STEUBENVILLE - One fourth quarter defensive stop followed closely by one critical turnover made all the difference in one heck of a high school football game Saturday at Harding Stadium.
Columbiana clipped Catholic Central 38-35 in the contest that featured 768 yards of total offense. The winners rolled to 339 stripes on the ground while the Crusaders collected 369 through the air.
Bob Spaite's defense recorded the big stop early in the final period. Central, thanks to a Chris Murphy fumble recovery set up shop at the Columbiana 27. A pass interference call gave the Crusaders a first-and-goal at the 8. Junior quarterback Brenton Colabella misfired on two attempts before finding senior Kyle Laukert for seven. On fourth-and-1, the Clippers stiffened and stopped sophomore Stone Romano short of the goal.
BIG?NIGHT?IN?LOSS — Catholic Central’s Brenton Colabella looks for a receiver during Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Columbiana at Harding Stadium. Colabella threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns and ran in for a fifth score.
Steve Daley's club came right back with a huge defensive stance of its own, junior Jake McCann recording a key tackle on third down. The critical turnover, unfortunately, came on the Columbiana punt. The Crusader returner lost the handle and the Clippers recovered at the 28.
On the next play, Britton Steiginga, who as Daley said earlier in this week can flat out fly, made Central pay for the miscue. He broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown jaunt, allowing his team to grab a 32-21 lead.
"That was the game right there," Daley said. "If we could have capitalized on that opportunity and taken the lead, things could have gone a different way at the end.
"It was a heck of a game. You had two teams that really battled. I give Columbiana a ton of credit, their kids never quit. Our kids didn't quit either. People got their money's worth tonight - it was 48 minutes of good football."
Columbiana, now 2-1, got on the board first when Steiginga scooped up a Central fumble and returned it 12 yards. Brandon Hacker added the conversion kick. The Crusaders responded immediately, going 68 yards in just three plays. Colabella hit senior Zach Herrington for 39 yards (the 6-4 wide receiver seemed to pick the ball right off the shoulders of the Columbiana defender). Laukert and Colabella then hooked up for a 29-yard score. Senior Doug Maslowski nailed the kick.
Central grabbed a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter, Colabella hitting a diving Michael Carapellotti in the end zone. The 21-yard scoring play came following an interception by junior Ryan Fletcher. Maslowski again drilled the extra point kick.
The Clippers tied things just before the half on a 22-yard jaunt by Steiginga. The senior speedster took a direct snap from the wildcat formation after starting quarterback Nate Huk left the game with an injury.
Daley's gridders went ahead 21-14 early in the third quarter, Colabella hitting Laukert again, this time from 28 yards away. Romano split the uprights on his first conversion try.
Columbiana then reeled off 18 unanswered points. With Huk sidelined, Spaite changed things up and went with the stacked I formation, featuring two tight ends. The maneuver caused some issues for the Crusaders. In the first half, Central held the Clippers to 104 rushing yards (65 coming on one drive). After the injury, the visitors rolled to 274 on the ground.
"We were well prepared as far as their formations go and what they like to do out of them," Daley noted. "The kids were recognizing things in the first half and making plays. Once they went to the double tight, stacked I, it took away our recognition a little bit. It came down to man on man and they won a couple of those battles."
Junior Aleks Porreca was one of those Crusaders who made several big defensive plays in the first half. Senior Kevan Zapolnik added a few more.
Following Steiginga's long run, Central traveled 62 yards for a score. This time, Colabella scrambled in from eight yards away. Murphy hit Luke Potenzini for the two-pointer.
Columbiana's running game wasn't to be denied, however, and the Clippers responded with a 65 yard march to go ahead 38-29. Steiginga struck again from eight yards out.
The game's final score came with 44 ticks left, Colabella connecting with Herrington for an eight-yard touchdown.
"We made a few mistakes, we had a couple of critical turnovers and a couple of penalties that hurt," Daley said. "You just can't make those kinds of mistakes against a team like Columbiana."
Penalties played a key role in killing a Central drive late in the third quarter. Colabella found Herrington for 10 yards, moving the football to the Columbiana 14. However, due to several penalties and a sack, the Crusaders found themselves on their own 48 and had to punt.
Colabella finished the night with 369 passing yards, hitting on 28-of-46 attempts. Carapellotti had 11 catches for 114, Laukert seven for 119 and Herrington five for 96.
Steiginga finished with 164 rushing yards on 15 trips. Hacker added 135 on 24 carries.
Central is now 1-2, its two defeats coming by a total of five points. The Crusaders will look to bounce back Friday when they visit Toronto.
Columbiana 38, Catholic Central 35
Columbiana 7 7 12 12 - 38
Catholic Central 7 7 7 14 - 35
C: Steiginga 12 yard fumble return (Hacker kick)
CC: Laukert 29 pass from Colabella (Maslowski kick)
CC: Carapellotti 21 pass from Colabella (Maslowski kick)
C: Steiginga 22 run (Hacker kick)
CC: Laukert 28 pass from Colabella (Romano kick)
C: Hacker 34 pass from Cyrus (kick failed)
C: Hacker 1 run (run failed)
C: Steiginga, 72 run (kick failed)
CC: Colabella 8 run (Murphy to Potenzini)
C: Steiginga 8 run (run failed)
CC: Herrington 8 pass from Colabella (kick failed)
RUSHING: Columbiana 52-339-4 (Steiginga 15-164-3; Huk 4-27; Hacker 24-135-1; Kramer 1-2; Rankin 2-12; Cyrus 4-(-1); Tiller 1-2); Catholic Central 19-9-1 (Colabella 18-(-24)-1; Maslowski 8-31; Romano 2-2; Laukert 1-0);
PASSING: Columbiana 3-7-51-1-1 (Huk 2-5-17-0-1; Cyrus 1-2-34-1); Catholic Central 28-46-369-4-2 (all by Colabella).
RECEIVING: Columbiana (Hacker 1-34-1; Dejong 1-6; Patrick 1-11); Catholic Central (Herrington 5-96-1; Laukert 7-119-2; Carapellotti 11-114-1; Fletcher 2-35; Maslowski 2-14; Romano 1-3);
FIRST DOWNS: Columbiana 16; Catholic Central 19.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Columbiana 14-116; Catholic Central 7-52.
PUNTS: Columbiana 5-30; Catholic Central 4-34.
FUMBLES-LOST: Columbiana 2-1; Catholic Central 2-2.