STEUBENVILLE - Big Red's defense was a force of nature Friday night at Harding Stadium. And, who better to listen to than legendary pro wrestler Ric Flair, the Nature Boy, who often spouts two sayings which tend to ring true even outside of the squared circle and transplanted onto the gridiron?
"To be the man, you gotta beat the man," and Flair was always doing that while "stylin' and profilin'."
Big Red is the No. 1 team in the state in Division III. For anyone who questioned the ranking, a 24-7 defeat of Massillon, a Division I level school, should quickly remedy those thoughts as the Tigers failed to beat the man.
Meanwhile, Big Red did it while stylin' in new Nike Pro Combat uniforms.
"During the first half, I thought we were the better team," Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia said. "We let them hang around. When you let a team like Massillon hang around, you've got problems. But, our defense played lights out for four quarters."
It was the type of effort against Massillon's offense which bring another cliche to mind, "defense wins championships."
Massillon entered the game with a 7-1 record. The Tigers' offense was averaging just over 32 points per game.
Big Red held the same offense to 107 total yards and six first downs. It forced six three-and-outs, and Massillon went 1-for-9 on third downs.
"They outplayed us along the offensive and defensive line," Massillon head coach Jason Hall stated. "We didn't play consistently. Offensively, we didn't do anything tonight."
The first series dictated the rest of the game for Big Red's defense.
William Houst, one of Steubenville's starting defensive ends, came crashing across the line of scrimmage and essentially took the handoff from Massillon's quarterback. The combination - tackle, sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery - placed Steubenville on its 31-yard line. It set up Big Red's first touchdown.
"He didn't have a lot of big plays, but he had a lot of pressure plays where it forced them into something quick," Saccoccia noted regarding the overall play of Houst.
Houst was joined by the efforts of Bubba Constantini, Manard Reed, and Devon Wicker (before Wicker left the game due to injury) along the defensive line. Each was disruptive and showed plenty of hustle getting to the football.
"Rick Camiletti does a great job with that defensive line," Saccoccia acknowledged. "He's been coaching that line for 25 years. Danny Filtz helps him out.
"They work on the little things. Football is not the spread and all that fancy stuff. You still have to run it. You still have to tackle. You still have to block.
"It's an oversimplification, but that's how we approach it."
Along the second line of defense, both Leshawn Luke and Teshawn Luke were very active playing off the edge and running down Massillon backs. Leshawn Luke sealed the Tigers' fate with a late interception with only minutes left on the clock.
The secondary even gave the Massillon wide receivers trouble. The Tigers struggled to get off the line of scrimmage, as Big Red cornerbacks jammed the receivers and redirected the routes.
The only scoring play Massillon mustered was after receiving wondeful field position due to a poor punt. The Tigers' quarterback, Kyle Kempt, lofted an poorly thrown ball which turned around a Big Red defender and the receiver adjusted on the ball well. Otherwise, Big Red closed the door.
'They do a lot of different stuff with movement," Hall finished. "They give you a lot of different looks. They keep you off balance.
"I also think they have guys who run to the ball well and tackle."