The Red Devils used four big offensive plays and an interception return for a touchdown to come from behind for a 35-24 triumph over the host Crusaders.
This was a huge win for St. Clairsville, which hadn’t trailed all season. That thought was echoed by Red Devils head coach Brett McLean.
“Our kids played extremely hard tonight, and showed resilience after getting down early to beat a very good and well coached football team,” McLean said. “Coach Bahen does an unbelievable job at Central and I have all the respect in the world for him and his program. This win is just a credit to our players and coaches. Coach (Ryan) Clifford, Coach Giffen, Coach (Mac) McLean and Coach Frye did an outstanding job of staying calm up in the box when we got down.”
The deficit the Red Devils boss referred to was the 10-0 lead coach Greg Bahen’s Crusaders built with 3:19 to go in the first quarter.
After an outstanding St.Clairsville punt (41 yards) by senior Johnny Earliwine on its first possession, the Crusaders set up shop at their own 14. The Blue and Gold used a short pass over the middle that turned into a 77-yard gain from Brian DeFranco to Chris Gale to set up their initial score. On fourth and goal from the 2-yard line, DeFranco hit Bobby Pechtel for the first score of the night. Gianluca DiMichele’s point after attempt was true.
Following a Red Devil fumble on the ensuing kickoff, the Crusaders were awarded with great field position. After a DeFranco aerial to Pechtel covering 18 yards followed by a Justin Kaufman 17-yard scamper, the Crusaders were forced into a field goal attempt. DiMichele drilled the 29-yard attempt to give Catholic Central a 10-0 advantage.
Let the big plays begin.
St. Clairsville took over at its own 37 following the kickoff return, and needed just one play to light up the scoreboard. Kurtis Cullen took a handoff off right tackle and out raced the Crusader secondary en route to a 63-yard trip to pay dirt. J.C. Thrash added the PAT.
However, after a nifty kickoff return, the Blue and Gold answered the Devil six-pointer with an equal amount of plays. DeFranco found his favorite target Gale for a 42-yard scoring strike. DeFranco made the Devil secondary bite on a great play fake, and Gale was found running behind the secondary. DiMichele’s PAT was true ending the scoring in a wild first quarter of play.
The two schools traded missed field goals before McLean’s crew scored the lone TD in the second stanza.
After an incompletion, quarterback Anthony Vincent danced around and went up the left sideline for a 34-yard scamper. Dustin Hynes did the rest. The stud senior got his big night started with a 46-yard TD run. Thrash added the PAT drawing the Devils closer at 17-14 heading to intermission.
The Crusaders received the second half kickoff and put together a decent drive including runs of 17 and 12 respectively from Kaufman. However, the drive halted courtesy of an Earliwine sack of DeFranco for an 8-yard loss.
The Red Devils took over on their own 26 after the Crusader punt. Again, the Belmont County seat needed just one play to reach “fun zone.” Hynes was at it again and this time it was down right sideline as he ran past the secondary for a 74-yard TD. The PAT was right down the middle giving the Scarlet and Gray its first lead of the contest, 21-17.
The teams traded interceptions on the next two possessions. Junior Ryan Jarvie intercepted DeFranco, while the latter stole one from Vincent.
Coach Bahen’s bunch proceeded to mount a time eating drive that started on its own 4-yard line. On first down and 10, following a Red Devil personal foul the game changed for good. Junior Adam Shanks stepped in front of a DeFranco swing pass and sprinted down the left sideline for a Devil TD. The return covered 48 yards. The PAT was good furthering the margin to 28-17 with just under 50 seconds to go in the third chapter.
Through three quarters of play, McLean’s boys had scored three offensive TDs on five plays and one defensive six-pointer.
The “never say die” Crusaders would not quit. The 1993 Division V state champions used just five plays to cover 65 stripes for its final TD of the night. DeFranco connected with Pechtel on the second play from scrimmage and final play of the quarter for a 23-yard gain. St.Clairsville was flagged for another personal foul following the play.
The fourth quarter stated with a 14-yard jaunt by Kaufman, and two plays later Aaron Straney plunged into the end zone from a yard out. The extra point made the score 28-24 with 11:03 remaining on the game clock.
The Devils answered the score emphatically. Junior Kaz Pata returned the kickoff back to the 44-yard line. The Scarlet and Gray never had to put the ball in the air to go seven plays for the final score of the night.
“I’m just thankful we are 7-0, and everyone is healthy,” McLean extended. “This is a big win for us tonight on the road and now we have to get ready for a big game with Martins Ferry next week.”
Hynes, Vincent, and Cullen all received a piece of the pie. Hynes, who ended the night with just six totes for an astouding163 yards including three scores, ended his night by galloping 29 yards to pay dirt toward the right pylon. The PAT was true with 8:12 showing on the big board.
For the game, the visitors racked up 322 yards rushing on 31 carries. Cullen aided Hynes’ effort with 98 stripes on just 11 carries including a score while playing with an injured shoulder. Vincent finished with 51 yards on 11 totes.
The home squad pounded out 171 yards rushing on 45 totes. Kaufman led the way with 121 markers on 24 carries. DeFranco was next with 44 yards on 19 attempts.
Vincent went to air 15 times completing seven of those attempts for 84 yards including an interception. Hynes caught three pigskins for 29 yards.
DeFranco completed 14 of 24 aerials for 222 yards including 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. Gale caught three balls for 124 yards including a score. Pechtel hauled in a like amount of aerials for 43 yards and a score. Luke Nicholson had four snags for 48.
The opportunistic Red Devil defense was led by a host of characters. Earliwine owned three sacks, while senior Jake Antolak conquered one.
The visitors were guilty of three miscues, while the home team turned it over twice.
The Red Devils host Martins Ferry (5-2) in a Buckeye 8 showdown next week at the Belmont County Fairgrounds, while the Crusaders play host to Dayton Jefferson.