Steubenville, St. Clairsville, and Shadyside remain alive. All three
squads will get a chance for a regional championship this weekend. Below we take a look at the Region 15, 15 and 23 finals.
The Eastern District lost three more teams last week, and only Steubenville, St. Clairsville, and Shadyside remain alive. All three squads will get a chance for a regional championship this weekend.
Big Red (12-0) will collide with Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (12-0) on Saturday night at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. Also on the Saturday card will be St. Clairsville (12-0) squaring off against unbeaten Westfall at Gahanna Lincoln Stadium and Shadyside traveling to a familiar site, New Philadelphia’s Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium, to take on Newark Catholic (10-2).
Division IV, Region 13 (Regional Final)
The colossal match up that almost everyone has been talking about since the new enrollment figures were released has arrived. It was almost inevitable that Steubenville and Mooney would meet. Most predicted it would happen in the regional final. All are correct.
However, the game did take a big hit with Mooney’s star quarterback/defensive back Dan McCarthy being unable to play due to a bad neck. Although that is a huge blow for Mooney and the game in general, the hype and excitement are still alive and well. Needless to say, Fawcett Stadium will be electric Saturday night.
Both teams are coming off victories against opponents who were minutes and even seconds away from defeating them in their regular season match ups. Mooney was down 17-0 to Akron SVSM in the fourth quarter only to score three TDs in the fourth to secure a 21-17 win. Last week, the Cardinal left no doubt with a 28-7 win. Big Red, on the other hand, knocked off Canton CC 44-29 this past Saturday in a rematch of a game they won with one tick remaining on the clock in week 9 (35-34).
Let us start with Big Red. Head coach Reno Saccoccia’s Red has won 42 consecutive games. Unreal! The Crimson and Black are the reigning back-to-back Division III state champions. Have they seen a team as good as Mooney? Only time will tell.
The marvelous sophomore quarterback Dwight “Shake-n-Bake” Macon leads Steubenville. Macon etched his name into Big Red lure in last weekend’s 44-29 regional semifinal win over Canton Central Catholic.
Macon finished with 298 yards rushing on 33 attempts with three scores and was 10 of 11 through the air for 172 yards and a touchdown.
But has coach Saccoccia stated in the Steubenville Herald-Star it’s not about any one individual.
“As a coach that wants a team effort, the name on the front of the jersey has to be bigger and more important than the name on the back of a jersey,” he said.
In all, Big Red rushed 55 times for 428 yards. Junior Branko Busick carried the ball 11 times for 98 yards and two scores, while Demetrius Brandon will be another viable option for the Red rushing game.
When Macon turns to the air he has a number of options led by senior Stevie Davis. The do-it-all Davis caught four balls last week for 118 yards. Seniors Anthony Gossett, Jeremy Banks, Josh McCloud, and Mark Markakis are also reliable candidates.
Defensive coordinator Anthony Pierro’s defense is yielding just 12.9 points per outing. Canton Central Catholic raised that averaged by almost four points by hanging a 34 and 29, respectively on the board. The high powered passing game of the Crusaders gave Big Red fits, but the Cardinals are not a passing outfit.
Davis roams the secondary and he is one of the best in the state. Busick lead the way at linebacker with seniors Rolland Owens and James Montgomery taking care of business up front.
Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, under head coach P.J. Fecko, brings to the table a vaunted running game and the best defense I’ve seen all year. The Cardinals own a 26-game winning streak along with playing in the last three Division IV State championship games (winning the title in 2004 and 2006). Mooney is 50-5 counting this year and the past three seasons. Pretty impressive against its powerful schedule.
The Cardinal running game will be without the aforementioned McCarthy, which is a huge blow on both sides of the ball. The Notre Dame recruit has churned out 1,219 yards on the ground and 15 TDs on the season, while throwing for 434 stripes and 6 TDs. His absence on defense may be felt more where he has 47 tackles and five thefts.
With all that being said, opportunity will arise for senior Tim Marlowe to take over the QB reigns. Marlowe is certainly not McCarthy, but he is a very good athlete. The downside is Marlowe is the team’s leading receiver with nine catches for 216 yards and three scores. This will not be his first action of the year as the senior has thrown a TD and taken a few snaps late in games.
The big thing is he will have some help. When Derrell Johnson-Koulianos went down with the leg injury in 2005 the Cardinals became solely Nate Burney on offense. This year the 2006 Division IV State champions have several options out of the backfield.
Brandon Beachum (Penn State) has grounded out 947 yards on 154 carries (6.3 ypc.) with 10 TDs. The 6-foot-1 and 223-pounder will step up in a big way. Another option is Michael Zordich (Penn State) who has 841 yards rushing on 101totes (8.3 ypc.) with nine trips to pay dirt. Zordich, a 6-foot-2 and 237-pound senior, is the son of former Penn State all-American and NFL product Mike Zordich. Last, but certainly not least, look for Taylor Hill to get more carries this week. The 6-foot-3 and 215-pound Oklahoma recruit has 196 yards on the ground carrying it just 38 times.
