Coach Jeff Lockard has Aidan Bright back to lead the offense
MERCER, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – Last year, Mercer won more games (4) than they’ve accumulated over the previous three seasons (3). Under coach Keith DeGraff, the Mustangs improved from a team which allowed 47.1 points in 2017 to a defensive unit which permitted just 21 points per contest. That’s an improvement by 26 points per outing. The offense even continued their surge as just three years ago (2016) Mercer averaged just 5.6 points. Last fall, they averaged 17.7 points.
In early-December, coach DeGraff resigned which left the Mustangs with their third head coach in as many years. A few weeks later, Mercer found their man – Jeff Lockard. He’s no stranger to District 10 football as he has served as an assistant for nearly 30 years on the staff of Hickory, New Castle (WPIAL) and Mercer. “Our expectation is to keep building off of last year,” coach Lockard points to. “Our goal is to win more than 4-games and work on trying to get to the playoffs.”
Head Coach: Jeff Lockard, 1st season
2018 record (Region 1): 4-5 (0-3), 4th place
Five Key Points
1.Mercer has compiled a 1-30 mark in their region (Region 1 & 2) over the last five years (2014-18).
2.In their 4-wins a year ago, Mustangs outscored their opposition by 28 to 8 on average.
3.Mercer last enjoyed a winning season in 2013 (9-3).
4.Mustangs’ 4-wins last year was the 2nd highest total since 2012 (2013: 9-3; 2018: 4-5).
5.Over the last three seasons, Mercer’s leading rusher and receiver has been the same player (2018: Aidan Bright; 2017: Jimmy Amon; 2016: Jimmy Amon).
Returning Starters: 6
Scoring Offense: 17.7 (36th in Area)
Rushing Offense: 158.8
Passing Offense: 64.2
Total Offense: 223.0
…Mercer must replace their starting quarterback Dylan Hetrick – who threw for 1,910 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past four seasons. The battle for the quarterback position is said to be wide open, “we’ll fill that,” says Lockard. “We have some young players that can fit in.”
The team does return their leading rusher (468) and receiver (263) in junior Aidan Bright. In 2018, (then-sophomore) Bright hauled in the most passes (22) in a single season over the past five seasons (2015-18). “Aidan’s a special player,” remarks coach Lockard. “He means a lot to this team.” Senior P.J. Boggs rushed for 5 scores and gained 153 yards on the ground. In 2017, Boggs finished second on the team in rushing (203 yards) as a sophomore. Senior tight end Ian Taylor earned 2nd-Team All-District last year. Up front, the Mustangs welcome back a trio of their linemen – Isaish Phillips, Mike Ayers and Mason Hesselgesser.
Under coach DeGraff, the offense continued to improve as in 2016 they gained 139 yards of total offense. In 2017, the Mustangs saw their yardage improve to 218.6. Just last year, Mercer jumped again to 223 yards of total offense without their 1,000-yard back (Jimmy Amon).
Returning Starters: 6
Scoring Defense: 21.0 (24th in Area)
..In 5 of their 9 games last fall, Mercer held their opponents to 14-points or less (finished 4-1). That’s a feat which not many saw coming. It took the Mustangs’ 39-outings between 2014 to 2017 to accumulate 5 games where they permitted their foes to registered 14-points or less.
The Mustangs have; however, graduated three All-District players (Brian Shevitz, Nate Mitchell, Cam Peters). Aidan Bright (2 INTs) was named Second-Team All-District defensive back as he’ll return as a junior in 2019. Mercer will also have PJ Boggs, Mason Hesselgesser ad Gabe Wiley back at linebacker as well as Ian Taylor and Noah Speer along the defensive line.
Aug. 24 – Cochranton
Aug. 30 – Northwestern
Sept. 6 – Eisenhower
Sept. 13 – at Reynolds
Sept. 20 – at Union City
Sept. 27 – Farrell
Oct. 4 – at Saegertown
Oct. 12 – at West Middlesex
Oct. 18 – Lakeview