Football: Steubenville Shuts Down Brooke, 32-15

WELLSBURG – Sean Blumette was spot on when he said Steubenville “is going to attack you” when its back is against the wall. That’s not the kind of team that is “going to sit back and take it.”

Stung by an early Brooke score, Reno Saccoccia’s club reeled off 29 unanswered points to earn a 32-15 victory before a large crowd at Brooke Memorial Stadium Friday.

The victory gives Big Red (4-0) an 8-0 lead in the Battle of the Bridge series. Blumette’s Bruins (1-3), suffered their third loss to state-ranked teams.

“We respect Brooke and its program,” Saccoccia said. “We respect everything about the Brooke Bruins. We told our kids we wanted to play with passion and earn their respect, the same respect we give them. We responded well after their early score.”

Brooke grabbed an early lead when junior quarterback Aaron Walker totally fooled the aggressive Big Red defense. On second-and-5 at the Bruins 15, he faked a handoff to his running back (Justin Loughrie), moved to his left, turned up the field and raced 85 yards for a touchdown.

“We knew we could make some stuff happen and we had a good play,” Blumette said. “Aaron made a great fake; everyone thought Justin had the ball. I actually thought he (Loughrie) got stuffed. The next thing I knew, Aaron is 40 yards down the field.

“That scored showed the big-play capabilities our backs have.”

The touchdown came after the Brooke defense stuffed Steubenville on its first offensive series. Nigel Bowland threw quarterback Dimitri Collaros for an 8-yard loss. Two plays later, Steubenville was forced to punt.

The next time Big Red had the ball, they proceeded to march 70 yards for the go-ahead score. Donte Brown accounted for 42 of the total and scored on a 6-yard plunge. Brown also crossed the goal for the two-point conversion.

The next Steubenville touchdown came following another defensive stand and a big play by the special teams. Big Red broke through to block Heath Hildreth’s punt after a bad snap, Setting Steubenville up at the Brooke 12.

Quarterback Mandela Lawrence-Burke found sophomore fullback Devin Ferguson alone in the flat off play action and Ferguson cruised to a touchdown.

“We had Big Red’s back against the walls,” Blumette said. “They’re going to attack you when that happens. They’re not going to sit back and take it.”

Steubenville started the second half by marching 65 yards in six plays (overcoming two holding penalties). The key play was a 34-yard Lawrence-Burke to Bryan Pierro pass completion. Hayden ran in from 33 yards out on one of Big Red’s patented stretch plays.

Saccoccia’s squad struck quickly following Hayden’s run. The defense forced a Bruins punt from the Brooke 45. The snap was bad again, and Hildreth was forced to fall on the pigskin, giving Big Red possession at the 30.

Johnnie Blue capped that drive from 14 yards away, giving Steubenville a 29-7 edge.

“Unfortunately for the first time in two years, we had two bad special teams plays,” Blumette said. “That cost us two touchdowns. I’ve never experienced that in my time here. We’ll work on that next week and fix it. You take those two scores off the board and who knows?”

Brooke put together an impressive drive on its next touch, moving from its own 18 to the Big Red 3. Walker threw for 76 yards on the march. He hit Alexander Tate for 26 and a first down at the Steubenville 9. A Walker pass fell incomplete then Bowland was hit behind the line by Ferguson. Walker and Tate hooked up for 8. On fourth-and-3, Ossman was nailed by the interior of the Big Red defense and fumbled the ball, the Red recovering at the 1.

Brooke earned a safety two snaps later when Todd Clark dropped Hayden in the end zone.

On its ensuing possession, the Bruins pulled a little razzle dazzle. Walker tossed the ball to Hildreth, who then found a wide open Tate for an apparent 53-yard score. Unfortunately, Brooke was hit with a double forward pass penalty, nullifying the touchdown.

Blumette didn’t like the call. But instead of pulling closer, Brooke turned the ball over on downs. Big Red then marched down field behind the running of Lytle and Johnnie Blue. The drive led to Steubenville’s final score of the game, a 23-yard Duff field goal.

Ossman sprinted in from 14 yards out to cap Brooke’s last march of the evening.

“Brooke didn’t lay down and die,” Saccoccia stated. “They have good players and a good coaching staff. You’re not going to shut a team like that out. I wish we would have played better at times on both offense and defense. And, I wish I would have coached better at times. I have to improve as much as they players do.”

Big Red compiled 353 yards of offense (268 rushing and 85 passing). Saccoccia’s tailback by committee finished with 251 yards. Hayden paced the way with 73, while Donte Brown added 58. Pierro grabbed three passes for 76 stripes.

Brooke had 122 yards rushing on 37 trips. Walker had 85 of the total on his touchdown jaunt. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 113. Tate caught four for 62.