ERIE — Life goes on and so do the Sharon Tigers. But not until next season.
The Tigers played with heavy hearts Monday night in their District 10 Class AA playoff opener against Girard, delayed from Saturday after the tragic fatal crash that killed two players and left two others in the hospital. Corey Swartz and Evan Gill were killed in the accident and the Osmon twins, Greg and Craig, both hospitalized with injuries.
But school officials said the families were “adamant” that the game be played and the Tigers’ coaching staff voted to play it in honor “of those who couldn’t be here.”
But even in losing a heart-breaking 22-19 game to Girard at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Tigers still came away as winners in the eyes of their fans and the Shenango Valley community.
“We fought hard and I’m proud of these kids,” said coach Jim Wildman.
“This is a resilient group. And I’m especially proud of my seniors. We’ll use this game as motivation for the future. And this week, we’ll bury two of our own.”
The Tigers suffered a much bigger loss than a game last Friday night when four senior starters and team leaders were involved in a tragic fatal accident. And they played it well. The Tigers were leading 19-14 with about 21 seconds to go and Girard had a fourth down and no timeouts at the 22-yard line. Quarterback Joe Dunn hit Cody Pound with a pass at the 7, and Pound broke a tackle and went in to score. A two-point pass followed with 13 seconds left and Girard had the victory.
“We were one tackle away from winning,” said Wildman. “If we make a tackle, the game is over. But Girard is the second-ranked team from up here and some people didn’t think we belonged. But despite everything that happened over the weekend, on Sunday when we held practice, these kids were ready to play.”
Sharon held Girard on the opening series of the game and it only took slightly more than two minutes before the Tigers were up 7-0. Carnell Hawkins, who ripped off a brilliant 51-yard run on the drive, scored the first TD on a 5-yard burst over the right side. Andrew Tomko booted the point after.
But the Tigers’ defense was tested immediately after YellowJackets speedster Bryan Divido returned the ball to the Sharon 12. Four plays later, Nason McCall carried 1 yard into the end zone. A two-point PAT run by Cody Dinger on a broken play off an attempted kick jumped Girard into an 8-7 lead.
“You can’t give up 70-yard kick returns, especially in the playoffs,” lamented Wildman.
Sharon went right back to work on offense as Hawkins ripped off a 42-yard run on the first play from the Sharon 31. Six plays later, fullback Da’mon Rudolph plowed to paydirt on an 8-yard run. A run for points after failed, but Sharon was back on top, 13-8.
With snow starting to cover the field early in the second quarter, Girard marched back down the field into the lead. Dunn carried 22 yards over the left side for the score, but the PAT kick went off the upright and the margin for the Yellow Jackets was 14-13.
That score held until halftime, but it wasn’t without a tense moment.
With about 29 seconds left in the half Sharon had the ball at its own 13 and 4th down. Rather than punt into the heavy wind, Wildman called Tomko’s number on a quarterback sneak and Tomko picked up the first down and the Tigers ran out the clock.
At halftime, a snow-plow driver was hard at work clearing snow off the yard lines. But it was a futile effort as the white stuff continued to fall.
Sharon controlled most of the third quarter and appeared to score on a 38-yard interception return by Trenton Mosley, but a penalty moved the ball back to the 20. Four plays later, Rudolph carried 3 yards for his second score. A pass for PAT failed, but Sharon was back on top, 19-14.
But late in the game, Girard pulled out the victory and will move on to face unbeaten Greenville next Saturday at a site to be determined.
Notes: Four Tigers wore the numbers of the players lost to the accident. Troy Hejazi wore 9 (Corey Swartz); Beau Dignal 67 (Evan Gill); Kendall Sheffield 73 (Craig Osmon); Jay’Quan Jackson 70 (Greg Osmon). A moment of silence was held prior to the game for Swartz and Gill as well as John Zdelar of Brookfield who was also killed in the crash.
ERIE — Life goes on and so do the Sharon Tigers. But not until next season.
Breese lone local to reach Class AA finals
A busy and entertaining Day 2 of wrestling at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Hershey came and went, as did the dreams of a gold medal for a handful of local wrestlers.
The one local wrestler that doesn’t apply to is Lakeview’s Sam Breese, who had the Giant Center crowd in aw during his two matches Friday. The two bouts equated to two wins, which means a shot a defending his championship.
Lee, Wheeling survive Day 2 in Hershey
Ehrin Lee’s smile following his quarterfinal win Friday at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships told the whole story.
Lee has had his eyes on the state championships all season long, and just getting there wasn’t enough. The Titusville 160-pounder has wrestled like one of the best grapplers in the state during the tournament thus far, and his 3-2 overtime win over Northampton’s Bobby Fehr proved that if nothing else, he’s one of the four best wrestlers in his weight class.
Cards can’t slow Vincentian
The starters on the Cochranton boys basketball team probably slept like logs on Friday night.
They left every ounce on the hardwood of Meadville High School’s House of Thrills, going up against the high-intensity attack of Vincentian Academy in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
McLane rolls past Neshannock
Sarah Jay has made a habit of presenting her players with in depth scouting reports prior to each and every game.
But the report she handed them on Neshannock, the Lady Lancers’ first round opponent in the PIAA Class AA playoffs, was nothing like they had seen before.
Class AA first round filled with highs, lows for locals
It was a day full of highs and lows for the 11 local Class AA wrestlers on the opening day of the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Hershey.
For some, it was business as usual, and for others, the atmosphere of a crowded Giant Center proved to be a little much. By the time the preliminary and Round 1 consolation rounds were finished, eight wrestlers are still alive, with state wrestling experience proving to be invaluable Thursday morning.
Lee, Wheeling stay in hunt for Class AAA state title
A win is a win, and when it comes to the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships, as long as your score reads higher in the end, it really doesn’t matter how you get there.
During the preliminary round of the tournament Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center in Hershey, the six local qualifiers certainly had mixed results, but in the end, two wrestlers are still in the championship bracket, exactly where they want to be.
Cards look to slow down Vincentian
“The best way to sum it up is,” said Cochranton head coach Scott McCurdy, “it’s like they’re down five and there are 30 seconds to go. Only, they play like that for the entire 32 minutes.”
McCurdy is talking about the Vincentian Academy boys basketball team, which employs a style that’s ... well ... calling it up-tempo just doesn’t seem to suffice.
Lancers get tough draw in opener
One may think that by winning a District 10 title and getting paired up with the seventh seed out of District 7 for the first round of the state playoffs, that said champion would have a pretty choice matchup.
Yet, that’s not how things shook out for the General McLane girls basketball team. The D-10 champion Lady Lancers drew a challenging foe in Neshannock.
’Dogs rout Bison to reach title game
Having defeated Fort LeBoeuf by a grand total of 24-0 in their previous three meetings, the tension wasn’t exactly palpable for the Meadville Bulldogs hockey team as it squared off with the Bison in a Lakeshore Hockey League semfinal game on Thursday night at Erie Insurance Arena.
Calvary wins opener
The Calvary Baptist girls basketball team won its opening game of the National Christian School Athletic Association Tournament on Thursday at Family First Sports Park.
- More Sports Headlines
- Breese lone local to reach Class AA finals