St. Clairsville, Wheeling Central set to clash tonight at Red Devil Stadium
ST. CLAIRSVILLE – With the post-season quickly approaching in both Ohio and West Virginia teams continue to battle it out for positioning and home playoff games in each respective state.
A game with plenty of points for seeding, and a little bit of bragging rights as well, will kick off Thursday night at 7 p.m. when Wheeling Central (5-2) pays a visit to St. Clairsville (7-1). Both teams are perennial playoff participants, and both are once again battle tested this season.
Coach Mike Young’s Maroon Knights, who blasted Martins Ferry by a 41-6 margin last week, will bring a three-game winning streak into the contest while Brett McLean’s streaking Red Devils have won six consecutive outings which includes a lop-sided 55-7 verdict of Union Local last Friday night.
“Year in and year out we go to practice every day and we pride ourselves on our ability to prepare and get ready for Friday nights,” Young said. “These are very coachable kids, and they are constantly working to get better. This will be another big game for us and we know we have to win enough, and prove enough to both get to, and be successful in the playoffs.”
Both will also bring in plenty of fire power both on offense and defense with Central scoring at least 47 points in each of its last three games while St. Clairsville has tallied at least 55 in three of its last five victories. The Red Devils have also not allowed more than 16 points in any of its last six while giving up 57 points total during that run and just 110 through eight games.
“We were fortunate last week to come out and execute like we did so early and get ahead,” McLean commented. “Honestly, we weren’t expecting that, we were looking for a four-quarter war, but I am proud of how the kids played and very proud of our reserve and freshmen players for getting quality playing time and playing so well.
“But we have to put that game behind us now. We came out of it healthy, and we have been burning the midnight oil getting ready for Central. We want to come out ready to play Thursday. You always know there is a chance that one game where things don’t go your way can be out there and you have to be ready and aware of that.
“You might have to grind it out and make adjustments and keep going. It’s a long season and you have to be ready for anything.”
The Maroon Knights, long known for its ability to pile up big numbers in the running game, still has that ability with a nice stable of backs, but Wheeling Central has shown it can also be formidable in the passing attack as well. Senior Michael Toepfer has thrown eight touchdown passes in the team’s last two games, including four to classmate Caleb Ratcliffe against the Purple Riders.
In just a little over two quarters of action last week Toepfer threw for 232 yards with Ratcliffe catching five passes for 155 yards and the four scores. Braxton Anderson is someone that can be dangerous both on the ground and through the air.
Senior Cody Martos and juniors Lorenzo Ferrera and Riley Watkins all split time running the ball, usually paying big dividends. Ferrera had just six totes for 77 yards and two touchdowns a week ago while Watkins also found the end zone and finished with 45 stripes. The Knights’ defense played a big part in last week’s win, allowing Ferry just 69 total yards of offense.
“Our depth and our balance have been good this season,” Young added. “And we have a number of kids that can both carry and the catch the football. Michael (Toepfer) and (backup quarterback) Payton (Hildebrand) have both done a great job for us under center when we have needed them to. They do a great job encouraging each other and showing confidence and support. It’s always next man up at any given time and we are ready.
“Our balance has really helped when teams gang up and try to stop our run, that is when the play-action becomes a big part of our game.”
McLean knows that Wheeling Central is a good football team and that his team will once again have their hands full.
“They are really good, but that is what we are seeing every week,” McLean quipped. “We saw them against Bellaire and then we also seen them against Weir in a game that they were very sharp and crisp. They spread you out and make you defend the entire field, but as always Coach Young has a solid run game that is lights out. Their defense also makes it hard for you to find the end zone.
“Overall, they just do a lot of things. Jason Rine has been coaching their offense for a long time and is one of the many reasons they have won state championship after state championship. It really should be a good game for both schools, and you just hope that both teams come out of it clean and healthy with the playoffs looming ahead.”
Senior Drew Sefsick leads the St. Clairsville offense and is another two-way threat. Sefsick has thrown for 1,237 yards, including 101 last week, and also ran for 77 stripes on just two carries, both of which resulted in touchdowns. All-Ohio wideout Collin Oberdick has nearly 600 yards through the air and has scored seven times.
Colt Westlake and Logan Shields each hauled in a touchdown pass last week while senior Jacob Jordan is the team’s leading rusher with over 800 yards and 13 trips to the end zone. Jordan ran for 103 and a score on seven tries against the Jets.
In all, the Red Devils ran for a whopping 431 yards last week and finished with 533 total yards of offense while limiting Union Local to just 86. St. Clairsville is firmly entrenched in the No. 2 spot in the Division IV, Region 15 playoff chase.
“They have a heck of a program and Brett and his staff do an outstanding job every year,” Young said. “Traditionally they are very strong and powerful and ready to go in the post-season, and that is a big credit to those guys.
“We both have challenging times putting a schedule together, and they are bigger than us, we both teams always play hard and good when we get together and I expect it to be the same Thursday night. You just have to go out and execute on both sides of the football.”
St. Clairsville’ won the team’s last meeting by a 35-20 count in 2019.