Golden Bears, Crusaders prep for Saturday night football

STEUBENVILLE — After recording a huge road victory to begin the season, Catholic Central will play its home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Harding Stadium.

Providing the opposition will be the Oak Glen Golden Bears, who suffered a 52-0 defeat to Weir High. Central will introduce its players and their parents prior to the kickoff.

Saturday’s contest will be the eighth all-time meeting between the schools. Central has won the last five encounters and leads the series 5-2.

“There’s some extra excitement this week,” Central coach Steve Daley said. “It’s our first time playing on the home field and it’s Parents Night. We already told the kids it’s a special night because our parents make a lot of sacrifices to send their children to school here.

“It’s one of those opportunities you don’t get very often. It’s a chance to give something back to them, to make them proud. That’s what we’re going to try and do.”

The Crusaders dominated play on both sides of the ball in their opener, rolling to a surprisingly easy 35-14 victory over Wheeling Central. They racked up 342 yards on the ground in the win.

“It may sound like a broken record, but that was 1-0 last week,” Daley said when discussing the challenge of getting his players refocused. “It’s done and over with. We have a new opponent, a new task in front of us, and our focus now has shifted to going 1-0 again this week.

“It’s nice to enjoy those things, but like we told the kids, the very next day the coaches were back to work focusing on Oak Glen. They were able to enjoy it a little longer since we gave them the weekend off. But when Monday rolled around, we were back in here and all of our attention was on Oak Glen.”

In the loss to Weir, the Golden Bears mustered just nine rushing yards. They did have some success through the air, compiling 108 yards. Freshman quarterback Nick Chaney threw for 75 yards, while Hunter Skeeles completed his only pass for 33 more. Unfortunately for Oak Glen, Skeeles broke his arm in the game and will miss the rest of the season.

“Our plan was to rotate Chaney with Hunter, but now with Skeeles sidelined for the season with a broken arm, Chaney will have to learn quickly,” second-year Oak Glen coach Ted Arneault said. “Skeeles had successful surgery and should be ready to go next year.

“For a young kid, Chaney is eager and ready to learn the intricacies of the game. He keeps talking to the coaches about correcting mistakes and is very motivated. I’m confident he’ll learn from last week and just get better.”

Tailback Blake Almo was Oak Glen’s top rusher against Weir, while Ethan Travis and Michael Lemley both had two pass receptions.

Upfront, the Golden Bears have plenty of size, and that’s an area that has Daley concerned.

“Their size can probably neutralize our size a little,” he said. “We know that, so we have to be patient early on and take what they give us. We’ll need to feel the process out until we find something that works. One major thing Oak Glen brings to the table is size and we’re concerned about that.

“We told our kids the old story that your biggest improvement happens from Week 1 to Week 2. We want to get better. We got a big win but we still have plenty of room for improvement. We know Oak Glen is going to improve also. They’re working just as hard out there as we are. We know they’re going to be better than they were in Week 1.”

Speedy junior quarterback Justin Hartzell paced Central’s ground game with 138 yards. He also threw a touchdown pass to Jah Sawyer. Levi Thompson, who also had a huge game on defense, contributed 54 yards and scored on a 40-yard burst. Craig Smith had two touchdowns and finished with 53 yards, while Noah Fayak added a 48-yard scoring scamper.

“Steubenville Central played very well last week in their win over Wheeling Central,” Arneault said. “They have huge offensive and defensive lines, and their strength up front is the push. They handled the Wheeling Central run game very well.

“They use a multiple offense and their quarterback is hard to contain. Central is a force to be reckoned with; that’s for sure.”

Arneault noted one of Central’s strengths defensively is “discipline.”

“Our freshman quarterback will have to make good reads this week against a very talented and good defense,” he said. “We’ll have to be multiple ourselves and utilize the athletes we have. We have to find holes in their coverages and also utilize more pulling techniques from our offensive line than we used last week.”

When discussing areas where his Crusaders need to improve, Daley stated “it’s a little bit of everything.”

“In Week 1, you’re going to make some mistakes,” he said. “You’ve only been going at it for about a month. It’s your first time out there in a real game situation so there are some nerves.

“We need to focus on eliminating penalties. Also, we have a couple of missed assignments. All those things are correctible, and we’ll work on them leading up to Saturday. You see these things on film and you know you can do better. That’s part of our focus also.”

Following Saturday’s game, Central will be on the road for two consecutive weeks, traveling to Berlin Center Western Reserve and South Harrison, W.Va. The next home game is Sept. 23 against Warren JFK.

(Sports correspondent Ralph Cox contributed to this story.)