With the District 9 playoffs on the horizon, the Sheffield Wolverines will play in a special Thursday night attraction at Union Area High School.
While the timing of the game provides Sheffield one less day to prepare for the Knights, it will also provide an extra day for rest and prep for the District 9 Class AA playoffs that get underway next weekend.
Sheffield (4-5) at Union (6-3), at Union Area High School,
Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg
Here’s the catch
Sheffield’s Evan Jamison hauls in a pass during the Wolverines’ recent win over Smethport at Sheffield High School. With four wins in their last six games, the Wolverines have qualified for the District 9 Class A high school football playoffs — for the first time ever — beginning next week. First, Sheffield travels to Union for its non-league regular-season finale.
Thursday, 6 p.m.
Perhaps no team in District 9 has executed a second half turnaround like the Sheffield Wolverines.
After three weeks of the season, Sheffield was 0-3 and had been beaten by a combined score of 97-6. Needless to say, playoffs were not at the front of anyone's mind.
2011 Wolverines Leaders: Passing- Shequan Wright 37 of 97 for 522 yards, 2 TD, 9 INT; Rushing- Nick Bonavita 114 carries for 662 yards, 7 TD; Receiving- Nick Bonavita 11 catches for 135 yards, TD
Last meeting: November 6, 2010- at Sheffield High School- Union 20, Sheffield 16
Now, just over a month later, the Wolverines have won four of six games to improve to 4-5. In that span, the defense has pitched three shutouts and the team has won games over Johnsonburg, Otto-Eldred, Smethport and Cameron County. It's only losses were a one-point overtime loss to Coudersport (8-1) and a 19-6 loss to AML North champion Port Allegany (8-1).
The resurgence has the Wolverines aimed at making their first District 9 and- to coach Bryan Gould's knowledge - the first postseason gridiron appearance in school history.
"The whole town is excited about the playoffs," said Gould. "It's great to not be able to go to the grocery store without someone wanting to talk about football. I love the enthusiasm of the community and the boys sure do too."
A Sheffield defense that surrendered 97 points in the first three games has allowed just 34 points in the six games since. George Fitch leads the team in tackles with 97 with Nick Bonavita and Nate Charlton close behind with 79 and 77 respectively. Fitch has a team-high nine sacks and Ike Nearing, Shequan Wright and Kwante Johnson have all intercepted three passes each.
Offensively, the Wolverines have shown the ability to pound the ball with Bonavita accounting for 662 yards and seven touchdowns and Kalil Slaughter for another 326 yards and two scores.
Finishing at .500 for the first time since 2001 won't be easy as the Union Golden Knights of the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC) stand in the way. Union is currently enjoying its first winning season since the turn of the century. It is 6-3 and its season includes wins against such quality teams as Saegertown (30-14), Saint Marys (25-7), Keystone (15-6) and Maplewood (36-6).
Quarterback Taylor Smith has had an outstanding season and is one of the best passers in the KSAC. He completes 55 percent of his attempts and has thrown for 1,109 yards and 13 touchdowns this year while being intercepted just four times. His favorite target is wideout Brody Pollock who has hauled in 27 catches for 450 yards and seven scores this season.
The ground game features a three-headed monster in Smith, Austin Davis and Mikey Harris. Smith leads the team with 539 yards and five touchdowns, Davis has 489 yards and six scores and Harris has 343 yards and four trips to the end zone.