St. Clairsville outlasts Sparta Highland in D-IV, Region 15 shootout, 47-30
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Throughout the regular season, St. Clairsville has been traditionally slow starters.
Actually, the Red Devils, who entered Saturday night’s Division IV, Region 15 playoff opener with a spotless record, had trailed in every game except one all season.
St. Clairsville clearly addressed that during its bye week. The top-seeded Red Devils jumped on invading Sparta Highland with a three-touchdown barrage in the first quarter before going on to advance with a 47-30 victory.
“We had an entire (open) week to talk about our starts to games, but now it’s consistency, so I have to preach about something else,” St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean said.
The Red Devils, who appeared to be well on their way to advancing to the regional quarterfinal with ease, looked up the scoreboard and found the game getting a little too close for comfort when Highland got within 40-30 with still seven minutes to play.
“Credit (Sparta Highland) for playing their way back into the game, but give our kids credit for reacting well even when we did lose the momentum,” McLean said. “We countered with some scores and that’s the way it’s going to be sometimes. I love the naiveness of a teenager because they’re just playing, but as a coach, it gets your blood pressure up.”
The Red Devils didn’t panic. They simply turned to senior quarterback Tyler Tonkovich, who did what he does, which is calm things down and orchestrate a drive.
Just five plays after the Scots scored on a Kadin Johnson run, Tonkovich and his favorite target — junior Colin Oberdick — were at it again. He found Oberdick streaking up the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown. Jake Bolyard’s PAT pushed the margin back to the 17 and the Red Devils breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“We knew we just had to keep pushing and do the things we do,” Tonkovich said. “We were kind of fatigued as a team. We had to group together and have a little talk. There was never any doubt. You can not have doubt in the playoffs.”
Tonkovich and Oberdick were on the same page all night. Half of Tonkovich’s 12 completions went to Oberdick, who finished with 137 yards receiving. He also had a 47-yard touchdown to begin the second half when the Red Devils grabbed their biggest lead at 34-8.
“Colin and I put in the extra work in and after practice,” Tonkovich said. “That’s with all of the receivers. If you want to be great, that’s what it takes.”
While Oberdick’s second receiving touchdown is what salted the game away, his biggest score came with just a few seconds to go in the first half. After the Scots got on the board, Oberdick picked up the bouncing kickoff and broke free of the coverage and went 70 yards for a touchdown.
“We were going to take a knee (and go into half),” McLean said of the plan if Oberdick hadn’t busted the kickoff return. “He found a block, sprung it and that was an exciting and big play because they had just grabbed the momentum.”
As has been the case all season, the Red Devils received contributions from all of their weapons.
Junior running backs Jacob Jordan and Logan Shields both found the end zone. Jordan ignited the scoring on a 7-yard run, while Shields scored from 31 yards out to answer a Highland touchdown in the third quarter. Tonkovich also rushed for a touchdown.
Jordan, who had better than 200 yards rushing against Harrison, finished with a team-best 79 on 22 carries. Tonkovich completed 12-of-20 passes for 210 and three touchdowns. Senior Austin DaRe caught a 33-yarder down the middle of the field in the first quarter.
“The coaches are really good about taking advantage of whatever they see,” Tonkovich said. “We’ll adjust when we have to.”
Next up for the Red Devils is a date with Vincent Warren. The Warriors rallied past John Glenn for a 35-28 victory.
Division IV, Region 15
(at Red Devil Stadium)
St. Clairsville 47, Sparta Highland 30
Sparta Highland 0 8 16 6 — 30
St. Clairsville 21 7 12 7 — 47
St. C. — Jordan 7 run (Bolyard kick)
St. C. — DaRe 33 pass from Tonkovich (Bolyard kick).
St. C. — Tonkovich 6 run (Bolyard kick).
H — Nauman 10 run (Hornsby pass from Johnson).
St. C. — Oberdick 70 kickoff return (Bolyard kick).
St. C. — Oberdick 47 pass from Tonkovich (kick failed).
H — Hankins 50 interception return (Johnson run).
St. C. — Shields 31 run (kick failed).
H — Johnson 5 run (Johnson run).
H — Albanese 11 pass from Johnson
St. C. — Oberdick 35 pass from Tonkovich (Bolyard kick).
Rushing: Sparta Highland, 37-161-td (Johnson, 19-94-td; Nauman, 17-69; Team, 1-(-2)). St. Clairsville, 37-165-3td (Jordan, 22-79-td; Tonkovich, 9-51-td; Balgo, 2-4; Shields, 3-35-td; Team, 1-(-4)).
Passing: Sparta Highland, 14-28-111-td-1x (All by Johnson). St. Clairsville, 12-20-210-3td-1x (All by Tonkovich).
Receiving: Sparta Highland, 14-111-td (Albanese, 3-34-td; Remmert, 3-11; Hornsby, 1-4; Nauman, 1-7; Melchiori, 4-37; Schaffer, 2-18). St. Clairsville, 12-210-3td (Oberdick, 6-137-2td; DaRe, 1-33-td; Balgo, 2-25; Shields, 3-15).
First Downs: Sparta Highland, 18; St. Clairsville, 15.
Fumbles: Sparta Highland, 1-0; St. Clairsville, 2-1.
Penalties: Sparta Highland, 1-5; St. Clairsville, 8-55.