Two prep games set for Saturday

A pair of first-year head coaches experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat last week in their gridiron debuts.

St. John Central’s Jason Merryman was on the winning side of the ledger in his first game walking the Irish sidelines. His team prevailed, 14-6, over Bridgeport in the McDonald’s OVAC Kickoff Night opener.

The Irish host Conotton Valley Saturday at noon. The Rockets rallied past Beallsville, 32-14, last weekend.

“Confidence is important,” Merryman said. “We keep preaching that. We’ve told the kids that half of the teams in the state are 1-0, and we’re one of them.”

The Irish trailed 6-0 late in the fourth quarter when it got defensive.

Senior end Kasey Opic swiped the ball from a Bridgeport runner, returning it 25 yards to paydirt. Dario Paolina’s PAT barely slipped over the cross-bar, but it gave the Green-and-White a 7-6 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

On Bridgeport’s next possession, Alex Francis picked off a desperation pass on fourth-and-25 from the Bulldogs’ 1. He ran it back 22 yards for six points.

“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Merryman noted. “We know what we are up against, but if we cut out the penalties and mistakes, we’ll be okay.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Phil Pest’s debut as Buckeye Local head coach didn’t go as well.

The Panthers made the 2-hour-plus drive to Utica and watched the hosts return the opening kickoff en route to a 45-20 victory.

“When we watched the film we had the ball inside their 10-yard line a couple of times and didn’t score,” Pest allowed. “There were times when we shot ourselves in the foot, but we’ve had a good week of practice.”

Buckeye Local hosts Westinghouse, out of Pittsburgh, Saturday at 7 p.m.

“From what we’ve been able to see on film, they are an athletic group of kids,” Pest said of Westinghouse, which will be opening its season.

“We just need to re-focus.”

Pest said Nathan Kirk will get the nod at quarterback tonight. Chase Hopkins suffered a leg injury last week, but it expected to play Saturday.

In other action Saturday, Bellaire (1-0) hosts John Marshall (0-1) at Nelson Field in a 12:30 p.m. kickoff. Weirton Madonna and Wheeling Central collide on the Island Stadium turf at 7, while Frontier makes the long bus ride to Steubenville Central for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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