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Big Red on the road with playoffs looming

October 11, 2012
By ED LOOMAN - Sports correspondent , The Herald-Star

MORGANTOWN - Morgantown likes to run the football. Big Red's defense has been pretty good when it comes to slowing down the rushing attack of its opponents.

Thus, something will have to give when the teams collide Friday at Pony Lewis Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

The 5-1 Mohigans compiled 428 rushing yards in last week's 42-39 victory over Wheeling Park. All six of the Morgantown touchdowns came on the ground. For the season, they've run for 1,967 stripes.

"I'll put it this way, if you don't stop the run, you're in for a long night," Big Red's Reno Saccoccia said.

Chazzy Thomas, a 5-9, 179 junior, had a huge game for John Bowers' club, chewing up the Patriot defense for 303 yards and four scores. He recorded scoring jaunts of 2, 50, 4 and 22. In just six games, Thomas has 1,103 and 15 touchdowns.

Park coach Chris Daugherty called Thomas "the whole package."

"He can run tough then he can bounce out and go 70 on you," Daugherty said. "I think he's probably the best back we've seen to date."

Saccoccia noted Thomas "runs hard and finishes his runs. Their offensive line does an excellent job of leading the way for him. The line is strong when it comes to picking up blitzes and games."

Jalen Thomas (5-6, 234), Alex Weidman (5-9, 185) and Shane Commodore (6-2, 195) also get some carries for Bowers, the Brooke High graduate.

Mark Johnson (6-3, 178) directs the Morgantown offense. In six games, he has thrown just 62 passes, completing 36 for 537 yards. Shane Wolfley (6-4, 220) and Blaine Stewart (6-2, 186) are Johnson's primary targets.

Thomas and company will face a stiff test in the Big Red defense which has allowed just 358 rushing yards (an average of 51 per game) in seven outings. The unit is allowing 150 passing stripes and opponents are averaging 17 points.

Saccoccia indicated the Mohigans run a "couple of different formations, some I and some stacked I. The main thing we have to do defensively is stop their running game out the various formations we'll see."

To accomplish that, Big Red will be making "some adjustments to our defense," the coach added.

"We'll still play our base 4-3 but we'll need to do some different things for the overload they have offensively."

Big Red needs a victory to keep its Region 21 playoff hopes alive. Saccoccia's club slipped to ninth after losing to Youngstown Ursuline. The Morgantown trip will be followed by home games against Sir Wilfrid Laurier from Toronto, Canada and Akron Butchel.

The Big Red offense is averaging 209 yards a game (154 on the ground and 136 through the air) and 23 points.

Dashon Redman, who battled his way to 68 yards on 15 carries against Ursuline, leads the Big Red ground game with 343 stripes and four scores. Corey Stinson has completed 55 percent of his passes for 936 yards and seven scores.

Stinson has found Matt Petrella 24 times for 344 stripes. Petrella's reception total is second best in the Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area.

"Offensively, we just have to execute," Saccoccia admitted. "Every play you draw up you expect it will go for a touchdown. The defense, however, expects to stop each play. It comes down to who sticks with it the most.

"We need to stay with it, keep pounding it and go with our play-action pass or the three step drop. We have to mix it up then settle in on what we do best.

"And, what we do best has been different every week."