42 years later

STEUBENVILLE – The offense had its usual fast start, the defense delivered several big plays and Catholic Central rolled at Harding Stadium Saturday.

The Crusaders needed just 24 snaps to compile 357 yards of first half offense on their way to a 62-14 victory over Weir High.

With the victory, Steve Daley’s club moves to 8-0 (the first time a Central squad has started a season with eight-straight wins since 1971) and sets the stage for a Week 9, huge showdown with Madonna. Weir drops to 3-5.

Central now leads the all-time series between the schools 12-11-1.

Daley’s defense stopped two Red Rider drives deep in Crusader territory, recovered a fumble (Jimmy Joe Mort did the honors) and got a pick-six by Khalil Jones (his return covered 32 yards). Louis Fallon recorded a third quarter interception.

“We started the way we wanted to offensively,” Daley said. “The defense did a nice job again. Weir High has some weapons on offense. (William) Larch and (Kameron) Davis are good athletes and (Jonathan) Rice really has nice speed. I thought our defense did a good job against them.”

Central struck early as Jones returned the opening kickoff 68 yards. Two plays later, Brenton Colabella, who went over the 7,000 yard mark for career passing, tossed a one-yard scoring strike to Stone Romano. John Paul McNamara nailed the first of eight extra point attempts.

Weir went three and out on its first possession (Red Rider receivers dropped two of Larch’s passes). The teams then exchanged fumbles. Weir’s turnover stopped a drive that started at Central’s 48 and moved to the 10. Mort’s recovery led to the second Crusader touchdown.

Starting at its own 13, Central covered 87 yards in seven plays. The score came when Romano took an option pitch from Colabella and sprinted 27 yards to the house.

Tony Filberto’s Riders responded by marching 69 yards for their initial score. A Larch pass bounced off the hands of Clarence Bennett and into the grasp of Rice who motored 46 yards. Alyssa Shingle split the uprights on the conversion try.

Weir threatened again after John Frankovitch recovered a Central fumble at the Rider 35. Rice went 34 yards on an end-around and Larch added 13 yards, giving the visitors a first and goal at the five. Central’s defense rose to the challenge, however, and forced a turnover on downs. Aleks Porreca knocked down Larch’s pass on fourth-and-goal.

Central proceeded to travel 94 yards on seven snaps to make it 21-7. Luke Potenzini ran for 14 yards then added 18 more via a pass reception. Potenzini also threw a key block to help Jones cover the final 15 yards for the touchdown.

Jones’ pick-six came on the next Weir possession. Central made it 35-7 following a short Rider punt. Romano burst through a huge hole for a 43-yard scoring sprint.

Weir mounted another threat, taking the pigskin from its own 20 to the Central 17. Key plays on the drive were a 13-yard burst by Matt Hartman and a 30 yard Larch to Bennett completion. Central’s defense, however, stiffened again, throwing Larch for a three-yard loss before two Weir passes fell incomplete.

The final score of the half came on an 81-yard Colabella to Ryan Fletcher connection. The senior signal caller tossed a perfect pass down the sidelines that Fletcher caught in stride.

“We didn’t capitalize early,” Filberto noted. “We made some things happen and we played well for a quarter and a half, then things got away from us. Central is an awfully good football team and we’re still learning how to be a good football team.

“We dropped four or five balls early and those drops really hurt us. We were looking good on those first half drives then we don’t finish. If we finished those drives, who knows what it would have been at halftime and who knows how we come out in the second half.”

Jones scored on a 37-yard sprint in the third quarter and Fletcher traveled 56 for his second TD. Fletcher had one reception and one carry on the night, both resulting in touchdowns.

Weir’s second touchdown came on a two-yard Davis run and Central’s Robbie LeFever closed the scoring, traveling 34 yards.

Central finished with 542 yards of total offense (322 rushing and 220 passing). Colabella hit on 13 of 14 passing attempts. Romano collected 92 rushing yards on just four carries. Murphy had four catches to pace the Crusaders.

“We had a nice mix of the run and pass,” Daley said. “I was happy with our offensive performance but I wasn’t real happy with those two turnovers early on. We have to do a better job of protecting the ball.”

Weir ran 82 offensive plays, good for 381 yards. The Riders will entertain Brooke Friday.