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Football Lookahead: The ‘Battle of the Bridge’ Takes Place in Wellsburg

September 19, 2013
By ED LOOMAN , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WELLSBURG - Steubenville will invade Brooke Memorial Stadium Friday and Bruins coach Sean Blumette is pulling no punches when it comes to his thoughts concerning the eighth Battle of the Bridge.

"We have to play perfect game on Friday," he said. "That means we have to execute on both sides of the ball, control the clock, control the line of scrimmage and establish our running game.

"Defensively, we need to be properly aligned, be aware of their shifts and motion, execute in coverage and be solid with our tackling. We have to do the basics. If we do all of those things, then we have a shot."

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Todd Clark (70) and the Brooke Bruins hope to be the ones out in front against Steubenville.

The Bruins will take a 1-2 record into the game, which is set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Big Red is 3-0 and holds a 7-0 lead in the series.

Brooke is unranked in West Virginia while Big Red is the fourth-ranked Division IV team in the first Ohio AP poll.

"When you play Big Red, you know you are going to go against a fundamentally sound team that is well coached and plays aggressive football," Blumette said. "They've done more offensively this year than I've seen them do, plus they changed their defense to an odd stack to take advantage of their athletic ability.

"They're playing two different quarterbacks and have a number of guys carrying the ball. They do present many challenges."

Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia was quick to point out that Brooke, at times, "has looked great on film."

"Their timing is what it should be and their defensive linemen are good," he noted. "They're gap-sound and have a good scheme. Right now, the ball is just not bouncing their way.

"They have a really good tailback (sophomore Justin Loughrie). He has great hips and runs with passion. If we have to eyeball anyone, it has to be him. In last year's game, some of their better runs were by him. He's a tough kid who plays with a passion for the game. We have to be able to stop him."

In the 44-21 loss to University, Loughrie compiled 123 rushing yards on 10 carries and scored on a 26-yard run. He's averaging 7.6 yards per carry through three games.

Junior quarterback Aaron Walker leads Brooke in rushing with 211 yards on 27 carries. Senior running back Nick Ossman had 204 on 49 attempts.

As a team, the Bruins are averaging 255 yards a game (183 rushing and 72 passing). Senior Heath Hildreth has eight catches to lead Brooke's receiving corps.

Brooke trailed University by six points (20-14) at the half last week. The Hawks outscored Blumette's club 24-7 in the third and fourth quarters.

"We played reasonably well against University but we have to keep looking at the little things we didn't do right," Blumette said. "We turned the ball over (the Bruins lost two fumbles) and had some penalties. We came out flat in the second half and it was a repeat of what happened against Allerdice."

Blumette said his team's inability to maintain positive momentum from the first half into the second half is "sort of a mystery."

"We just couldn't get anything going against University in the second half," he said. "We'll be tweaking some things this week and work on figuring out how to maintain our momentum."

In addition to the challenges Big Red presents on the football field, Blumette noted there are other issues he and his staff will be dealing with this week.

"When you play a rivalry type game like this one, you have to prepare for football and deal with everything else," he said. "There is some extra buzz this week because Big Red is coming to Brooke. Our guys know their guys, our parents work with their parents and you have to contend with all the outside stuff.

"You have to make sure you focus on the football aspect. We have to remember we are playing football on Friday and there's a lot of work to do."

Despite the 1-2 start, Blumette believes his team still has the opportunity to "get to where we want to be (the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs)." To do that, he added, his Bruins need "to play every game like it is their last."

Coming off a 43-38 victory against Canada Prep, Saccoccia and his Big Red will be making their first road trip of the season.

"There may be a few issues associated with getting there and the bus ride, but once the ball is kicked off, it's 52 by 120, every field is like that," he said.

To date, Big Red's offense is averaging 342 yards an outing (221 via the ground and 121 through the air). Saccoccia's club is scoring 40 points per game.

Hard-running senior Garon Lytle leads Big Red's tailback by committee with 194 yards on 34 carries. Junior Donte Brown is next with 161. He topped the 100-yard barrier against CFPA.

Sophomore quarterback Dimitri Collaros has hit on 61 percent of his passes for 222 yards and three scores. Mandela Lawrence-Burke, Big Red's other 10th grade quarterback, has thrown for 151 and run for 105.

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