Big Red returns home, hosts Erie

CATCHING ON THE RUN — Ryan Rauch and Steubenville host Erie on Friday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — Erie High likes to run the football. To date, Big Red has been successful in defending the run.

Something will have to give when the Royals visit Harding Stadium Friday for the first meeting between the schools. The kick is set for 7 p.m.

Erie played its first season of football in 2017, posting a 9-3 record and qualifying for the PIAA Class 6A playoffs. The team was formed following the merger of Central Tech, East and Strong Vincent high schools. Considered a Division I school by Ohio enrollment standards, Erie will bring a 2-4 record to town.

Coach Rob Martz’s squad has fallen to McKeesport, Austintown Fitch, Canada Football North Clarkson and Erie McDowell. It owns victories over St. Francis of New York and Buffalo Canisius.

In six games, Erie has compiled 1,974 rushing yards. The Royals utilize three tailbacks in seniors JaGannon Williams and Tony Foster, along with junior Danny Blue. Big Red’s defense, on the other hand, has allowed just 462 rushing yards in seven games.

“Physical,” Big Red coach Reno Saccoccia said when asked about Erie. “Their offense is something I haven’t seen since the Wing-T days. They run a mixed version of the single wing and the Wing-T.

“Up front, they are big and physical. They have a lot of players back from last year. They’re 2-4, but they play a great schedule. We’re probably the smallest team on their schedule.”

Williams has rushed for 605 yards on 76 carries and scored five times. As a junior, he ran for more than 1,000 yards. Foster has 398 yards and four touchdowns. Like Williams, he topped the 1,000-yard mark a season ago. Foster missed Erie’s last game with an injury. He has toted the pigskin 62 times for 578 yards and six touchdowns.

In the win over Canisius, Blue and Williams combined for nearly 500 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Blue finished with 255 yards on just 12 carries, while Williams added 243 on 22 attempts.

Senior quarterback Isaac Munson directs the Erie attack on most snaps. There also are times when an Erie running back will take a direct snap. When the Royals do throw, Prince Arrington and Tay Carr are the primary receivers.

The big guys up front are led by Jonny Moore and Vincent Caggiano.

“Defensively, we have to follow rule one, and that’s alignment,” Saccoccia said. “The rules we give our kids are alignment, assignment and adjustment. Alignment is going to be critical against Erie.

“Their offensive formations are such that they attack where they think you might be misaligned. The defensive key for us is making sure we get lined up correctly. Offensively, we have to be able to attack both an even and odd man front. We’ll need to apply our rules to whatever looks we see.”

Big Red, which remains fourth in this week’s Ohio AP Division IV poll, is riding a six-game winning streak following last week’s 56-39 victory at New Philadelphia.

Saccoccia’s club ran for 591 yards and seven touchdowns. Tayveon Crawford went for a career-high 307 yards and three scores. Jaziah Blackwell added 122 on just seven trips. He found the end zone twice.

The win over the Division III Quakers moved Big Red to the top of OHSAA’s Division IV, Region 13 computer standings.

“I thought the whole team played well,” Saccoccia said of the New Philadelphia trip. “I wasn’t real pleased with our fourth-quarter performance, but I was happy with our overall performance.

“At one time we were up big, and I think the final score indicated that New Philadelphia kept playing. That’s a credit to coach (Matt) Dennison and his players. They kept playing hard, didn’t pay attention to the scoreboard and were able to put more points on the board.”

Through seven games, Big Red’s offense is averaging 370 yards and 33 points per contest. It has compiled 1,754 rushing yards. The defense is surrendering an average of 18.7 points.

Crawford has 812 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while Caleb Mitchell has run for 460 yards and nine scores. Thanks to his performance at New Philadelphia, Blackwell now has 171 and three scores.

Clayton Criss has completed 64 percent of his passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns. Four of his scoring tosses have gone to Erik Lulla, who has nine total catches. Ethan Duggan remains Big Red’s reception leader with 14, while Ryan Rauch has 10.