Red Knights running out of time, options
TORONTO — The Toronto football team is going out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Coming off of a loss last week, Toronto is set to face off against Lisbon at 7 p.m. Friday night at Clarke Hinkle Field in an Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference matchup. The Red Knights (4-2) enter the game coming off of their second loss of the season, while the Blue Devils (5-1) enter the game on a three-game winning streak.
Columbiana defeated Toronto 42-7 last week as the Clippers scored the game’s final 35 points.
“One thing we discovered from watching film and talking to the the kids was on their three touchdowns passes, we had communication errors in the heat of the battle,” Toronto head coach Eric Meek said. “That can’t happen, and I promise you it won’t happen again. We just had some miscommunication with guys in the secondary, and that left guys open and they should not have been open. It just happened that the three times it did happen, they had three touchdown passes.”
Lisbon enters the game coming off of a 41-0 victory against Leetonia at home. The Red Knights also shut out Leetonia the week prior.
The Blue Devils have scored 31 or more points in five of their six games.
“They run a double slot offense,” Meek said. “They have a different style than Columbiana. Columbiana uses a lot of different formations, and they have a lot of speed. Lisbon wants to punch you in the mouth. They are real physical. They are a very good team. What they do they do well. They are well-coached.
“We are going to try and improve defensively. We are going to try and stop them. They key is they like to run the clock. I told kids that we are going to have to bend but not break. Somehow, we have to prevent them from getting into the end zone. They are going to four-, five- or six-minute drives. We have to stop them from scoring, and we have to get the ball back. When we get the ball back, we have to be able to move the ball.”
Lisbon has allowed 20 or more points four times.
“They are very aggressive,” Meek said. “They have given up too many points. They are good defensively. They have some oustanding players. They are a solid program. They have been good for a few years in a row. They are a veteran team. They have got some kids back.”
Columbiana, Lisbon and East Palestine are all 3-0 in league play, while Toronto is 2-1. All of the other teams in the league have more than one league loss.
Lisbon’s lone loss came in Week 3 against Valley Christian 14-12.
“I was at that game,” Meek said. “It was on a Saturday night at Poland. Valley Christian is a good team. They are physical. It came down to the last play of the game. We have seen film of them from their more recent games. They are a good team.
“One of their receivers is one of the best high jumpers in the state of Ohio during track season. Their fullback is tough. They have good slots. Their quarterback can run the ball as well.”
Meek and Lisbon head coach Jim Tsilimos have known each other for years.
“Jim is a good friend of mine,” Meek said. “We coached against each other for many years when I was at Wellsville. We coached together for one year at Beaver Local. My brother coaches there. He has been there for six or seven years. They are good people. They are good coaches.”
This season, Lisbon has defeated Malvern 35-24, Mineral Ridge 33-32, Wellsville 43-20, Southern Local 31-20 and Leetonia.
“We are going to have to get stops,” Meek said. “Somehow we have to keep them out of the end zone. They want to get three or four yards a crack. Offensively, we have to move the ball. We moved the ball against Southern Local. We moved the ball against everybody except Shadyside in Week 1. We actually had more yards last week than we did against Shadyside.
The Red Knights have a few players out with injuries going into this week’s game.
“Jake (Keenan) is out, and we have a couple of freshmen who are also out,” Meek said. “If we get through tomorrow’s practice okay, we will dress 41 of 44 players.”
It is not known for sure if Keenan will be able to play again this season.
“He is week to week,” Meek said. “We are not going to push him. We would love to have him back. He’s a great player. He’s a big part of this team. We will have to see. He is doing physical therapy now.”
With Keenan out, other players are going to have to step up and perform in his abscence.
“They understand that,” Meek said. “We were in a similar siutation three years ago when our quarterback, Blaze Glenn, broke his foot in Week 1. Someone is going to have to step up. It is next man up. You have to play hard.
“Football is a great game. It is not easy. You have a lot of adversity. It is difficult to win. Everybody is coming after you. When injuries happen, other people have to step up. That makes you closer as a team. You have 11 positions on both sides of the ball. Every day there is competition. You want to get better at practice. Guys have to step up.”