Ursuline takes it to Big Red

YOUNGSTOWN – Ursuline had an up and down experience through its first six games of the 2013 campaign. On Friday at Stambaugh Stadium, everything came together for the Irish.

Larry Kempe’s club, now 4-3, turned its first three possessions into scores and whipped Big Red 46-21.

“Give credit to Ursuline, they played an outstanding game,” Big Red’s Reno Saccoccia said. “This one is over and we’re 5-3. We’re going to try to get to 6-3 next week and we’re going to work hard to achieve that goal.”

Ursuline took the opening kick (Ben Phillips had a 29-yard return) and moved 56 stripes in just six plays. Chris Durkin, the senior quarterback and Michigan State recruit, hit Phillips for a 20-yard touchdown. Vince Yurcho added the first of his six extra points.

Big Red’s first touch resulted in a fumble, ShaHaun Williams recovering at the Steubenville 14. Vito Penza turned the mistake into points, rumbling in from six yards away.

After getting a safety thanks to a bad snap on a Big Red punt, the Irish struck again. Durkin bulled his way in from six yards out. Ursuline was up 23-0 with less than eight minutes gone in the opening period.

Big Red then mounted its only serious threat of the opening half, marching from its own 35 to the Irish 7.

On fourth and three, however, Mandela Lawrence-Burke was thrown for an eight-yard loss.

Late in second period, Ursuline was credited with another safety when a snap again sailed over the head of Big Red’s punter and was booted through the end zone. The Irish started its ensuing march at the Big Red 46 and scored six on a Durkin one-yard plunge.

Ursuline appeared to have a touchdown a few plays earlier when Durkin and Phillips combined on a 33-yard pitch and catch. After several minutes of discussion (Saccoccia came onto the field to launch the conversation), an official pulled a flag from his pocket and hit Ursuline with an ineligible receiver downfield penalty, nullifying the score.

Kempe’s very quick and physical defense bottled up the Big Red attack in the first half, holding the visitors to 68 yards on 26 snaps. Big Red tried just two passes during the first 24 minutes. The Irish, meanwhile, ran 27 plays good for 162 stripes.

“Our motto is, ‘If you can’t run, you can’t play on this side of the ball,'” Kempe said of his defense.

Big Red, to its credit, hung tough and opened the second half with an 80-yard scoring drive. Bryan Pierro kept the march going when he made an outstanding catch of a Lawrence-Burke pass, giving Saccoccia’s crew a first and goal at the three. Johnnie Blue crossed the goal from a yard away. John Paul Duff nailed his conversion try.

Ursuline countered that score with one of its own, marching 38 yards. Kimauni Johnson did the honors from three yards out. Johnson would score again, motoring 42 yards.

Blue accounted for Big Red’s other score on a two-yard plunge. The TD capped an 89-yard march which featured a 35-yard sprint by Dondre Brown.

Matt Sherrell closed the scoring on a 21-yard gallop. Tevon Gary kicked the extra point this time.

The victory, Ursuline’s second in a row in the rivalry, moves the all-time series record to 6-4 in favor of Big Red. Saccoccia’s club will look to rebound next week when it visits Wheeling Park.

“It was a bad night all over,” Saccoccia stated. “But you know a team needs love more when it is beat up than it does when it is winning.

“Some kids stepped up night that I didn’t think could do it, but they stepped up and did well. We’ll get back to work tomorrow and continue to work. I appreciate these kids and they know that.”