Harding Stadium home 9 times for Big Red

By ED LOOMAN

Sports correspondent

STEUBENVILLE – Nine home games (four first-time opponents will visit Harding Stadium) and a trip to Tiger Town highlight Big Red’s 2014 football schedule.

Cincinnati Glen Este, Athens, St. Joseph from Hammonton, N.J., and USO (University Prep, Sci-Tech, Obama Academy) out of Pittsburgh represent the new faces on Big Red’s slate, which was released earlier this week.

Reno Saccoccia will begin his 32nd season as Big Red’s gridiron boss when Cleveland John F. Kennedy invades Death Valley on Aug. 28. The meeting will be the 14th all-time between the Eagles, who went 5-5 a season ago, and Big Red. Steubenville has won the previous 13 games.

Glen Este’s Trojans, who compete in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, will provide the Week 2 opposition. Nick Ayers guided Glen Este, a Division II school, to a 5-5 mark in 2013.

Youngstown Ursuline will follow Glen Este to town and the ninth Battle of the Bridge (Big Red vs. Brooke) is on tap for Week 4.

Big Red will hit the road on Sept. 26, traveling to Massillon for its 48th meeting with the Tigers.

The second half of the season will start with a home game against Athens. The Division III Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances. In 2013, Athens went 12-1, bowing in the Region 9 finals.

Athens boasts one of Ohio’s best quarterbacks in Joe Burrow, a 6-4, 190 pound senior to be. In 2013, Burrow accounted for more than 4,300 yards of offense and 57 touchdowns. He completed 71.2 percent of his passes.

Big Red will play a rare Saturday night game on Oct. 11 when St. Joseph makes the trip from New Jersey. The Wildcats won 11 of 12 last year and have reached the New Jersey Non-Public School playoffs for 31 straight years.

St. Joseph, which has won 20 state titles, has grabbed crowns five straight years.

Week 8 will feature Big Red’s first battle with USO. The Eagles rolled to a 9-1 campaign in 2013 and captured the Pittsburgh city championship with a 33-20 victory over Allerdice.

Wheeling Park will provide the Week 9 opposition and Big Red will close the campaign with its second meeting with Canada Prep Football Academy. The Warriors gave Big Red all it could handle last season before falling 43-38.

Half of the 2014 opponents (Ursuline, Massillon, Athens, St. Joseph and Wheeling Park) earned playoff berths in 2013.

The 2013 Big Red finished the regular season at 6-4 and earned the school’s 13th consecutive trip to the post-season. Saccoccia’s eighth-seeded crew in the Division IV Region 13 knocked off Newark Licking Valley, the top seed, in the opening round before eliminating Maysville. The regional championship, Big Red’s 14th, came via 17-14 victory over Indian Valley.

That win was Big Red’s 50th in the Ohio playoffs. The Red lost in the Division IV semifinals to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, finishing at 9-5.

Big Red will return 24 lettermen from its 2013 squad.