Crusaders looking for first home win

OUT IN FRONT — Jeffrey Dawson and Catholic Central welcome Huron Heights to Harding Stadium on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — Coach Al Rover and his Huron Heights football team are excited about their first visit to Ohio for Saturday’s noon contest with Catholic Central.

“We are really looking forward to the trip,” Rover said earlier this week. “It’s the first time our program has traveled to the U.S. for a game. I have been reading Paul Brown’s biography and have come to realize how much of football’s history is connected to Ohio.”

Huron Heights, based in Newmarket, Ontario, and considered a Division II school by Ohio enrollment standards, will bring a 3-2 mark to Harding Stadium. The Warriors own two victories over St. Marcellinus, based in Ontario, and also defeated St. Andrew’s College, another Ontario school. Losses have come to St. Michael’s College and London Catholic Central, which also are situated in Ontario.

“We’ll be leaving Ontario at 8:30 a.m., and we expect the trip to take seven hours,” Rover said. “Our plan is to watch the Steubenville game Friday night.”

Steve Daley’s Crusaders stand at 5-2 and still are looking for their initial home win of the season, following last week’s 31-14 loss to unbeaten Wheeling Central.

“They’re big on paper, and they’re big on film,” Daley said about the Warriors. That’s definitely one area of concern for us.

“The hardest thing for us watching them on film is trying to determine who is not going to be on the field. On film, they’re playing 12-man football and, naturally, they will be playing 11 men down here. One of the biggest challenges both offensively and defensively is figuring out who is their extra guy.”

Until this season, Huron Heights was a member of the York Region Athletic Association and strung together 14 consecutive championship game appearances. Following the 2017 campaign, however, the region’s remaining football program voted to adopt a 9-on-9 format in a bid to keep football alive in its schools. The shift left Huron Heights as the lone 12-player format club.

The Warriors managed to cobble together an independent schedule that features the trip to Steubenville, a visit to Maryland, along with five games against Ontario private schools and other traditionally strong Ontario high schools.

“Our schedule is the toughest I can remember with several challenging out-of-conference matchups,” Rover said. “Our record stands at 3-2, and the two games we lost were by less than four points.”

Senior Kaleb Scott directs the Huron Heights offense and leads the team in touchdowns. He is joined in the backfield by Noah Jacka, Julian Curia and Mike Gray. Caleb Daher also will get some carries.

“They run an offense very similar to the one Army runs,” Daley said. “Their quarterback is under center on every play, and they’ll bring a wing in motion. They run the triple option, and they do it pretty well. They’re going to run the ball 93 percent of the time, at least that’s what they have done through five games. What we see on their stats is 17 passing attempts in five games, so they want to run the ball.

“We want to run the ball also, so this game could be a quick one. We have to focus on stopping their run game, obviously. It would be an advantage for us to get up a couple of scores early and put them in a situation where they have to play catch up. At some point, you can’t continue to run the ball when you are behind.”

Leading the way up front for the Warriors are Alexander DesOrmeaux, Conner Franzisi and Matthew Whistance-Smith.

“There’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period early in the game,” Daley said. “We know they are good, and we know what they have done in the past as far as the York region goes. They were one of the top teams in that region if not the top team. You’re not sure what the talent level is, but they have been successful and they know how to win.

“We have to play well in order to have a chance. This is a huge game for us if we want to get to Week 11. It counts as Division II points, and they could pick up some more wins in the next couple of weeks. Our kids know that. They’ll be excited about playing against their first American team. Hopefully, while they are getting familiar with the surroundings, getting used to playing an American team and the rules, we can get out to a lead and make things more comfortable on our end.”

Central currently is 10th in the Division VI, Region 21 computer standings.

Through seven games, the Crusaders are averaging 368 yards of offense (271 coming on the ground) and 30 points per game. The defense is allowing an average of 268 yards and 18 points.

Justin Hartzell leads Central’s ground attack, with 769 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jayden Keeder has run for 459 yards and Jeffrey Dawson 278. Hartzell has thrown for 676 yards and seven scores. Anthony Fallon has 11 receptions and Noah Fayak nine.

“The Crusaders are an excellent football team,” Rover said. “We have exchanged films with the Central coaching staff and are doing our best to prep for the game. We are excited about playing in Harding Stadium, one of the top high school stadiums in the U.S.”