TORONTO - Catholic Central and Toronto will renew their long-standing football rivalry Friday inside the Red Knights' newly-renovated stadium.
The Crusaders stand at 1-2 as they prepare for their first road game of the season. Toronto is 0-3. This will be the 40th meeting between the schools, Central holding a 28-10-1 series lead. Eric Meek's Knights recorded a 22-14 victory a season ago.
"A lot of 0-3 coaches panic, but I see bright things ahead of us," said Meek. "We are going to win sooner or later, hopefully sooner. I like our team, we're just young and small. I believe, if healthy, we'll be a pretty good football team at the end of October.
"The fact it's the Central game not a lot needs said. This would be huge. It was huge for the community last year to go to Harding Stadium and beat them last year."
Central dropped another heartbreaker in Week 3, losing to Columbiana 38-35. The two losses absorbed by Steve Daley's gridders have come by a total of five points (Bellaire nipped the Crusaders 44-42 thanks to a last-second touchdown on opening night).
"If you look at the Bellaire game, we lose by two points," Daley said. "You take a handful of plays in the game, if the bounce would have gone our way, we win. Against Columbiana, we made some mental mistakes. If we don't make them, we win. We're probably one play in either game away from being 3-0.
Catholic Central, 1-2
(games at 7 p.m. unless noted)
42 Bellaire 44
23 Frontier 8
35 Columbiana 38
Sept. 14 at Toronto
Sept. 21 at Oak Glen
Sept. 29 Conotton Valley
Oct. 6 Barnesville
Oct. 12 at Weir High
Oct. 20 Madonna
Oct. 26 at Magnolia, 7:30 p.m.
(games at 7 p.m. unless noted)
13 at Wellsville 42
19 at Bridgeport 20
14 Shadyside 54
Sept. 14 Catholic Central
Sept. 21 Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 at St.JohnCentral, noon
Oct. 5 Beallsville
Oct. 13 at Conotton Valley, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 29 Hundred, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 at Madonna
"We still think we are a good team. Our focus in practice has to be on trying to make each rep that we take as perfect as we can make it. Hopefully, that will eliminate the little mistakes we've been having."
Added Meek of the Crusaders, "I'm going to be honest, and I told Daley this when we exchanged films this week, I think I underestimated Central until I watched them against Columbiana.
"They're way better than I thought and much better than last year. They're quicker to the ball defensively and are tackling better. Offensively they have outstanding quickness and their quarterback is accurate.
"They are a much better team than last year."
Daley realizes the Red Knights will offer another stern test for his defensive unit.
"From what we have seen, Toronto will try to spread to the field on us, creating some running lanes for the Glenns (junior running back Chez and freshman quarterback Blaze)," he noted. "They both have good speed and are good athletes.
"When they spread us horizontally, we still need to play our gaps, but we have to realize our gaps are expanding compared to what we saw from Frontier and Columbiana, which are more toe-to-toe type teams. We have to be more disciplined in that regard."
Chez Glenn has compiled 238 yards on 39 carries. Blaze Glenn has 137 rushing stripes to go along with 252 through the air. He has 20 of 38 attempts.
"He's doing well," Meek said of Blaze Glenn. "He's showing a lot of poise. He has some receivers that are doing well. They're running routes and being patient, allowing him to get them the ball."
Joey Chadwick has caught seven passes for 80 yards. Nate Stewart and Kyle White have four each and Charles Ross III two.
"We also have to keep our heads about us as coaches," he continued. "We have to realize we may not see that look all the time. They scouted us against Columbiana and saw some things they able to do. So we must be prepared to shift gears in case they give us some of the looks Columbiana did."
Offensively, the Crusaders will be led by junior quarterback Brenton Colabella, who leads the Daily Times/Herald Star coverage area in passing yardage and touchdowns. He has completed 61 percent of his attempts for 822 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"We noticed he's been more three step drop this season so its harder to get to him than it was last year," said Meek. "We have some things that will hopefully work. We were able to pressure him last year after they jumped to 14 -0 lead, but it will be more difficult this year.".
Central's receivers Zach Herrington and Michael Carapellotti, both seniors, share the lead for receptions with 14 each. Senior Kyle Laukert is next with 10. Junior Ryan Fletcher has seven.
"We have good balance in our passing game, even our backs have some catches," Daley noted. "Having that type of balance and distribution really puts defenses in a bind. They can't double Zack all the time because just like in the Columbiana game, Carp can step up and have a big night (Carapellotti hauled in 11 Colabella aerials against the Clippers).
"Our slots (Laukert and Fletcher) also are capable of coming up and making plays. So it's nice to have that balance."
As good as the Central passing game is, Daley knows his team needs to improve when it comes to running the football.
"We are continually working on the running game," he pointed out. "We threw some token runs in there last week. Columbiana was physical up front and shut us down inside. We need to do a better job of stepping properly there and getting our heads across where they need to be.
"We can't allow the type of penetration on running plays that we have been allowing."
Senior Doug Maslowski leads CCHS in the rushing department with 208 stripes on 29 totes.
Heading into Friday's game, Central's offense is averaging 352 yards a game and 33 points. The Red Knights, on the other hand, average 265 and 15.
Toronto's defense surrenders 334 yards per outing and 39 tallies. The Crusaders allow 345 and 30.
"Our tackling has been terrible," said Meek. "We're diving, not tackling the way high school players should be.
"Our turnover margin has been a problem as well. We're moving the ball well but minus eight is not good. We have to improve our tackling and start winning the turnover margin if we are going to start winning games."