Big Red will enter playoffs as top seed
Big Red has earned its 17th consecutive trip to the Ohio post-season and will enter the Division IV playoffs as the top-seed in Region 13.
Catholic Central “controls its own destiny” in Division VI, Region 23. The Crusaders are looking to lock down their first post-season appearance since 2013.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s Red Knights, despite four straight losses, are a victory away from clinching their fourth straight playoff trip. The 4-5 Knights need a victory against arch-rival Wellsville to reach the Division VII, Region 25 “dance.”
That’s currently how things stand in the hunt for November with one week left in the Buckeye State regular season.
The 9-0 Big Red has clinched the top seed in its region, according to Joe Eitel. Perry and Poland have locked down first-round home games while Cortland Lakeview has earned a regional spot. The next four teams are Girard, Struthers, Canton South and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney. Salem currently is ninth.
On his playoff related website, Drew Pasteur is predicting Big Red will finish 10-0 and host Salem in round one. Pasteur’s other regional matchups have Struthers testing Perry, Cardinal Mooney taking on Lakeview and Girard testing Poland.
Central, according to Eitel, is fifth in Region 23. The streaking Crusaders, winners of five straight, close with a long road trip to Fort Frye, which is fourth in the region and has clinched a regional playoff spot.
Nelsonville-York leads Region 23 with Chillicothe Southeastern second and Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant third. Central is followed by Galion Northmor, Shadyside, which closes with a huge game against once-beaten Linsly, and Shenandoah.
Pasteur predicts Central will fall to Fort Frye and end its regular season at 7-3. Should that happen, Pasteur says the Crusaders will finish eighth and test Nelsonville-York in round one.
Should the Crusaders return from Washington County with a victory, they could host a first-round game.
Toronto remains eighth in Region 25, just below Warren JFK, which has dropped four straight since its lost to Central. Dalton has clinched the top seed while East Canton has earned a first round home game.
Four other teams, Cuyahoga Heights, Lisbon David Anderson, Windham and Youngstown Valley Christian School, have secured playoff spots.
Pasteur has Toronto defeating Wellsville to finish eighth in the region and drawing a first round game at Dalton.
Seeking its fourth consecutive trip to the Class AA playoffs, Weir High will close its regular season Friday when arch-rival Brooke invades Jimmy Carey Stadium.
The Red Riders are 6-3 following last week’s convincing victory over East Liverpool.
Weir, according to wvtailgatecentral.com, has moved back to No. 16 in the AA standings (the top 16 teams qualify and the top eight host first round games). Bluefield is the top-ranked AA squad.
Tony Filberto opts to play 10 straight games before taking the mandatory bye. Thus, he and his Red Riders will be doing plenty of scoreboard watching during Week 11. Weir, of course, first must focus on defeating the Bruins.
“Our playoffs started last week with Warren Local and this was Week 2,” Filberto said following Weir’s 41-6 victory over East Liverpool. “Now we have to win next week to get into the playoffs and our kids now what we need to do this week–prepare for Brooke, give it all you got and see what we have left.”
Following its 43-7 loss to Central, Madonna has fallen to eighth in the Class A standings, again according to wvtailgatecentral.com. The now 7-1 Blue Dons will host No. 14 Wheeling Central before closing at No. 16 Clay-Battelle.
The Dons last made the playoffs in 2013, when they whipped Greenbrier West to cap a 14-0 season and capture the Class A championship.
“We’ll be fine,” Madonna coach Darrin Hicks said following the Central game. “I told the kids everything we want to accomplish is still in front of us.”
A huge night:
Levi Thompson touched the football 12 times and gained 262 yards (130 rushing and 132 receiving) in Central’s convincing victory over Madonna. That’s an eye-popping average of 22 yards per touch.
The senior ran for two scores and his receiving touchdowns came on plays covering 67 and 60 yards.
“Thompson can run,” Central coach Steve Daley said. “I said earlier in the year that kid is going to move on to the next level. I just hope people take notice of it.”
Big Red’s 48-16 victory over Cardinal O’Hara of Tonawanda, N.Y., allowed the highly successful program to reach a milestone.
The win was the 800th in program history. Steubenville is now just the third Ohio team to reach that plateau. The others are Massillon and Canton McKinley. Big Red, by the way, entered the season ranked 15th in the country in all-time victories.
6 for 7:
For the sixth time in his seven seasons, Daley has guided Central to a regular season record at or above .500.
After going 3-7 in Daley’s first year, the Crusaders have run off marks of 6-5, 9-3, 6-4, 6-4, 5-5 and now stand at 7-2.
Central has been extremely successful during the second half of its last four seasons. In 2014, the Crusaders won four of their last five. They finished with five consecutive victories in 2015 and were 4-1 during the second half in 2016. This year, Central has won four straight heading into Friday’s game at Fort Frye.
The 2 grand man:
Thanks to his performance against Central, Madonna’s Donavan Kirby has entered the 2,000 yard rushing club. The junior workhorse managed to gain 152 yards on 30 carries against the Crusaders to push his season total to 2,049 yards. He has toted the pigskin 281 times for an average per rush of 7.3 yards.
Kirby’s 152 total was 118 yards below his previous per game average of 270 yards.
“Kirby’s a heck of a back, he is,” Central’s Daley said. “He runs strong and we knew they were going to pound him at us.”
