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St. Clairsville Shuts Out Wheeling Central, 35-0

Photo by John Pokas Wheeling Central running back Riley Watkins tries to break free an attempted St. Clairsville tackle during the second half of Thursday’s game.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Most of the hype surrounding the St. Clairsville football team centers around its offense.

Rightfully so considering the balance and big-play capability the Red Devils possess.

But, the Red Devils have shown time and time again their defense is worth talking about, too.

That was on once again on display Thursday evening when they forced three turnovers in the red zone and pitched a 35-0 shutout of Wheeling Central at Red Devil Stadium.

“Coach (Ben) Frye likes our defense being under the radar,” St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean said. “We’ve played pretty defensively with our backs to the wall against some really good teams. That’s a character thing, and hopefully our kids continue to promote that type of character.”

In a scoreless latter portion of the first quarter, the Maroon Knights were victimized by the turnover bug.

Junior Andrew Vera stepped in front of a Michael Toepfer pass for an interception, giving the Red Devils great field position.

Just a couple of plays later, Red Devil senior running back Jacob Jordan was off to the races, ripping off 39 yards, seemingly untouched for the game’s first score. Lucas Otto was perfect on the first of his five PAT kicks, making it 7-0.

The Red Devils forced a quick three and out and went right back to work offensively. Senior quarterback Drew Sefsick hooked up with classmate Colin Oberdick for a 20-yard touchdown. The PAT made it 14-0.

The Maroon Knights seemed to find some offensive traction on their ensuing possession. Utilizing the ground game with juniors Riley Watkins and Lorenzo Ferrera, Central marched to the Red Devils 9.

Facing a third-and-goal, Vera stepped in front of another Toepfer pass for a touchback.

Two plays later, Jordan was back in the end zone, from 68 yards out, and the rout was on.

Jordan broke a tackle and out-raced a couple of other defenders to the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown. Otto made it 21-0.

“They’re too good of a team for us to be able to afford to make those types of mistakes (with turnovers),” Wheeling Central head coach Mike Young said. “We put together some nice drives and had some momentum, but we threw a couple of picks and had a couple of fumbles.”

Jordan, who rushed 11 times for 212 yards in the first half, added a 6-yard burst to cap the first-half scoring.

“Jacob will be the first to tell you that the line, our fullbacks and the guys leading him up through there were opening some gaping holes. But, he deserves credit because first contact wasn’t bringing him down,” McLean said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of him for how he’s developed and matured. He’s a goal-oriented kid as a senior.”

St. Clairsville pushed the game into mercy-rule by taking advantage of yet another Maroon Knight turnover. The Devils recovered a fumble on the second-half kickoff and six plays later Sefsick and Oberdick hooked up again for an 18-yard touchdown.

The Maroon Knights threatened to break up the shutout in the latter stages of the third quarter, but coughed it up deep in Red Devil territory.

“We strive to get a shutout anytime. It’s a big goal on our goal board,” McLean admitted. “It’s hard to do at any level. Our defense deserves all of the credit.”

All told, the Red Devils rushed 28 times for 297 yards. Jordan finished with 218 of those. Sefsick added 68 yards passing.

“They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Young said. “We have a season ahead of us. We need to keep working hard to get better. Congratulations to St. Clairsville. They did a great job and hopefully they keep moving ahead.”

The Maroon Knights rushed 33 times for 175 yards, but were just 6 of 14 passing for 93 yards. Watkins carried 14 times for 120.

Both teams return to a traditional Friday night encounter next week. St. Clairsville (8-1) closes out the regular season against Cambrdige, while Wheeling Central welcomes red-hot Beaver Local in a game that’s scheduled for West Liberty University.

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