St. Clairsville, Martins Ferry to square off on Friday night

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — An old-fashioned ‘slobber-knocker.’

That’s the kind of game that rookie Martins Ferry head coach Chas Yoder is expecting Friday night when his Purple Riders visit St. Clairsville for a 7:30 kickoff.

Why would anyone expect any differently? After all, both the Riders and Red Devils want to play physical, run the ball and follow it up with hard-nosed defense. However, something has to give this week.

“They play our style of football,” Yoder said of the Red Devils. “I’m excited to see how we match up. They play smash-mouth, which is what I like to think we play, too. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to play a team of St. Clairsville’s caliber.

This will almost certainly be the Riders’ toughest test to date. All three of the Riders’ victories have involved the mercy rule, including last week’s 39-7 victory against Union Local.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, are squaring off with their second consecutive undefeated foe. St. C. made surprisingly quick and easy work of Meadowbrook, 49-22, last week in Byesville. Though the Red Devils accumulated an impressive 476 yards on the ground, head coach Brett McLean and his staff tempered the excitement quickly.

“Internally, we felt like that might have been our worst performance of the three games,” McLean admitted. “There were so many areas where we played during (wins against Carrollton and Meigs) than we did against Meadowbrook and I know that may sound crazy to many people. We had a lot of things to improve on, but when you have that many areas in which to improve and the scoreboard still favors you, you’re lucky.”

Yoder — like most head coaches — knows the key for his team’s success is going to be in the trenches. Can the Purple Riders’ handle the Red Devils’ physicality at the point of attack?

“I would like to think our offensive line is as good as any out there,” Yoder said. “Obviously, their offensive line is a strength, too. It’s going to be exciting to see how it plays out.”

The Purple Riders are led by junior quarterback Jacob Probst, who is in his third season as the starter and continues to get better with each and every outing. He’s been extremely efficient thus far, completing 24-of-39 passes for 503 yards and six touchdowns.

“Martins Ferry is able to wear a lot of different hats offensively,” McLean noted. “You can see a lot of different flavors from Coach Yoder. He has some of his high school upbringing and some of his college upbringing, which gives you a lot to prepare for. Plus, (Probst) looks more and more seasoned each time I’ve seen him. He’s a dual-threat kid. Our guys will have to take care of their assignments and do their own jobs.”

Probst’s favorite target is junior Dasyn Hores, who has caught 9 passes for 169 yards. Mason Goddard has hauled in a team-high 203 receiving yards on 5 catches. He also owns 3 touchdown receptions.

On the ground, Ferry is doing it by committee. Caleb Olson and Nate Boxley lead the way with 161 and 147 yards, respectively. The latter has scored three touchdowns.

St. Clairsville’s offense is led by its ground game, which is chewing up yards in impressive rates. The Red Devils have accumulated 840 yards in two-and-a-half games, giving them an average of 336 yards a game. Seniors Brady Kolb (78-465-6TDs) and Justin Heatherington (35-281-5TDs) lead the way.

The Devils haven’t thrown the ball much, but senior quarterback Dustin Carrothers has completed 13-of-28 tries for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior Craig Bober is the team’s top target on the perimeter with 5 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.

“We’re trying to spread the ball around to keep guys healthy and fresh,” McLean said.

“Justin and Brady are two different kinds of backs, who complement each other well. We want to keep getting as many guys involved as we can.”