Preview: Sharon's season-opening statement? McElhaney pleased with win at Corry, but wary of University Prep

·8 min read

Sep. 3—Corry became the unsuspecting victim of a dozen years' of frustration for Sharon High's football program. The host Beavers were battered (49-0) by the Tigers in last week's lidlifter.

According to archives at The Herald, Sharon suffered 12 consecutive season-opening setbacks. The last time the Tigers triumphed on opening night occurred in 2008 at Anthony J. Paulekas Stadium (14-7) over host Farrell. That Sharon squad was skippered by Bob Fromm.

However as Tigers' taskmaster Jason McElhaney admitted, "starting one-and-oh feels better than starting oh-and-one. ... It was nice to break that losing streak in season-openers — and I'm not being disrespectful toward Corry — but I think it is only fair to note that of those 12 losses in-a-row, one was by forfeit when Sharon beat a very good Struthers team, and all of those other opening games were against really good teams (4 to Wilmington; 5 to Farrell; 1 to Slippery Rock).

To McElhaney's point, Sharon won its 2015 opener over Struthers (34-27); however, was ruled to have used a pair of ineligible players and forced to forfeit, 2-0.

Tonight, the Tigers take on Pittsburgh City League member University Prep beginning at 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.

University Prep (0-1) at Sharon (1-0)

McElhaney's minions cold-cocked Corry as Mikey Rodriquez rifled a pair of TD tosses to Ja'on Phillips, then Phillips flew 96 yards on a 2nd-stanza Pick-6.

"I thought Mikey played really well, handled himself really well," McElhaney praised, emphasizing, "But no matter what happens during the year there's going to be a package for Mister (Ham). ... He's still part of our offense. In high school football you need 'em all. We played ten different defensive linemen (last Saturday) because of the heat. We'll need all those guys, and guys are gonna have to be ready to go.

"So we'll have (an offensive) package of plays for (Ham) 'cause, at times, we're gonna need him. But Mikey played really well."

There were some season-opening subplots, as McElhaney mused, "Very proud of the way our team played (last) Saturday. Odd kickoff time (3:30 p.m.), long trip (approximately 2 1/2 hours), and the weather was really tough with the heat. I thought our players and staff handled everything really well.

"We were able to get off to a really good start and keep it up," McElhaney assessed. "We were very excited about how our offensive line played. We would have liked to play better defense in the second quarter. But we got a win, got a chance to play a lot of guys, and got out healthy."

University Prep was pounded by a physical Highlands team (27-0) as Chandler Thimson ran for 80 yards. Highlands is projected as a PIAA Class 4A playoff contender, McElhaney said.

Prep posted a 2-4 mark during last year's COVID-19 abbreviated season. The (Pittsburgh) Post-Gazette predicted Prep's Panthers to place 3rd — behind Westinghouse and Allderdice — in this season's City League standings.

The Post-Gazette included Prep's Rashan Murray, a wide receiver-defensive back and Akron University commit, as one of its preseason "Fab Five" picks. He was a 2020 All-City selection.

"I think University Prep is really talented," McElhaney said. "They opened with a loss to Highlands, which doesn't look great. But when you see the film you can immediately recognize that they have some legit playmakers on both sides of the ball. Rashan Murray is a corner/wide receiver ... and will pose a major challenge to our secondary and to our receivers.

"Defensively," McElhaney continued, "they have a ton of speed at all positions. The defensive line has really good size and is really aggressive. They like to penetrate and disrupt plays in the backfield. The linebackers play 'downhill' and can run. I am really impressed with how well they recognize pass and get into coverage. The secondary will get right up into the receivers and challenge them with a lot of man-to-man coverage."

Concluding, McElhaney summarized, "On defense we are going to have to limit the big plays, and on offense we need to handle their front if we want to be successful. Coach Louis Berry does a really good job with that football team, and we know that we have a major challenge on our hands (to)night. ... Murray is for real, and we've got some work here — this is a major step up. Trust me, they've got some guys, so we have our work cut out.

"But," McElhaney emphasized, "it's a good feeling to be one-and-oh. I'll never apologize for being one-and-oh. We'll take it. It feels good!"

Tonight's Games

(All games begin 7 p.m.)

Mercer (1-0) at Farrell (1-0)

An interesting early-season matchup of teams coming off impressive opening-week wins.

Kylon Wilson was among many Steelers contributing to last week's trouncing of the Trojans in Greenville, including a kick-return for a TD. Meanwhile, Mercer made its depth a factor in KO'ing Kennedy Catholic.

For Farrell, Anthony Stallworth and Lamont Samuels tallied 2 TDs each and Steelers' signal-caller Kabron Smith ran and threw for scores. Farrell finished with 349 total yards.

Mercer mainstays included Ethan Wiley (123 yards passing, 2 TDs), Logan Turton (85 receiving yards, 41 yards rushing, 3 TDs), and Jake Badger (85 yards rushing, 2 TDs).

