St. John’s falls to Strasburg

BELLAIRE – It looks as though Evan Hensel has found his place in Strasburg’s offense.

Hensel, who started the season on the offensive line, rushed for a game-high 121 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to lead the Tigers to a 30-14 triumph against St. John Central at the Irish Youth Sports Complex.

”He’s a real solid kid and he carried us on offense,” Strasburg head coach John Cox said.


The 5-10, 175-pound senior carried the ball 29 times, including 18 times in the second half as the Tigers rebounded from a 36-8 thumping at Beallsville last week.

Hensel started the season at guard and soon moved to tackle. His move to the backfield was so recent it hadn’t been changed on the Strasburg roster, where he was still listed as No. 66.

He wore No. 29 Saturday.

”I don’t know of too many that’ve gotten the opportunity like he’s had thrown in front of him,” Cox said. ”He’s a solid running back. And once we get Landry (Hostetler) back, we’ll have a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield.”

Like many Division VII schools, Strasburg is fighting numbers issues. With numbers in the mid 20s, injuries have taken their toll.

”At a small school, sometimes you have to go with guys where you need them,” Cox said.

Hensel scored on runs of 16 and 1 yard in the first quarter the Tigers surged to a 14-0 lead.

While St. John couldn’t get anything going offensively in the first half behind returning quarterback Dario Paolina, the Irish’ defense tightened up.

Midway through the second quarter, a Strasburg series started with quarterback Jay DiBacco being sacked for a 10-yard loss. Two plays later, Cameron Opic picked off the first of two passes giving St. John the ball deep inside Tigers territory. But the Irish weren’t able to capitalize.

With 1:43 remaining in the first half, Strasburg started at the St. John 40. After a block in the back penalty against the Tigers pushed them back near midfield, the Tigers struck again.

DiBacco dropped back and fired a pass over the middle toward senior Danny March. March was covered closely by Kyle Coppa and Coppa tipped the ball. Just when it looked like Coppa might pick off the pass March grabbed it and raced into the end zone for the score. DiBacco’s conversion run made the score 22-0.

”A couple of bounces didn’t go our way and that’s been the story for us so far this year,” St. John head coach Jeff Paolina said. ”But the big thing is the kids are playing at 100 percent and giving it all they have, which is all I ask them to do.”

St. John (0-3) did just that on its ensuing series.

Faced with third-and-one at its own 48, Dario Paolina dropped back and a streaking Devon Hennesey down the middle, hitting the senior in stride for a 52-yard touchdown. The quarterback’s kick made the score 22-7 at halftime and, more importantly, gave the home team the momentum.

Dario Paolina and Hennesey hooked up again on the Irish’s first drive of the second half, this time from two yards out, as St. John pulled to within 22-14. The big play on the drive was a 23-yard scamper by Hennesey in which he broke two tackles along the way.

”Devon was running like a madman,” Jeff Paolina said of Hennesey, who finished with 101 yards on the ground on 19 carries.

Strasburg was forced to punt on its next possession then was thwarted on the first play of the fourth quarter when Opic snared his second pick of the day.

That gave the Irish the ball deep in their own territory. But, when they were forced to punt, Strasburg got the ball in good field position setting up the clincher.

Hensel ran five times for 34 times on the six play drive, which was capped by DiBacco’s second scoring strike of the day to March, which helped capped the scoring.

”It’s a team effort when we win and it’s a team effort when we don’t win,” Jeff Paolina said. ”The players are doing the right things and we’re slowly, but surely, turning things around.

”We’re confident we’re going to have some success before the year is over.”

St. John returns home the next two weeks against a pair of top 10 West Virginia Class A foes in Bishop Donahue and Clay-Battelle, respectively.