STEUBENVILLE - When Big Red needed some fresh legs Friday, Robert Hayden was ready to answer the call.
The junior running back plowed his way for 56 fourth quarter yards and scored the game-winning touchdown as Reno Saccoccia's club held off Cleveland Benedictine 32-28 on Legends Night at Harding Stadium.
"That was my plan," Saccoccia said. "The whole game he wanted in there, but I kept telling him we need you in the fourth quarter. We needed fresh legs and he was going to be fresh. They had just as many two-way players as we did. I told him we need your fresh legs and we need you to protect the ball."
FRESH LEGS — Steubenville Big Red’s Robert Hayden gets dragged down by a Cleveland Benedictine defender in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game at Harding Stadium. Hayden came up big late as Big Red came from behind for a 32-28 victory.
Ben Malbasa's Bengals took a 28-25 lead with 9:30 to go in the game when senior Terrell Clark bulled his way in from five yards away. His run capped a 71-yard drive engineered by freshman quarterback Brian Schoeffler, who was pressed into action after senior Daniel Piascik went down with an injury. On the scoring march, Schoeffler passed for 53 yards and ran for 12 more. He also found Marshall Howell for the two-point conversion.
That's when Hayden put his fresh legs to work. On first and 10 from the Big Red 25, he burst up the middle for 30 yards (prior to that run, he had one carry for single stripe). Senior Teshawn Luke added 25 more on two attempts. Quarterback Corey Stinson then found senior wide receiver Matt Petrella for three more, putting the ball at the Benedictine 12.
On a critical fourth-and-two, Hayden smashed through the Bengal line again, giving Steubenville a first-and-goal at the 3. One play later, he found the end zone. Luke Smith's kick put Big Red ahead to stay.
Big Red 32, Benedictine 28
Benedictine 14 0 6 8 - 28
Big Red 7 12 6 7 - 32
B: Howell 3 run (Judy kick)
BR: Redman 2 run (Smith kick)
B: Merimee 32 pass from Piascik (Judy kick)
BR: Robinson 17 pass from Stinson (kick blocked)
BR: Luke 5 run (pass failed)
B: Baker 4 run (run failed)
BR: Luke 9 run (run failed)
B: Clark 5 run (Howell pass from Schoeffler)
BR: Hayden 3 run (Smith kick)
RUSHING: Big Red 37-227-4 (Luke 11-91-2; Hayden 8-57-1; Redman 9-48-1; Stinson 6-16; Jett 3-7) Benedictine 29-5-3 (Howell 3-1-1; Clark 5-(-1)-1; Robinson 1-0; Baker 10-54-1; Piascik 6-(-29); Dawson 1-9; Schoeffler 3-0).
PASSING: Big Red 9-13-1-1 (all by Stinson); Benedictine 16-30-234-1-2 (Piascik 11-21-161-1-1; Schoeffler 5-9-73-0-0).
RECEIVING: Big Red (Petrella 2-15; Saltsman 1-24; Robinson 2-20-1; Luke 1-12; Jett 1-1; Redman 1-10; McClurg 1-8); Benedictine (Merimee 4-80-1; Woodson 1-17; Dawson 1-27; Baker 1-5; Scott 3-39; Howell 5-72; Robinson 1-1).
FIRST DOWNS: Big Red 17; Benedictine 18.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Big Red 5-25; Benedictine 7-39.
PUNTS: Big Red 2-29; Benedictine 4-30.
FUMBLES-LOST: Big Red 2-2; Benedictine 0-0.
Benedictine tried to rally again behind Schoeffler. He hit Demetrius Scott for 20 yards, advancing the football to the Bengal 38. Hayden then showed his defensive legs were fairly fresh also. On second and nine, he broke through from his linebacker spot and dropped Schoeffler for a 10 yard loss. He followed on third down by knocking down a Schoeffler aerial, forcing the visitors from Cuyahoga County to punt.
Big Red started the game's final drive from its 48. Thanks to the running of Hayden and senior Dashon Redman, Saccoccia's crew was able to pick up a couple of first downs and preserve the victory to move to 2-0.
"It was a real good football game," Saccoccia noted. "I was disappointed in my organization, normally I do a better job. I have no excuses. I think my lack of organization put a lot of pressure on the kids out there playing. I have to be more organized going forward."
Benedictine drew first blood, taking the opening kickoff and traveling 80 yards. Twice during the drive, it converted on fourth and long. The score came via a three-yard run by Howell. Nick Judy added the kick.
Big Red would answer right away, going 57 yards in eight plays. The touchdown came on as Redman went in from two yards away. Luke was the Big Red workhorse, running for 30 of the 57 and catching a Stinson pass for 12 more. Smith's boot tied things at seven.
The score didn't stay tied for long. Benedictine quickly traveled 76 yards, reaching pay dirt on a 32 yard Piascik to Matthew Merimee pass. Judy again added the point.
Two possessions later, Big Red closed the gap to 14-13. Senior tight end Eric Robinson hauled in a Stinson pass for the 32-yard touchdown. The kick, however, was blocked.
Steubenville would grab a 19-14 halftime lead thanks to Luke's five-yard scoring burst with 3:22 remaining in the second quarter. The attempt for two points failed.
Benedictine started the game on fire offensively, compiling 156 yards on its first two possessions. The Big Red defense, however, adjusted and held the visitors to minus six stripes on their next four offensive series. The defense also picked off two Bengal passes, one by senior Tajuan Lawson and the other by junior Bryan Pierro.
Lawson's pick was a thing of beauty. He basically swiped the football from the hands of a Bengal receiver who had made the catch and was ready to motor up the field. Lawson's first half game-changer led to Big Red's third score.
"I'm not sure if it was a change in defense or not," Saccoccia said. "I'd have to see the films first. I do know, however, there was a change of attitude on defense that helped us a lot."
Disaster struck the Red at the outset of the third quarter. Benedictine's "pooch kick" strategy worked to perfection as the hosts lost control of the pigskin and the Bengals recovered. Four plays later, Jerome Baker scored from four yards away. The run for two failed and Benedictine led 20-19.
On the ensuing kickoff, Big Red again was unable to get a handle, Benedictine recovering at the Steubenville 33. This time, however, the defense was not about to surrender six. Redman delivered a key stop on fourth and three at the Big Red four to snuff out the threat.
It was Arin Goldsmith's turn to have some fun defensively the next time Benedictine touched the football. On third and three from the Bengal 29, the junior defensive end dropped Piascik for a 12 yard loss. A short punt followed and Big Red was in business at the Benedictine 45.
Stinson hit Petrella for 12 and junior Cody Saltsman for 24, setting up a first and goal at the four. From there, Luke sprinted in for his second score of the night. The run failed and Big Red led 25-20.
For the night, Big Red finished with 317 yards in offense (227 rushing and 90 passing). Luke was the top ball carrier, getting 91 on 11 trips and scoring twice. Stinson connected on nine of 13 tries.
Thanks to several sacks and tackles for losses, Benedictine's final rushing statistics were 29 carries for five yards. The Bengals added 234 through the air.
"Most coaches will say their kids play hard. I can't say that because I take that for granted," Saccoccia said. "I want our kids to play with passion. Hard isn't good enough. Most good teams and good players play hard. Championship teams play with passion.
"We may not be champions, but we have to give a championship effort every time we go out on the field."
The series between Big Red and Benedictine now stands at 2-2. Saccoccia's club is back in action next week, hosting Bishop Timon St. Jude from Buffalo, N.Y.