HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) - There haven’t been many schools in the state of Pennsylvania who have seen the type of success that Hickory has had over the past 8 years. Coach Bill Brest has changed the culture and reloaded year-after-year with an influx of talent. Six consecutive years of at least 11-wins and, oh yeah, District titles defines the Hornets as an ultra-successful program.
In 2017, Hickory fell back into the pack and finished with a 5-6 mark following their 28-10 loss to Mercyhurst Prep in the opening round of the District 10 Class AAA playoffs. Can the Hornets once again buzz their way to the top of Region again and reclaim their place among the elite in District 10?
2018 Hickory Hornets' Football Preview
Head Coach: Bill Brest, 9th season (81-21)
Record: 5-6 (4-4), T-4th place in Region 2
What you need to know about the Hickory Offense
Last Fall wasn’t the norm for Hickory football. The streak of 6-straight District 10 championships came to a close. The 8-year run of posting a winning record also ended. For the offensive unit, a stretch of 7-years of registering a scoring average of 28-points or better also ended as well. In 2016, the Hornets managed to score 43 points per game. This past Fall, that number dropped by 19-points to 24.4. Also down was the average of total yards per game which went from 347.3 in 2016 to 277.5 in 2017. With the departure of a pair of playmakers in Will Gruber (647 receiving yards) and Darren Mitchell (398 receiving yards) - the offense must pick themselves up and take a step forward. Senior quarterback Hayden Gallagher was named by the coaches to the 2nd-Team All-Region 2 after throwing for 1687 yards and 18 touchdowns. Michael Filardi is the team’s leading returning receiver following his junior year which saw him catch 20 passes for an average of 17.3 yards. At running back, the Hornets must find their game breaker. Last year, the leading rusher Simeon McKinley finished with 301 yards (2 TDs). Vincent Tarver also churned out 299 yards on 42 attempts (5 TDs) last Fall. Specialist Sam Scarton is back after kicking himself onto the Region’s honor roll - he's a Division 1 kicker/punter who will be the key for Hickory in establishing field position. Sam's older brother, Jacob, is currently kicking at Pitt.
Key to the Hickory Offense
According to coach Brest, the key begins and ends up front, "For the first time since I've been here, in 2017, we were inexperienced up front. This year, we bring back starters with playoff experience; with experience at quarterback, running back, and size and speed at wide receiver - the offensive line will be the key."
What you need to know about the Hickory Defense
Hickory loses a pair of First-Team recipients along the defensive unit in Will Gruber (2 INTs) and Nathan Marchand (126 tackles). However, the team returns linebacker Hunter Stoots (45 tackles) and defensive backs Michael Filardi (42 tackles) and Simeon McKinley (27 tackles). Hickory allowed their opposition to post 20.6 points per game. The highest average since 2008 (29.1) which was coach Frank Antuono’s second season (2007-09).
Key to the Hickory Defense
"Our overall unit speed is great," says Brest. "We expect all 11 of our players to run to the football. We expect and will work on great technique, alignment, scheme, pursuit, and tackling, all of the great fundamentals of a great defense."
Offensive player to watch for
Senior/QB, Hayden Gallagher
...Entering his second full season as the Hornets’ starting quarterback - Gallagher has thrown 23 touchdowns and 2078 yards within the last two seasons. He’s also picked up 3.3 yards per attempts during that stretch as well (426 rushing yards). "Truly, we look at Hayden as a returning three-year starter at quarterback for us," indicates coach Brest. "He plays TE/H/FB/RB/WR, he is that versatile; but to play quarterback in my system, he has shown great leadership, poise, and great knowledge of the game. He'll be the one I expect to run the offensive unit."
Defensive player(s) to watch for
Sophomore/DE, Rocco Iacino
Junior/LB, Hunter Stoots
Senior/LB-SS, Kyle McDonough
...Iacino started as a freshman in 2017. He's had a strong off-season in the weight room. Stoots added 20 pounds to his frame since last year as he still has sprinter speed. Coach Best and the staff are expecting big things from him this year at his linebacker position. McDonough, another guy with track speed, is 6'2 and weighs 200. Brest is very excited about his off-season development and leadership.
Aug. 24 - Sharpsville, 7
Aug. 31 - at Sharon, 7
Sept. 7 - at Mercyhurst Prep, 7
Sept. 14 - Conneaut (PA), 7
Sept. 21 - Greenville, 7
Sept. 28 - at Grove City, 7
Oct. 5 - at Westinghouse, 7
Oct. 12 - at Slippery Rock, 7
Oct. 19 - at Wilmington, 7
Once again, Hickory opens against a formidable foe in Sharpsville. In years past, the Hornets have begun their seasons against the likes of Greenville and Strong Vincent. Hornet nation is anticipating this matchup with coach Paul Piccirilli and the Blue Devils.
2017 Team Stats
Scoring Offense: 24.4
Total Offense: 277.5
Passing Offense: 153.4
Rushing Offense: 124.1
Scoring Defense: 20.6
2017 Statistical Leaders
Passing: Hayden Gallagher - 1687 yards, 50.0% (99-198), 18 TDs
Rushing: Simeon McKinley - 301 yards, 3.5 avg, 2 TDs
Receiving: Will Gruber - 29 catches, 647 yards, 7 TDs*
Tackles: Nathan Marchand - 126*
Quarterback Sacks: Troy Scurry - 2.0*
Interceptions: Darren Mitchell - 5*
Big 22 Recipients
2016: Chuck Carr (2)
2015: Chuck Carr & Andrew Pryts (2)
2014: Andrew Pryts
2013: Matt Voytik
2012: DeShawn Coleman (2)
2011: DeShawn Coleman
2010: Marlon Pegues