SR returns to postseason
BEAVER TOWNSHIP — The South Range High School football team will be making its 17th playoff appearance when it plays host to Bellaire in a Division V, Region 17 quarterfinal tonight.
After finishing 3-7 last season, the Raiders will take a 7-3 mark into the contest against Bellaire, which also is 7-3 and is venturing into the playoffs for the 14th time. South Range is seeded fourth and Bellaire is the fifth seed.
“It’s been a great bounce-back season so far and it was good to compete in a league after being an independent,” South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. “I think the Northeast-8 is a strong conference, which helped in us reaching the playoffs again. I think the schedule prepared us well for the postseason and it definitely was fun for the boys to get an opportunity to win a league title.”
The Raiders finished 5-2 in the league, with losses to champion Poland (27-7 in Week 4) and Niles (35-34 in OT in Week 6). Their other loss was to Springfield (23-20 in OT) in the opener. Poland is seeded second in Division IV, Region 13 and Springfield is the top seed in Division VI, Region 21.
South Range, which is in the postseason for the 16th time in the past 24 seasons, has never reached a state final. The Raiders lost to Eastwood 21-7 in a state semifinal in 2017.
Bellaire went 3-7 in 2017, but rebounded to finish 12-1 last season after losing to Newark Licking Valley 30-0 in a regional final. The Big Reds won titles in 1995 and ’96.
“(Bellaire) has 20 seniors back from last season and they’ve beaten some very good teams this year,” Yeagley said. “The strength of their team is defense. They are very strong against the run and play lower-scoring games.”
Bellaire allows 13.6 points per game and is 3-1 in games decided by one score. The Big Reds, who have not posted a shutout, are averaging 23.3 points per contest.
South Range counters with an offense fueled by passing and averages 34.9 points an outing.
Senior quarterback Isaac Allegretto is 98-for-169 passing for 1,415 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Chris Brooks, at 6-foot-4, is one of a handful of steady targets with 18 catches for 400 yards and six touchdowns. Trey Pancake (19 receptions, 238 yards, four TDs) is the speedster and tight end Jake Gehring (12 carries, 228 yards, two TDs) is also reliable. Ian Toy (12 carries, 176 yards, three TDs) and backs Anthony Delucia (12 carries, 128 yards) and Dylan Dominguez (10 carries, 104 yards) also get targeted.
“Isaac threw for 1,900 yards last season and is our leader offensively,” Yeagley said. “He does a nice job of spreading the ball around and we have a lot of capable guys who can catch the ball. But I also think we’re fairly well balanced. We run the ball well, too and our offensive line does a nice job.”
Dominguez leads the team in rushing (120 carries, 947 yards) and has totaled 12 touchdowns. He is helped by Patrick McCabe (120 carries, 650 yards), Delucia and Luke Blasko.
The offensive line consists of guards Colin McCabe and Cade Holmes, tackles Isaac Less and Mike Lally and center Rocco Delucia.
Defensively the Raiders are allowing 16.8 points per game and are led by linebackers, Colin McCabe, Anthony Delucia and Michael Patrone and linemen Gehring, Anthony Czap, Bailey Ryan and Corey Kougher.
The backfield features Blasko, Pancake, Luke Crumbacher and Corey Penick, with Dominguez also seeing action.
“I don’t see the cold weather bothering us and our turf is just three years old,” Yeagley said. “I think is going to be a typical hard-fought 4-vs.-5 matchup, where everything matters. I think we have an edge in special teams and that could be the difference, but it depends on who makes the fewest mistakes and wins the turnover battle. We’re excited to get it going.”