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Slippery Rock Outlasts Hickory for Berth in D10 3A Title Game; Grove City Heading Back to Title Game

Slippery Rock celebrates in the final moments of their 23-17 win over Hickory.

GROVE CITY, Pa. – There was going to be no repeat of Hickory’s last-second regular-season win over Slippery Rock, Andrew Massella made sure of that.

With Hickory driving inside Slippery Rock territory, Massella intercepted a Logan Woods pass with less than a minute remaining to lift the Rockets to a 23-17 win and into the District 10 Class 3A championship game.

“We just got our defensive call and then I was like three (Hickory’s Ramarion Whitehead) was really tight so he’s probably running a post because that’s what they did against our two-high look,” Massella said. “I saw him take off from the post, I tried to get behind him and I did and then I saw the quarterback’s eyes and I saw him throw it and I just was like ‘I’m going to go get it,’”

The interception capped a wild finish that came after a first half in which neither team scored until inside of two minutes.

The game also marked the return of Slippery Rock quarterback William Mokel and running back Shane Thompson from injury – and both had a huge impact.

Woods connected with Whitehead on a 58-yard touchdown pass with 9:31 in the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion was no good, but Hickory was still within two at 16-14.

Thompson made sure it didn’t stay that way for long, taking the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to the house to give the Rockets the cushion they needed.

“I felt pretty good,” Thompson said. “They had the momentum most of the second half and I knew we had to make a big play after they scored.”

See Thompson’s full interview here:

Slippery Rock seemingly had the game in hand at 16-0 thanks to a couple of big plays at the end of the first half and the start of the second.

Taking over at their own 33 with 2:13 to go in the half of a scoreless game, Mokel directed a perfect two-minute drill that ended when he scrambled to his right and hit John Sabo for a 21-yard touchdown with 1:04 to go in the half.

The 6-0 score looked as if it would hold into halftime, but Hickory fumbled, with Slippery Rock taking over at the 28 with 28 seconds to go in the half.

The Rockets took advantage courtesy of Nick Kingerski, who booted a 37-yard field goal at the buzzer to make it 9-0.

It was part of a special special teams effort for the Rockets (7-1).

“That’s the one positive of us having two weeks off was we spent a lot of time on our kickoff return team and our punt return team,” said Slippery Rock coach Larry Wendereusz. “We spent a lot of time on special teams and I think that showed tonight and it gave us the juice we needed at times.”

The Rockets got the ball to start the second half and Thompson took the first play from scrimmage 77 yards down to the Hornets’ (7-4) 3-yard line. Two plays later, Mokel called his own number from five yards out to make it 16-0 after Kingerski’s extra point.

“Honestly, we met as coaches on Wednesday and said we need to be smart with Shane,” Wendereusz said regarding Thompson’s workload in his return to action. “And then we went out on the first series or second series when he broke a run and I’m like ‘we sure we want to take him out?”

After driving the ball inside the 30 twice in the first half and coming away empty, the defending District 10 champion Hornets didn’t go down without some serious fight, thanks in large part to the play of Whitehead, who returned the ensuing kickoff after Mokel’s score to the Rockets’ 44.

Hickory turned the short field into points, as Sean Kennedy punched it into the end zone, with the two-point conversion making it 16-8, a score that held until the Woods to Whitehead touchdown in the fourth.

Thompson finished with 154 yards on the ground, while Mokel threw for 83 yards. Hickory, which actually outgained Slippery Rock, got 168 yards through the air from Woods, 135 of which went to Whitehead. Kennedy also finished with 95 yards on the ground.

Up next for Slippery Rock is a date with Grove City in the District 10 title game next week. The two teams met back on Sept. 17, a 34-7 Slippery Rock win.

“We’re ready to go,” Massella said. “We’re going to play a tough opponent in Grove City. Hopefully, we can beat them again and get a D10 ‘chip.”

GROVE CITY 35, FORT LEBOEUF 21

EDINBORO, Pa. – Trailing 14-13 at the end of the third quarter, Grove City outscored Fort LeBoeuf 22-7 in the fourth quarter for a 35-21 win, sending the Eagles into the District 10 Class 3A championship game, their sixth straight D10 title game appearance.

In doing so, Grove City avenged a 17-14 regular-season loss to the Bison back on Sept. 4. It is also their second semifinal win in as many seasons over LeBoeuf.

With the game tied at 21-all Hunter Hohman and Zach Rodgers took over for the Eagles. They hooked up for a 16-yard score with 5:39 remaining to cap a 65-play drive that gave GC a 28-21 lead.

The Eagles (8-2) got the ball back just over a minute later and took advantage of a short 33-yard field, as Hohman and Rodgers hooked up again, this time from nine yards out to put the finishing touches on the win.

Grove City initially took the lead with 10:10 to play in the fourth quarter on the first of three Hohman touchdown passes in the quarter, a 38-yarder to Anthony Nemec.

Fort LeBoeuf (7-2) tied the game on Justin Leushen’s 2-yard run less than a minute later.

It was a rally that didn’t look like it was going to be necessary early in the game, as Grove City jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead on the strength of great defensive play and a pair of Hohman rushing touchdowns.

Hohman’s first touchdown run came from four yards out to cap a 73-yard drive to start the game. His second came with 4:29 to go before halftime on a 3-yard run that put the finishing touches on a 92-yard drive.

It was the Tristin Harris show for Fort LeBouef in the third quarter, as he scored on a 2-yard run on LeBoeuf’s opening drive of the second half to make it 13-7 after Isaac McGuire’s extra point.

The Bison took the lead at the third quarter gun, as Harris broke free on a 56-yard run and McGuire booted the PAT.

In addition to accounting for five touchdowns, Hohman accounted for 181 yards through the air and 164 on the ground. Gavin Lutz had 64 yards receiving and Rodgers 54.

Harris finished with 131 yards on the ground for Fort LeBoeuf.

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