MERCER, Pa. (WKBN) – Mercer is seeking their first winning season since 2013 (9-3). Coach Jeff Lockard is now in his third season as the Mustangs’ head coach. After two years of displaying steady improvement, Mercer appears to be on track for a breakout season with many starters returning.

“We’re looking forward to the upcoming year. The excitement level is pretty high with only losing three seniors from last year’s team and playing a lot of younger players,” Coach Lockard said. “We should have some good competition going into camp at many spots.”

The Mustangs will begin play on Saturday, August 28, with a trip to Hermitage to take on Kennedy Catholic. Mercer’s after their fifth straight opening day victory.

2020 Record: 3-5 (2-5), 3rd place in Region 1 (Class A)
Coach: Jeff Lockard, 3rd season (7-10)

Previewing Mercer’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 14.8 (51st in Area)
Returning Starters: 7
Key Returnees: Triston Barr, SR/OL; Colsen Minshull, SR/OL; Ethan Wiley, SR/QB
Key Losses: Aidan Bright, ATH
Name to watch for: Ethan Wiley, QB

Senior quarterback Ethan Wiley returns to lead the Mustangs’ offense. He’ll have Nathan Haines running the football and Dominick Pugh flanked out at his wide receiver position.

“We’re looking to build off of last year by having a better understanding of the offense,” Coach Lockard said. “We need to get better in the red zone. We have seven starters coming back and some others that got playing time, so that should help us in those areas. The offensive line play should be a key for us this year with four starters back as they’ve worked hard over the winter.”

Up front, Mercer appears to have a real strength on offense with four starters returning in both tackles Seth Sturgin, Colsen Minshull, a guard Jake Burk and their senior center Triston Barr.

The Mustangs last averaged over 20 points per game in 2014 (25.5 ppg).

Previewing Mercer’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 26.9 (40th in Area)
Returning Starters: 9
Key Returnees: Triston Barr, SR/DL; Jake Burk, JR/DL; Nathan Haines, JR/DB; Zack Swartz, SR/LB
Key Losses: Aidan Bright, DB; Austin Carothers, DL
Name to watch for: Zack Swartz, LB

“We have nine starters back on this side of the ball,” Lockard said. “So, we’re going to rely on this group to make plays for us.”

The unit welcomes back three starters at each level. Along the line, the Mustangs will have Jake Burk, Jesse Watkins and Triston Barr all back in the mix. Their linebacker group will feature Donnie Palmer, Jake Badger and Zack Swartz. In the secondary, Dominick Pugh and Nathan Haines will line up at cornerback while Troy Baughman will take his role as the team’s safety.

Mercer saw slight improvement in the amount of points, which the defense permitted. In 2019, the Mustangs allowed an average of 29.1 points. Last year, they let 26.9 points.

2020 Class A Region 1 Standings
Reynolds – 6-0 (9-1)
West Middlesex – 4-2 (4-3)
Mercer – 2-4 (3-5)
Kennedy Catholic – 0-6 (0-7)

Aug. 28 – at Kennedy Catholic
Sept. 3 – at Farrell
Sept. 10 – Reynolds
Sept. 17 – at West Middlesex
Sept. 24 – Maplewood
Oct. 1 – at Greenville
Oct. 8 – Lakeview
Oct. 15 – Sharpsville
Oct. 22 – Wilmington
Oct. 29 – at Saegertown