BELLAIRE - Mistakes. Mistakes. Mistakes.
St. John Central can't seem to avoid them.
The Irish (0-5) turned the ball over three times and West Virginia-ranked Clay-Battelle (4-0) made them pay to the tune of 40-6 Saturday afternoon at the sun-splashed Jr. Irish Youth Sports Complex.
ST. JOHN’S Nick Cervelli looks for somewhere to go with the ball during Saturday’s game against Clay-Battelle in Bellaire. The Irish fell to 0-5 with a 40-6 loss to the Cee-Bees.
"That's been our story all year," St. John Central first-year head coach Jeff Paolina said while shaking his head. "We came out a blazin', but we couldn't capitalize."
The Irish picked up two quick first downs on the game's opening possession, the second on an option keep left by senior quarterback Dario Paolina who advanced the ball to the Cee-Bees' 35. A pair of 2-yard runs and an incomplete pass set up a fourth-and-6, but Paolina's pass was picked off by Tanner Bragg who returned it to the Irish 35.
On first down, senior quarterback Tristan Haught dropped back and lofted the ball to the left corner of the end zone where sophomore Jarret Hockenberry was all alone for a 35-yard scoring hookup. Hunter Six booted the first of his four PATs and it was quickly 7-0.
"The kids are working hard in practice, but we've got to eliminate the mistakes," Paolina stressed.
Clay-Battelle, which was ranked 10th in the latest W.Va. SSAC Class A ratings, scored on its next five possessions of the first half in rolling to a commanding 33-0 lead at the half.
Trenton Dille sandwiched a pair of TD runs (4 and 22 yards) around a 42-yard scamper by Jacoby Steele. Haught also found Braden Barr all alone over the middle from 37 yards out.
The Cee-Bees got one more touchdown, a 34-yard jaunt by Dille, to conclude their scoring on the first drive of the third quarter.
St. John Central avoided the shutout as Nick Wilson ripped off a 67-yard run down the near sidelines late in the fourth quarter. One play later, he found his way into the end zone. The two-point run failed.
"One things that has been consistent with our kids all year is the fact that we haven't quit," Paolina added. "The scoreboard, as I just told the kids, isn't what we wanted it to be. I can continue to take the program forward and build off of kids not quitting.
"That's our theme. Give 100 percent. Play four quarters and don't quit," he continued. "If we do that, good things are going to happen."
For the game, Clay-Battelle amassed 327 yards of total offense, with 244 of that coming on the ground. Dille only carried the ball eight times but gained 99 yards and scored three TDs. Haught completed just three passes for 83 yards, but two of them were for six points each.
"They are a very good football team," Paolina said of the huge Cee-Bees. "They are the best team we've played this season. I've never seen kids the size of them in my days."
The Irish had 208 total yards, with 151 of that via the ground. Wilson had 78 yards and five carries. Paolina completed 4 of 18 passes for 57 yards, but was picked off three times. All three led directly to touchdowns.
St. John Central takes to the road Friday night when it visits the Gem City to meet Toronto at Clarke Hinkle Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.