Bellaire, Harrison Central both must re-focus quickly

Bellaire and Harrison Central are both coming off emotional highs from their games last week.

Both Jose Davis and Justin Kropka had little trouble in getting their players back on the ground to begin work toward this week’s encounter at Nelson Field because life in the Buckeye 8 doesn’t permit too much time for celebration.

“We talk to our kids all the time that whether we win or lose, you have to get back to work on Monday,” Davis said. “You have no control of what’s in the past. You do, however, control what’s in your future.”

The Big Reds are coming off a cherished 38-28 victory against previously unblemished St. Clairsville. The Big Reds now control their destiny for the Buckeye 8, OVAC and a home playoff game in Division VI.

Not bad for a team that was 1-2 and some were ready to write off.

“I am sure some people were ready to jump ship on us,” Davis said. “That’s part of it. But, everyone, within our football family, was all in. The season is a grind and you have to take the task at hand.”

Harrison Central, meanwhile, comes into Saturday’s 12:30 affair with a 3-4 record and are still alive in the ultra competitive Division V, Region 15. The Huskies are ranked 10th.

The Huskies’ roller coaster ride of a season has had plenty of peaks and valleys.

“I don’t know how to explain it other than we’re young,” Kropka said. “It’s all about matchups and sometimes you can’t tell from who play to the next or one game to the next. But, I can tell you we play hard and we dance to all the dances.”

Dancing to all of the dances this weekend will involve trying to slow down a Big Reds’ offense that’s been clicking on all cylinders and has found the desired balance that coaches usually only dream of.

“It’s definitely taken a lot of pressure off our quarterback and wide receivers,” Davis said. “It also keeps everyone guessing. It’s been a blessing to be able to run the ball as effectively as we have the last four weeks.”

The Big Reds’ ground game has been turned over to junior Brandon Laughman, who has played the last two weeks, after sitting out the first five weeks because of OHSAA transfer rules. Since his return, Laughman has ran for 379 yards and is averaging 189 yards a contest.

Hunter Westlake is also a viable threat in the backfield.

The offense, however, begins with senior quarterback Spencer Badia, who is closing in on yet another career milestone. He’s 114 yards shy of 7,000 in his career. This season, he’s passed for 1,493 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The receiving corps is balanced with Nick Patrone (27-518-8td), Kenny Hess (24-401-5td); Brendon Ross (20-235-4td); Westlake (17-146-3td) and Tyler West (15-181) all contributing.

“I saw Bellaire at the beginning of the season and they look like a different team,” Kropka said. “They’ve just continued to get better and things are really clicking for them. I think this Bellaire team, right now, is playing as well as the 2006 Bellaire team. They’re not just a finesse team anymore.”

The Huskies’ offense has taken on a different look as they’re more of a pass-oriented offense. Senior quarterback David Miser has been impressive, completing 95-of-172 passes for 1,314 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, he’s been picked off 15 times.

The Huskies’ receiving corps is fueled by seniors Nate Olmstead (28-577-7td) and Dalton Rutter (30-467-3td). The Harrison Central ground attack is led by Travis Stenson’s 383 yards and four touchdowns.

“You think Harrison Central and Coach Kropka, you think run and grind the clock, but they’re able to sling it around,” Davis said.

“Miser has experience and they have skill guys who can run and catch. We have to be balanced and disciplined to slow them down offensively.”

The Big Reds’ defense is led by Dom Vinka (61 tackles), Myliek Green (58.5), Hess (56) and Austin McConville, who is coming off an 11 tackle performance last week.

The Huskies’ defense is led by Niko Williams (73 tackles), Nate Maykowski (58) and Stensen (37).

The series between the Huskies and Big Reds has been back-and-forth. Bellaire won last season in Cadiz, 29-28, on a walk-off field goal. All time, the series if 4-3 in favor of the Big Reds.

Staskey can be reached at