New opponent, different field, one goal in mind

UNDER PRESSURE — Steubenville Catholic Central’s Levi Thompson pressures Barnesville’s Cade Hannahs on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WELLSBURG — Things didn’t go well for Catholic Central when it met a new opponent (South Harrison) earlier this season.

Coach Steve Daley is hoping for different results when his Crusaders square off with a second first-time foe (St. Mary’s of Lancaster, N.Y.) at 7 p.m. Saturday inside Brooke’s Memorial Stadium. The game was moved to Wellsburg due to a scheduling conflict at Harding Stadium with the annual “Together We Care” breast cancer/soccer tournament fundraiser.

Central improved to 4-2 last week with a 46-0 blanking of Barnesville. St. Mary’s is 4-1 following its win over Honeoye Falls from Lima, N.Y. The Lancers also own victories over Buffalo St. Timon-St. Jude, Buffalo Nichols and Rochester Bishop Kearny. The loss came to Rochester University Prep.

“They have athletes, no doubt about it,” Daley said when discussing the Lancers. “They’re 4-1 right now, and they are a very solid football team. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”

Chris Dickson, the St. Mary’s coach, said to date that his team “is playing well this season.”

“I’ve very pleased with how the team is competing week to week,” he said. “We’re coming off a big win versus Honeoye Falls-Lima. We’re looking forward to the opportunity of playing a very good Central team.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to travel and compete against a quality opponent. The trip also provides our kids an experience that is part of their education as a student-athlete.”

Fullback D’Jae Perry is one of the top athletes on the St. Mary’s roster. The 5-10, 190-pound sophomore has rushed for more than 500 yards and 12 touchdowns through five games.

“He’s an outstanding runner,” Daley said. “He’s shifty, fast and runs hard. We’re going to need to get numbers to the football and be good tacklers this week, that’s for sure.”

Ja’Shaun Collins (5-6, 144) directs the St. Mary’s offense. Derek Johnson (5-5, 180) and James Miller (5-8, 175) start as wings for the Lancers. Dickson noted Miller is doing a solid job for the Lancers and giving the team a great effort during his senior season.

Perry and Collins operate behind an offensive line featuring three sophomores (Janair Henderson, C.J. Ozolins and Chris Kobis) and freshman Bryon Chavis. Dickson said Kobis (5-10, 205) is having an outstanding season at left guard. Miller and Ozolins (6-0, 215) lead the St. Mary’s defense in tackles.

Daley said the Lancers are extremely aggressive on defense.

“From watching film of their last game, I can tell you they like to send people,” he said. “They are aggressive and they get to the ball well. That’s a concern for us because they will send pressure. We have to pick that up and protect. Also, we will need to be sharp offensively as far as our blocking schemes go.”

Daley noted with the likes of Vince Oliver Jr., Kevin Cuervo, Jordan Maul and Jacob Stoll, his Crusaders should have a size advantage up front.

“Most weeks we are going to have that,” he said. “The key thing, however, is we have to play that way and take advantage of our size. There’s no doubt about that.”

The Crusaders certainly took advantage of their size in last week’s victory over Barnesville. Central finished with 498 yards of offense (432 coming on the ground).

Junior Craig Smith carried the ball 22 times for 230 yards and a touchdown. He now has 641 yards for the season. Junior quarterback Justin Hartzell had 134 yards of total offense (68 rushing and 66 passing), while senior Levi Thompson added 47 yards on just five carries. Sophomore Jeffrey Dawson, making his first appearance of the season after transferring to Central, rushed for 66 yards and caught a Hartzell pass for 29.

“Our line got off the ball well and got into their blocks,” Daley said. “Craig ran hard like he usually does. I like where we are with our running game. We’re not there yet, and we still have plenty of things to work on. But, overall, I like where we are right now.”

Hartzell has rushed for 603 and thrown for 789 along with 10 touchdown tosses. Geno DiBiase leads Central with 10 receptions, while Thompson has seven, two resulting in scores.

Central’s offense is averaging 442 yards per outing and 38 points. Defensively, the Crusaders allow 308 yards and 26 points.

Following its victories over Warren JFK and Barnesville, Central has jumped into the eight spot in the Division VI Region 23 computer ratings. Nelsonville-York leads the region followed by Shenandoah, Chillicothe Southeastern, Galion Northmor, Shadyside, Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant and Fort Frye, Central’s Week 10 opponent.

“We will be there mentally for sure,” Daley said. “We know this is an important one for us. St. Mary’s is 4-1 and will win some games the remainder of the year. This is a good points game for us, and that is motivation enough for us.

“We need to keep working hard, move forward and take care of what we need to take care of.”