Village of Bellaire turns back the clocks
The year was 2005.
It doesn’t seem all that long ago, but seven years is still seven years.
That’s the last time both Bellaire and St. John Central won their season openers in the same season.
The fact must now be updated to 2012 because the Big Reds and Fighting Irish are beginning their preparation for Week 2 unblemished.
St. John – under the guidance of first-year coach Jason Merryman – was the first team in the Ohio Valley to get a victory as it rallied past Bridgeport, 14-6, at Wheeling Island Stadium in the McDonald’s Kickoff Weekend.
Bellaire, ironically, was the last team in the Ohio Valley to get a win in week one. The Big Reds posted a miraculous, come-from-behind, 44-42 victory against shocked Steubenville Central in a game that lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.
Both the Irish and Big Reds got it done by sticking together and persevering.
As we listened and followed the Bellaire game unfold, it sounded early as if the Big Reds were going to be routed. They were allowing big plays and turning the ball over.
Some how, some way, head coach Jose Davis and his coaching staff rallied their players and they came back from a 42-19 deficit.
The Big Reds kept battling like Bellaire teams of old would do. The last three season openers under Davis’ watch had not gone well.
There’s a clear indication that Davis is getting the culture in Bellaire turned back to where it was in the early to mid 2000s when winning wasn’t hoped for, it was just expected by the Big Reds.
Davis will be the first to tell you that his team has a long way to go, but whenever a team that lacked experience in some key places finds a way to get it done by persevering and fighting to the very end, there are certainly cornerstones to build on because those are inate traits and not ones learned on the practice field or film room.
As for the Irish Thursday, it wasn’t pretty at times. St. John struggled mightily on offense and never really got untracked as it mixed and matched quarterbacks.
However, the Irish defense rose to the occassion when they needed to. St. John stripped the Bulldogs of the ball and returned it for a score and also had a pick six to get the victory.
St. John Central needed that win for its psyche. After several years of struggling, it’s too early to say the Irish are back, obviously, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
The fact that the offensive struggles never affected how St. John played defense on Thursday gives you the impression that the mentality is changing because many high school teams carry their struggles from one side of the ball to the other.
Both the Big Reds and Irish are going to win several more games before it’s all said and done.
One of the stories we’ll be keeping a close eye on this season are how the new coaches are faring as they look to re-build traditions or continue those built before their arrivals.
The rookie head coaches went 5-7 this past week. In two games (Cambridge-John Marshall, Conotton Valley-Beallsville), both coaches were new.
DID YOU NOTICE
THE NEW RULE?
During the first couple of minutes of the new season, something caught my ear at the St. John Central vs. Bridgeport game.
I was standing on the sideline and Bridgeport was flagged for a penalty. Well, Sam “Chicken” Jones was the white cap and he was wearing a microphone and I am listening to him announce the penalty and he announced the violating player’s number to the crowd.
I immediately asked St. John Central Athletic Director Jerry Ames, whose father, Jerry, is also a football official, if he heard what I heard. He informed me it’s a new OHSAA rule to announce the player’s number similarly to how it’s done in the college and pro games.
I got to work Friday and emailed OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Hank Zaborniak, who is in charge of officiating with the state association.
He promptly emailed me back and said, “we just wanted to provide better information to press box and media. In our opinion, it is same as basketball. Announce player’s number.”
Personally, I love it. I compared it to basketball at my first thought. Everyone in the gymnasium knows who commits a foul or is whistled for a technical foul. Or in baseball or softball, many fields with electronic scoreboards flash hit or error on the scoreboard.
Now, we just have to get more stadiums with microphones for the referee. The option has not been adopted in West Virginia.
VIDEO GAME-LIKE STATS
If you were playing in an Ohio Valley fantasy football league for high school football, I certainly hope you had either Spencer Badia (Bellaire quarterback), Jaylon Brown (St. Clairsville tailback) or Cody Schau (Martins Ferry receiver) on your team.
