Big Red grads Starliper, Williams to anchor lines

BETHANY – In a few weeks, Chris Starliper will be off to Kent State University with fellow 2014 Steubenville High School graduate Jaylin Williams heading to Ohio University.

The Big Red tandem has spent the past four years anchoring the lines and they get one more opportunity to block and tackle together on Sunday. Starliper and Williams will represent Steubenville in the 69th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Game at Wheeling Island Stadium.

“It’s the greatest opportunity I can think of to end my summer before I head off to college,” Starliper said.

They each ended their high school careers with a thrilling run through the Division IV playoffs. Big Red entered the postseason as the No. 8 seed in Region 13, but rolled to three playoff wins. Steubenville won its 14th regional title before falling to Cardinal Mooney in the state semifinals at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.

“It was an unforgettable year,” Williams said. “I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.”

Williams played in the Penn-Ohio All-Star Game in New Middletown on June 27, which was his first taste of football since the Nov. 29 defeat to the Cardinals.

“I was trying to stay in shape anyway I could,” Williams said. “Running, lifting, boxing, anything.

“It feels good to have been on a football field a lot recently.”

Steubenville Central’s Ryan Fletcher and Indian Creek’s Blake Roar also joined Williams in the game two weeks ago.

“So it was good to see them again,” Williams said.

Though Steubenville hasn’t faced another Ohio OVAC team since Indian Creek in the 2011 playoffs, Starliper says the Buckeye State team not only has the same collective goal, but also a similar state of mind.

“We’re all different kids, but we’re still the same,” Starliper said. “They want to work hard, just like I do, and we want to win. We have same attitude and same mental aspect, so we’re not that different at all.”

Starliper made 27-straight starts in two years, while Williams made starts in 22-consecutive games. They each were named to the All-Eastern District First Team.

“Jaylin and Chris have done a great job for us, especially this season,” said Big Red head coach Reno Saccoccia when the district honors were announced. “Chris has helped us on both sides of the ball for the better part of this season and Jaylin jumped in where we needed him.

Learning from Saccoccia, and his three decades of head coaching experience, has helped the Big Red boys absorb new material from another legend in the Ohio Valley – Jose Davis.

The former Bellaire head coach, who will take over at St. John’s in the fall, is leading the Ohio squad in Sunday’s game.

“He’s a really awesome coach,” Williams said. “All the coaches have been great and want to be here coaching us up. It’s been such a fun experience.”

Just like the past four years at Big Red.

“As I progressed through high school I realized that if I worked hard enough I should have the opportunity to play in this all-star game,” Starliper said. “For it to finally be here and for me to be chosen for it is just an amazing feeling.”