No letup in the Buckeye 8 as St. C. prepares to host Bellaire Friday

For the first time this season, the Bellaire Big Reds are in bounce-back mode.

After dropping a tough 28-0 reversal to Indian Creek last Saturday, the Big Reds didn’t have much time to hang their heads because the challenge is getting even bigger this week.

Bellaire will trek to the Belmont County Seat Friday evening to tangle with powerful and undefeated St. Clairsville on Homecoming at Red Devils Stadium.

“We had a lot of missed opportunities against Indian Creek and we certainly won’t be able to afford that this week if we hope to win,” Davis said.

“I could see a lot of hurt and anger in the lockerroom after the game because we lost. These kids aren’t accepting losing, which in the bigger picture, shows that what we’re doing as a team, staff and community is working and things are changing for the good.”

While the Big Reds couldn’t get to 5-0, the Red Devils reached the midway point unscathed in impressive fashion last Friday, scoring 42 unanswered in blowing out Harrison Central.

“I was proud of how our kids reacted to (Harrison Central’s) score,” said St. C. head coach Brett McLean. “We dealt with some injuries, but there was no panic from our kids. We told the kids there were going to be more than six points scored in the game, and since we’ve got so many veteran players on the team, they realized it’s a four-quarter game.”

This week will mark Bellaire’s first Friday night game of the season and is its first road trip since week one’s jaunt to Steubenville Central.

On the flipside, this is just St. Clairsville’s second home game and first on a Friday night.

“Thank God!,” McLean said when asked about playing at home. “We’ve teased our kids about being road warriors. They’re eager to play at home and we’re glad to be there. We know both teams’ fans will come out and it should be a great atmosphere.”

Along with repairing the psyche of their players, Davis and his staff are the latest coaching staff trying to develop a plan to slow down the high-octane Red Devils who are scoring at a 47.4 points per game clip and have an abundance of weapons.

“St. Clairsville has a lot of athletes running around out there making plays,” Davis said. “We can’t make the same mistakes we did (against Indian Creek) or it could be double or triple the score because St. Clairsville is that good. We really have to be solid in all phases.”

The Red Devils’ offense is triggered by senior quarterback Matt Kinnick, who has passed for 808 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s yet to be picked off this season.

Junior speedster Jaylon Brown is the Devils’ leading rusher with 542 yards and 10 touchdowns on 64 carries.

Seniors Dan Monteroso (16-372-7td) and Jerrid Marhefka (7-105-td) are the top receivers. Junior Michael Ferns is a factor in both the ground and passing game.

“Bellaire’s defense is underrated in our opinion,” McLean said. “Seeing that they held Indian Creek for seven points for three quarters was impressive. They’re sort of like us because the offense can strike quickly and it puts the defense on the field for longer periods of time.”

The Bellaire offense has been potent as well with junior quarterback Spencer Badia igniting the Big Reds.

He’s passed for 1,283 yards and 11 touchdowns already. He’s been picked off just six times despite throwing it 174 times.

He’s utilized a plethora of targets, but junior Nick Patrone leads the way with 32 catches for 477 yards and three scores. Quinton Crosby (12-223-2td), Kenny Hess (16-180-2td) and Hunter Westlake (11-228-3td) are also solid targets.

On the ground, the Big Reds feature Nick Maffe, who’s accumulated 250 yards and five touchdowns.

“Badia is one of the better quarterbacks around and he’s got a wide variety of kids he can throw the ball to,” McLean said. “Our defense has played well and we’ll need another strong effort this week. The games just continue to get tougher and tougher, so we need a good week of practice and come out ready to play Friday.”

The Red Devils’ defense is led by Luke Smith, Corey Ernest, Ferns, Derek Shunk, Cole Stephen, Marhefka and Monteroso.

“It’s a lot of the same athletes on defense,” Davis noted. “They’ve got athletic ability all over the field, but I really think Cory Ernest is the guy who makes it go because he really bottles up the middle and the other guys can run around and make plays.”

Kickoff is 7:30 and, along with Homecoming, it’s also the Tiger Flowers Memorial Game.