STEUBENVILLE - The evolution of American rules football in Canada is in full effect with the Canada Prep Football Academy, Big Red's Week 3 opponent, playing the role of catalyst.
CPFA, which is in its inaugural season, provides the best high school football prospects in Canada the opportunity to achieve their dreams of playing for a NCAA school and potentially obtain significant scholarships.
It is the only high school football program that runs on a full U.S. game schedule supplemented with university level academics and elite performance training. The athletes receive year-round training that follows the same blueprint of most major university programs, allowing for healthy competition among other prospects, most notably those who receive more exposure in U.S. high school systems.
Garon Lytle and Steubenville will tussle with CPFA on Friday.
Coach Geoff McArthur and his Raiders launched their season last Saturday and recorded a 49-38 victory against Renaissance Christian Academy from Pittsburgh, Steubenville's Week 10 foe. McArthur played for the University of California at Berkley and also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Raiders have 30 players on their roster, 29 from Canada and one from England. CPFA players train for football year round while attending classes at Pinehurst Prep in St. Catharine's, Ontario.
"They run a multiple offense," Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia said of Friday's visitors. "They run an I-formation and a little spread. Against Renaissance, their most successful plays were counters. They have good talent but, like us, they are not very deep at some positions."
Running backs Brady Oliveria and Raekwon Grant are CPFA's two main offensive weapons. Receiver Trea Ivey, who also plays defensive back, is the top threat in the passing game. Saccoccia called Ivey "one talented football player."
Neville Gallimore leads the Raiders defense from his end position.
"Their players have a goal of playing college ball in the U.S. and from what I can see, their coach is doing a good job," Saccoccia said. "The play all U.S. schools and they have a bang-up schedule."
Later this season, the Raiders will tangle with Brother Rice from Detroit, Detroit Central Catholic and Cleveland St. Ignatius. For the opportunity to be a part of the CPFA program, players and their families pay $9,000 in tuition for an academic year plus another $6,500 to play varsity football. Boarding adds another $5,000 or so to the total.
Big Red is 2-0 on the young season after recording a 28-17 victory against Cleveland Benedictine in Week 2. Saccoccia said his young squad continues to work on improving.
"We're not anywhere near being a championship-caliber team but we are working our way up and improving every day," the veteran coach noted. "I just talked to the kids about the improvements they've made from the Cambridge scrimmage to the Benedictine game.
"We're a heck of a lot better now than we were four weeks ago. We have to keep improving every day in practice. We have to keep improving our technique and keep working on all the little things."
Steubenville took control of the Benedictine game by scoring on its first three offensive possessions.
"Our team highlights offensively involved us taking advantage of opportunities," Saccoccia pointed out. "We recovered a fumble early, started our second drive at their 47 after a nice punt return and went 77 yards on our third drive to make it 21-0.
"The other highlight was our opening drive of the second half, which produced a score."
Big Red went 65 yards in nine plays to earn their final score of the evening (sophomore quarterback Mandela Lawrence-Burke hitting senior tight end Cameron King for a 13-yard touchdown).
"Defensively, we handled three sudden changes very well," Saccoccia said. "One change was a fumble, one by us going for it on fourth-and-short yardage and another after a punt. Each time, our defense really rose to the occasion."
The Big Red defense held Benedictine's high-powered rushing attack to 62 yards on 30 carries.
Big Red's special teams also drew praise from Saccoccia for stopping them inside the 22 on the first two kickoffs and going 4-for-4 on extra points.