STEUBENVILLE - It wasn't as pretty as Coach Reno Saccoccia may have liked, or as crisp and as fluid as Steubenville football fans have become accustomed to, but the bottom line is that it was another Opening Day victory for the Big Red Machine Thursday night at Harding Stadium.
Facing plenty of adversity during the week, Steubenville put it all in its rearview mirror and got a big victory with a senior quarterback starting his first game.
Corey Stinson helped break open a close game with a late 70-yard touchdown pass to Matt Petrella and then added another from a yard away as Steubenville held off Washington D.C. Woodrow Wilson by a 28-8 margin on Reno Field.
Steubenville quarterback Corey Stinson prepares to let a pass fly against Woodrow Wilson Friday night.
Coming off what amounted to a short week with plenty of controversy and issues, Big Red will get ready to host Benedictine next week back at Harding.
"The defense played great, but our conditioning really let us down and that is something we are going to work hard on this week," Saccoccia said
"We cannot be having that many cramps.
"And the other thing is execution. We did not execute up to par on offense or on special teams and we made some mistakes subbing, which is my responsibility. Those are things that must be corrected.
Thursday night, after fumbling in Tigers' territory on its first possession, Steubenville made the ultimate mistake on its second try when Stinson got off an ill-advised pass that was tipped by Micah Harris before being intercepted by Cedric Curry-Walker, who rolled 83 yards down the near sideline for the score with 5:35 showing.
Woodrow Wilson added the 2-point conversion following a 5-yard penalty on a pass from Scott Beumel to Darnell Fox for a stunning 8-0 lead.
By the end of the opening period, Big Red had outgained the Tigers by a 98-23 margin, but had turned the ball over three times and trailed the D.C. visitors by eight.
After recovering a Woodrow Wilson fumble, Steubenville finally found paydirt early in the second quarter. Big Red moved 43 yards, converting both a third- and fourth-down along the way, with Stinson finding senior Eric Robinson in the back of the end zone with 9:51 showing.
The hosts lined up for the extra point with holder Evan Westlake picking up the snap and throwing a pass into the end zone that was hauled in by junior Cameron King to knot the count at 8-8.
Steubenville's first lead of the night came with just 12 ticks showing on the second-quarter clock when senior Luke Smith drilled a 32-yard field goal for an 11-8 score. Big Red actually had six and-goal downs, but couldn't punch it in.
While the score remained close after two periods, the statistics were not. The hosts held a whopping 164-28 advantage in yards and converted 12 first downs to none for the visitors. (Steubenville has yielded just two first-half first downs in its last three openers combined).
Big Red added another Smith field goal with 8:05 to play in the third after driving down inside the 15, thanks in large part to a 31-yard Stinson screen pass to junior Cody Saltsman, that upped the margin to 14-8.
The Tigers had an opportunity to at least tie the score late in the third after returning the ensuing kickoff to midfield and driving all the way inside the Steubenville 10. However, a fourth-down run resulted in a fumble with Big Red taking over at its own 11.
After failing to convert a first down on fourth-and-1 from its own 20, Steubenville dodged another bullet, stopping Woodrow Wilson on downs at the 16.
"That may have been the dumbest thing I have called in 30 yards," Saccoccia said. "But our defense was lights-out and just played great, hard football all night long."
In what turned into a game of almost for the out-of-staters, the Tigers appeared to take a lead with just under 10 minutes to play on a 75-yard punt return by Khalil West, only to have it called back due to a holding penalty.
Big Red finally got the big play it was searching for all game long, putting it away with 3:09 showing when Stinson found Petrella streaking down the sideline from 70 yards away. Smith's PAT made it 21-8.
Stinson added a 1-yard burst with under a minute to play with Smith capping the scoring.
"They are a good football team," Saccoccia said of Woodrow Wilson. "But we made them look even better than they are. We did have some kids stick with it late and I am very proud of that.
"But we also had some kids that I felt didn't stick with it and we have to fix that also."
Big Red had a huge 349-113 advantage in yardage, with the Tigers picking up 42 of those on the game's final play.