STEUBENVILLE-Earlier this month, Steubenville was pulling for Maysville to earn a victory in its Week 10 clash with Claymont. On Friday, Big Red will be looking to send the Panthers home for the winter.
Steubenville (7-4) and Maysville (8-3) will do battle for the second straight season in the Ohio playoffs. Their Division IV, Region 13 semifinal bout is set for 7:30 p.m. at St. Clairsville's Red Devil Stadium. Big Red handed the Panthers a 28-0 setback in the 2012 quarterfinals.
Maysville rallied from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Claymont and secure back-to-back postseason appearances. The Panthers victory also opened the door for Big Red to land the eighth spot in the region.
Gang tackling will be a key for Steubenville.
"We owe them our football lives," Big Red's Reno Saccoccia said.
Big Red, making its 13th straight playoff appearance, started its postseason run with a 21-14 victory against top-seeded Licking Valley. Saccoccia's crew was one of three eight seeds across the state to knock off regional No. 1s.
"I thought we played very enthusiastic football," Saccoccia said. "We started a little too uptight and we made some mistakes that we normally don't make. Every play we played was physical, especially the first two defensively. Not only did we make tackles in the backfield, but they were physical tackles behind the line of scrimmage.''
Maysville, the fourth seed, made its first home playoff game one to remember, forcing three turnovers in a 35-14 victory against fifth-seeded Columbus Bexley.
Senior running back Jordan Hayes ran 26 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Panthers. He also recovered a fumble.
Jacob Miller is in his second season at quarterback for the Panthers. Other key weapons for Maysville are sophomore running back Chase Roberts (5-11, 156) and senior C.J. Harris (6-2, 204).
"Maysville is very well-coached," Saccoccia said. "Their skill people are back from last year. They have a new offensive line but overall, their skill people have shown major improvements.
"The key for us defensively will be to keep No. 9 (Hayes) in check. Offensively, we want to eat the clock and be more successful with our play-action passes. Hopefully we will play solid defense, protect the ball on offense and do a better job with our special teams."
Big Red was able to keep Hayes under control a season ago, holding him to 36 yards on 14 trips. As a team, Maysville finished with minus-1 yard rushing on 31 attempts.
Offensively, the ball-control Panthers average 36 points a game while allowing 19.
Big Red is averaging 315 yards offensively and 29 points. The defense surrenders 228 and 24.
Big Red will be playing its second playoff game in St. Clairsville (the first was in 1994). Saccoccia's program has tried to schedule a regular season game at Red Devil Stadium, but to date has been unsuccessful.