STEUBENVILLE - It was a tale of two different programs utilizing the talent they have to the best advantage Saturday at Harding Stadium.
It was homestanding Steubenville Catholic Central moving the ball through the air and visiting Oak Glen using a devastating, bruising, time-eating ground attack.
Oak Glen's ground game came out the victor in this one by 35-27, and it wasn't the offense that made the difference. It was special teams.
Senior Jeff Hissam, who is playing football for the first time in 2011 after staring for the Golden Bears' baseball and basketball teams, that electrified the crowd with a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter that put Oak Glen up by two touchdowns.
The win gives the Golden Bears an 8-1 record and virtually sealed the 9th rated team's spot in the West Virginia Class AA playoffs. Oak Glen likely will get a home field advantage in the post season, especially if it can win at Magnolia in the season finale next week.
Last night, though, it was quarterback Lucas McDowell that dominated the football game. The 205-pound senior, who is in his first year at quarterback, ran the ball 35 times for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed four of five passes for 23 yards. All of his completions were to the fleet-footed Hissam.
"That's what we expect of Lucas," said veteran Oak Glen coach, Tony Filberto. "We put the ball in his hands. He's an awfully good football player. When he was a freshman, we talked about putting him at quarterback and I wish now we would have done that. This is his first year at quarterback.
Filberto said the Bears had some depth at quarterback back then and the staff decided to move McDowell to wide receiver.
"McDowell is a heck of a player," said first-year Catholic Central coach, Steve Daley. "He's quick, he's physical and in that style of offense when you got a kid like that, hats off to him.
"That and giving up that kick for a touchdown was too much. We preached all week don't kick it to Hissam, but it is hard for a high school kid to do that all the time."
Daley said he made some defensive adjustments at halftime to limit McDowell's effectiveness, and it worked as the Crusaders held him to just 23 yards rushing in the third quarter.
"We had some success, but their coaching staff made adjustments to counter that, so it was a chess game out there," he said.
Filberto praised his offensive line and credited running back, Dylan Davis with some quality carries.
"Dylan Davis did a good job for us tonight, too," Filberto continued. "He secured the football and scored a couple of touchdowns."
Davis, who has been the starting fullback for the Golden Bears the past two seasons, moved to running back. He carried the ball 14 times for 69 yards.
We were awfully good offensively tonight," said Filberto. "We didn't throw the football a lot, but we had some success through the air. We had a couple of completions called back because of penalties, but overall I thought we played well offensively.
In all, the Golden Bears rushed for 334 net yards in the game.
While all that offense was going on for Oak Glen, the Golden Bear defense, which was ranked first among area teams going into the game, yielded 27 points, but shut down the Crusader rushing attack. Central ended with negative net 23 yards on the ground largely due to the Oak Glen sacking of Crusader sophomore quarterback, Brenton Colabella six times. Oak Glen senior, Dylan Powell, led the defense getting in on four of the sacks.
However, Colabella still was able to exploit the Oak Glen defense for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
"I give Brenton credit for recognizing the weaknesses in their defense and finding the open guys," Daley said. "It was a heck of a game and I told the kids in the locker room that I couldn't be more proud of them. They played their hearts out tonight."
Meanwhile, Filberto agreed that the Golden Bears need to do some work on their pass defense.
"We handled the run as we expected to," Filberto said. "Nobody has thrown the football on us all year except Edison in the first game, so this was game practice for us against the pass. It's a good eye-opener for us because now we know there are some things we need to do to get a little better back there."