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FOOTBALL LOOKAHEAD: Battle of Buckeye 8 Unbeatens on Tap

September 20, 2012
By SETH STASKEY , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

You name it, and Friday's showdown in Cadiz probably has it.

Whether it's playoff points, OVAC and Buckeye 8 standings implications, perfect records or even a Coal Bucket, it'll be on the line when St. Clairsville and Harrison Central clash Friday night.

''We just keep playing undefeated teams, which keeps the kids excited but makes the coaches a nervous wreck,'' Red Devils coach Brett McLean said with a laugh. ''You can't come into any game in (the Buckeye 8) sleepy or not ready to go. Every week is a new mountain to climb, per se, and this week is a real test.''

Article Photos

Maurtice Hython

The Red Devils, who are ranked sixth in the state's AP poll and on top of the Region 15 computer rankings, are coming off a 48-6 victory against then-unblemished Indian Creek and have yet to be challenged since the first half against Wheeling Park in the opener.

''They're really, really good,'' Harrison Central coach Justin Kropka said. ''I've been looking at their film since Saturday, and I am still trying to find a chink in their armour.''

The Huskies, who are ranked 13th in the Division IV AP Poll and third in the computer rankings, are coming off a victory against Martins Ferry. They also owns victories against Wheeling Central, Weir and Caldwell.

''I am definitely not surprised by the type of season Harrison Central is having,'' McLean said. ''I thought 'Krop's' team was flying under the radar some in the preseason just because they've got such a good senior class of kids who've been around a long time.''

Everyone knows how high powered the St. Clairsville offense is, but they're learning how stingy the defense can be and last week saw that its special teams are extremely solid, too.

''Our special teams and defense definitely excelled because our offense looked bad most of the first half and third quarter,'' McLean said. ''Our special teams were huge, but we've got to execute better offensively.''

The Red Devils offense is triggered by senior quarterback Matt Kinnick who's completed 36 of 57 passes for 679 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's yet to be picked off.

On the ground, junior speedster Jaylon Brown leads the way with 50 carries for 329 yards and seven touchdowns.

Dan Monteroso is the Red Devils' leading receiver with 13 catches for 313 yards. He's had seven touchdowns via the air. Junior Michael Ferns has caught five passes for 116 yards and scored twice, while also running for 90 yards.

''I'm not sure I've seen as much talent assembled on one Buckeye 8 team like this St. Clairsville team has,'' Kropka said. ''Everywhere you look is a really good player. Even the guys you don't hear about every week are good. It's really impressive.''

The Huskies defense was staunch against Ferry, bottling up the running game. Senior Nick Pelegreen, Tyler Rose, Nate Maykowski, Niko Williams, Nate Olmstead and a host of others are the defensive leaders.

The Huskies offense is led by senior quarterback Rashaen Mitchell, who has passed for 648 yards and eight touchdowns on 31 of 50 accuracy.

The ground game features one of the area's premier running backs and leading rusher in senior Maurtice Hython. He's run 72 times for 691 yards and six touchdowns.

When the Huskies go to the air, Mitchell's favorite targets are Olmstead, Josh Moore and Pelegreen. The trio has combined for 21 receptions for 448 yards and six touchdowns.

''Harrison Central has a lot of kids who can make big plays,'' McLean said. ''They've got a physical running back, a few receivers who can stretch the field and (Mitchell) gives the offense all three facets. Having him back there and healthy is a huge factor.''

The Red Devils defense is led by senior linebacker Luke Smith who is coming off a 15-tackle performance against Indian Creek that earned him The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register Defensive Player of the Week. Corey Ernest, Justin Callarik, Colby Lindsay, Cole Stephens, Jerrid Marhefka, Brown and Ferns are the defensive stalwarts for the Red Devils.

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