STEUBENVILLE Irish show solidarity after 35-0 loss
Steubenville's first team defense has not allowed a point this season.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STEUBENVILLE -- The Ursuline High football team gathered at midfield for a moment, then walked off the field, hand-in-hand, in a show of unity following a 35-0 loss to Steubenville.
It was also symbolic. If the Irish want to salvage their playoff hopes, they're going to need to come together quickly after Friday's loss.
"I'm disappointed in how the guys competed," said Ursuline coach Dan Reardon. "I don't think they came to play, and that starts with me. I take the blame for that."
Falling behind early
Steubenville (4-0) scored on its first four possessions -- the first three coming before the Irish recorded a first down. The Irish (2-2) went three-and-out on five of their first seven possessions, were outgained 342-126, had a punt blocked (and returned for a touchdown), turned the ball over twice and only once got past Steubenville's 35-yard line.
"We need to find 11 players who are going to compete every play," Reardon said. "We've got to find some guys who are going to step up and make a decision about who we're going to be. And that begins with our seniors."
Running back Ryan Curry provided the lone highlights for Ursuline. The 5-foot-8, 182-pound running back ran 10 times for 100 yards but had a costly fumble on Ursuline's scoring threat, dropping a handoff on a second-and-six at the Big Red 11. Curry, who suffered a hip injury in last week's win over Poland, wasn't at full strength, and Reardon took him out midway through the fourth quarter.
Senior quarterback Bryant Youngblood, who missed the second half of the Poland game with a mild concussion, had minus-8 yards rushing and completed just 1-of-5 passes for 3 yards.
"We came into the game planning to pass more [than usual]," Reardon said. "They just did a good job of defending it."
Conversely, Big Red quarterback Zack Collaros was spectacular, completing 4-of-6 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns and running six times for 57 yards and a TD.
"I feel like that's the best effort we've had as far as making plays, playing smart and playing until they blow the whistle," said Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia.
Big Red's first team defense -- which has yet to give up a point this season -- controlled the line of scrimmage, holding starting running back Maurice Jones to 7 yards on five carries.
Steubenville's special teams were just as good. "I won't say they were phenomenal," Saccoccia said, "but they played good."
On fourth-and-17 at the Ursuline 13, sophomore Anthony Gossett broke through the Irish line and blocked Airic Puhalla's punt. Angelo Magnone recovered at the 1 and ran it in. Big Red didn't pressure another punt the rest of the night and played noticeably less aggressively in the second half.
No time to rest
"It was our best effort of the season," Saccoccia, whose team has finished first in the last two Associated Press Division III polls, said. "But we can't stop. There's no rest for the wicked."
The Irish can't stop either, not with a brutal schedule that includes games against St. Thomas Aquinas, Warren Harding, Canton Central Catholic, Columbus Watterson, Mooney and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
If it's any consolation to Irish fans, Steubenville looks like a legitimate state title contender.
"I'm not as familiar with their division," said Reardon, "but I know they're an outstanding football team. I find it hard to believe that there are very many better than them."