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CCHS prepping to face ‘toughest’ opponent

Crusaders set to host 3-1 Barnesville in key homecoming game

UP TO THE TASK — Nico Petrella and the Catholic Central football team face a tough task on Saturday night when they welcome 3-1 Barnesville to Harding Stadium. -- Micheal D. McElwain

STEUBENVILLE — Catholic Central will open the second half of its 2021 season by facing what coach Anthony Agresta considers “the best team on our schedule.”

Barnesville’s talented Shamrocks will bring a 3-1 record to Harding Stadium Saturday for the ninth all-time meeting between the schools. Central leads the series 6-2. The teams last met in 2018, the Crusaders earning a 28-20 victory.

The kick is set for 7 p.m.

Central, 2-3, is coming off a 36-6 Week 5 loss to unbeaten Windham while Barnesville rallied for a 41-21 triumph over River.

“Barnesville is the best team on our schedule — that’s how I look at it,” Agresta said. “They are well balanced and just a good football team.

“We were all disappointed, the coaching staff and our kids, with how we performed against Windham. There were some fundamental things that we worked on all week in practice that we did not execute, especially early. As the game went along, we started to do the things we worked on. And now, as God will have it, you have to follow that up by having to play the toughest opponent on the schedule.

“This is going to test us — it’s going to test who we are.”

The Shamrocks trailed River 21-20 after a back-and-forth first half last week. They stepped up on both sides of the ball to earn the 41-21 win.

Owyn Wise, a senior, had a big night for Barnesville, rushing for 143 yards, 98 coming in the second half. He had a 6-yard scoring run in the third quarter.

Another senior, Spencer Bliss, recorded a rare TD triple in the contest. Bliss scored on a 2-yard run, a 58-yard reception and an 82-yard kickoff return

“Spencer is our playmaker,” said Barnesville coach Blake Allen.

Bliss finished the game with seven receptions for 170 yards. He had a pair of rushes for 19 and even threw a 24-yard pass.

The catalyst for Barnesville was quarterback C.J. Hannahs. The junior completed nine passes for 249 yards and two scores. He connected with senior Chase Connor on a 66-yard pitch-and-catch.

“They are just a solid football team,” Agresta said about the Shamrocks. “They have size up front and they have kids at the skilled positions who can make plays. The quarterback is a good decision maker — he completes the passes he needs for them.

“Barnesville has been a solid program for a long, long time. We respect them and we are going to be challenged as a football team and challenged as individuals to see how we bounce back from a disappointing performance.”

Up front, Barnesville is led by senior two-way lineman Gavin Carpenter and Jadyn Lucas also a two-way senior performer. A third senior lineman, Avery Clouse.

In addition to the win over River, the Shamrocks, who went 6-3 a season ago and lost to Fort Frye in the regional semifinals, have defeated Buckeye Local (17-14) and Buckeye Trail (27-20). The lone blemish is a 35-14 loss to unbeaten Shadyside. Barnesville currently is ranked seventh in the Division VI, Region 23 standings.

Despite the loss to Windham, Central remains in the hunt for a berth in the Division VII, Region 25 playoffs. Currently, the Crusaders are 18th (16 teams from each region will advance to the post-season.)

“When we looked at the film, it was more missed assignments and us being undisciplined than it was Windham’s physicality,” Agresta said. “Don’t get me wrong, Windham came in and they were very physical and a good football team.

“It is hard to be physical on your end when you are not lined up appropriately and you are not following through with your assignments. It is tough to be physical at that point. I think we would have matched their physicality if we had been a little more disciplined early in the game.”

Through five games, Central’s offense is averaging 216 yards and 16 points. The defense is allowing 21 points an outing.

Junior quarterback Andrew Dorsey has thrown for 369 yards and two touchdowns. He’s completed 35 of his 65 passing attempts.

Sophomore Tyler Ialenti is Dorsey’s top receiver with 11 catches for 130 yards and a score. Freshman Tommy Pergi has eight receptions and junior Nico Petrella five.

Dorsey is the team’s leading rusher with 321 yards on 68 trips. Junior Dashon Seditz has collected 214 yards on 66 carries. He has scored four times.

As he looks forward to Saturday, Agresta has his squad focused on two areas.

“There is no high school team in the world that is going to win any football game if alignment- and assignment-wise you don’t do what you need to do,” Agresta said. “Those things will be our focus this week.”

Health wise, Agresta said his Crusaders are in fairly good shape.

Junior Tate McKenna, a three-year starter along the offensive line, may rejoin the lineup after missing the Windham game.

Saturday’s contest will mark the end of a five-game home stretch for the Crusaders. They will travel to Conotton Valley on Oct. 1 before entertaining Millersport Oct. 9. Central’s final two games are at Madonna and Toronto.

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