Week 5 lessons: Smash mouth football still works

ALL ALONE — Madonna’s Thomas Sessi rushes for a touchdown against Catholic Central on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — Another week of the high school football season has come and gone, and it left behind several key lessons. They are, in no particular order:

1. Old school is still cool.

Buckeye Local proved there is still room in this pass-happy age of football for some smash mouth, old-school football.

Making his first start at tailback, sophomore Trey Hoover carried the rock 33 times and gaining 202 yards, as the Panthers celebrated homecoming with their first victory of the season — a 32-14 beating of Monroe Central. Hoover scored touchdowns on runs of 5 and 54 yards.

Hoover had lined up at quarterback for Buckeye in the first four games of 2020. Senior Hayden Taylor took over under center Friday.

“We changed it up and moved Trey to tailback and put another fullback in and played some smash-mouth, old school football,” said Buckeye Local assistant coach Jim Hoover.

Trey Hoover also passed for a touchdown, finding junior Brian Palmer, Jr. in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard score. The reception placed Palmer in the Buckeye Local record books, as his 64th career catch put him in first place all-time on the school list.

The Panthers will look to keep things going this week when they host Shenandoah.

Martins Ferry also went the old-school route in earning a 36-34 victory over Harrison Central. The Purple Riders ran the football 55 times, compiling 407 yards and scoring five times. Two Ferry backs topped the 100-yard mark.

Kobe Mitchell had another strong game for the Huskies, throwing for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while running for 77 and another score. Trevor Carman caught seven Mitchell aerials while James Brooks hauled in five and Jonathon Vermillion four.

2. Balance is golden.

Toronto went on the road and earned a 26-13 victory over Campbell Memorial. The win over a Division VI opponent should help the Red Knights when coaches in Division VII, Region 27 vote to seed teams for the playoffs this week.

In improving to 2-3, Josh Franke’s club rolled up 391 yards of offense, finding a nice balance between the run (226 yards) and the pass (165).

Jojo Savage had a monster game for the winners, rushing for 108 yards on 13 carries and hauling in five passes for another 61 yards and a score. He also picked off a Campbell pass.

“He had a nice night receiving,” Franke said of Savage. “He was able to come full circle and become the Zach Stackhouse type of player we’ve been waiting for.”

Garrett Dozier ran the ball 27 times for 81 yards and a touchdown. Caleb Leasure was 9 of 14 passing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Dozier and Aiden Mick combined for 57 passing yards on two completions each.

“Caleb played really well,” Franke said. “He took care of the football. He connected with a lot of different receivers. Play action was good for us (Friday).”

Toronto will head to Steubenville Friday for a showdown against Catholic Central inside Harding Stadium. Originally, the game was to be held in Toronto but was moved to accommodate additional fans.

3. Don’t forget this phase.

As Catholic Central coach Anthony Agresta noted after his team’s tough 34-28 loss to Madonna, “there are three phases to this game — offense, defense and special teams. Special teams cost us the football game — it’s as simple as that.”

Madonna’s first score in the cross-river rivalry came when senior Lucky Pulice plucked a block punt out of the air and raced 57 yards for a touchdown. Thomas Sessi’s 5-yard touchdown run, the third Blue Don touchdown, took place after Pulice scampered 60 yards with a short Crusader punt.

“I learned the importance of special teams during my time coaching with Eric Meek,” said first-year Madonna coach Dan Rovira. “I used to not care about special teams, but he would stress the need to work on them every day because sooner or later that work pays off. It did for us tonight.”

Pulice’s two returns helped the now 2-2 Dons race out to a 22-0 first quarter lead.

Santino Arlia, Madonna’s junior quarterback, turned in another solid performance, completing 12 of his 19 passing attempts for 155 yards and two scores. Pulice finished with five receptions and one touchdown, the score that proved to be the game winner.

Rovira’s crew also ran for 84 yards, which nearly matched its total from its first three games.

After spending four weeks on the road, Madonna finally gets a home game this week, entertaining Morgantown Trinity Saturday inside Jimmy Carey Stadium. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Trinity has yet to play a game.

4. It ain’t over until…

Weir High and Central remained winless over the weekend, but both teams rallied from major early deficits.

The Red Riders trailed Marietta 29-7 at the half before scoring 27 second-half points and suffering a 36-34 road loss.

Freshman Corey Lyons collected 100 yards on the ground for Weir while senior quarterback Anthony DiMatteis threw for 211 and a pair of touchdowns. Carson Yobaggy and Gage Reitter had six catches each. Both also grabbed scoring passes.

“We are very proud of our kids,” first-year Weir coach Frank Sisinni said. “They battled, and they showed so much heart in that second half. We just can’t seem to find fourth straight quarters of football.”

The Riders will celebrate homecoming Friday when Martins Ferry invades Jimmy Carey Stadium.

As noted earlier, Central was down 22-0 after one to Madonna. The Crusaders, however, put 14 points on the board in the second period. They outscored the Blue Dons, 14-12, in the second half.

Isaiah Mullins led Central’s offense with 154 rushing yards on 23 trips. He found the end zone twice. Mullins now is the leading rusher in The Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area.

Ryan Gorman threw for 116 yards, finding Primo Toriscelli for an 11-yard score. With senior kicker Jack Rook out for the season with an injury, Agresta turned to freshman Daniel Bolster for extra point attempts. The youngster delivered, going four for four on PAT tries.


Big Red and Oak Glen will return to action this week, and both are facing difficult road tests.

Reno Saccoccia will take his 3-1 squad north on Friday to test unbeaten Austintown Fitch.

Fitch, which was ranked 11th in last week’s Ohio AP Division II poll, improved to 5-0 with a convincing 42-14 victory over Cleveland Benedictine.

In the victory, Fitch quarterback Devin Sherwood passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns. He also accounted for a score on the ground. The 6-foot-0, 185-pound junior rushed for 76 yards on 15 carries. Todd Simons was his primary target, hauling in six for 111 yards.

The 3-0 Golden Bears, the second-ranked West Virginia Class AA club, has date with Wheeling Park on the Island Friday.

Park stands at 3-1 after its 56-20 rout of Linsly. The game was the first played between the two Wheeling schools.


Running wild

202, Trey Hoover, Buckeye Local, 2 touchdowns

154, Isaiah Mullins, Catholic Central, 2 touchdowns

108, JoJo Savage, Toronto

100, Corey Lyons, Weir High, touchdown

81, Garrett Dozier, Toronto, touchdown


233, Kobe Mitchell, Harrison Central, 17 of 28, 2 scores

211, Anthony DiMatteis, Weir High, 15 of 20, 2 scores

155, Santino Arlia, Madonna, 12 of 19, 2 scores

116, Ryan Gorman, Catholic Central, 9 of 15, score

110, Logan Gaschler, Brooke, 6 of 11, score

108, Caleb Leasure, Toronto, 9 of 14, 2 scores

Hands team

7, Trevor Carman, Harrison Central, 90, touchdown

6, Carson Yobaggy, Weir High, touchdown

6, Gage Reitter, Weir High, 86, touchdown

5, James Brooks, Harrison Central, 75

5, JoJo Savage, Toronto, 61, touchdown

5, Lucky Pulice, Madonna, 39, touchdown

4, Jonathon Vermillion, Harrison Central, 64, touchdown

4, Aaron Scipio, Brooke 41

4, Sam Coleman, Indian Creek, 40


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