wyomissing (14-0) at Benjamin L. Johnston Stadium, Philadelphia
12/7 7pm Erie Cathedral Prep (13-0) vs. Harrisburg Biship McDevitt (14-0) at Bison Stadium, Clearfield
12/7 7pm Allentown Central Catholic (9-5) vs. Archbishop Wood (11-2) at Bank Field, Bethlehem
12/8 3pm Wilson West Lawn (13-1) vs. North Allegheny (14-0) at Mansion Park Stadium, Altoona
12/7 7pm Coatsville (12-2) vs. LaSalle (12-1) at Kottmeyer Stadium, Downingtown
Now, a few notes at the PIAA. Generally, the private schools do not play in the two lower levels. The only major exception is Mercyhurst Prep and Bishop McCort in 1A, and Philadelphia West Catholic and Lancaster Catholic in 2A. 3A is heavily non-public, and 4A tends to be similar to Ohio. A few reasons for that, but the main one is that in Pennsylvania you are allowed, and encouraged, to play up to higher levels. So, decent private schools tend to play up to higher levels. Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt is a prime example. For years they were a 1A school playing up to 4A, however recently dropped to 3A and are now competitive. Even Aliquippa, a dominant 2A public school is actually a 1A school. Some argue that Clairton, a true 1A, should play up do to their domination of 1A football the past four years.
1A is all public. 2A has a charter school out of Philadelphia. 3A is an entirely private playoff. And 4A has one private school. Clairton is going for their fourth straight title and fifth straight appearance. Aliquippa is going for their fifth appearance and their third state title. Bishop McDevitt is going for their fourth title appearance and their second title. If they win, this will be their third straight appearance. Allentown Central Catholic is going for their fourth appearance and fourth title. Their last one was in 2010. They lost last year to Archbishop Wood in the semifinal. Archbishop Wood is going for their third appearance, and second title. They are the defending 3A champions. And lastly, in 4A, North Allegheny is going for their third title and third appearance. They were 2010 champions by defeating LaSalle. LaSalle is going for their third appearance and second title. They last won in 2009 and lost in 2010.
I’ll recap the Pennsylvania state semifinals as well. Not sure when, but I will hope to have time between Sunday and Friday to post the New Jersey recap and PIAA preview. If all goes well, the PIAA 4A game will be the 91st game of the year for me in person. Getting closer and closer to surpassing 100 games in a season.