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Big Red returns home

Steubenville prepares for first of two contests at Harding Stadium

RETURNING - Brandon Kinney and the Steubenville football team welcome Dover to Harding Stadium for a Friday night contest. -Erik Vargo/Tribune Chronicle

STEUBENVILLE–Veteran Big Red coach Reno Saccoccia does not pull any punches when it comes to voicing his respect for the Dover football program.

“I have the most respect for Dover than anyone we have played since I have been here,” he said. “That respect comes for three reasons.

“First, Dover is consistently good. Two, they did not invent the passing game but they have perfected it to fit the talents of their players. No. 3, coach (Dan) Ifft has taken the program to the next level.”

Dover will visit Harding Stadium Friday for the 24th all-time meeting between the schools, with Big Red holding an 18-4-1 series lead. The kick is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Both teams recorded opening week victories — Dover knocking off Louisville, 19-10, while Big Red dominated Cardinal Mooney, 40-13, inside rain-soaked Stambaugh Stadium.

Ayden Hall, a 6-3, 175-pound junior, directs the offensive attack for Ifft, who is in his 26th season as the Dover coach. Hall earned third-team All-Ohio honors as a sophomore after throwing for 2,409 yards and 27 touchdowns. He completed 65 percent of his passes.

Against Louisville, Hall was 10 of 21 for 144 yards and two scores. He also ran for a touchdown.

His favorite target is senior wideout Nathan Ravine (5-11, 175). As a junior, Ravine hauled in 81 passes for 1,204 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was a first-team All-Ohio selection and caught six balls in the opener for 112 yards and two six-pointers.

Senior Evan Klar (5-10, 150) also is a receiving threat for the Tornadoes, who went 7-4 a season ago and captured the East Central Ohio League Scarlet Division championship.

Dover also boasts a potent running back this season in senior Jacob Hostetler (5-8, 185). He topped the 100-yard mark in the season opener.

“They have a great quarterback in Hall and two good receivers,” Saccoccia said. “One (Ravine) is really, really good. We will need to know where he is at all times Friday.

“The big thing I noticed from watching film against Louisville is they ran the football. That definitely will put more pressure on our defense. When an offense is balanced like that, your defense has to worry about the box as much as the perimeter.”

Ifft has some nice size up front in Ryan McVicker (6-2, 275), Tyler Little (5-11, 210) and Michael Beal (6-4, 220).

“After playing our opener on the road, it’s going to be great to play a home game,” Saccoccia said. “We’ll definitely have our hands full with a talented, very well-coached team. It’s going to be a test.”

In rolling past Cardinal Mooney, Big Red compiled 343 yards of offense (260 coming on the ground), while allowing 212 (90 of those yards came on one play).

Junior tailback Rodney James paced Big Red’s ground game with 115 yards on 24 trips. He also scored two touchdowns. Sophomore Spencer Ostovich added 77 and scored on a 61-yard sprint.

Senior quarterback Cade Kernahan completed 8 of his 18 passing attempts for 80 yards and two scores. Senior Aaron Ferguson and junior Brandon Kinney were on the receiving end of Kernahan’s scoring tosses.

“I was very proud of the way our kids competed against Mooney,” Saccoccia said. “I also was proud of the way our players, coaches and fans adhered to the safety precautions that are necessary to keep us playing.

“Offensively, I thought we took advantage of the opportunities presented by our defense and special teams. In addition, we were able to maintain long drives when we needed them.”

Sophomore linebacker Kyjhaun Hopkins led Big Red’s defense with 12 tackles (two resulted in losses). Kinney and junior Niko Suriano had nine each. Suriano also recovered a fumble that led to a Steubenville touchdown.

Junior Brenton Jones delivered an interception, while junior Nathanial King recorded two sacks. Ostovich, James and senior Isaiah McCartney had a sack apiece.

“Defensively, I was proud of the way our guys got to the football,” Saccoccia said. “We played as a team and we played with enthusiasm. I thought our special teams did an outstanding job of keeping us in good field position. We played pretty well in all three phases.”

Ae he looks forward to Week 2, Saccoccia knows his Big Red still must work hard and keep improving.

“Good teams try to maintain their play and preparation,” he said. “Great teams focus, work hard and come out to improve the next week. So, we’ll find out whether we want to be a good team or a great team.”

The Dover game is just one of two home contests on Steubenville’s regular-season schedule. Big Red will entertain Linsly before traveling to New Philadelphia, Wheeling Park and Austintown Fitch.

“I believe our schedule is going to prepare us for the playoffs,” Saccoccia said. “It’s not that we are looking forward to the players, but we know we are in because everyone is in.

“The six teams we have on our schedule will be very good in preparing us for whoever we see in the first round of the playoffs.”

BIG RED NOTES

• Saccoccia was extremely happy with the praise Big Red and its fans received early this week from Erin Bishop, the Youngstown health commissioner. During a call with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and health department leaders from across the state, Bishop complimented Steubenville’s fan base on its compliance with wearing masks as guests in Youngstown State’s stadium Friday. Bishop noted Steubenville played by the rules and set an example for kids of “Masks On, Game On.” She thanked Big Red supporters for “being such a gracious fan base to understand the challenges that public health teams are facing this year.”

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