Clippers take on rival Crestview for control of ITCL
By Tom Williams
Bob Spaite says his Columbiana High football teams have had more talented than this year’s undefeated squad.
“We have a bunch of very, very average guys who are playing a whole lot better than they are,” Spaite said. “And they are playing like a team.
“And that’s what is sustaining us right now.”
The Clippers (6-0, 3-0 Inter Tri-County League Tier One) are tied with Crestview (5-1, 3-0) atop the league standings. Tonight at Firestone Park, the Clippers and Rebels will face off for first place.
The Rebels are two-time defending league champions. Their last ITCL loss was to Mineral Ridge in Week 9 of the 2009 season. The Clippers should have their hands full tonight. And that’s the way Spaite likes it.
“We have a couple of guys ... who can turn a 5-yard play into a 50-yard play,” Spaite said of senior quarterback Austin Barbato and junior tailback Britton Steiginga. “I’ve had more talented teams here.
“We’ve had way more talented teams here that haven’t been able to do this. It’s a major credit to these kids and the coaching staff.”
The Clippers are ready for the challenge the Rebels present.
“We have a lot of dangerous people, we have a lot of threats on offense,” Steiginga said.
At stake are precious computer points for Division V Region 17. This week, the Clippers are the number three team in the region while the Rebels are sixth.
By winning six in a row, Barbato said the Clippers may have “surprised ourselves a little bit, but we want to keep this going. We’re [playing as] a team and that really helps.”
Leading the Clippers attack is Barbato whose sleight-of-hand moves have been faking out many eyes in the stands and on the field.
“His fakes are so good that he’s faking out the refs,” Steiginga said. “He‘s always been good, he started as a sophomore, he’s a phenomenal quarterback.”
South Range head coach Dan Yeagley agrees.
“They are [undefeated] for a reason, because they are good,” Yeagley said after a 33-8 loss to the Clippers two weeks ago. “Barbato does a nice job running their offense.
“He runs the show, he’s been involved with it, he knows it,” Yeagley said. “He’s been well-coached and he can do it. We had people in position at times who just didn’t make tackles. Sometimes, that’s his athleticism.”
Spaite, who has been the quarterbacks coach for his team until this season, deflected praise.
“This year, I turned over the quarterback job to Kris Reash,” said Spaite, who instead is working with the offensive line. “Kris has done a super job. He and Austin have a super relationship.”
Barbato credits Reash as the guy who “keeps my head on my shoulders.”
Columbiana’s offense features Brandon Hacker as a bulldozing fullback and Barbato as a shifty runner not afraid to throw the ball.
Barbato credited his linemen for giving him time to set up his fakes and time to throw. Playing up front are tight end Trenton Solmen and linemen Nick Bacha, Steve Kurilla, Levi Dunlap, Hayden Sneltzer, Jacob Theil, Justin Hoffman and Jared Hill.
Against South Range, Spaite shut down the Clippers’ passing game once the lead grew to three scores early in the third quarter.
“We didn’t put the ball up because we wanted to eat clock,” Spaite said. “And I feel bad because I hope I don’t cost Austin a thousand-yard [passing] season.
“He was having a big game passing the ball and the Jim Tressel in me buttoned it down and we put a screech on that offense. Maybe I shouldn’t do that.”
Or maybe Spaite should enjoy the fruits accomplished by hard work and the chance for an unbeaten season.