STEUBENVILLE - Big Red needed just 17 seconds to put Detroit Central Collegiate away Thursday at Harding Stadium.
Senior Garon Lytle initially muffed the opening kickoff before picking up the pigskin and racing 90 yards for the initial touchdown of the 2013 season. His sprint (huge blocks by Perrier Coleman and Johnnie Blue helped spring Lytle) got the Red rolling en route to a decisive 48-6 victory.
Big Red scored on the ground, through the air and via a fumble recovery in winning its 12th consecutive opener. Veteran coach Reno Saccoccia now is 28-3 in seasonal debuts.
"It was beautiful," Saccoccia said of Lytle's run. "We've never started a year like that before. It couldn't have happened to a better kid. He had a great off-season and really got us started. He's a confident player and I look for him to really help us down the road.
"We had two outstanding blocks at the point of attack," he stated in reference to the hits by Coleman and Johnnie Blue. "They were pins. Then Branden Jones (Big Red's starting sophomore tight end) had another further down the field. So that's three good blocks. The run was outstanding but the execution was what I am really proud of."
Lytle's kick return definitely played a major role in the opening night win. However, according to Saccoccia, so did the strong support of Big Red nation.
"We really appreciate the support our fans gave us tonight," he stated. "We need them to play a major role in our entire season."
Saccoccia's new-look 3-4 defense held the Trailblazers, who represent the oldest high school in Detroit, to a three-and-out on their first possession. Big Red needed just three snaps to find the end zone.
On second and 10 from the Central 42, senior tailback Robert Hayden bounced off a would-be tackler, got to the corner and raced 34 yards. Hayden turned his next touch into six points, rumbling to pay dirt from eight stripes out.
Sophomore Niko Petrides picked off an Emanuel Dawson pass on Central's next offensive opportunity, giving Big Red a first down at the Trailblazer 47. Petrides then showed his skills as a wide receiver, going high in the air to pull down a Dimitri Collaros (Big Red's starting sophomore quarterback) toss for a 25-yard gain.
Lytle capped the eight-play scoring march when he went in from the five.
Big Red's next six-point drive took just one play. Sophomore quarterback Mandela Lawrence-Burke found a wide open Lucas Herrington in the flat. The junior wide receiver then squared up, threw in a nifty spin move and raced untouched to the end zone. The pass and catch covered 82 yards.
Junior Tevon Gary added the first four extra points.
Senior linebacker Kai McClurg was next to reach the house, picking up a Dawson fumble and traveling 52 yards. This time, sophomore Ethan Stover split the uprights, giving Big Red a 35-0 lead.
Lawrence-Burke showed off his running ability on Big Red's next offensive series. He scrambled for 31 yards on the first play and for 24 three snaps later. McClurg plowed in from a yard out to make it 41-0 with more than six minutes left in the opening half.
Central's only score of the evening came just before intermission as the Trailblazers marched 67 yards against Big Red's non-starters. Montell Smith did the honors from two yards away.
In the first half, Big Red ran just 17 plays from scrimmage, gaining 249 yards (140 on the ground and 109 via the air).
Dondre Brown recorded the only score of the second half, which featured a running clock, when he delivered what might have been the play of the game. The junior took a Shyonne Petteway handoff, broke to the outside then hurdled over a Central defender on the way to his 18-yard touchdown. His run brought what was left of the large opening night crowd to its feet.
"Everyone played and I'm happy about that," Saccoccia added. "We had a great summer and the kids all worked extremely hard. I'm glad everything went the way it did tonight. Everyone got in and was able to get a little taste of what it's going to be like down the road."
Because of the running clock and a couple of long Trailblazer drives, Big Red had only nine plays in the second half. For the night, Saccoccia's crew compiled 314 yards in total offense (205 rushing and 109 passing). Big Red recorded 11 first downs and failed to punt.
Dondre Brown paced the Red ground attack with 56 yards on three totes. Lawrence-Burke added 55 on his two carries and Hayden 42. Collaros was two of three for 27 and Lawrence-Burke's only toss went for the 82-yard score.
"I was happy with the performance of both quarterbacks," Saccoccia admitted. "Right now, Collaros is healthy and has done a very good job. Lawrence-Burke is getting there. He hasn't been healthy but he looked very good when he ran tonight. When we get him healthy, we'll be solid at that position."
Central, under first year coach Jimmy Macon, actually ran 20 more offensive plays (48-28) than Big Red. The Trailblazers, who finished 6-4 a season ago, had 105 yards rushing on 39 attempts and completed one of nine passes for 23 stripes. Central recorded nine first downs and was officially charged with just two penalties. Once the Big Red scoring parade began, Saccoccia opted to decline six calls against the visitors.
The game marked the football debut of senior John Paul Duff as Big Red's kicker. A member of the school's soccer team, Duff handled kickoff duties while Gary focused on PATs.
"When we had a new kicker come out, our other kicker actually improved because of the competition," Saccoccia explained. "Competition at any position whether it's kicking, holding, throwing or blocking makes everyone better."
Big Red will return to action a week from tonight when Cleveland Benedictine invades for the annual Legends celebration. That kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
"We'll find out next week how far we have come," Saccoccia noted. "That is going to be a real test."
Big Red 48, Detroit Central 6
Central 0 6 0 0 - 6
Big Red 35 6 7 0 - 48
S: Lytle 90 yard kickoff return (Gary kick)
S: Hayden 8 run (Gary kick)
S: Lytle 5 run (Gary kick)
S: Herrington 82 pass from Lawrence-Burke (Gary kick)
S: McClurg 52 fumble return (Stover kick)
S: McClurg 1 run (kick failed)
C: Smith 2 run (kick blocked)
S: Dondre Brown 18 run (Stover kick)
RUSHING: Big Red 21-205-4 (Sherrell 3-4; Collaros 1-(-1); Lawrence-Burke 2-55; Hayden 2-42-1; McClurg 1-1-1; Donte Brown 3-20; Lytle 3-19-1; Jeremy Blue 1-(-2); Johnnie Blue 1-5; Dondre Brown 3-56-1; Ferguson 1-6); Central 39-105-1 (Dawson 9-31; Robinson 5-29; Redding 1-1; Smith 16-41-1; Griggs 8-3)..
PASSING: Big Red 3-7-109-1-0 (Collaros 2-3-27; Lawrence-Burke 1-1-82-1; Petteway 0-3); Central 1-9-23-0-1 (all by Dawson).
RECEIVING: Big Red (Herrington 1-82-1; Petrides 1-25; McClurg 1-2); Central (Moore 1-23).
FIRST DOWNS: Big Red 11; Central 9.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Big Red 5-40; Central 2-10.
PUNTS: Big Red 0-0; Central 4-31.
FUMBLES-LOST: Big Red 1-0; Central 3-1.