These three young men put up astronomical numbers and, more importantly than the stats, each helped his team to a victory.
Brown got it all started on Thursday night against Wheeling Park when he ran for 150 yards and four touchdowns. He picked off a pass and returned it for a score, caught a 2-point conversion and for good measure had a 60-yard kickoff return that set up another Red Devils’ score.
On Friday, Schau had a break-out performance in a pass-happy Purple Riders’ attack. Schau, who is blessed athletically, caught 11 balls for 164 yards and three touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Schau was the Riders’ team leader in receiving for 2011 with 25 receptions for 444 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Then the weekend was capped off by Badia’s brilliant performance on Saturday in which he engineered the aforementioned Big Reds’ come-from-behind victory. He completed 38-of-62 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns.
I’ve been covering prep football in the Ohio Valley since the 1999 season. Never can I remember an opening weekend schedule like we just experienced.
The Times Leader primarily covers 13 schools in Eastern Ohio and not one of those teams played on their home field.
Obviously, some played at neutral sites and we realize River was the home team against Fort Frye, but it didn’t play on Flannery Field, which it won’t all season due to the construction at and around the high school.
On top of the road games, many of the area teams had lengthy bus trips. Obviously, some of those were completions of two-year contracts, but it’s still just a shame that more area teams can’t match up with one another and really create an opening-week buzz.
Monroe Central made a more than 2-hour bus ride to Atwater to face Waterloo. Martins Ferry traveled 103 miles to Heath, Buckeye Local made a 124-mile trip to Utica and Shadyside logged 98 miles to Strasburg.
Keep in mind, gas is more than $3.60 a gallon.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
I posed this question on my Twitter account (@TLSportsSeth) on Saturday night and I got a few responses, but I thought if any of you readers had an answer feel free to email or Tweet me.
Since Steubenville Big Red opened its season – as it usually does – on Thursday night, why does Steubenville Central wait until Saturday to play its games? Why not play on Friday night instead of letting that beautiful facility sit vacant?
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Speaking of Twitter, I am going to try to find an inspirational Tweet each week from an Ohio Valley football player to use in this space.
Shortly after Friday’s victory at Wheeling Central, Harrison Central senior Nick Pelegreen tweeted, “never felt something as good as that. Best win I ever been a part of.”
I read that shortly after returning from my game Friday night and immediately favorited it for use in this column. That shows the emotion and desire of these athletes we chronicle each weekend in prep football.
Ohio Valley native and Ohio prep football coaching legend Paul Culver reached a milestone Friday night. His Thornville Sheridan Generals thumped Hebron Lakewood, 53-0, to give the Hopedale native his 300th career coaching victory.
- Steubenville graduate Todd Filtz began his head coaching career at Canton McKinley in impressive fashion Saturday night. Playing in what appeared to be one of the most entertaining back-and-forth games in all of Ohio, the Bulldogs knocked off Walsh Jesuit, 34-28.
- NOTRE DAME recruit Jacob Matuska, whose parents are Ohio Valley natives, had a strong opening game in Columbus Bishop Hartley’s 42-0 victory against Amanda Clearcreek. He caught an 18-yard touchdown from his tight end spot.
- CINCINNATI MOELLER’S Spencer Iacovone, whose parents are OV?natives, was named MVP of his game Sunday evening in the Crosstown Shootout. It was broadcast nationally on ESPN-U.
If you know of other area products who have moved from the Ohio Valley and are either coaching or playing, please free to drop me an email at the address below or reach me on Twitter.
KICKOFF WEEKEND KUDOS
Major kudos should be given to James Companion and his team from Scholastic Sports Marketing for another fine job with the McDonald’s OVAC Kickoff Weekend games. He did one heck of a job of lining up the matchups because all five games were competitive and three came right down to the wire.
We’re still hoping that Companion takes the one Saturday night game and moves it to Wednesday. Make it a true Kickoff Night and then implement the four games on Thursday night as he’s done in the past.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TLSportsSeth