NEW PHILADELPHIA - The Steubenville Big Red football team has gone from a team that likes to run the football in Week 11 to a team that likes to run the football a lot in Week 12.
Fresh off a 28-0 shutout of Zanesville Maysville, Big Red will travel to New Philadelphia's Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium at 7 p.m. today in a Region 11 semifinal bout with West Holmes. The Knights eliminated Indian Creek, 35-7, in the quarterfinals.
West Holmes, tri-champions of the Ohio Cardinal Conference along with Mansfield Madison and Mansfield Senior, runs the football around 88 percent of the time. Like the Maysville Panthers, the 10-1 Knights attack via the Wing T but they operate out of a full-house backfield.
READY FOR WEEK 12 — Steubenville quarterback Corey Stinson will lead Big Red into its 7 p.m. contest today at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium against West Holmes in the Ohio Division III, Region 11 semifinals.
Kevin Maltarich's offense evolves around junior fullback Layne Perone (6-0, 195). He has rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 29 touchdowns, both school records. Against Creek, he accounted for 194 of his team's 299 total.
Garrett Mackey has run for more than 700 yards and Grant Hay has 400 plus. As a team, West Holmes has compiled more than 3,500 rushing yards.
"The reason we've been successful is we have a great offensive line and we've got great running backs that can pound it up in there," Maltarich said recently. "That's our bread and butter."
During the regular season, West Holmes defeated Wooster Triway, Warsaw River View, Coshocton, Mansfield Madison, Ashland, Orrville, Lexington, Wooster and Bellville Clear Fork.
The lone blemish is a 40-29 loss to Mansfield Senior.
"This is a team they've been building for three years," Big Red's Reno Saccoccia said. "Most of the seniors they have started as sophomores on a team that went 1-9. Last year, they were 5-5 and they have put it all together this season.
"Although they are senior dominated, they are led by a junior (Perone). He puts the finishing touches on a good senior class."
The West Holmes offensive lines (described as country strong) is led by a pair of running backs turned guards, Andrew Rose and Keaton Leppla. Tyler Singleton and Colton Shane are the tackles with Brock Macaulay (6-6, 250) manning the tight end spot. Macaulay, who has given a verbal commitment to play at Kent State, starts at defensive end opposite Gabe Snyder.
Snyder, a 6-5 lefty, directs the West Holmes attack. The senior doesn't throw much (he completed two of seven attempts against Indian Creek) but he hasn't had to, given the success of the Knight ground game.
Snyder, who will be attending Wright State University to play baseball, raced 61 yards for a touchdown to break open last week's game.
Snyder was named the defensive player of the year in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
Maltarich was selected as co-coach of the year and Perone earned first team honors.
His favorite target is Brady Arnold (he had two catches against Creek for 65 yards).
The Knights are averaging 37 points a game while surrendering 14. The defense has posted two shutouts.
Saccoccia's defense did a solid job against the Maysville Wing T, holding the Panthers to just 70 yards of total offense.
"Every Wing T team is a little different," Saccoccia said following the quarterfinal contest. "We had to find out what they did best and take it away. You always want to try and make every offense you face play left-handed."
He added his team is "preparing for the Wing T," but admitted West Holmes poses a major challenge when it comes to "making them left-handed."
"They have a very talented quarterback and a very talented tight end," Saccoccia said. "So you have to be concerned with their passing game. The real key to this West Holmes team is its mental toughness and its overall improvement during the past three seasons."
As far as his club goes, Saccoccia noted "we are a heck of a lot further along than we were eight weeks ago."
"We're very fortunate to be in the position we are now as far as health, mental preparation and overcoming adversity go," he said.
As a unit, Big Red averages 332 yards (220 on the ground and 112 through the air) per contest along with 27 points.
Senior Corey Stinson has thrown for 1,193 yards (hitting on 104 of his 186 attempts) and 10 touchdowns. Senior Matt Petrella leads the Big Red in receiving with 34 grabs for 466 and six scores. Junior Cody Saltsman has 14 catches and senior Tajuan Lawson 13.
Big Red is 9-2 and has won four straight since losing to Youngstown Ursuline. During the late season run, the Steubenville offense has been powered by senior Dashon Redman.
The fullback-turned-tailback has compiled 530 stripes (he ran for 129 against Maysville) in recent weeks and has 887 for the season.
Sophomore Donte Brown also has come on strong. He accounted for 115 on 13 trips versus the Panthers and is second on the squad with 322 for the year.
When asked about the late season growth of the running game, Saccoccia replied:
"Our offensive line is improving. We're not where we want to be but we have made substantial progress."
Defensively, Big Red allows 189 yards an outing (just 60 via the rush and 129 passing) and 14.7 points.
"The key for us is to have a good week of practice," Saccoccia indicated. "We need to do a few things we didn't do last week-protect the ball (Big Red lost two fumbles), eliminate the penalties (they drew 10 flags) and be great tacklers in the fourth quarter."
A win would improve Big Red's all-time playoff record to 48-21.
West Holmes is back in the postseason for the first time since 2000 when Maltarich's father (Bob) was the head coach. The Knights sport a 5-4 tournament record.