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Battle of the Bridge: Brooke visits Big Red

September 13, 2012
By ED LOOMAN - Sports correspondent , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Reno Saccoccia and Sean Blumette are on totally different pages in the win-loss book after three weeks of the high school football season.

They are, however, on the same page when it comes to the need for their teams to continue getting better.

Saccoccia's 3-0 Big Red and Blumette's 0-3 Brooke Bruins will square off Friday in the seventh Battle of the Bridge at Harding Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

"We're improving, the heat is on but we are improving," Saccoccia responded. "Sometimes the bumps and bruises that we have are not allowing some kids to practice that need the practice time. You only get better in practice, not in games."

He did admit his team has "improved its mental and physical toughness," but still needs to work "on the little things, the first step, remembering what the coaches teach."

"It's not that we haven't been working on it," Saccoccia continued. "We work on it every day. We watch practice film every day, we grade practice film every day. It's just that as certain positions we are inexperienced. We have to spend more time on details and take them more serious."

Fact Box

Big Red, 3-0

(games at 7 p.m. unless noted)

28Woodrow Wilson 8

32 Benedictine 28

21 Bishop Timon 7

Sept. 14 Brooke

Sept. 21 at Massillon

Sept. 28 Westinghouse Pa.

Oct. 5 Ursuline

Oct. 12 at Morgantown, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 Sir Wilfred Laurier

Oct. 26 Akron Buchtel

Brooke, 0-3

(games at 7 p.m. unless noted)

34 Parkersburg 35

14 St. Clairsville 44

0 at University 45

Sept. 14 at Big Red

Sept. 21 Wheeling Park

Sept. 28 at Pt Pleasant, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Park. South, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 Weir High

Oct. 26 John Marshall

Nov. 2 at Morgantown, 7:30 p.m.

When asked about his team's start, Blumette was quick to note, "I'm disappointed to say the least."

"After our scrimmages and the loss to Parkersburg in Week 1, we thought we had a team that was in a good place," he added. "I liked how the kids were executing and playing with pride.

"We knew we had to continue the intensity we showed against Parkersburg going forward. But, we haven't done that. The kids have not responded like we want them too. This week, we are evaluating our schemes, the personnel and the way we practice. We're trying to figure out what's not working. Our goal is to put a plan in place and execute that plan."

The first-year Bruin boss noted his team "has to get better."

"We need to bring the aggression back that we saw on defense against Parkersburg. And we need to do a better job of executing on the offensive side.

"We are capable. Why we've lost it, I just don't know. We've been struggling with it and we are looking for answers."

Big Red, which scored a 40-6 victory a season ago in Wellsburg, leads the Battle of the Bridge 6-0.

"In Big Red, you have a program that is established and traditionally strong," Blumette said. "You know you are in for a game. They're physical, fast and fundamentally sound. If we don't play well, we're in for a long night. I hope our execution gets better and we are able to match their intensity and aggression."

Offensively, the Big Red is averaging 306 yards per game and 27 points. Defensively, Saccoccia's gridders have been playing extremely well. Through three games, opponents have managed 167 stripes.

Senior quarterback Corey Stinson directs the Steubenville offense. He has put the ball up 56 times, completing 31 for 358 and three scores. Senior Matt Petrella is his favorite target, hauling in 10 for 152. Seniors Evan Westlake and Teshawn Luke have four grabs each.

Yet another senior, Dashon Redman, paces Big Red in the rushing department with 163 on 27 trips. Luke is next with 148 and junior Robert Hayden has 127.

When discussing the Brooke-Big Red series, Saccoccia said "first of all, not speaking on this year, last year or next year, I think this is a game that should have been played since 1969.

"We missed the opportunity for some great games and all that could be part of both schools' history."

As far as Friday's encounter goes, he noted "both teams are a little banged up, both are fighting for their football lives and both will come in with a lot of pride and determination to come out on top."

Alec Buchmelter, the senior quarterback, runs the offense for Blumette. To date, he is 32 of 61 passing for 461 yards and five touchdowns. He also leads the team in rushing with 106.

"He's probably the best quarterback in the valley as far as running, passing, leadership, toughness and experience," Saccoccia noted. "I feel any time you have a player with as many games and wins under his belt as Buchmelter has, that player can take a team a long way. My hat is off to him."

Brooke's offense suffered a major loss in week one when senior Raleigh Mason went down with an injury.

"I think they lost the best back in the valley when Mason went down," Saccoccia continued. "I know both kids and I know how hard they worked for their senior seasons. I can appreciate the effort they give."

Sophomore Bud Smith has stepped in at running back and battled his way to 103 yards on 33 carries.

Junior Heath Hildreth has been on the receiving end of 10 Buchmelter passes for 125 yards and a score. Freshman Thomas Cole has five catches.

As a team, the Bruins average 240 yards in offense per outing and 16 points. The defense allows 391 stripes and 41 points.

Blumette the key to Friday will be "which Brooke team will show up."

"Will it be the team from camp and the Parkersburg game or will it be the team from the last two weeks?"

Meanwhile, Saccoccia said his Big Red will "have to keep playing physical, fast and tough" in order to be successful against the Bruins.

"Sometimes you need more than a win. You also need to improve. The more you improve on the little things, the more you enhance your chances of winning."