This was a huge game for head coach Brett McLean and his undefeated Red Devils after being drilled by the Riders last year, 47-7.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say it was big for us, but they are all big and you can’t afford to trip up and lose one or two for the playoff standings and the conference,” McClain explained. “The Buckeye 8 has brought big atmospheres and every team is tough, so we have to bring our ‘A’ game each week.”
The Red Devils (8-0) used a smothering defense, and a big play offense to score 34 unanswered points to pull away after an early 7-6 lead to leave Martins Ferry head coach Dave Bruney in awe.
“They have a senior dominated skill package, and they performed the way you expect your senior players to perform with talent,” Bruney stated. “They did a great job. You just can’t give up big plays like that and expect to stay in the game very long. Their offensive is a lot better this year than it was this time last year. Again, they have some good seniors up front, but also have some young kids playing well.”
The game started out in Ferry’s favor with the visitors controlling the ball for 12 plays on the opening possession, but eventually turned the rock over on downs. The drive was halted thanks in part to junior Zane Butler who came up with a sack of Rider quarterback Derek Edwards for a 9-yard loss.
However, St. Clairsville turned it over on their first offensive play of the game. Quarterback Anthony Vincent connected with Dustin Hynes, but the ball was fumbled and recovered by the Riders on the Red Devil 31-yard line.
Penalties and another Butler sack forced Coach Bruney’s squad to give the ball up once again.
“When you get opportunities you have to score, in particular, against good teams or they will make you pay for it,” Bruney relayed.
The Scarlet and Gray set up shop at its own 40-yard line, and used just six plays to reach pay dirt for the first score of the game. After a holding call put the Devils in a hole, senior Kurtis Cullen chiseled off a 12-yard run followed by a 48-yard burst from Hynes down the right sideline. From there, Vincent scampered into the end zone from four yards out with 21 seconds remaining in the first chapter. J.C. Thrash added the PAT.
The Riders responded with their own beneficial drive. The Purple marched 78 yards on nine plays to get on the board. The big play of the drive came on a 34-yard run by sophomore Pat Allen. The talented tailback started right and reversed his field proceeding to jaunt down the left sideline. A personal foul penalty was issued to the Devils at the end of the run. Later in the drive Edwards found junior fullback Matt Shreve for a 10-yard pick up, and Rawn Driver finished off the march with a 1-yard plunge for six. The point after failed, which gave St. Clairsville a slim 7-6 advantage with 9:08 remaining in the half.
Coach Brett McLean’s boys answered right back in emphatic fashion by rolling 77 yards in just six tries. Vincent got things going with a 26-yard quarterback keeper. After an incompletion, Hynes rolled off a 10-yard run and Cullen followed up with a 21-yard run while running over a Ferry defensive back. Vincent sealed the deal with a 9-yard run and a 10-yard ride to “fun zone.” Thrash was true on the extra point.
Following a Rider punt, the Devils took over on their own 29-yard line. The drive looked to be headed towards disaster on the initial play. Vincent optioned left, but the pitch to Hynes was off the mark and forced the latter to fall on the ball for a 10-yard loss. Vincent was dropped for a 5-yard loss on the next play setting up a 3rd down and 25 for St. Clairsville. However, the Riders decided to man up with no free safety on 3rd down and Vincent found his favorite target (Hynes) open across the middle in what turned into an 85-yard six-pointer. The point after split the up rights to close out the first half scoring.
The Scarlet and Gray received the second half kickoff and set out to make a statement to the visitors as to why they are unbeaten. Following four running plays and an incompletion, Vincent found junior Adam Shanks behind the defense for a 50-yard score. The pass went by three Rider defenders and was tipped by the first before reaching the hands of Shanks. The point after made the score 28-6 with 9:14 to play in the third quarter.
The youthful Riders went three and out on their next possession, which included Butler’s third sack of the evening.
Behind a powerful offensive line, led by senior tackles Jake Antolak and Anthony Skrabak, McLean’s outfit used just five running plays to travel 43 yards for another tally. Cullen rolled up a bruising 34-yard run, and followed up with a pair of 1-yard runs to hit pay dirt. The kick failed leaving the score at 34-6 with 4:53 remaining in the third stanza.
“They are starting to gel real nice, and in practice they are making line calls and we are confident with them doing that in games,” McClain said. “They are going to be a hard group to replace, and I’m starting to get choked up already knowing they only have two regular season games left. I love these kids a lot, and I hope these younger kids are paying attention to detail as to what these older kids are doing because that is how the program is going to continue to move forward.”
Ferry picked up a first down on its next opportunity, but the drive was again sputtered resulting in yet another punt.
St. Clairsville wasn’t done. The Red Devils, mixing in a plethora of younger players, used 12 plays to stomp 77 yards. The drive started with 2:18 to go in the third and ended with a Jeffery Fisher 15-yard TD run 7:07 remaining in the game. The junior had two carries on the drive for 28 stripes. The PAT was true giving the Devils a 41-6 lead.
The Riders closed out the scoring on the night with junior Marquis Bass rumbling into the end zone from five yards out. Bass also ran in the 2-point conversion.
For the game, the Devils grounded out 275 yards rushing on 37 carries. Cullen led the way with seven carries for 71 yards. Hynes finished another big night with 64 markers on seven totes, while Vincent ended with 10 carries for 59 yards.
The Devil ground game was aided by gaping holes produced by a very good offensive line. The aforementioned Antolak and Skrabak along with senior Cody McKeever, and sophomores Matt Shutek and Trenton Soukup paved the way all night for the outstanding Devil rushing attack.
“We got big plays tonight, but you feel more confident when you drive up and down the field. Hey, big plays are good as well,” McClain joked.
The Riders were led on the ground by Allen with 73 yards on eight tries. Driver had 10 yards on 12 attempts, while Edwards finished with just 5 yards on 10 tries.
Through the air, Vincent completed 3 of 5 aerials for 151 yards and two scores to nary an interception. Hynes snared two balls for 101 yards and a score, while Shanks hauled in one pass for 50 yards and a six-pointer.
For the visitors, Edwards finished 6 of 9 for 44 yards and an interception. Senior Chase Tucker caught three pigskins for 22 yards.
The Red Devil defense was once again lights out making it virtually impossible for the opposing team to get much going. The Belmont Count seat received three sacks from Butler, and one by Antolak. Other big contributors were senior Johnny Earliwine, Shanks, Cullen, Jarvie, and Hynes.
“We have to continue to stay humble, but the kids are doing their job on defense and that is all we can ask of them,” McClain expressed. “We have to continue to stay focused, and that is what we have done all season so I don’t see any reason why that would change.”
The home team was guilty of two miscues (both fumbles), while the visitors had a like amount of giveaways.
Junior Ryan Jarvie intercepted a Ferry aerial, while sophomore T.J. Knight recovered a fumble for the winners.
-Martins Ferry was without five starters due to injury. Junior Standout Jeremy Murray along with junior Cheyne Forte, junior Brandon Leonard, and seniors Ben Hores and Steve McIntosh. The injury bug continued as junior lineman Jared Hanson left the game early.
-The Devils were without two-way starter junior Brody Call.
-This is the first St.Clairsville senior class to defeat the Purple two times in their career while in high school since the 1991 senior class (won the 1987 and 1990 games). The last senior class to be part of two varsity squads to beat Ferry was the 1989 graduating class (1986 and 1987 games). In all, the 1989 class was a part of three wins over Coach Bruney and his teams, including the 1985 game.