New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
There should be few surprises when the Wilmington and Greenville football teams take the field tomorrow.
It will, after all, be the second meeting between the two District 10, Region 3 rivals in three weeks. The Greyhounds took Round 1 in the regular-season finale in late-October, 26-0, but the stakes will be much higher this time around, with the winner of the 7:30 p.m. meeting at Slippery Rock University going on to next week’s District 10, Class AA championship game.
“It's always difficult to play a team for the second time,” Wilmington coach Terry Verrelli said.
Wilmington (8-2) rolled Fairview last week, 47-0, to advance to the semifinals. The Trojans (6-5) upset Region 4 champion Corry in the quarterfinals, 35-28.
ROUND TWO ADVANTAGE
Going into the rematch, it’s hard to tell which team benefited more from the previous matchup. Verrelli believes Greenville, the loser of the last meeting, has the advantage.
“It’s much harder if you won the first game,” he said. “You do things to win the game. I think going into the rematch, the loser has a chance to adjust and correct these things.”
Trojans coach Brian Herrick sees both sides of that.
“The team that won the first time probably has the advantage because they have confidence their players are better,” Herrick said. “At the same time, you’re more prone to make some adjustments as the losers after the first game. We’ve been in both situations in the playoffs in my career. As winners, we go in thinking that if we just do the same thing, we’ll win, and we ended up losing. In that respect you might be willing to try a few different things either way.”
RUNNING TO SUCCESS
Both teams love to run the football. Greenville relies on running back Tyler Fattmann, with 711 yards on 162 carries and six touchdowns, to carry the load in the backfield. Sophomore Cody Nellis is second on the team with 420 yards on 69 carries.
“We’re a run-first team. We’re happy running it 90 percent if we can,” Herrick said. “We have to mix in the pass against better teams we play like Wilmington and set up play action. Our running game is key.”
In the last meeting, the Greyhounds defense limited the Trojans to 44 yards on the ground in jumping out to a 14-0 lead.
“We really held their run game down,” Verrelli said. “That really is their game. I think jumping out to that lead put them in a bind because they had to do some unorthodox things on offense after that.”
“They're similar to us in the running game,” he continued. “That's what they like to do. They even go empty set and no backs. You’ve got to be prepared for a lot of different formations.”
Wilmington’s running game is led by Tyler Donati, who leads the county with 1,452 yards on 157 carries and 20 touchdowns. Donati rushed for 82 yards on 12 carries in the first game between the two teams, but left early in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He put any injury concerns behind last week, racking up 201 yards on 11 attempts with three touchdowns against Fairview.
“They like to pound it. We have to stop the run,” Herrick said. “Donati is an outstanding runner. He has enough speed to keep you honest.”
Donati isn’t the only formidable runner in the backfield for the Greyhounds. Alex Patton is a dangerous threat with 702 yards on 88 carries and 11 touchdowns, while fullback Nic Pugh has 293 yards on 45 carries and six scores. Patton rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns against Fairview.
ON THE DEFENSIVE
Herrick hopes his team improves on the defensive side of the ball this time around against Wilmington.
“We have to play a lot better defense. At times we played very well, but we didn’t get a whole lot going,” he said. “I think if we also can improve offensively and control the football a bit more, that will help.”
The Trojans defense has been improving each week by keeping a simple mentality throughout a game.
“Our strategy is essentially simple,” Herrick said. “We swarm to the football. We get hats to the football. I like our aggressiveness and our ability to hit the last few weeks.”
Sophomore Zach Miller leads the team in tackles with 122, including 18 against Wilmington in the last meeting. Justin Reynolds is next with 109 tackles, with 16 against Wilmington.
“Their inside linebackers make a heck of a lot of plays,” Verrelli said. “Their line is a strong one.”
Facing off against the Greyhounds’ 4-4 “’Hounds Hammer” defense has proved to be a tough task for most offenses. The unit has only allowed 11.1 points per game this season.
“They play the 4-4 as well as anyone we’ve seen this year,” Herrick said. “They will take away your strength on offense and force you to go to a ‘Plan B’. Since most teams in high school football don’t have the players for a ‘Plan B,’ it is very effective.”
CLOSING IN ON HISTORY
If the Greyhounds win, Verrelli will pass former Warren coach J.B. Leidig for most victories in District 10 history with 271. Verrelli improved his coaching record to 270-112-3 to tie Leidig last week against Fairview.
“It's really not a thought at all in my mind,” Verrelli said. “I'm trying to get these kids prepared to win a football game and win a District 10 championship game and go on from there. The fact I would break it is great, but it isn’t a focus and never was. I just enjoy coaching the game. It’s great my players play that well that I am able to win that many games.”