Lakeview (1-0) at Greenville (0-1)

Last week's lidlifters could not have ended differently. Lakeview, led by Gavin Murdock's 300-plus total yards, toppled Titusville (41-7), while Greenville was blanked at home by Farrell (58-0).

Murdock manufactured a 65-yard scoring sprint and also tossed TDs 77 and 20 yards to Calgano Wilkins and Mitchell Tingley, respectively. Tingley tallied a trio of TDs, including a pair of Scoop 'n scores. Wilkins also pilfered a pass.

Mason Dickens ran for 69 in Greenville's loss.

The new Greenville High Athletic Hall of Fame will induct the Class of 2021 tonight, including Mel Berry, Rod Wentling, Howard Weyers, Jesi (Christiansen) Andolina, Doug Klenovich, John Kokoski, Rick Stuyvesant, Pualani Spurlock-Welsh, Tom Seiple, and John Prebula.

The Hall of Fame is the product of collaborative efforts by Greenville Educational Foundation board, Greenville Area School District board, and the high school administration, led by Superintendent Brian Tokar.

Hickory (0-1) at Girard (0-1)

The Hornets had their hands full with Ursuline, out-gained 287-154 (204-36 on the ground). Luke Woods' 6-yard TD toss to Ramarion Whitehead had Hickory within 16-7 early in the 2nd stanza before visiting Ursuline unleashed 34 unanswered points.

Luke Garing and the Gremlins gave nightmares to Girard. According to, Garing garnered a trio of 1st-half TDs (2, 7, 2) and Jayce Anderson added 84 yards as the Gremlins' ground game gained 253 yards. Also, Nate Garing sprinted 43 yards for a score and caught Eric Booher's 12-yard TD toss.

Trailing 35-0 at intermission, Girard scored 17 fourth-period points.

Kennedy Catholic (0-1) at Reynolds (0-1)

Tonight's tilt could provide a much-needed turnabout for two teams coming off humbling openers. Reynolds was whitewashed in New Wilmington (50-0), while Kennedy Catholic was crushed at home by Mercer (45-16).

Through 24 minutes the Raiders were competitive, trailing just 14-0; however Wilmington went for 28 third-period points. Trailing 39-0 with less than 9 minutes remaining in the 3rd period the Golden Eagles erupted for a pair of TD tosses from Rayvion Wilbon-Venable to Sean Yeager and Simeir Wade.

Reynolds had only 23 players in uniform last week; Kennedy Catholic, 15.

Brookfield (1-1) at Berlin-Western Reserve (0-2)

The Warriors were within approximately 12 minutes of an upset, but bowed to Springfield Local's 13 fourth-period points (20-14).

Donovan Pawlowski passed for 193 yards and a pair of scores to Isaiah Jones, and Pawlowski also posted 90 yards rushing.

Brookfield boasted a 338-209 bulge in total offense.

Western Reserve's Blue Devils were beaten (44-28) by Warren-John F. Kennedy at Mollenkopf Stadium.

Saturday's Games

Mercyhurst Prep, Slippery Rock's original Week-2 opponent, was forced to cancel the game. Since Sharpsville's Week-2 tilt against Cochranton already had been scratched, that made for a matchup.

Slippery Rock (1-0) at Sharpsville (1-0), 7 p.m.

Coach Larry Wendereusz's Rockets rolled in their opener over Clarion Central (38-7) — not Fort LeBoeuf, as originally scheduled. Slippery Rock signal-caller William "Zip" Mokel and John Sabo and Shane Thompson collaborated on TD tosses. Also, Mokel, Thompson and Brett Galcik garnered scoring sprints — Thompson's 66 yards.

In the debut of the Sharpsville-West Middlesex co-operative agreement, Caullin Summers' 23-yard TD toss to Blaze Knight with 68 ticks to play and Liam Campbell's subsequent conversion kick provided Paul Piccirilli's program with a benchmark win.

Grove City (1-0) at Fort LeBoeuf (0-0)

Grove City's good news was a 50-48 season-opening win over Meadville. Not so good was the 454 yards rushing permitted.

However, Hunter Hohman had an 18-for-30, 230-yard, 2-TD passing performance, while Curtis Hovis had another 214 yards rushing and 4 scores. Also, the Eagles coerced MASH into 6 rumbles, recovering 5.

Fort LeBoeuf's scheduled opener was canceled by a COVID-19 positive test.

Hounds off

It will be a rare Week-2 weekend off for Wilmington (1-0). The Greyhounds originally were to have met West Middlesex this week. Five-time District 10 Class 2A champion Wilmington whitewashed defending D-10 Class 1A titlist Reynolds in its opener.

"At this point, we are going to move forward with the bye and focus on growing as a team and the areas of improvement we identified from our first game," summarized Hounds' headmaster Brandon Phillian.

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