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Steubenville hosts Powers, Akron Buchtel

October 25, 2012
By ED LOOMAN - Sports correspondent , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Year in and year out, Big Red's football team has the same goals: qualify for the Ohio playoffs and earn a first round game at home.

The computer ratings experts seem to agree Reno Saccoccia's club can achieve both with a victory over Akron Butchel Friday at Harding Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Big Red moved to 7-2 thanks to its 68-13 victory over Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Steubenville stands fourth in the Region 11 standings. Drew Pasteur, one of those computer experts, predicts Big Red, provided it beats Butchel, will stay in the four hole and host Zanesville Maysville during week 11.

The Griffins, coached by Ricky Powers, will bring a 4-5 mark to town. They started their annual brutal non-Akron City League schedule by falling on the road at Massillon, Lakewood St. Edward's and Solon. Powers' gridders then won three straight, beating Firestone, Garfield and East.

Ellet ended Butchel's 26-game league winning streak thanks to a 20-19 victory in Week 7. The Griffins rebounded with a triumph over North before falling last week to Kenmore (27-7). For Kenmore, the win was its first over Butchel in 22 years.

Friday's match will be the ninth all-time between Big Red and Butchel. The Griffins won the first two (both played for the Division II championship) and the Red has captured sixth straight, including a 22-6 triumph in 2011.

"Our goal this week is to beat Butchel, playing for any other reason right now is not the thing to do," Saccoccia said when asked the playoff chase. "The main reason why we have this week is compete the best we can to defeat Butchel. If we do that, everything else will fall in place. If we don't win, then we'll have to depend on everyone else. It's better if we depend on ourselves."

Saccoccia realizes that despite the 4-5 record, Powers' gridders will present their usual challenge.

"The number one thing that concerns you about Butchel is their speed," he noted. "Second is how physical they area and third is their athleticism."

Junior Chris Davis, the left-handed quarterback, directs the Griffin offensive attack. Against Big Red last season, he threw for 120 yards and a touchdown. Earl Likely, another junior, mans the tailback spot and senior Jibrell Hazly is the fullback.

Davis's favorite targets are senior Elijah Bell (he scored the Butchel touchdown in 2011) and Marnayre Drummond.

To combat the strengths of Butchel, Saccoccia said his Big Red, among other things, needs to "control the football."

"We can't let them in the open field and we can't them create one on one situations," he noted. "We'll need to take advantage of every opportunity we receive and most importantly, win the battle of special teams."

Controlling the football has not been a problem for Big Red during the past two weeks. In the come-from-behind victory at Morgantown, Saccoccia's crew rushed for 283 yards on 58 attempts. Last week, the ground game rolled to 555 stripes on 41 trips.

Dashon Redman leads the Big Red in rushing yardage with 578 on 105 carries. He has scored seven times. In the last two weeks, the senior has compiled 237 stripes and three touchdowns.

Corey Stinson has thrown for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns. Matt Petrella continues to lead the Big Red in receiving with 29 (tied for second best in the area).

Big Red will honor its seniors before Friday's kickoff.

"I feel they (the seniors) have been through a tough season," Saccoccia said. "The best thing I like about them is they've kept a focused attitude. We've gone from having a certain lineup in the preseason to a certain lineup now. Everyone has adjusted and is settling into where they are currently playing."

The veteran Big Red coach admitted he is "happy as far as the whole thing" has been going for his club the past few weeks.

"The kids are settling in and we're the healthiest we've been all season," he noted. "Most teams are fighting bumps and bruises but we're getting most of our kids back right now.

"Our first three tailbacks weren't even in the picture when the season started. Redman was our fullback and Michael Jett was a receiver. Plus, Donte Brown was a sophomore. We started the season with Teshawn Luke and Robert Hayden playing. Teshawn has been limited because of an ankle injury and Hayden is out with a shoulder injury. We haven't had either one of them on offense since the first drive of the Massillon game."

A victory Friday will give Big Red its 12th straight season with eight wins or more. The playoff trip also would be the school's 12th in a row.