STEUBENVILLE - Steubenville Big Red is home again, but it wasn't easy.
On the strength of a 21-18 win Friday night over Akron Buchtel, Big Red again clinched a home playoff game in Ohio Division III Region 11.
"I think every team has to start over every year, even if you have a bunch of players back they might not have the same attitude," said Big Red head coach Reno Saccoccia. "Every team starts from scratch every year. We started from scratch and we had a lot of adversity.
GAME-WINNER — Steubenville Big Red’s Luke Smith lines up for what would be the game-winning field goal, from 33 yards out, as Big Red earned a home playoff game next week with a 21-18 win over Akron Buchtel at Harding Stadium.
"When teams overcome adversity it's the seniors, not anyone else. If they want their season to cave in it will cave in. If they want it to be good it will be. The seniors make the team."
Senior kicker Luke Smith put through a 33-yard field goal with 3:23 remaining in the game to give Big Red a 21-18 lead, and then things got a little crazy.
The Griffins marched down to the Big Red 24-yard line with under a minute left. On third-and-eight quarterback Marnayre Drummond dropped back to pass, saw a flag thrown, and stopped. Unfortunately for Buchtel the whistle hadn't blown so the play was live allowing Steubenville to capitalize by sacking Drummond for a 22-yard loss. The sack set up fourth-and-30 at the Big Red 46. Big Red broke up a desperation heave on to regain possession with 36 seconds left, and ultimately ran out the clock.
Big Red 21, Akron Buchtel 18
Akron Buchtel 0 6 12 0 - 18
Big Red 0 10 0 11 - 21
AB: Bell 9 pass from Drummond
BR: Petrella 70 interception return (Smith kick)
BR: Smith 27 field goal
AB: Mosley 60 fumble return (Pass failed)
AB: Rucker 63 pass from Drummond (Pass failed)
BR: Redman 1 run (Redman run)
BR: Smith 33 field goal
RUSHING: Akron Buchtel 26-60 (Drummond 17-44, Hazly 4-11, Smith 2-4, Lee 2-(-2), Rucker 1-3); Big Red 50-230-1 (Redman 35-180-1, Jett 7-30, Stinson 4-5, McClurg 3-14, Brown 1-1).
PASSING: Akron Buchtel 8-14-120-2TD-1INT (All by Drummond); Big Red 7-9-47-0TD-0INT (All by Stinson).
RECEIVING: Akron Buchtel (Rucker 4-64-1, Bell 3-48-1, Hazly 1-8); Big Red (McClurg 4-12, Lawson 2-22, Saltsman 1-13).
FIRST DOWNS: Akron Buchtel 8; Big Red 15.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Akron Buchtel 8-50; Big Red 8-47.
FUMBLES-LOST: Akron Buchtel 1-0; Big Red 3-2.
"I feel great about the win," said Saccoccia. "I couldn't feel any better about the win. I just hate the way it ended because I respect their coach so much and their players.
"(Buchtel head coach) Ricky Powers is one of my favorite people and I hated for it to end like that."
The game ended with a Griffins player being ejected on a Corey Stinson kneel down and ultimately with no post game handshake.
Steubenville took a huge advantage in the kicking game in Friday's victory.
"Bobby Lamantia did a great job of preparing our kickoff team," said Saccoccia. "He did a real good job, and the kicking game paid off this week.
"We had an onside kick, we had a blocked punt, our sky kick worked, our field goals worked, and we didn't punt the ball."
After Matt Petrella returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown to give Big Red a 7-6 lead late in the first half, Smith kicked a perfectly placed onside kick that was recovered by Donte Brown at the Buchtel 43-yard line.
On second-and-13 from the 31 Stinson hit Tajuan Lawson for a 12-yard gain, and then kept it himself on a four-yard run for a first down. An Griffins' offside penalty put Big Red at the 10 and Smith put through a 27-yard field goal for the 10-7 lead with three seconds left in the half.
"He's a mentally tough kid," said Saccoccia of Smith. "The holder did a great job, the center did a great job, we protected, and he was on the money. He was dynamite twice."
Big Red looked poised to carry that momentum after blocking a Buchtel punt on the opening possession of the second half to take over at the Buchtel 47.
The Griffins literally stole the momentum back three plays later. Steven Mosley stripped Kai McClurg and raced 60 yards to paydirt to give Buchtel a 12-10 lead after the conversion pass fell incomplete.
"We gave up some big plays," said Saccoccia. "The stolen fumble, we didn't break on an interception. There's only inches between a great play and a bad play, and we have to work on those inches."
After Buchtel converted a third quarter Big Red turnover on downs into a 63-yard scoring pass from Drummond to Deric Rucker that made the score 18-10, it was time for Big Red senior running back Dashon Redman to impose his will.
Redman, who fumbled earlier in the game to set up Buchtel's first score, was a monster for Big Red late. On Big Red's 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive that started with 3:51 left in the third quarter, Redman toted the rock eight times for 71 yards, including punching in from inside the one for the touchdown. Redman also powered in for the two-point conversion run to tie the game at 18-all with 11:57 remaining in the game.
Redman then carried the ball seven times for 37 yards to help set up the game-winning field goal. Cody Saltsman caught a 13-yard screen pass to put Big Red at the 16 the play before Smith put the kick through.
"The whole team responded," said Saccoccia. "Before the game we talked about in games at this time of year little things win the games. Not big plays, little plays win the game."
Big Red ran the ball 50 times for 230 yards with Redman leading the way with 35 touches for 180 stripes.
The Steubenville defense held Buchtel to 180 yards of offense including just 60 yards on 26 carries rushing.