By Pete Chiodo
November 17, 2012 7:00 a.m. GROVE CITY —
There may have been celebration on one side of the field and tears on the other. But no one can question the toughness of either competitor in Friday night’s District 10 Class A playoff classic between the Sharpsville and Lakeview football teams.
In the end it was Lakeview dealing with the pain while Sharpsville did the cheering after scoring its final touchdown with 24 seconds remaining to pull out a 41-34 win over the Sailors, capping off a terrific semifinal battle at Grove City High School’s Forker Field.
“We tried. We gave it a shot,” said Lakeview head coach Dan York. “That was a heck of a ball game.”
Sharpsville, now 10-1 on the year, will be going for its second straight D-10 championship, taking on West Middlesex — a 42-0 winner over Farrell last night — in the title game on Nov. 23 at a site to be announced later.
“Great battle,” said Sharpsville coach Paul Piccirilli. “And like I told coach York, his team has a lot of juniors. So, they can look forward to that, take this feeling tonight and carry it over to next year. I think they’re going to be ready to go."
This season, however, ends at 7-5 for the Sailors.
“It was a good game,” said York. “We had a couple things that didn’t go our way, so … a bounce of the ball here, a fumble there.”
On the plus side for Lakeview, last night’s game was unquestionably a better effort for the Sailors than the last time they played Sharpsville. Sharpsville dominated that regular season meeting 42-0.
Yet at the same time, last night’s loss will be even tougher to swallow for Lakeview. The Sailors had a win in their sights for most of the game. They led by as much as 15-0 in the first half, and 28-19 in the second half. Yet a mistake here or there allowed Sharpsville to get back in the game both times. And in the fourth quarter, with the score tied 34-34, the Sailors had possession with 2:16 left, yet couldn’t move the ball.
Then on Sharpsville’s next drive, Lakeview had the Blue Devils backed up, facing a third and 14 on the Sailors’ 39 with under 40 seconds to go.
But Blue Devils running back Derrick Odem made a miraculous grab on a pass from Bryan Stafford down the sidelines for a 37-yard gain to the Sailors’ 2. And on the next play Tyler Luchey reeled in a pass by Stafford in the corner of the end zone to push the Devils in front for what would be the final time.
Stafford ended the game with 8 completions on 10 attempts, amassing 149 yards. Odem was hit top target, catching five passes for 112 yards.
“We have Tyler Luchey, who is an incredible athlete and receiver,” said Piccirilli. “But what people don’t know is that (Odem) catches the ball just as well. We exploited it (Friday).”
That passing attack bailed out a Blue Devils’ ground game that at times struggled, gaining just 135 yards on the night.
Fullback Ross Llewellyn was the team’s top ball-carrier with 14 rushes for 58 yards. Odem followed with 52 yards on 10 carries.
Conversely, the only thing that seemed to be able to stop Lakeview’s ground game last night were turnovers — four fumbles to be exact. Otherwise, the Blue Devils struggled to contain Sailors tailback Blake Reddick, who carried the ball 21 times and gained 232 yards.
On Lakeview’s first play of the game, Reddick took a pitch around the right side 68 yards for a touchdown. And quarterback Zach Bigley toted in the 2-pointer to give the Sailors an early 8-0 lead.
Sharpsville fumbled the ball away on its next play. And two plays after that, Reddick broke off a 41-yarder to the house, pushing the Sailors’ lead to 15-0.
Sharpsville finally answered with a six-play scoring drive that ended with a 43-yard pass from Stafford to Luchey.
Then Lakeview’s next drive was halted by fumble No. 1, which was scooped up by Luchey and returned 55 yards for another touchdown. Sharpsville had missed a 2-point conversion on its first TD, but kicked the PAT on the second one, and Lakeview still led 15-13.
However, Sharpsville went for the onside kick and recovered it. And a four-play drive was all it took to get the Devils back into the end zone. A 34-yard pass from Stafford to Odem got the team inside Lakeview’s 5. Two plays after that, Joey Pagliaroli busted in from a yard out to give the Devils a 19-15 lead.
Lakeview answered right back, though. The Sailors enjoyed an eight-play, 60-yard series that featured a 20-yard run by Reddick to the Devils’ 1, and a one-yard plunge by fullback Nate Kokoski to give Lakeview back the lead, 21-19.
In the first 16 minutes of the game, the fans had seen six touchdowns, two fumbles and an onside kick. This was shaping up to be a heavyweight slugfest. And the second half matched the level of intensity as the first.
Lakeview started the third quarter with a six-play, 80-yard drive that was highlighted by a 38-yard option keeper by Bigley and a two-yard touchdown run up the middle by Reddick. The Sailors now led 28-19.
But Sharpsville followed that up with a seven-play, 42-yard possession that ended with an eight-yard scoring scamper by Odem. Lakeview still led 28-26.
However, the Sailors fumbled the pigskin away on its next play, allowing Sharpsville to set up shop on the Sailors’ 28. Lakeview’s defense held tough, though. Sharpsville faced fourth down and still had a yard to go to get into the end zone. Stafford fumbled the snap on the play, but the ball rolled out from the scrum right in front of Odem, who scooped it up and carried it into the end zone. A 2-point conversion put the Blue Devils ahead 34-28.
“Fortunately, (the ball) went to the halfback going on a motion, who saw it and picked it up, and still made a heck of a play diving into the end zone,” said Piccirilli. “I don’t think we made it by much.”
Lakeview then fumbled away its next possession. But the Sailors’ defense forced Sharpsville to punt. And the Sailors angrily responded with a 10-play, 42-yard drive that saw Kokoski plow into the end zone on fourth-and-one. However, the extra point kick was blocked and the score was tied 34-34.
The two teams traded possession a couple times. But Sharpsville finally put together the scoring drive at the end of the game to pull it out.
“We had a lot of help by (Lakeview),” said Piccirilli. “We were fortunate. You need that every now and then. That's what makes high school football what it’s all about.”