The big boys the backs will be running behind are senior tight end Mike Gemma (6’2, 207), sophomore Zach Larson (6’2, 287), senior Brian Ericsson (5’8, 195), senior Brandon Ericsson (6’1, 261), senior Brad Ericsson (5’11, 295), senior Chris Martin (6’1, 245), and junior Greg DeNiro (6’1, 294). This group isn’t as big as last season’s group, but they are more mobile.
The defense, which is second to none, is flat out the “truth.” The Cardinals have the fastest defense from top to bottom as anybody in the state. Coach Fecko’s crew will attack the ball and get into the backfield quicker than any team I’ve seen in a long time. The 11-man unit is giving up just 7.6 points per contest against some of the state’s best competition. For the season, 17 points are the most given up by the Cardinals in any one game (2 occasions).
The “D” is led by the up front play of Hill with 17 sacks and 106 tackles on the year. However, his job is a lot easier thanks to junior John Simon (6’3, 266). The junior is the most dominant football player in Ohio. If you don’t believe me, just watch him throughout the game. The opposition will sometimes use three players to try and block him. Simon is a man amongst boys no matter who the opponent. I will say it again the man-child known as John Simon is the best prospect in Ohio, and he may be the strongest high school player I’ve witnessed.
Brandon Ericsson and Gemma help out those two up front.
The linebackers are stellar as well in Beachum, Zordich, senior Vinnie Patella, and senior Matt Lyden. Patella has a great motor and makes big play after big player. He isn’t one of the big names, but at the end of the night he is a household name.
The secondary, which will be without the all-state McCarthy, is still formidable. Marlowe will be at corner and sophomore Ray Vinopal will be lurking in the secondary as well. Vinopal has great potential.
What to look for:
I know most people around the state believe McCarthy’s injury will be the great equalizer in this game, and it very well could end up that way. McCarthy’s great ball handling skills on offense will certainly be missed as he makes it very tough for the defense to recognize who has the ball. Not to mention he has great speed around the corner and the ability to always get the extra yard. Steubenville, on the other hand, is a great team that just refuses to lose. Obviously, they know how to win. The Red has an evolving star in Macon, who is going to need to be on top of his game. To me, this looks like a low scoring contest with the absence of McCarthy. I've seen both team this season, and defense is definitely going to win this game. Mooney, in my humble opinion, will make a couple big plays on defense either to set up the offense in good field position or score on its own. Look for the Cardinals to advance to the state semi-finals via 21-7 triumph.
Division IV, Region 15
It will be hard to equal the weight of the above mentioned game, but St. Clairsville and Williamsport Westfall are clashing in what could be a great football game in the region 15 championship contest.
The Red Devils enter the game coming off a 33-17 win over Licking Heights, while Westfall scored a 48-28 triumph over Waverly.
Both teams believe they own the best defense, and rightfully so with the Red Devils giving up just 10 points per outing while Westfall is yielding just 8.9 markers a night.
Both teams have very good offensive lines. However, Westfall has a notable size advantage with kids who are mobile.
Westfall comes into the game averaging 41.7 points a game (500 points), while the Red Devils are at 34.4.
St. Clairsville, who broke the school record for wins in a season last week (12), comes in with a well-balanced offense by doing nothing flashy. Last week’s stars were seniors Kurtis Cullen and Johnny Earliwine. Cullen ran for 104 yards last week, while Earliwine churned out over 70 yards, scored twice, and hauled in a screenplay covering 50 yards. Earliwine also was a stalwart on defense.
Cullen has 990 yards rushing on the year, while senior quarterback Anthony Vincent counters with 898 yards rushing and 15 scores with 1,044 yards passing with another 15 scores to just five interceptions. Senior Dustin Hynes, who may be the Devils best overall football player, has 504 yards rushing and 558 stripes receiving along with 16 overall TDs.
The Devils also have another nice weapon in senior kick J.C Thrash, who has 41 PATs on the season.
The aforementioned Earliwine leads the Devil defense, which gave up more than 300 yards on the ground last week to Licking Heights. The stud senior had nine tackled last week. Hynes helped him, as always, with eight tackles, one fumble recovery, and an interception.
Also, helping out are junior Zane Butler, junior Ryan Jarvie, senior Jake Antolak, senior Anthony Skrabak, Vincent, and Cullen.
Westfall, which racked up 603 yards last week against Waverly, was led last in last week’s victory by senior Seth Hardin’s 422 yards rushing on 38 totes with six trips to pay dirt. Yes, I said 422 yards rushing. Junior quarterback D.J. Cain, a Harvest Prep transfer, ran for 154 lightings on 18 tries.
The Mustangs, who operate out of the spread offense, usually don’t run the ball as much as they did a week ago but obviously found a few weaknesses in the Waverly defense. When Cain goes to the air the crafty junior is looking for the exception Jack Gose. The 6-foot-4 and 187 pound senior makes big plays on the outside. The four-year starter has three TDs thus far in the post season and 44 receptions for 915 yards on the year. Junior Tyler Cobb (6’3, 178) has 14 receptions for 256 yards and 10 scores.
