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Match-ups were interesting at Harding Stadium

November 5, 2011
By BRENT SOBLESKI - Sports writer (bsobleski@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The final outcome of a football contest is never as interesting as the games played within the game.

Big Red's 68-13 victory in the first round of the Ohio Division III Region 11 playoffs doesn't tell the entire story when it met with Indian Creek Friday at Harding Stadium.

The most interesting match-up in the contest, for example, was Indian Creek's big-play wide receivers versus Big Red's athletic secondary.

Article Photos

OPEN FIELD — Steubenville’s JoJo Pierro (25) follows William Houst on a run around left end.
-- Ron Gardner

The Redskins' Mike Furda finished the regular season averaging 21 yards per catch while on the receiving end of 11 touchdowns. He had been a tough match-up for every defense he faced. Meanwhile, Alex Young is one of the few weapons in the Ohio Valley that can score each and every time he touches the football.

Big Red countered the Redskins' potent passing attack with one of the finest defensive players in the area, Najee Murray. Murray is an Ohio State commitment.

Murray is joined at safety by fellow team captain Jojo Pierro. Matt Petrella and Quinton Smith manned the cornerback spots.

During the early portion of the game, both teams were moving chess pieces around the board as they jockeyed to gain early momentum.

Indian Creek stunned Big Red's defense as the the game began. On the Redskins' initial drive, Andrew Connor's squad spread the field with four wide receivers and pushed the pace with a hurry-up offense.

It proved effective as the team marched down the field quickly and efficiently culminating in an -yard strike to Furda who easily came open in the endzone on a fade route.

"That's our offense, and that is how we have been running it all year," Andrew Connor stated. "We thought we had to keep doing what we do best. It just didn't materialize the way we wanted."

The countermeasures began immediately.

The next time Indian Creek was on offense, Big Red changed coverage responsibilities. Murray slid from safety to cornerback and lined up directly accross from the dangerous Furda.

The result?

Indian Creek was forced into a three-and-out, while Furda had his trouble beating Murray's jam at the line of scrimmage.

"We didn't make many adjustments," Big Red head coach Reno Saccoccia insisted. "They came out and had a nice passing game. They did a good job.

"I thought their offense played well in the first half. I thought our defense played not-so-good in the first half."

Murray provides a security blanket in the secondary for Steubenville.

"It's a combination of a lot of things," Saccoccia said. "To play in our defense, you need good safeties. With what they were doing, our safeties needed to come up and play corner.

"I didn't want to do that early, because our corners have to learn. I thought they did a good job."

Furda, who started as a two-way player, was injured shortly thereafter while playing defense. He didn't return to the game.

"Obviously, it hurt," Connor said. "The kid is a good football player. It tough to make up when you lose one of your better kids."

More adjustments commenced after the injury. Murray was seen less at cornerback, instead roaming over the top of the defense.

After Big Red established a 21-7 lead, due mainly to consecutive scoring drives linked by an onside kick recovery, Indian Creek was able to move the ball again through the air.

Blake Roar found an opening across the middle of the field underneath the safety's coverage. Alex Young and Justin Cummings used their size and strength to their advantage out-jumping Big Red cornerbacks along the sideline to place Indian Creek in scoring position.

"I thought they (Big Red's cornerbacks) were in place a couple times to make plays, but they didn't make the plays," Saccoccia stated. "To Indian Creek's credit, they made the plays."

Eventually, the Redskins plunged into the endzone to narrow the Steubenville's lead, 21-13.

Then other members of the Big Red secondary began to step up.

After a one-play drive where Murray scored on a 53-yard pass from quarterback Marcus Prather, Indian Creek regained possession with 3:55 remaining in the first half down 28-13.

Petrella sat on an in-breaking route and jumped the pass from Indian Creek quarterback David Kemp. The cornerback came up with an interception which gave the Big Red offense the ball in Redskins' territory.

The Petrella pick proved to be the final nail in the coffin as Big Red scored again before halftime and entered intermission with a 35-13 lead.

The second half was all Big Red who completely shut down Indian Creek's offense and scored 33 more points before it was all said and done.

"Thirteen points in 48 minutes isn't bad," Saccocchia said with a smile.