SHARPSVILLE, Pa. – Defense continues to be the name of the game for the Sharon Tigers, as they knocked off previously unbeaten Sharpsville, 26-7.
The Tigers (5-1) allowed just the one score, which is all the more impressive considering that Sharpsville (5-1) came in averaging 49 points per game.
“It was very satisfying,” said Sharon senior Mister Ham in the Cole Orthodontic Associates postgame interview. “Having a defense like ours and an offense like theirs, it’s going to be a competitive game, but we pulled through with the W.”
See Ham’s full interview:
The seven points allowed were the first points Sharon has allowed in the first half all season, and the first points they’ve allowed in a win this season.
Check out highlights from the game:
Almost as impressive for the Tigers on this night was the running game, which allowed them to go on long, sustained drives that kept the ball out of Sharpsville’s hands, specifically dynamic quarterback Caullin Summers.
“I was on edge all week,” said Sharon coach Jason McElhaney. “He’s (Summers) a great, great player and he brings it every single snap. I’m just proud of our guys, containing him the best that we could.”
The Tigers took the opening drive of the game and marched right down the field, all on the ground, and capped it off with a Cortez Nixon 7-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
Sharon’s defense stood tall on the next drive, as a couple of runs by Summers got them inside the Sharon 20 before the Tigers’ defense, like it has done most of this season, stiffened, stopping the Blue Devils at the 6-yard line on 4th and goal.
What followed was the drive of the game, a 94-yard march that chewed up seven minutes of game clock and capped by Nixon’s 7-yard touchdown run with 8:23 to go in the half.
“We were gassed, but we pulled through it and got in the end zone as we should have,” Ham said.
Facing its biggest deficit of the season, Sharpsville responded with a touchdown drive of its own. Aided by two 15-yard penalties (one pass interference, one unsportsmanlike), the Blue Devils drove the ball inside the Sharon five, and it took every last ounce of strength from Summers to punch it in on fourth-and-goal from the one with 3:08 left in the second quarter that, couple with the extra point, made it 13-7.
Sharon’s drives had been long and sustained until that point, but the Tigers showed on their final drive of the half that they can also strike quickly.
A 25-yard completion to Bishop Root set the Tigers up in prime position, and from the Sharpsville 20, Ham tossed a screen pass to Lamont Austin, who did the rest, making it 19-7 with 35 seconds to go before halftime.
“I was kind of watching the clock,” McElhaney said. “I was close to burning a timeout because they were taking some time off the clock, but we got a decent little kickoff return and that allowed us to stay in what we wanted to do. Lamont made a great catch on a screen, and we had two linemen getting out in front. It was beautiful.”
Both teams had long drives stall out in the third quarter, and both had touchdowns called back on penalties, but the Tigers were still able to chew up some clock with their ground game.
Ike Friday put the finishing touches on a long fourth-quarter drive with a 9-yard scoring run with 1:42 to play.
Summer completed a 45-yard pass to Dalton Byerly on the final drive of the game, which accounted for nearly half of his passing yards (he finished with 101), another impressive feat for the Sharon defense, as Summer came in averaging 294 yards per game through the air.
“We’re starting to get more guys involved, which helped us up front keeping guys fresh,” McElhaney said. “We were down Lamont (Austin) in the back end tonight and Rakeem (Hughes) jumped in. I told Rakeem I don’t care if it’s pass interference every time, he kept battling, kept fighting and we’re proud of him for jumping in. It’s his first start ever.”
Ham and Nixon were both over 100 yards on the ground, with Ham finishing with 127 yards on 15 carries and Nixon 107 yards on 14 carries. Ham was also 2-of-3 through the air for 45 yards and the touchdown.
Root also had an interception for the Tigers.
Summers led Sharpsville with 48 yards rushing on 22 carries, 53 yards under his season average, while Byerly had three receptions for 68 yards, all in the second half.
Sharon hosts Slippery Rock next Friday, while Sharpsville is at Farrell next Friday.
“We have to stay disciplined,” Ham said. “We can’t take stuff like this for granted.”