St. Clairsville rolls past Harrison Central

St. Clairsville doesn’t hesitate to talk about its goal.

The Red Devils have visions of playing football in Week 15, which would occur on the last Friday of this month in Canton in the Division IV state championship game.

They’ve now successfully passed the 11th hurdle along the way after opening the Division IV, Region 15 playoffs in grand fashion, handing eighth-seeded Harrison Central a decisive 41-6 setback at chilly Red Devil Stadium Friday night.

“I was more nervous about this game than any we’ve played this season,” said Devils head coach Brett McLean. “I have great respect for Harrison Central’s team and coaches. To have a great season and draw a conference foe right out of the gate is tough, but our kids handled it well.”

The victory sends the Red Devils to next Friday’s regional semifinal affair against fifth-seeded Piketon at a site that will be announced Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

“I know a little bit about Piketon and have seen what we could find on the Internet and whatnot,” McLean said. “I know they spread it out and throw the ball to a degree, so it’ll be two similar teams running similar offenses. It should be fun.”

While the Red Devils are still practicing football, Huskies’ head coach Justin Kropka bid his team and highly successful senior class good bye with a strong 7-4 record.

“I’ve watched these kids grow up,” Kropka said of his seniors, who were freshmen the last time the Huskies qualified for the postseason. “These kids have been coming to our little kids camp since they were probably third or fourth grade. Each year you coach, it gets a little tougher because you’re that much closer with the kids. It’s always heartbreaking, but, at the end of the day, they’ll be the first class to leave Harrison Central with two playoff appearances to their credit.”

Much like it’s been the case all season for the Red Devils, they’ve just had simply too much speed and athleticism for their opposition. Harrison Central got to experience it twice. The Devils routed the Huskies, 42-6 in Week 5.

“I thought our kids were in the right spots, and I thought a couple of times we were covering them about as well as we could cover,” Kropka said. “But, they just went up and made plays.”

The guy who went up and the majority of the plays was senior standout Dan Monteroso. The Boston College-bound wide receiver hauled in five balls for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

“The game plan every week is to go with whatever is working – whether it’s the passing game or Jaylon (Brown) and the running game,” Monteroso said. “We spread it out and the thing about our team is that we’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays at any given time and that’s what we did tonight.”

Monteroso hit many nails on the head there.

Senior Matt Kinnick was clicking on all cylinders, with basically all day to throw the ball thanks to the impressive work provided by the Red Devils’ offensive line. Kinnick completed 11-of-14 for 291 yards and four touchdowns.

Junior jet Jaylon Brown got into the act with 9 carries for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

St. Clairsville scored on every possession it had in the first half. It got things going when Kinnick hooked up with junior Michael Ferns for a 14-yard scoring pitch. Junior Zach Musilli was perfect on the first of his five PATs on the night.

“The unselfishness of this team has been one of its best characteristics all season,” McLean said. “We try to get the ball around as much as we can, but sometimes we fall on one side of the spectrum moreso. I think everyone got involved tonight, and I am proud of the entire team effort.”

Harrison Central, however, stuck with its game plan of trying to control the clock and utilize senior Maurtice Hython on the ground. It paid dividends as Hython, who worked out of the Wildcat much of the first half, got Harrison on the board with a 10-yard burst on the ensuing possession. The PAT was blocked and the momentum had shifted back to the Devils and it never swayed.

“We thought we had the Wildcat package going and we had some success,” Kropka said. “We had a lineman go down and it kind of took away that option, which was our gameplan coming in. We wanted to work the clock and try to 3-yard them to death, but once we got out of that, when you try to out-speed those guys or get out of your basic stuff, it’s tough, because they’re too well coached and too talented for that to happen.”

The Devils proceeded to score the next 34 before subbing freely in the second half.

Monteroso caught touchdowns of 50 and 22 yards, Brown scored on runs of 66 and 4 yards and the Michigan-bound Ferns hauled in a simple pass in the flat and rumbled 35 yards for the final score of the game.

The high-powered Red Devils out-gained Harrison, 465-193.

The Red Devils’ offensive line of Cole Stephen, Corey Ernest, Joel Giffin, Tom Parker and Nick VanVolenburg paved the way for the big night offensively.

The marvelous season and career of Hython came to a close with a 22-carry, 112-yard output. Unfortunately, he left the game with assistance with what appeared to be a serious leg injury.

Kropka didn’t want to speculate about the severity of the injury.

Talented senior quarterback Rashaen Mitchell was 5-of-9 passing for 51 yards. He made a juggling catch on a pass from Hython for a 33-yard gain. Nate Olmstead caught 2 balls for 33 yards and talented senior Nick Pelegreen caught three passes and was once again outstanding on the defensive side of the ball.

St. Clairsville’s defense received sterling play from Luke Smith, Colby Lindsay, Ernest, Ferns and Derek Shunk.