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St. Clairsville halts losing streak

BELLAIRE — On a two-game losing streak, St. Clairsville showed up at Nelson Field Saturday with hopes of a fast start.

Instead, the Red Devils turned the ball over on literally their first two offensive snaps of the game, including an 81-yard pick six by Bellaire senior A.J. McCarthy, and found themselves in a quick 6-0 hole.

There wasn’t one panic button pressed by neither the players, nor the coaches.

“The resilience our kids showed at the beginning of the game was tremendous,” St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean said. “It would have been so easy to just fall apart with all of the things that happened in the first quarter, but we held it together.”

Indeed.

The Red Devils responded by limiting Bellaire to 180 yards of total offense and capitalizing on five turnovers to post a 21-6 victory.

“We had the best week of practice that we’ve had all season (leading into this game),” McLean said. “The kids want to win so badly, they got together, as a group, in the fieldhouse (last) Saturday morning and said, ‘we’re going to go all out at practice this week to have the best week they can,’ and I am so happy that they were rewarded with a win.”

The win improves the Red Devils to 5-2, entering their regular-season home finale Friday night against Union Local.

On the other side of the field, Bellaire falls to 5-2 and its road gets no easier. The Big Reds must make the short trip south to take on Shadyside.

“I told the kids we have to find a way by Monday to put this game behind us,” Bellaire head coach Mark Spigarelli said. “We have another tough game. I expect these kids to be ready to go.”

The Big Reds got the lead early, but never were able to fully get going offensively. St. Clairsville bottled up senior tailback Cole Porter to a tune of 38 yards on 13 carries. Senior quarterback Bobby Roth threw two picks and completed just 8-of-18 passes for 93 yards before leaving in the fourth with an injury, which pressed freshman Jake Heatherington into duty.

“We have to go back and find something offensively to do differently,” Spigarelli said. “Whether it’s running or passing more. I knew it was going to be tough because I expected St. Clairsville to stay with that four-man line with those big horses they have in there.”

The Red Devils began to seize the momentum when they pounced on a Big Reds fumble. Eleven plays later, they were on the board when junior quarterback Tyler Tonkovich scampered in from 4 yards out. Jake Bolyard’s first of three PATs put St. C. on top.

“We got a flip here and a flip there to go in our direction, which allowed us to build a little bit of momentum,” McLean said. “The turnovers were huge for us to set us up.”

The Red Devils forced a punt in the middle of the third quarter and needed 2:32 of the game clock to extend their lead. Capping an eight-play drive, Tonkovich found Reese Skaggs on a fourth-and-goal play from 2 yards out to make it 13-6. Bolyard split the uprights for the conversion.

Junior Will Balgo, who picked off a pass in the first half, got his second interception in the middle portion of the fourth and the Red Devils delivered the final knock-out blow just five plays later.

“We couldn’t sustain drives offensively,” Spigarelli said. “We’d make a couple of nice plays, but then we’d have a sack or a negative play to set us back. We need to be more consistent offensively. Our defense played really well. My hat’s off to St. Clairsville and Coach McLean.”

After a touchdown was taken off the board because of a penalty, Noah Trubiano, who was pressed in action at running back when senior Aaron Jordan left with an injury and didn’t return, raced in from 6 yards out with 3:06 to play.

“We had some guys get dinged up, which caused some other guys to step into positions they hadn’t been in and they stepped up to the plate,” McLean said. “This was a crazy atmosphere game and I can’t be more proud of how our kids weathered the storm they’ve been in.”

All told, the Red Devils finished with 260 yards of offense. Jordan had 70 yards on 18 carries, while Tonkovich added 65 on the ground and completed 8-of-14 throws for 102 yards. Brett Vike caught three passes for 45 yards, including a 31 yarder to set up the game’s final touchdown.

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