St. C.-Bellaire could feature a huge crowd Saturday at Nelson Field

Could the atmosphere at Nelson Field this Saturday be like it was in week 3 when Shadyside visited?

I don’t know if it will be quite like that, but it’ll be close.

A pair of red-hot football teams will be squaring off with all sorts of implications when the Big Reds host rival St. Clairsville.

Both are in the thick of the playoff chase in their respective division; both pace their respective class of the OVAC and both share the top spot in the Buckeye 8 league standings.

There isn’t much more that you play for – in terms of on-the-field things – than what the Big Reds and Red Devils are chasing.

This will be one of the games examined much closer on Wednesday in the Xs and Os, but there’s a lot to get to.

Obviously, one of the big factors to be seen is whether or not Jaylon Brown and Michael Ferns return to the Red Devils’ lineup after missing last week against Harrison Central due to injury.

However, the Red Devils didn’t seem to miss a beat without their two Division I commits.

Sophomore Shane Peroni had a big game for the Red Devils and classmate Brendon Ferns and junior Malik Gummer also put forth strong showings.

The Big Reds, meanwhile, are labeled as a passing team and rightfully so with seniors Spencer Badia and Nick Patrone forming a lethal combination in the passing game.

The Big Reds, though, are much more balanced than you may think. They’re a strong running team with Tyler West and others.

It’s going to come down to which defense can get a few stops. Both teams are going to score. St. Clairsville’s defense has been very solid under first-year defensive coordinator Ben Frye. Since the loss to Shadyside, Bellaire’s defense has really stepped up and answered the challenge issued by Jose Davis and company.

Special teams are also always a factor and both teams have solid kicking games.

This going to be a game certainly worth seeing. Ohio State and West Virginia are both off, the weather forecast looks cooperative, so there should be a huge crowd on hand.


The new OHSAA rule that allows student-athletes who transfer to become eligible after half of their season rather than sitting out an entire year became reality and it paid healthy dividends for a pair of area schools.

One of those aforementioned others is Brandon Laughman, who transferred from Martins Ferry to Bellaire, made an impressive debut for the Big Reds at tailback. He ran for 162 yards on just 11 carries in the Big Reds’ win against Indian Creek.

Shadyside is off to a 6-0 start, but during the first five games, the role of placekicker was basically by committee as Mark Holenka jockeyed people trying to find a player who consistently put the ball through the uprights.

Holenka and the Tigers may have found their kicker in sophomore Mason Campbell. He transferred from Beallsville and spent the first half of the season on the sideline. He connected on seven PAT kicks.


It’s already been announced that Bellaire intends to drop Indian Creek and Harrison Central for next season. Also finalized is who will take the spots of those teams with Columbus Bishop Ready and Ridgewood coming on board.

The Big Reds just defeated the Redskins on Friday and will probably be favored when they take on the Huskies in a few weeks.

All Bishop Ready did last week was score 98 points on a Washington Court House squad, which came into the game at 3-2. Ridgewood is currently 3-3.


Moments after the Union Local and Martins Ferry game concluded last Friday and the teams shook hands, both squads met at the 50-yard line and took part in a join prayer, which was led by Union Local team chaplain Jerry Wenger. After a hard-fought game, both teams put things in perspective. After the prayer, the players, most of whom are friends and know each other, shared a moment with each other, similar to how college and NFL players exchange pleasantries after their games.

It was a very nice moment.


The Martins Ferry Purple Riders are expected to be sitting in fifth place when the Division V computer rankings come out this week. Should those hold up, and obviously there’s a lot of football to go to determine that, but this Friday is the last guaranteed home game for the Purple Riders.

After this week’s contest with Buckeye Local, Ferry will finish with three straight road trips.

Thus, it’s starting to hit home for the Purple Rider seniors that this could be the final time they play at the Dave Bruney Football Complex.

Senior standout Robert Vargo tweeted Sunday evening, “Real happy with the way we are playing and how close the team is but still can’t believe Friday might be the last game I ever play at home.”

Football is a sport everyone in the Ohio Valley looks forward to and it’s gone before we know it. While the fans, coaches and even media members have next year, for the senior players, this is their last chance to shine.


The River Pilots had a rough first half of the season. Winless through the first five weeks, Coach Mike Flannery’s Pilots had a chance to relieve some of their frustration with a convincing victory against Rosecrans.

Often times it’s hard to keep up the same intensity when you’re struggling in the wins and losses column. That goes for the players and coaches, but it’s good to see the Pilots get rewarded for hanging in there.

The thing to keep in mind, there’s an opportunity for the Pilots to win several more games before the season ends.

There’s a lot of football left, and I’m hopeful that all teams, players and coaches maintain the same enthusiasm and determination because like I sad above, this is the seniors’ last opportunity.


WESTERVILLE CENTRAL continued to score points in bunches last week. Coach John Magistro’s team posted a 69-31 victory against Hilliard Bradley. It’s the fifth straight week that the Warhawks scored better than 40 points and during that span, they’ve scored more than 50 on four occassions. Westerville Central is currently sitting in seventh in the Division I, Region 1 race and will take on 2-4 Westerville North this week.

CANTON McKINLEY made it six wins in as many starts with a hard-earned, 53-45, victory against Massillon Jackson. Coach Todd Filtz’ team, which is right in the thick of the playoff chase in Division I, Region 1, takes on Canton GlenOak this week.

Staskey can be reached at