For all county teams outside of Youngsville, times are getting desperate.
Sheffield, Eisenhower and Warren have no room for error as the eighth of ten weeks of football kicks off Friday night. The Dragons, Knights and Wolverines all play in winnable games this weekend against sub-.500 competition. All three teams also enter the weekend 2-5 and needing to win out to finish at the break even point.
Conneaut, Ohio (0-8) at Youngsville (7-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Mike Shine Field
Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg
Sheffield’s last (home) stand
Sheffield back Kalil Slaughter carries against Coudersport at Sheffield three weeks ago. The Wolverines play their last home game of the season on Wolverine Mountain at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Smethport.
Youngsville hasn't seen success like this since L.B.J. was in office. With last week's 41-0 victory over Cambridge Springs, the Eagles improved to 7-0 for the first time since 1965 and qualified for the District 10 Class A playoffs for the first time since the 1994 season.
A quartet of fearsome runners and the sound decision making of quarterback Cory Craig have largely contributed to the Youngsville resurgence. Sam Lucas (459 yards), Cory Craig (420), Jordan Gurdak (300) and Sage Sivak (244) have all carried the ball at least 50 times for the Eagles and accounted for 16 rushing touchdowns. In addition, Craig has passed for 791 yards with 12 touchdowns. Lucas has 10 catches for 261 yards and four scores and the team's leading receiver is Dalton Maze with 15 catches for 407 yards and six touchdowns.
"I hope that we come out focused this week and be more consistent on both sides of the ball," said Youngsville coach Luke Alex. "Last week we made some mental mistakes and I'd like to get those cleaned up so we can go into our last two region games firing on all cylinders."
Friday's competition will be completely unknown to the soaring Eagles as the Conneaut (Ohio) Spartans come to town. Looking at things by the numbers, it's been a season of struggle for the Spartans.
The Ohio team is 0-8 on the year and has been shut out in five different outings. All told, the Spartans have been outscored by a whopping 338-34 margin. In a 35-7 loss to Brookfield a week ago, Conneaut turned the ball over four times and only a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Distelrath to Jackson Distelrath kept the Spartans from their sixth shutout. Tailbacks Troy Colucci and Dyvon Huffman rushed for 59 and 58 yards respectively in that loss.
2011 Eagles Leaders: Passing- Cory Craig 35 of 76 for 791 yards. 12 TD, 4 INT; Rushing- Sam Lucas 62 carries for 459 yards, 7 TD; Receiving- Dalton Maze 15 catches for 407 yards, 6 TD
Last meeting: First meeting
Cochranton (3-4) at Eisenhower (2-5), Friday, 7 p.m., Eisenhower High School
With three weeks remaining in the season, Eisenhower currently occupies the fourth and final District 10 Class A playoff position in Region 2. Each game remaining on the schedule is a region game so a run of three straight wins would lock up a playoff berth for the Knights. Not bad considering the team went 0-10 in 2010.
While the Knights are 2-5, two of their last three games have come down to the wire with the opposition securing a late touchdown to steal a win. Eisenhower coach Jim Penley hopes his team can do enough Friday to keep that from happening a third time.
"It's like anything else," said Penley. "We're a maturing team that has come a long way and did a lot of good things. At the end of the day, it comes down to taking advantage of our scoring opportunities. We're a 2-5 team that is really just a couple of plays from being 4-3. It's frustrating, but that's what you're going to see with a time that's still finding its way as far as making plays goes."
The team's rushing game has gotten a boost with a healthy John Pascuzzi in the backfield. Pascuzzi has 377 yards and three touchdowns this season - easily the best on the team despite playing in only four games. Robbie Wilston is next with 283 yards and a score and Trevor Spicer has 260 yards.
Like the Knights, Cochranton is also much improved from the 2010 season. Relying heavily on the run, the Cardinals have three backs with over 200 yards this season. Far and away the most dangerous is junior Austin Andrews. Andrews has a team-high 621 yards and eight touchdowns.
The team's signal caller is senior Casey Adams. Adams has completed 40 of 83 passes for 416 yards and three touchdowns. Cochranton enters the game trying to recover from a 26-0 shutout loss to Mercyhurst Prep a week ago.
