Showdown at Nelson Field: St. C. set to visit Bellaire
Bellaire and St. Clairsville have both established themselves as two of the premier teams in Belmont County this season.
So, what’s going to happen when the two long-time rivals renew acquaintances for the first time since 2019 Saturday at noon at Nelson Field?
It’s honestly anyone’s guess because a strong case can be made for both teams.
“To be this late in the season and playing in very meaningful games always a positive,” St. C. Head coach Brett McLean said. “Bellaire is a great team that has a great season going. We have a ton of respect for their program, Coach Spigarelli and their players. They have very talented kids in all four classes.”
While the Big Reds come into the game with a spotless 6-0 record and fresh off a rout of Indian Creek, Spigarelli looks at the once-beaten Red Devils and can’t find a true weakness.
“St. Clairsville is definitely the best team we’ve faced and probably will face in the regular season,” Spigarelli said. “On offense, they’re big, strong, physical with talented kids. Defensively, they’re hard to score on.”
As the season begins to head toward its homestretch, both teams appear to be in good shape as far as the OHSAA postseason goes. St. Clairsville enters in third place of Division IV, Region 15. The Big Reds, meanwhile, are sixth in Division V, Region 17. For the first time in Ohio history, the top 16 finishers in each region will qualify for the postseason.
However, both schools are locked in tight races for the OVAC title with the Red Devils leading the 4A race and the Big Reds pacing the 3A field. The winner will control its destiny, along with Union Local, for the Buckeye 8 South title.
“I am expecting a great atmosphere (Saturday),” Spigarelli said. “You’ve got two teams with great records, great pride and a lot on the line, so it should have a playoff feel. I hope our kids are able to take it to that level.”
On the field, the Red Devils have been quite effective both running and passing. Senior quarterback Drew Sefsick triggers the attack at quarterback. He’s thrown for 959 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s also ran for 294 yards and two scores.
Senior tailback Jacob Jordan is the primary option as a ball carrier. He’s rushed 92 times for 672 yards and 12 touchdowns. Senior Logan Shields serves as his lead blocker and is a threat both as a runner and pass catcher.
On the perimeter, Sefsick’s favorite target has been All-Ohioan Colin Oberdick. He’s caught 20 passes for 440 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Carson Woodford has been steady with 13 receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Colt Westlake has 158 yards receiving.
“Oberdick and Westlake are both great vertical threats who can flat out fly,” Spigarelli said. “Jordan is a very good back and they’re very balanced. Plus, they don’t beat themselves. They’re capable of hitting the home run at any time.”
Defensively, the Big Reds have been more than steady. They’re allowing fewer than 13 points a game. Senior Colt Sechrest — a Youngstown State commit — leads the charge on that side of the ball with 45 tackles. The key stat for the Big Reds is how opportunistic they’ve been. They come into the game plus 14 in the turnover battle. They’ve picked off 12 passes.
“Their defense starts with the front people and then they have some physically imposing kids at linebacker with the skill in the back end to match it,” McLean said. “They don’t give up big plays, so we have to find a way to score and no one has really been able to crack that code as of yet. I’m not sure there is a code.”
Meanwhile, on offense, the Big Reds have been balanced between run and pass and distribution of the ball. They have four players with basically 200 yards rushing or more.
The offense is led by junior quarterback Jake Heatherington, who has thrown for 662 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also recorded 254 yards on the ground with five touchdowns.
Classmate Brayden Roth has run for 488 yards and five touchdowns. Joey Lewis has 249 yards and scored twice.
Sechrest makes an impact wherever he lines up. He’s rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns. He’s caught 12 passes for a team-high 232 yards and scored five touchdowns. Juniors Ray Ray Pettigrew (14-199-2TD) and Jakob Dowling (15-146) are also threats in the passing game.
“We didn’t play them last year, but they still have a lot of the same kids lining up against us that did two years ago,” McLean said. “They have the best (offensive) front we’ve faced all season and their backfield is much the same. Their receivers have a whole bevy of ability. It’s really one of those games that’s exciting to be a part of, but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time.”
St. Clairsville’s defense allows 14.5 points a game and has eight takeaways. Brennan Stout leads the team with 47 tackles, including 32 solos. Senior Mason McCort had 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
“We’ve had a tough time scoring on St. Clairsville the last four or five years,” Spigarelli said. “They don’t have a lot of guys going both ways, which definitely helps. They’re very sound and fundamental and they make it tough not only to score, but also to get first downs consistently.”
Though the Big Reds and Red Devils have clashed 56 times in their history, it’s the first meeting since 2019. The two clubs scrimmaged at St. C. last August because their regular-season game was nullified because of the OHSAA beginning the playoffs earlier than anticipated due to COVID-19.
“We’ve been playing them forever, so it’s great to have this game back,” Spigarelli said. “They’ve really had our number the last 15 years or so after we had their number for several seasons. I expect this game to have a great atmosphere.”
The Red Devils have won 10 of the last 11 meetings. The lone Big Reds win in that stretch came in 2013 at Nelson Field. Prior to the St. C. string of success, the Big Reds recorded victories in 17 out of 18 matchups, including 16 straight from 1992 through 2006.