AUSTINTOWN – In Week 9 of the regular season, Steubenville and Canton Central Catholic played a 35-34 classic, which the Big Red won. Not many expected the Division IV, Region 13 semifinal rematch to live up to first meeting, but the two teams put on another spectacular show that ended with another Steubenville victory Saturday, this time 44-29.
The win was the Big Red’s 42nd consecutive.
Combined, the two teams accounted for 73 points, 971 yards of offense, and only three punts. In a night of big performances, the biggest came from a quarterback who just turned 15 years old. Sophomore Dwight Macon of Steubenville accounted for 462 yards of offense alone. He was 9-of-10 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed 33 times for 296 yards and three scores.
Crusader head coach Lowell Klinefelter felt his team had no answer for Macon.
“He’s a sweet player – very tough for us to handle,” said Klinefelter. “He’s fast, he’s strong, and they were making huge holes for him.”
Meanwhile Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia didn’t want to single Macon out.
“We don’t talk about individuals, we talk about a team,” Saccoccia said.
Unfortunately, Macon’s big night was nearly over shadowed by a couple controversial plays. The first came in the third quarter when a deep pass by Macon to Steve Davis appeared to be intercepted by Max Colaner of Central Catholic. However, officials ruled that Davis and Colaner had duel possession and resulted in a 34-yard Big Red completion that led to a go-ahead score.
After the game, Klinefelter was still surprised by the call that was made.
“I can’t believe that call,” Klinefelter said. “I’ve never made a remark about officials and I won’t start now.”
Although that play seemed to turn momentum towards to the Big Red, Klinefelter refused to use that as an excuse for the defeat.
“We had our chances, but had one interception deep and a holding call that took back a big play,” Klinefelter said. “But they just beat us up front all night and we couldn’t stop them at all.”
The second controversial play occurred midway through the fourth quarter, after the Crusaders made it a one score game on a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Joey Rhoads. After Rhoads appeared to be well in the end zone, he was hit hard by a Big Red defender but no penalty was called on the play. Rhoads lay on the ground for several minutes before being helped to the sideline. Both coaches declined to comment on play after the game.
Before Rhoads went out, he led the Crusader attack going 9-for-15 passing for 217 yards, throwing for three touchdowns and one interception.
Central Catholic got the fireworks started early on the night. On the first play from scrimmage Rhoads hooked up with Chris Andes on a 62-yard touchdown pass that severed as only the beginning to a wild offensive night.
Steubenville answered the quick Crusader strike with an 11-play, 73-yard march down the field. The drive was saved by the legs of Macon, who while facing a third down and 16, broke off a 25-yard run to the 15 yard line. Three plays later Macon finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge giving Big Red a 7-6 lead.
After holding Central Catholic on their next possession, Steubenville put together a quick four-play, 54-yard drive ending in a Bronko Busick 3-yard touchdown run. Busick ended the night with 101 yards on 18 carries.
With the score at 13-9, both teams swapped the lead back and fourth for the remainder of the first half. The only thing that stopped Big Red on the night was fumbles. Macon, after a 48-yard run, fumbled the ball at the end of the play and Central Catholic recovered on its own 14 yard line.
The Crusaders made Big Red pay on the very next play, as again Rhoads hooked up with Andes, this time for an 86-yard touchdown pass giving the Crusaders a 16-13 lead. After each teams then exchanged touchdowns, Central Catholic went into the break with a 23-19 lead.
Steubenville stepped it up in the second half scoring the next 18 points on two touchdowns and a safety after a bad snap for Central Catholic went out of the end zone.
Rhoads’ touchdown run cut the lead to 37-29 late in the game, but Steubenville put the game away with a 68-yard drive that Macon iced with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Central Catholic ends its season with a 10-2 record, both losses coming at the hands of Big Red.
Steubenville advances to an epic – and much anticipated – clash with nationally ranked Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (26 game winning streak) in the regional final next Saturday at a site to be determined.