The above mentioned offensive line consists of junior Aaron Bailey (6’3, 242), junior Mitchell Riffle (5’11, 266), senior LE Cline (5’11, 247), senior Daniel Burke (6’2, 215), senior Colton Dutcher (6’2, 342), senior Joe VanDyke (5’10, 180), and senior Stephen Dinkins (5’10, 240).
Junior Ben Cline is also an excellent return man.
The Wesfall defense, which gave up 248 yards passing and three scores to the outstanding Trevor Walls, is big, strong, and fast. The Mustangs make a ton of big plays on defense leaving opponents bewildered.
Senior Tyler Rogers (5’10, 200) will lead the Mustang defense from his linebacker spot with his 111 tackles and six quarterback sacks. Senior linebacker Philip Hartley (6’1, 207) is second on the team with 92 tackles. Cobb is also very good at backer.
Up front, senior Zane Bailey (6’1, 188) leads the team with 14 QB sacks.
In the secondary, junior Bryant Gibson is as good as they get at corner. The 5-foot-10 and 146-pounder already owns the school record for interceptions (13). The junior intercepted Walls two times last week blanketing the 6-foo-3 and 205-pound sophomore Derek Roback of Waverly. Hardin has five thefts with 44 stops.
What to look for:
Westfall is a senior dominated team that has been to the playoffs five consecutive seasons. The Mustangs, who have won 25 consecutive regular seasons games in a row, are making their first regional final appearance. The Devils will be making their third regional final appearance having won the region in 1986. Both teams are full of playmakers, good defenses, and quality personnel up front, but turnovers and penalties will be the deciding factor in this contest. In the majority of the games I’ve seen this year those two aspects have loomed large on the final tally. On paper, it appears Westfall is the better team but St.Clairsville keeps defying the odds. I could be totally wrong here, but I’m going with the Red Devils 28-27.
Division VI, Region 23
Shadyside (11-1) and Newark Catholic (10-2) have met three times in the post season all have ended in a Green Wave rout (2000, 2003, and 2005). The Green Wave have won the regional four times since the turn of the century (2000, 2002, 2003, and 2005). Shadyside owns two (2001 and 2006). Danville is the only other region 23 squad to win a regional in this century.
This time around should be no different between the two schools matching size and power versus speed and skill. All three games have been similar with the Tigers playing with the Green Wave up until the third quarter before being worn down. Will that be the case in 2007?
For Newark Catholic, it starts with all-everything running back Mark Nichols (5’11, 190). The senior, who moved to Newark from St. Louis two years ago, has 2,208 yards rushing on 264 carries (8.4 ypc.) with a mind-boggling 33 scores. The Central District Offensive Player of the Year is the real deal according to a few opposing coaches.
Aiding the running game is Aaron Shook (5’10, 195) with 91 totes for 615 stripes and eight scores. The junior is a bruising back.
Those two will be running behind an offensive line that averages 220 pounds, which is big for a Division VI outfit.
The Wave will use two quarterbacks in senior Mark Elwell (5’11, 170) and sophomore Kevin Cox (6’2, 185). Elwell is 50 of 101 on pass attempts for 716 yards, while running for 311 yards and five scores. Cox has tossed for 417 yards on 27 of 54 passing.
The main targets are senior Matt Grieb (5’11, 185) with 18 receptions for 337 yards, senior Marcus Baker (6’1, 200) who has 19 catches for 293 stripes, and senior tight end Tony Weisent (6’1, 200) with 18 snags for 285 yards.
The Green Wave defense will give up some points as it's yielding 18.3 points per 48 minutes. However, most of those points came against some good playoff teams.
Shadyside will counter with an aerial assault and adequate running game.
Three-year starter Billy Merryman at quarterback leads the Tigers. The senior has thrown for 1,985 yards and 26 TDs to just five interceptions.
Merryman has a plethora of options on the outside led by the dangerous senior Nathaniel Haney who has hauled in 23 balls for 713 yards and nine scores. The elusive Haney has produced seven scores on returns as well. Haney is the co-offensive Player of the Year in the Eastern District. Other viable options are B.A. Holloway (27 for 410 yards and 8 TDs), junior Nathan Butts (14 for 255 yards and six scores), senior Ross Palicka, and sophomore Dylan Kimble.
The running game is in good hands with senior Dustin Sadlowski and junior Johnny Merryman. Sadlowski leads the team with 864 yards and 20 TDs, while the emerging Merryman has 658 yards and eight scores.
The defense has been very good since giving up 35 points to Barnesville in week 6. The all-Ohioan Sadlowski leads the way at his linebacker spot. He is aided by Johnny Merryman and Palicka who all have over 100 tackles on the season.
What to look for:
To be honest, I see much of the same as year’s past between these two squads. Shadyside will score right with the Wave until the second half. Nichols can run around and through defenders, but I think Shook ends up being the difference maker. The Tigers don’t turn the ball over much, but they rarely have played from behind. Look for Newark Catholic to wear them down, and take the region 23 championship 42-28.
Happy Trails to:
Tri-Valley, Dover, and River.