It’s go time.
While COVID-19 still continues to rear its ugly head, canceling a pair of games involving District 10 teams (Mercyhurst Prep-Penns Valley, Slippery Rock-Fort LeBoeuf) there is still a 22-game slate to dig into across D10.
It’s back to the traditional region schedules this season, making schedules much more balanced.
There are some intriguing matchups to get things rolling. Here’s a closer look:
Farrell at Greenville
Expectations are sky-high for the Steelers, who come in ranked No. 2 in both statewide preseason polls in Class 2A. They dominated teams last season, except Wilmington, who they lost three close games to, including 19-14 in the D10 title matchup. The Steelers are loaded at nearly every position, including running back, where all-stater Anthony Stallworth returns after rushing for 1,158 yards and 19 touchdowns in eight games a season ago. Farrel has playmakers all over the field on both sides of the ball, including all-state linebacker Taidon Strickland, Kylon Wilson, Anthony Jackson, Lamont Samuels and Trian Holden.
Greenville is looking for a measure of revenge after losing both meetings last season. They return senior quarterback Jalen Ritzert, who threw for 519 yards and four touchdowns in 2020, as well as their leading rushers from a season ago, Mason Dickens and Malachi Hyde.
Reynolds at Wilmington
There’s nothing quite like a matchup of two defending D10 champions to get the season rolling, but that’s exactly what we have here, as Reynolds (1A) and Wilmington (2) meet. The Greyhounds have won five straight D10 titles and advanced to the PIAA championship game a season ago before falling to Southern Columbia.
Both teams must replace a ton of talent, including leading rushers Ethan Susen and Darren Miller for Wilmington and Cole Toy and Dreyvin Livingston for Reynolds. The Raiders do return starting quarterback Brayden McCloskey, while Luke Edwards figures to see a heavy workload for the Greyhounds in the backfield, with the quarterback duties likely to fall to either Cole McCallister or Tuff McConahy.
Mercer at Kennedy Catholic
This is a matchup of last season’s opener, won 46-6 by the Mustangs. Ethan Wiley returns at quarterback for the Mustangs, as does Logan Turton and Nathan Haines in the backfield.
The Golden Eagles will be under the direction of first-year head coach John Reay, who will lead the program in its second season back after a six-season hiatus.
Union City at Cochranton
Union City went 3-3 a season ago, including a season sweep of Seneca. The Bears return quarterback Kyler Shaffer, who ran for 325 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020, but must replace talented backs Caleb Stull and Dave Roscinski.
Cochranton meanwhile will look to bounce back after a winless 2020. Wyatt Barzak returns to lead the offense after throwing for 482 yards. The Cardinals were solid on defense last season and return leading tacklers Ramy Sample and Stephen Martinec.
Northwestern at Seneca
The Wildcats had a breakthrough season in 2020 under the direction of Mark Brooks, going 7-1 and winning the Region 4 title before battling Farrell in the playoffs. They return talented QB Ryan Tewell, who threw for 742 yards and ran for 449 as a junior. Top receiver Eric Steinle also is back. Defensively, the Wildcats were dominant last season, a trend they will look to continue in 2021.
The Bobcats are looking to bounce back from a winless season in 2020.
Saegertown at Eisenhower
Eisenhower had a special season in 2020, going 8-1 and advancing to the D10 Class 1A title game. They must replace a boatload of talent, but appear capable of doing so. They do return a good chunk of their offensive line and will turn to Garrett Jensen at quarterback and an inexperienced yet talented stable of backs. Defensively, Ike allowed just over seven points per game and return the likes of Gannon Jaquay, Benji Bauer, Mike Beaver and Wyatt Lookenhouse and Keegan Eckstrom, among others.
The Panthers, meanwhile, were rejuvenated in 2020, going 5-3 after snapping a 38-game losing streak. Head coach James Wolfgang returns quarterback Henry Shaffer, as well as a solid group of skill players and linemen.
Maplewood at Iroquois
Maplewood went 3-4 a year ago and has all the tools to contend in 2021. The Tigers calling card was their defense a season ago, allowing just two touchdowns per game. They will look for more of the same this season while turning to a talented offensive line to pave the way for the running game on offense, which will feature Ben Gilberto.
The Braves went 3-4 last season, including a pair of losses to Eisenhower. Quarterback Ethan Klingzing and running back Michael Hoopsick return to help lead the offense. Hoopsick rushed for 829 yards in 2020.
Conneaut at Warren
These two teams met in the season opener (which came a week later than everyone else) in 2020, a 28-0 win for Conneaut. The Dragons return a solid group on the defensive line, led by Alan McAllister, Easton Hultberg, Justice Greene and Tristan Dolan on the offensive line. Quarterback Landon Douvlos stepped in and performed very well last season, and returns along with a solid group of skill players, including Kody Vega, Ben White and Tommy Nyquist, among others.
