Linsly, Steubenville to Battle
Big Red won 48-28 last year
STEUBENVILLE — Big Red will celebrate homecoming and senior night Friday when Linsly’s Cadets march into Harding Stadium.
The kick for the seventh all-time meeting between the schools is set for 7 p.m. Big Red has a 6-0 lead in the series and earned a 48-28 Week 10 victory a season ago.
“I never really knew anything about the Linsly football program until we played them last year,” said Reno Saccoccia, who has his Big Red off to a 2-0 start. “I’ve developed respect for that program. Linsly is well-coached, well-disciplined and their kids play hard regardless of what the score is.
“Linsly gave us a real good game last year. They were down early, and most teams would have just hung it up. They fought even harder when they were down, and they gained my respect.”
In 2019, Saccoccia’s crew jumped out to a 34-0 lead before the Cadets rattled off 21 unanswered points. Big Red used a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns to earn the 20-point victory.
B.J. Depew’s Linsly squad opened its season with a 31-16 victory on the road at Martins Ferry. The Cadets overcame 11 penalties and two turnovers to knock off the Purple Riders. Ferry, on the other hand, turned the ball over five times, and two fumbles led to Linsly scores.
Senior quarterback Hunter Kelley threw for 154 yards (he completed 15 of his 24 passing attempts) and a touchdown in the win. He added 40 yards on the ground for the Cadets, who are playing their first four games on the road. He passed for 276 yards and a score against Big Red last year.
Kobe Hill was on the receiving end of four Kelley passes, while Felix Reitter, Steve Felton and Luca DiLorenzo had three receptions each.
Spencer Knight collected 64 yards on the ground and scored on a 40-yard jaunt. He splits time at running back with Zachai Simmons.
Depew had to do some major rebuilding along his offensive front since all five starters from 2019 graduated. Hayden Bozich has emerged as a leader in the trenches, along with Marco Aprea and Colton Cybulski.
“There’s no doubt that Linsly has talent,” Saccoccia said. “Like I said, they are well-coached and sneaky aggressive. You wouldn’t think they are as physical as they are, but this is a very physical football team. The quarterback is a solid player and can hurt you throwing and running the football.
“The offensive line is not as big as it was last year, but I believe it’s a little quicker off the ball. They also seem to have a little more depth. Overall, the offense seems a little different from last year — has more balance.
“No matter what happens, our goal will be to stop the run. Linsly did a good job of running the football against Martins Ferry and in its scrimmage against Morgantown. It’s going to take a great defensive effort from our guys to stop that run and hopefully control Linsly’s passing game.”
In Week 2, Big Red spotted Dover an early 7-0 lead, then scored 28 straight points. Steubenville compiled 322 yards of offense (245 coming on the ground), while holding Dover to 160.
When its top two tailbacks (Rodney James and Joshua Boffman) went down with injuries, Big Red turned to sophomore Spencer Ostovich and senior Nate McShan, and both delivered. Ostovich finished with 143 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown. McShan chipped in 69 and scored twice.
Ostovich leads Big Red’s stable of running backs with 220 yards. James has 126. Senior quarterback Cade Kernahan has thrown for 157 yards and three scores. Junior Brenton Jones is the team’s receiving leader with six catches. Junior tight end Brandon Kinney had two catches (both good for 18 yards and both producing touchdowns).
The Steubenville defense is allowing an average of 92 rushing yards per game and 94 through the air. The unit has picked off two passes (both by Jones) and recovered three fumbles.
“That was a great win for us against a very good Dover team,” Saccoccia said. “Going forward, we have to keep improving in every facet of the game.
“We’re working to improve on offense, defense, defending the run, defending the pass, special teams — every phase. Because of the type of year we are having, this is something we just have to do.”
Friday’s game is the final one at home for Big Red. Saccoccia and Co. will visit New Philadelphia, Wheeling Park and Austintown Fitch to close the regular season.
“You have six games this year to prepare yourself for the seventh game (the Ohio playoffs),” Saccoccia said. “Obviously, you want to win the six games because you always play to win. This shortened regular season represents a combination of preparing for the seventh game as well as each opponent and what that opponent presents.
‘“We had to focus on stopping the run in our first game and stopping the pass against Dover. Linsly is a more balanced team than we have faced so we’ll prepare accordingly. We know this game will be a challenge and we’ll work hard to prepare.”