2011 Knights Leaders: Passing- Aaron Lundmark 17 of 39 for 288 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT; Rushing- John Pascuzzi 53 carries for 377 yards, 3 TD; Receiving- Nathan O'Brien 8 catches for 85 yards
Last meeting: October 22. 2010- at Cochranton High School- Cochranton 32, Eisenhower 7
Central Tech (2-5) at Warren (2-5), Friday, 7 p.m.,
War Memorial Field
Warren is running out of chances to pump life into a difficult 2011 football season. Trying to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, the Dragons suffered a 21-6 loss to Bradford last week.
The Dragons are hoping a little home cooking will be just what the doctor ordered. Friday is the first of three straight home games to close out the season as region foe Central Tech visits War Memorial Field.
Quarterback Austin Jerman and his dangerous receivers present the biggest threat to any of Warren's opposition. Jerman has thrown for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns in the team's first seven games. Nathan Zigler leads the receiving group with 29 grabs for 416 yards and four scores and Mark Davis has 22 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Willetts is the third option with at least 20 catches. He has 227 yards and a touchdown.
"A lot of our success on offense this season has come through the passing game," said Warren coach Brad Wright. "This week I've challenged the offensive line and really the whole offense to step up their games and produce a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season."
Central Tech has had a season largely comperable to Warren. Some games have been close, some games have not been close and the team has an identical 2-5 record. The Falcons enter Friday's game trying to rebound from a 50-26 loss to powerful Strong Vincent.
While Warren had struggled to stop the run this year, Central Tech has been able to move the ball on the ground thanks to the legs of tailback Paul Kafando. Kafando has 924 yards on 109 carries in 2011, including 11 touchdowns. He currently averages nearly 8.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Martell Crockett has completed just 13 passes, but those passes have been huge. Crockett has 374 yards and three touchdowns in just 30 attempts.
2011 Dragons Leaders: Passing- Austin Jerman 82 of 144 for 1275 yards, 11 TD, 4 INT; Rushing- Chris McNeal 29 carries for 127 yards, 2 TD; Receiving- Nathan Zigler 29 catches for 416 yards, 4 TD
Last meeting: October 22, 2010- at Erie Veterans Stadium- Warren 35, Central Tech 6
Smethport (1-6) at Sheffield (2-5), Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Sheffield High School
Sheffield has its sight set on .500 - and wins in its last three games would get the job done. The first of those three games is Saturday at Sheffield High School against the visiting Smethport Hubbers.
After a dismal three-week start to the year, Sheffield's fortunes have changed in their last four outings. That four-game stretch includes impressive shutout wins over Otto-Eldred and Johnsonburg and impressive close losses to Coudersport and Port Allegany - two teams with a combined 13-1 mark in 2011.
Sheffield's defense has been a major catalyst for the turnaround as has the talented backfield duo of Nick Bonavita and Kalil Slaughter. Bonavita leads the club with 480 yards and five touchdowns this season and a healthy Slaughter has chipped in 264 yards and a touchdown.
"Our defense has been playing tremendously these past few weeks," said Sheffield coach Bryan Gould. "We need to keep that defensive domination up against Smethport. Offensively, we need to eliminate the silly penalties and the missed blocking assignments that are killing some of our long drives. If we can fix that, I think we'll be ok in each of these next three games."
Once a powerhouse in the Allegheny Mountain League and District 10, the Hubbers have fallen on hard times in recent years. Entering Saturday afternoon's game, Smethport is just 1-6 on the season. While Sheffield suffered a 7-6 overtime and 19-6 loss to Coudersport and Port Allegany respectively, the Hubbers have lost 48-13 (to Port) and 24-7 (to Coudy) in its past two outings. Smethport had two meaningless late touchdowns against the Gators and got a first quarter score from Karl Lightner in the loss to the Falcons.
2011 Wolverines Leaders: Passing- Shequan Wright 32 of 89 for 434 yards, 2 TD, 8 INT; Rushing- Nick Bonavita 88 carries for 480 yards. 5 TD; Receiving- Nick Bonavita 10 catches for 113 yards
Last meeting: October 22, 2010- at Smethport High School- Smethport 51, Sheffield 22