For Conneaut, Jake Stoyer takes over as head coach, replacing Pat Gould. The Eagles have a lot of talent to replace, but do return backs Max Lewandowski and Dylan Lehmann.
Franklin at Harbor Creek
The Harbor Creek Huskies advanced to the D10 Class 4A title game last season before falling to Oil City and have aspirations of getting back there despite losing having to replace a very talented senior class. Cam Williamson returns at running back after rushing for 953 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
The Knights look to re-group after going 1-8 in 2020.
Erie at Cathedral Prep
Prep beat Erie twice last season and advanced to the PIAA Class 5A state championship game before falling to Pine-Richland. Carter Barnes looks to take over at quarterback, while Mike Parks is back at running back after rushing for 933 yards and eight touchdowns last season. DeMario Crawford returns to lead the wide receiver unit.
Erie is under the direction of first-year head coach Andre Henderson, a former Strong Vincent standout. The Royals must replace a talented group of players in the backfield, but do return standout Marquell Darnell at tight end, who has multiple Division I offers. Farrell transfer Darnell Driver figures to have the inside track at quarterback. Darnell will also anchor the defense from his defensive end position.
Meadville at Grove City
Perhaps the best non-region game on the opening week slate sees a pair of D10 title contenders in Class 4A Meadville traveling to Class 3A Grove City. Both teams feature dynamic running games led by dynamic backs and powerful offensive lines. For Grove City, leading rusher Curtis Hovis (867 yards) returns, as does the Bulldogs’ Khalon Simmons (993 yards, 17 touchdowns). The Eagles will spread it out and throw some, while Meadville is run-heavy with its traditional Wing-T attack.
Ursuline (Ohio) at Hickory
The defending D10 Class 3A champion Hornets welcome a talented Ursuline squad that already has a game under its belt, a wild 62-58 win over Bishop Hartley.
Hickory must replace do-it-all quarterback Michael Henwood and they figure to do so with Logan Woods, who will have plenty of returning talent around him. Ramarion Whitehead returns at receiver after garnering all-state honors a season ago with 55 receptions for 937 yards. Defensively, all-state linebacker Jackson Pryts is back after amassing more than 100 tackles in 2020, while Joey Fazzone returns to help anchor the line as well.
In Ursuline’s season-opening win, quarterback Brady Shannon threw for 297 yards and accounted for six total touchdowns.
Lakeview at Titusville
Lakeview figures to be a darkhorse this season after going 4-4 in 2020. Coach Bill Hickman’s Sailors have plenty of experience, including talented signal-calller Gavin Murdock, who threw for 876 yards and seven touchdowns last season and also rushed for close to 700 yards.
Conversely, the Rockets went 0-6 in 202 and are looking to bounce back. Garrett Knapp returns at quarterback for Titusville after throwing for over 700 yards. His top target, Brock Covell, also is back.
Loudonville (Ohio) at Sharpsville
Sharpsville took on rival West Middlesex and the two programs are co-oping for the 2021 season. They open against a Loudonville team that is coming off a 45-25 loss to Crestview (Ohio) in its season opener.
The Blue Devils figure to have a pair of dynamic backs in their Wing-T offense with Chris Roth, as well as bringing in Ian Smith from Middlesex, which advanced to the D10 Class 1A semifinals in 2020.
Cambridge Springs at Fairview
The Blue Devils have great numbers and look for their experienced offensive line to lead the way after a 6-2 season in 2020. Garrett Hodak, Bryce Kania, Kaiden Boozer and Ethan Counasse will all play big roles at the skill positions for the Blue Devils. Coach Nathan Liberty’s defense should also be a strong unit, led by Hodack, who led the team in tackles last season.
Fairview is coming off a 6-4 season and returns a strong core, including quarterback Tyler Corbin and backs Jared Gennuso and Travis Burge.
Sharon at Corry
Corry figures to have a strong passing attack, led by the return of quarterback Nathan Lesher (887 yards, 7 touchdowns) and receiver Sammy Fisher (371 yards, 5 touchdowns). The Beavers must replace talented runner Landon Weis, however.
The Tigers, who went 2-5 in 2020, return talented receiver Ja’on Phillips, among others.
Lake Catholic at McDowell
The Trojans advanced to the PIAA Class 6A semifinals last season before falling to Central York, going 7-1 in the process. Coach Bo Orlando’s team must replace a deep senior class from 2020, including QB Chris Juchno and RB Justo Rivera. An experienced line should help ease the transition with new skill players entering the starting lineup.
They will be facing a Lake Catholic team that is coming off a 43-7 loss to Dover in its season opener.
North East at Laurel
The Pickers went just 1-7 a season ago, returning running back John Wittman on the offensive side. Do-it-all playmaker Seth Fuller will be tough to replace.
Butler at Kiski
Cooper Baxter returns at quarterback for the Golden Tornado after throwing for 379 yards and rushing for over 400 more in 2020. Butler went 2-6 a season ago, moving into District 10 from the WPIAL.