STEUBENVILLE - Combining a "lights out" defensive effort with a punishing offensive attack, Big Red tamed those dreaded Tigers from Massillon, 24-7, Friday before a packed house at Harding Stadium.
With the victory, No. 300 for coach Reno Saccoccia, Ohio's top-ranked Division III team moved to 9-0 on the season. The Tigers fell to 7-2.
The win also gives Big Red a 2-1 lead in te series since it was revived in 2009.
PLAYMAKER — Steubenville Big Red senior Najee Murray catches a pass from quarterback Marcus Prather during Friday’s 24-7 victory over Massillon in front of a standing-room only crowd at Harding Stadium. Murray finished with three catches for 67 yards and a touchdown and had an electrifying run late in the fourth quarter as Big Red scored to put the game away. Big Red, the No. 1 team in the state in Division III, moves to 9-0 and will host Cardinal O’Hara next week to close the regular season.
-- Ron Gardner
Coming into the 45th battle between the two Ohio football powers, Massillon was averaging a shade more than 300 offense yards per contest. Big Red's stifling defense held the Tigers to just 107 (10 on the ground and 97 through the air). The hosts also forced two turnovers (a fumble recovery by William Houst and a pass interception by Leshawn Luke. The visitors were just one for nine on third down conversions.
Houst and Teshawn Luke shared a quarterback sack and Robert Hayden recorded two huge tackles for negative yardage. In the second half, the Tigers managed just 45 offensive yards and two first downs.
"Our defense played just played lights out for four quarters," Saccoccia said. "Hats off to Massillon, this was a great football game."
Big Red 24, Massillon 7
Massillon0 7 0 0 - 7
Big Red7 3 0 14 - 24
BR: Murray 15 pass from Prather (Smith kick)
BR: FG 27 Smith 27
M: Harrison 13 pass from Kempt (David kick)
BR: Pierro 2 run (Smith kick)
BR: Pierro 3 run (Smith kick)
RUSHING: Big Red 49-183-2 (Pierro 28-102-2; Luke 7-28; Redman 3-10; Murray 3-34; Prather 6-4; Houst 2-5) M 19-10 (Moore 10-19; Winters 2-4; Kempt 4-(-17); Tonn 3-4).
PASSING: Big Red 11-20-191-1 (all by Prather); M 12-22-97-1-1 (Kempt 9-18-1-1-98; Tonn 3-4-8).
RECEIVING: Big Red (Murray 3-67-1; Petrella 3-31; Redman 2-18; Westlake 1-20; Houst 1-15; Blair 1-30); M (Hendricks 4-36; Harrison 3-33; Moore 2-7; Baez 1-5; Calhoun 1-20; Winters 1-(-4)).
FIRST DOWNS: Big Red 15; Massillon 6.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Big Red 6-50; Massillon 3-17.
PUNTS: Big Red 4-27; Massillon 7-34.
FUMBLES-LOST: Big Red 2-2; Massillon 1-1.
Offensively, Big Red rolled to 374 yards (183 via the run and 191 passing). Jo Jo Pierro had another monster night, battling his way for 102 stripes and scoring twice. Marcus Prather was extremely efficient, connecting on 11 of 20 attempts and a touchdown.
Saccoccia's club got the game's initial score after Houst made a huge defensive play on Massillon's first possession. He got to quarterback Kyle Kempt quickly and basically swiped the handoff on a stretch play. The turnover gave Big Red a first down at the Tiger 31.
Six players later, Prather found Najee Murray all alone over the middle for a 15-yard score. Luke Smith's kick made it 7-0.
"I thought he (Houst) played well," Saccoccia said of his senior defensive end. "He didn't have a lot of big plays, but he had a lot of pressure plays where he forced them to do something quickly."
Steubenville appeared headed for another score on its second possession when it moved from its own 31 to the Massillon 12. However, a fumble ended the threat. Prather and Murray did some major damage on this drive, hooking up for a 33 yard gain.
Big Red extended its lead to 10-0 early in the second period when Smith booted a 27-yard field goal. Key plays on the drive included a Prather to Murray completion for 29. The senior signal caller also found Matt Petrella for a 16-yard pick up.
The lone Massillon score came late in the stanza when Kempt and Montel Harrison hooked up from 13 yards away. Andrew David added the extra point. The Tiger scoring drive covered 30 yards and was set up by a short Big Red punt.
Defense was the name for most of the third quarter. Big Red started its next scoring drive from its own 22 with 1:08 left.
Punishing runs by Pierro, Luke and Dashon Redman moved the ball out to the 47. Prather then hit Houst for 15 yards. Murray had the major play of the drive, taking a handoff from Luke out of the wildcat formation, running to his left, moving back to his right and breaking away for 31 stripes.
Three plays later, Pierro found his way in from two yards out. Smith again was perfect with the conversion try.
The hosts then stunned Massillon with a "hard on the ground kick," according to Saccoccia, which turned into an onside kick, L. Luke recovering at the Tiger 47. Prather hit Pat Blair for 30 yards before that punishing ground game went back to work. Pierro pounded over from the three for the game's final touchdown. Smith added the 24th point with his kick.
"In the first quarter, we played great offensively, then we had a lull in the second and third," Saccoccia noted. "In the fourth quarter, we came on. We got some punishing yards and Najee (Murray) sealed the deal. Jo Jo (Pierro) got some real tough yards when we needed them."
In addition to running for 34 yards, Murray also had three catches for 67 stripes. Petrella also grabbed three Prather tosses for 31 yards.
"You guys know what kind of respect I have for Massillon," Saccoccia said. "I'm happy for the kids. This win was for the school, the players and the community."
"Our game plan was to play our hearts out and hope we were around in the fourth quarter to make a big play. You can't beat a team like Massillon with tricks or reverses. To beat someone that is as tough as you, you have to go nose to nose with them. We knew we couldn't 'out-athlete' them. We have a first-year quarterback and a first-year offensive line. This was the first brutal game they have been in. Now, there are no excuses."
Big Red will look to go 10-0 next week when Tonawanda Cardinal O'Hara visits Harding Stadium. Should that happen, Steubenville will finish the regular season unbeaten for the seventh time in the last nine years.