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FOOTBALL LOOKAHEAD: Morgantown Hopes to Slow Down Steubenville

October 10, 2012
By TRACY WATSON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

There are a few teams in the Ohio Valley that when the football playoffs are announced at the end of the regular season you always expect to see their respective school names in the schedule.

Probably the biggest, and best, example of that is Steubenville High School.

And while there are still three games to be played in the regular season in Ohio, Coach Reno Saccoccia and his Big Red are in serious danger of not making that list in 2012.

Steubenville, which has made the playoffs every year since finishing ninth in the region in 2000, will take a 5-2 record to Morgantown on Friday night for a meeting with the 5-1 Mohigans, who are another one of those schools in West Virginia Class AAA.

"Nobody in West Virginia has beaten Steubenville and we know that," Morgantown Coach John Bowers said. "But that streak has to end somewhere and we hope it is with us this Friday.

"But we also know that it will not be an easy task with the Dean of Ohio Valley football standing on the other sideline."

Not only has Big Red made the playoffs every year since 2000, they have finished first in their region nine times, second once and no lower than fourth.

Currently sitting in the No. 9 hole in Division III, Region 11, there are not a ton of points available the final two weeks in Sir Wilfred Laurier, from Canada, and an Akron Buchtel team that is sitting at 3-4.

Saccoccia's crew is coming off a hard-to-swallow 31-7 defeat to Youngstown Ursuline last Friday night at Harding Stadium in which Steubenville consistently lost the field position battle, allowing the Fighting Irish to play on a short field most of the night.

Meanwhile, Bowers, a Brooke High graduate, directed his team to a thrilling 42-39 victory against Wheeling Park at the Island Stadium that same night.

In what could very well turn out to be a huge determining factor in the contest, even in its two losses this season, Big Red has done an amazing job stopping the run. On the other hand, led by junior Chazzy Thomas' 303 yards, the Mohigans rolled up 428 rushing stripes against the Patriots and six scores.

"I don't believe for a minute that we will be able to put up those kind of numbers against Steubenville," Bowers added. "The big thing is that we need to limit the amount of big plays we give up to them, which was way too many last week.

"When we get them in third downs we have got to get off the field and we have had some trouble doing that. As a defense we haven't played that bad, but we have too many situations when it is third-and-eight or nine and we give up 10 yards. We have to make those plays."

Thomas has accounted for 662 yards and seven touchdowns on the season for a team that does not try to throw the football very much.

Steubenville did allow Ursuline 275 total yards of offense, but again kept their opponent under 100 yards on the ground. As has been the problem a few times this season, Big Red was unable to get the offense untracked and accounted for just 175 stripes and one score.

Senior quarterback Corey Stinson, who inherited the starting job on short notice just a couple days before the season began, has played well but threw for only 77 yards and was intercepted twice a week ago. His favorite target is Matt Petrella, who has nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns.

"Without question they are the best high school football program in our area," Bowers said. "They are just fantastic year in and year out and are so very well coached.

"They have kids that play hard every down and from what we have seen on film this year's team is just vintage, quality Steubenville football."

Morgantown has played at Harding Stadium each of the previous two seasons, losing 31-9 and 35-7, but will look for a better result with Big Red coming to Pony Lewis Field this year.

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