WINTERSVILLE - St. Clairsville's offense has received a lot of attention in the first three weeks of the high school football season.
And rightly so, as the Red Devils had lit scoreboards up for 49 points an outing.
Friday night at Kettlewell Memorial Stadium, St. Clairsville could only muster 227 yards of total offense, but the Red Devils' special teams play jump-started a 48-6 rout of shell-shocked Indian Creek (3-1), and the defense forced four turnovers.
Matt Kinnicks throws a pass during Friday's game in Wintersville. The Red Devils rolled to victory.
"I think we did what we had to tonight," St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean said. "We ran the ball pretty good and we played good defense and on special teams.
"There were so many big plays on special teams early in the game that I can't keep them all clear in my head," he admitted. "But we work on them every single day in practice. We put a lot of time into them, and that's the benefit of it.
"Special teams is a huge phase of the game that can change the outcome."
Faced with a fourth-and-9 from its own 41 on the first possession of the game, McLean sent do-everything Dan Monteroso, a Boston College recruit, back in punt formation. After fielding the snap and faking the kick, the southpaw rolled to his left and found a wide-open Luke Smith for 18 yards and a first down.
Six plays later, Jaylon Brown scored the first of his two 1-yard touchdown runs when he followed the blocks of Nick VanVoltenberg and Tom Parker off the right side of the line. Zach Musilli split the uprights for a quick 7-0 lead.
"We made a call that you have to have guts to call that early in the game," McLean said of the fake punt. "If we don't make that, who knows how the game could have turned out?
"Coach Chops (Mike Jacob) designed it and he looked me in the eye, and I said 'Let's go. Let's do it,'" McLean noted. "He kind of hesitated, and I said 'Let's go. Let's do it.'"
The Redskins crossed midfield on their opening drive, but a huge 7-yard quarterback sack by Jay Gossett and an ensuing delay of game penalty forced a punt. Zach Williams' effort was blocked by Brown, who followed Michigan recruit Michael Ferns through the center of the line. Brown scooped the pigskin up at the 15 and waltzed into the end zone with a convoy of teammates.
Musilli, who converted 5 of 6 PAT kicks, made it 14-0 with 5:14 on the first quarter clock.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Red Devils' punt coverage team got into the act. Senior Justin Callarik pounced on a fumbled punt at the Indian Creek 41, but the visitors couldn't generate any movement.
A three-and-out by the Redskins gave the Red Devils the ball at the hosts' 27 after a 21-yard punt return by Monteroso. Six plays later, senior quarterback Matt Kinnick rolled to his left, tucked the ball under his wing and stepped just inside the pylon as several Redskin defenders closed in.
"You go over it (special teams) in practice. I take the blame," Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor allowed. "They got a block on us, and it was a big deal. They faked a punt on us. That falls entirely on me.
"We had a tendency in our first three games to shoot ourselves in the foot," he continued. "We were then able to overcome that. The problem is, when you're playing somebody that is a quality program like St. Clairsville, you can't do that. You can't give teams second and third opportunities, because they come back to haunt you."
Once again the St. Clairsville defense was only on the field for three plays (not counting the punt), and the offense put together its only sustained drive of the night to make it 28-0.
Brown went around left end standing up to cap a 7-play, 75-yard march. Key plays included a 28-yard quarterback draw by Kinnick on third-and-3 and a 27-yard hookup between Kinnick and Brown.
Three turnovers in the third quarter sealed Indian Creek's fate as Jerrid Marhefka picked off a pair of passes inside the 5-yard line and Colby Lindsey fell on a loose ball. Marhefka returned his second swipe 65 yards to set up a 2-play, 32-yard drive that was culminated when Ferns bulled his way over from a yard out. Brown had a run of 31 yards on the prior play.
Lindsey's fumble recovery came on Indian Creek's second snap from scrimmage, and the Red Devils wasted no time in adding to their margin.
On second-and-15, Kinnick started down the line on an option right with Brown trailing. His pitch, however, went to Monteroso on the reverse and the senior followed his blockers for a 26-yard score.
Following a 10-yard TD run by Indian Creek's Tran Hyunh on the first play of the final quarter, St. Clairsville would conclude the scoring with a 1-yard run by Malik Gummer. Haylee Skukan booted the extra-point.
The Red Devils ran the ball 33 times for 93 yards and half-a-dozen six-pointers. Included were five 1-yard scoring runs. They passed for 134 additional stripes on 10-for-18.
Indian Creek picked up 129 yards on 42 carries, but was only 4-for-16 through the air for 50 yards.
In addition to Gossett, Marhefka and Lindsey, other defensive standouts included Corey Ernest, Derek Shunk, Ferns and Smith.
St. Clairsville will face another tough Buckeye 8 matchup next week when it travels to Cadiz to meet unbeaten Harrison Central.
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