By ED LOOMAN
STEUBENVILLE - Big Red put the wraps on an unbeaten regular season Friday, rolling to a 39-0 victory over Tonawanda Cardinal O'Hara at Harding Stadium.
LEADING THE WAY — Steubenville Big Red lineman Simon Saxon leads the way for running back Leshawn Luke during Friday’s 39-0 victory over Cardinal O’Hara at Harding Stadium.
-- Ron Gardner
The 10-0 campaign is the school's seventh in the past nine seasons. Big Red, which has reached the postseason 11 straight years, should enter the Division III Region 11 playoffs as the number one seed. Its official first round opponent will be revealed Sunday.
"I was talking to a couple of the starters tonight and I asked 'did you ever think we would be 10-0 after our two-a-days,'" coach Reno Saccoccia said. "I didn't know coming out of summer practices that we would have the kind of year that we've had. We have come so far but we still have a way to go. We have improved every week. The kids this year are really into this football stuff mentally and that makes a big difference."
Prior to Friday's kickoff, Big Red honored its 15 seniors. Once the action began, several of those 12-graders played key roles in putting the visitors away early.
Big Red 39, Cardinal O'Hara 0
Big Red 7 14 6 12
O'Hara 0 0 0 0
BR: Luke 11 run (Smith kick)
BR: Murray 43 pass from Prather (Smith kick)
BR: Luke 7 run (Smith kick)
BR: Grissom 6 pass from Stinson (took knee)
BR: Glenn 2 run (took knee)
BR: Mays 1 run (took knee)
RUSHING: Big Red 27-214-4 (Pierro 2-85; Luke 4-33-2; Redman 2-8; Glenn 8-55-1; Hayden 1-4; Stinson 1-(-3); Prather 2-8; Smith 1-3; McClurg 1-6; Cole 2-11; Mayes 3-4-1) O'Hara 50-171 (Carter 26-118; DiFrancesco 18-23; Gonzalez 8-30).
PASSING: Big Red 11-19-170-2 (Prather 7-10-104-1; Stinson 3-6-50-1; Mays 1-3-16); O'Hara 0-8-0.
RECEIVING: Big Red (Murray 1-43-1; Petrella 1-13; Westlake 2-19; Robinson 1-9; Pierro 1-20; Houst 1-23; Grissom 2-6-1; Cole 1-21; Saltsman 1-16).
FIRST DOWNS: Big Red 17; O'Hara 12.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Big Red 4-30; O'Hara 5-35.
PUNTS: Big Red 0-0; O'Hara 7-29.
FUMBLES-LOST: Big Red 2-1; O'Hara 1-0.
On Big Red's second possession, Jo Jo Pierro sprinted 41 yards on a stretch play for a first down deep in Cardinal O'Hara territory. A play later, Leshawn Luke burst up the middle for an 11-yard score.
Early in the second period, quarterback Marcus Prather found a wide open Najee Murray from 43 yards out. The speedy Murray easily beat the Hawk defender, caught the Prather aerial at the 4 and walked into the end zone.
Luke then capped a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive when he motored to the house from 7 yards away. Prather passed for 42 of the stripes and ran for eight more. Luke Smith's third successful conversion try gave the hosts a 21-0 halftime advantage.
During the initial two periods, the Big Red defense, led by William Houst, Leshawn Luke and Bubba Costantini forced O'Hara to punt of its first five possessions.
Steubenville ran just 20 offensive plays in the first half, gaining 238 yards and scoring three times.
Senior Kelvin Grissom made it 29-0 right after the half when he went up and over an O'Hara defender to snag a pass from Cory Stinson.
Sophomore Chez Glenn and freshman Trent Mays recorded the final two touchdowns. Glenn scored from two yards away and Mays plunged in from the one.
Three of Big Red's initial four touchdowns came following stellar efforts from special teams. Evan Westlake set up the first two with punt returns of 16 and 36 yards. Michael Jett went 32 stripes with the second half kickoff. Improvement on special teams was a goal Saccoccia set for his team this week.
"What I was preaching during the game as far as special teams was to be more aggressive," Saccoccia. "I think my personality sometimes makes the kid apprehensive and they don't want to make mistakes. I wanted them to go out tonight and be more aggressive. Hopefully, we can take that aggressiveness to the playoffs."
Big Red finished the night with 318 total yards on 46 plays. Pierro toted the pigskin just twice for 85 stripes. Glenn finished with 55 on eight trips. Prather had another efficient evening, completing seven of 10 for 104 and a score. He connected on five straight before giving way to Cory Stinson.
Cardinal O'Hara, now 1-8 and winless in five trips to Steubenville, actually ran more plays than Big Red (58). The Hawks had 171 yards on the ground but misfired on all eight passing attempts. Senior Kyree Carter pounded his way for 118 stripes on 26 carries.
"We had a great week of practice, working on the little things," Saccoccia noted. "We were fortunate to get off to a quick start and we were able to give our starters a break. Our younger kids who have worked so hard in practice got the chance to play in front of the home crowd. I want to thank the people who came out tonight; they are true Big Red fans. We really appreciate them attending."