MORGANTOWN - Former Steubenville Big Red standout Shaq Petteway says as soon as he began to pop up on the college radar as a Division I prospect, another proud Big Red alum, Zach Collaros, tried to recruit him to Cincinnati.
There was just one problem with that.
''Cincinnati didn't offer me,'' Petteway said.
Instead, Petteway attended West Virginia University's summer camp his junior year and made an immediate impression on the coaching staff.
''When West Virginia offered me, I always knew I was going to come here,'' said Petteway, a true freshman seeing time on special teams and at bandit safety for the Mountaineers, who play Collaros' Bearcats at noon Saturday at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium.
Petteway and Collaros never played a game together at Big Red. While Collaros was leading his team to back-to-back state championships with identical 15-0 records, Petteway was on the lower field behind Harding Stadium, playing 7th- and 8th-grade football.
''He was always around,'' Petteway said of Collaros. ''He was practicing up top, we were down low. After practice, we'd go in the Field House and see all of the varsity players and stuff. Me and Zach have known each other for a long time.''
Collaros redshirted his freshman season at Cincinnati and is now a fifth-year senior and third-year starter at quarterback for the Bearcats, who have a two-game lead on everyone else in the race for the Big East championship.
Like all middle schoolers in Steubenville, Petteway followed the varsity program closely.
''I attended all of those games,'' he said. ''It's a big thing in Steubenville on a Friday night. You have to go to those games, no matter where they are. There's nothing else to do.''
And, boy did he enjoy watching Collaros lead those teams.
''I wanted to grow up to be Zach,'' he said.
Collaros was a three-sport star at Big Red. He was a starting shortstop as a freshman on a state runner-up baseball team in 2004. He was an All-Valley basketball player. But most of all, he was a winner.
''Zach is a special player,'' Petteway said. ''He's one of those players where he's going to do whatever he has to do to win. If there's anything he can do to win, he's going to try to do it. That's the type of player he is. That's the way we were raised in Steubenville is do anything to win.''
Petteway's greatest memory of Collaros' exploits isn't a long pass or a quarterback sneak. He remembers a 108-yard interception return in the state semifinals when Collaros was playing defensive back.
''Our coaches always talked about that play,'' Petteway said.
West Virginia didn't recruit Collaros to play football. Few did. He was thought of as more of a baseball player. But the coaching staff, then flush with Ohio Valley natives in Bill Stewart and Jeff Casteel, knew the school's reputation.
''Steubenville is obviously a storied program,'' WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. ''We know their coaches pretty well. They know how to win. They know how to work. They coach them hard. Obviously, we always look at a Steubenville kid. If we can get a Steubenville kid, we'd love to have him.''
Petteway has played in all nine games this season for the Mountaineers and has totaled six tackles.
Now that he'll be on the field against Collaros, he'd love to add another one.
''That would be fun if I actually get in and get a chance to get in and make a tackle or break up a pass,'' Petteway said.
So who will the Big Red fans be rooting for Saturday with native sons on each side?
''I wouldn't say it's divided,'' Petteway said. ''They want us both to have success, but I'm sure there are people that like Cincinnati better than West Virginia. I'm sure there are people that like West Virginia better than Cincinnati. If I'm on the field, they'll want to see me have success. If he's on the field, they'll want to see him have success. I think it's more of a 50-50 thing.
''It's going to be just a normal game for me. I'm just going out to try and win.''
That's what they learn at Big Red.
When Collaros heard Petteway was going to West Virginia, he offered a little advice.
''He just told me to come here with the same work ethic that I had at Steubenville and always try to do the best and everything I do,'' Petteway said.
No matter what happens Saturday, you can bet these two will meet after the game and talk about what happened Friday night, as Big Red will have played against Mooney in the second round of the playoffs in search of yet another state championship.
And another 15-0 season.