Devils keep rolling

CADIZ – It didn’t take Harrison Central long to show St. Clairsville it had come to play Friday night.

It took the Red Devils even less time to show that they were there for the long haul, too.

After falling behind 6-0 less than 90 seconds into the game, the Red Devils proceeded to reel off the final 42 to cruise to 5-0 and retain ownership of the ‘Coal Bucket.’

“They’re a heck of a football team,” said Huskies’ head coach Justin Kropka. “St. Clairsville has good players everywhere, and I’ve been saying all week that I’ve not seen this much talent on one team, at one time, for any Buckeye 8 team since I’ve been coaching here.”

The Red Devils, who’ve been as impressive defensively as they’ve been offensively all season, got caught a little bit out of position, according to Brett McLean, and the Huskies made them pay when Rashaen Mitchell found Nate Olmstead on a 77-yard pitch and catch.

“That was a good play by them, obviously they saw something and the quarterback made a nice read and throw,” McLean said. “The best thing about it was we didn’t panic. We stayed calm, which is what you get when you’ve got seniors and veteran players. We knew we’d fight back.”

It didn’t take the Red Devils long to begin the fight.

Actually, it took 94 seconds before senior quarterback Matt Kinnick found classmate Jerrid Marhefka on a 15-yard scoring strike. Junior kicker Zach Musilli was true on the first of his six PAT kicks, giving St. C. the lead.

The scoring play might not have been the play to set the trend for the Red Devils, actually. On the second play from scrimmage, junior speedster Jaylon Brown took the handoff, burst up the middle, cut to his left and was off for a 48-yard gain.

The Red Devils came into the game knowing they wanted to get Brown involved early and often.

“Jaylon Brown had the night we wanted him to have,” McLean said. “I don’t know if he had a point to prove, but he wanted to put his name on the map statistically. He needed to have a break-out night, like tonight, with the yardage. You can really open other things up when you’re capable of running the ball like we did tonight.”

Brown carried the ball only14 times, but he made the most of them. He averaged 15 yards a carry, finishing with 210 stripes and he scored three times. His scoring runs covered 7, 34 and 27 yards. The final was a highlight reel run. Brown appeared to be stopped for a loss, but broke three tackles, cut back, hurdled a Huskie and took it the rest of the way.

With the game still 7-6, Harrison Central hopped on a St. C. fumble deep in its own territory.

Working basically strictly on the ground, the Huskies moved to the Red Devils’ 9 with a first down in 13 plays. The next four plays, however, netted the Huskies a negative 23 yards, including a 22-yard sack of Mitchell by Derek Shunk.

“We had it rolling, but just couldn’t score and that really hurt us,” Kropka said. “Against St. Clairsville, little things become big things. I’ve said all along, ‘St. Clairsville’s defense is extremely underrated.'”

The Devils made the Huskies pay with one of those aforementioned Brown touchdown dashes.

Just before halftime, Kropka admittedly “got a little greedy” because he knew the Red Devils were receiving the second half kickoff.

A Mitchell pass was picked off by senior Dan Monteroso. The Boston College recruit took it back 70 yards for the touchdown as he weaved his way through several Huskies and delivered a stiff-arm to the final would-be tackler.

“I knew we’d have trouble stopping them, so I went deep,” Kropka said. “Monteroso made a hell of a play and returned it on us.”

St. Clairsville closed the scoring in the second half with a Kinnick 1-yard plunge and Brown’s impressive final scoring jaunt.

“Our athletes made big plays when we needed them tonight,” McLean said. “I think the first couple of quarters were great for both teams because both teams are going to be in the postseason when this thing is said and done. It was physical, but I can’t be prouder of our kids. This is a good win on the road against a quality team.”

Kinnick, who is still yet to be picked off this season, completed 7-of-9 passes for 137 yards and the touchdown. Monteroso caught three balls for 57, while Marhefka hauled in three for 54.

The Red Devils’ defense limited the Huskies’ running attack to 119 yards. Senior tailback Maurtice Hython was held in check by his standards. He carried 24 times for 90 yards.

Mitchell finished 6-of-12 through the air for 128 yards. Olmstead caught two balls for 89 yards.

St. C.’s defense was once again led by Luke Smith, Michael Ferns, Cole Stephen, Shunk, Marhefka and a gutsy effort from Corey Ernest, who left injured early in the game, but came back and played admirably along both lines.