A tough D:
When Daley’s club heads south Friday to test Fort Frye, Central’s high-powered offense (the Crusaders are averaging 440 yards and 41 points per game) will square off against a defensive unit that’s on a roll.
Fort Frye’s defense has allowed just 22 points in its last six games and has pitched three shutouts. The Cadets improved to 8-1 with a 26-8 victory over Shenandoah on Friday. That victory gave Fort Frye a Pioneer Valley Conference championship.
The lone Fort Frye loss, a 6-0 setback to Johnstown Northridge, came in Week 2
Offensively, the Cadets rely on the run. Against Shenandoah, they ran for 311 yards. Tyler Fisher had 111, Evan Schob 84 and Tyler Bradford 71.
A season ago, Fort Frye went 12-1, bowing to Newark Catholic in the Region 23 championship game. The Cadets lost 17 seniors from that squad.
U.S. is in:
University School, located in Hunting Valley near Cleveland, will bring a 7-2 mark to Harding Stadium for its Friday date with Big Red. The Preppers are coached by Ben Malbasa, the son of Steubenville native Steve Malbasa, and already have clinched a spot in the Division III, Region 10 playoffs.
Malbasa’s club, thanks to four rushing touchdowns by senior quarterback Jayden Cunningham, earned the playoff berth thanks to a 38-21 victory over Garfield Heights Friday.
Cunningham, who stands 6-2 and weighs 185, has given a verbal commitment to play football for Youngstown State University. Heading into the Garfield Heights game, he had completed 102 of his 180 passes for 1,453 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also had rushed for 689 yards,
Malbasa was the grid boss at Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin before taking over at University School, his alma mater. Before coaching NDCL, he guided Cleveland Benedictine and brought his Bengals to Steubenville.
“It should be a fun night,” Malbasa said about the first-ever meeting between Big Red and U.S. “It’s kind of cool since you have two of the oldest programs in Ohio meeting (University School participated in the state’s first high school football game on Oct. 25, 1890) meeting.
“Big Red is going for another unbeaten season and we’ll try to stop them and maybe take away a possible AP crown. I’m really excited about it.”
Catholic Central’s Craig Smith compiled 130 yards on 19 carries against Madonna, putting him over 1,000 yards for the season.
The hard-running junior now has 1,003 rushing yards to go with 15 touchdowns.
Smith is Central’s first 1,000 yard rusher since Stone Romano ran for 1,011 yards during the 2014 season.
88 saw time:
As Reno Saccoccia pointed out, Big Red was able to get 88 players into its homecoming contest with Cardinal O’Hara. Of those getting time under the Friday night lights, Tayveon Crawford may have had the biggest game.
The speedy sophomore carried the ball 23 times and finished with 296 yards. He had two runs of 50-plus yards and scored two touchdowns. Juniors Clayton Criss and Nicco Bracone also had nights to remember as they both found the end zone for their first touchdowns. Criss got his on a 1-yard sneak and Bracone caught a 5-yard pass from Criss for his six-pointer.
Brennon Norris and Devin Eakle continued to put up big numbers in Indian Creek’s heart-breaking 28-25 road loss to Columbiana Crestview (the Rebels scored the game-winner with 1:59 left to play),
Norris, the top passer in The Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area, threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 1,830 passing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Devin Eakle, the area’s leading receiver, grabbed 11 Norris aerials for 113 yards and a score. Through nine games, he had 48 receptions good for 665 yards and six scores.
Devon Eakle has seven catches for the Redskins and Sam Mazar five.
Home sweet home:
Playing in front of its home fans for the first time in nearly a month, Edison put together a solid effort to whip Jefferson County rival Buckeye Local 42-19.
Senior running back Seth Cade had a big name for Nate Moses’ Wildcats, racking up 154 rushing yards and a pair of scores. He also had 25 receiving yards and a second touchdown.
Edison closes its season with a Thursday night special, hosting arch-rival Indian Creek in the annual battle of Route 43.
¯ 296, Tayveon Crawford, Big Red, 2 touchdowns
¯ 154, Seth Cade, Edison, 2 touchdowns
¯ 152, Donavan Kirby, Madonna, touchdown
¯ 130, Levi Thompson, Catholic Central, 2 touchdowns
¯ 130, Craig Smith, Catholic Central, touchdown
¯ 269, Brennon Norris, Indian Creek, 25 of 41, 2 scores
¯ 265, Shane Christian, Buckeye Local, 18 of 24, 2 scores
¯ 218, Nick Chaney, Oak Glen, 14 of 28, 4 scores
¯ 166, Justin Hartzell, Catholic Central, 9 of 18, 2 scores
¯ 11, Devin Eakle, Indian Creek, 113, touchdown
¯ 8, John Marelli, Buckeye Local, 165, 2 touchdowns
¯ 7, Devon Eakle, Indian Creek, 66, touchdown
¯ 5, Sam Mazur, Indian Creek, 76
¯ 5, Reed Reitter, Weir High, 63, 2 touchdowns
¯ 4, Gage Patterson, Oak Glen, 101, touchdown
¯ 4, Ethan Travis, Oak Glen, 65, touchdown
¯ 4, Josh Dulesky, Buckeye Local, 48
(Note: Statistical leaders for Harrison Central and Brooke were not available by the deadline for this weekly story.)