St. Clairsville Rolls After Slow Start
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Brett McLean may have felt like he was experiencing a case of deja vu in the early moments of Friday night’s season opener against Carrollton.
Each of the Red Devils’ first two drives, which were impressive marches into Warriors territory, ended with lost fumbles. Carrollton converted one of those into a touchdown in the first quarter. In last season’s opener, St. C. was guilty of five turnovers, many of which led to points and an eventual loss.
“I don’t know what it is about turnovers and the opener, but maybe our kids were just a little too amped up,” McLean said.
However, unlike last season, the Red Devils were able to right the ship, hold onto the ball and exert their will on the Warriors en route to 31 unanswered points and a 31-13 victory before a large crowd at Red Devil Stadium.
“I am proud of how our kids didn’t clam up after (Carrollton) scored first,” McLean said. “I know our kids aren’t happy with the errors we committed, but I saw a lot of leadership on the field, which I am happy about. The errors are something we have to get corrected because they can catch up to you if you don’t fix them.”
Other than the two turnovers, one of which occurred when St. C. was on the 1-yard line, the Red Devils were in control throughout thanks to a mammoth and physical offensive line, which paved the way for an impressive Red Devils’ rushing attack, which accumulated 228 yards and scored three touchdowns on 57 carries.
“Each game could be different, but our line was firing off the ball and I am anxious to look at the film to see how those guys graded out,” McLean said. “We had a couple of kids up there making their first starts and they played well. I am really proud of those kids.”
The bulk of that rushing attack, which followed the blocking of Javon Lyons, Avery Henry, Trey Delguzzo, Chase Espen, Austin Angus and tight end Andrew Elerick, came from senior standout Brady Kolb. The returning All-Ohioan was called upon 35 times for 189 yards and he scored on runs of 1 and 4 yards.
The Red Devils got on the board with 8:43 to play in the half when Kolb capped a 7-play, 29-yard drive, which was set up by a punt that netted just 14 yards.
St. Clairsville’s defense, which played well throughout in limiting Carrollton to just 199 yards of offense, including 72 of which that came on the Warriors’ final drive, forced another punt.
“I thought our defense played outstanding because from the scrimmages we saw, Carrollton had us nervous wrecks,” McLean said. “They do a good job of spreading you out, but I thought our kids really played well. It was an outstanding job by all of the kids.”
Speedy senior Justin Heatherington covered the final 5 yards on the ninth play of a 66-yard drive that ate almost four minutes off the clock. A big play on the drive was when senior quarterback Dustin Carrothers found rangy senior receiver Craig Bober for a 21-yard gain. A 15-yard, late-hit penalty was added on.
Sophomore defensive back Tyler Tonkovich, who played an impressive game throughout, was johnny on the spot in recovering a fumble on the ensuing Carrollton possession. The Red Devils settled for a 24-yard field goal from sophomore Jake Bolyard, who was also perfect on four PATs.
The Red Devils began to salt the game away when they scored on their first possession of the second half. Kolb plunged in from 4 yards out, capping a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
St. Clairsville only threw the ball eight times, but it completed five. Carrothers capped the scoring when he found Heatherington for a 19-yard hookup. All told, the Red Devils threw for 102 yards. Heatherington had 27 yards on the ground and caught a team-high 3 balls for 57 yards. Bober recorded 2 receptions for 45 yards.
“This was a good, early season win,” McLean said. “We wanted to get as many kids out there as we could and get some of the green off, and I think we did a good job of that.”