Linsly’s Malte Feil runs with the ball in a game against St. Clairsville at Red Devil Stadium earlier this season.
Photo by Lauren Florence
STEUBENVILLE–Steubenville will be looking for a sweep of its Wheeling-based opponents when Linsly’s talented Cadets march into Harding Stadium Friday.
Unbeaten Big Red, who leads the Division IV, Region 15 computer ratings and remains third in the Ohio AP poll, put an offensive show to remember last week in disposing of Wheeling Park 69-28.
Reno Saccoccia’s crew finished its game against Park with 679 yards of offense, turned all 10 of its possessions into touchdowns and had four scoring plays of 60 yards or more.
“Offensively, Wheeling Park played like we thought they would play,” Saccoccia said. “They put 28 points up on the board.
“I was expecting we would have more long drives. I never expected we’d have the number of big plays we finished with. Those, in turn, gave Park more opportunities on offense. Big plays are helpful at times and they made a difference in the game.”
Linsly stands at 4-1 following its 41-38 road win at previously unbeaten Fort Frye. The home loss was the first for Fort Frye since 2017. The Washington County based Cadets had not fallen to an OVAC opponent since 2014. Linsly came from behind twice and sealed the victory when placekicker Santiago Graneros nailed a 40-yard field goal with just more than a minute to play.
“It was a big win for us in a tough place to win,” Linsly coach BJ Depew said. “It was a difficult game to win–it was just a battle for four quarters.
“We were down 14 and 15 points respectively and hung in there. We were really fortunate to win that one.”
The Cadets, who are riding a three-game win streak, also have defeated Imani Christian Academy, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and St. Clairsville. They fell to Fairmont Senior, the defending West Virginia Class AA champion, 27-24.
“If you would have told me when the season began we could have signed up to be 4-1 going into Week 6 against Steubenville, there’s no doubt we would have taken the deal,” Depew said. “The kids have gotten better every week. They are believing in themselves more and more and have started to do some things people doubted they could do.
“That has grown the confidence and kind of become the glue that hold us together when things are not going well.”
Friday’s meeting will be the 10th all time between the schools, Big Red holding an 8-0-1 series lead. The opening kick is set for 7 p.m.
“Linsly is a very well balanced team,” Saccoccia said. “They moved some players around and that has made them stronger. They are more dangerous offensively. They are not quite as big as they were last year but they are a lot quicker.
“They are always physical. They do a good job with the way they play–they play a physical game of football. Linsly has a good running back, a solid quarterback and real good speed. The line is quick and stays on its blocks a lot longer.”
Junior Atley Cowan directs the Linsly attack. In the victory at Fort Frye, he completed 14 passes for 303 yards and five touchdowns.
His go to target is senior Luca DiLorenzo, who saw playing time at quarterback as a junior. He went off for 161 receiving yards against Fort Frye and four touchdowns. He scored on receptions of 12, 66, 21 and 52 yards. His final score tied the game at 38 late in the third quarter.
Jy’Leik Johnson, Nathan Coleman and Malte Feil are other weapons in the Linsly passing game.
Alex Taylor is the featured running back. He finished the Fort Frye game with 116 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
In addition to his game winner, Graneros also nailed a 33-yard field goal.
When asked for his thoughts on Big Red, Depew quickly noted “they are excellent.”
“They are strong and they are explosive,” he continued. “This is the fourth year in a row that we played them. I have seen them get better each year. We have gotten a little better each year and have played better each year up in Steubenville.
“I do believe this is as strong as they have looked on film. They look like a complete team that can run it and throw it. They play outstanding defense. Really, I do not see any weaknesses whatsoever.”
In putting together its 6-0 start, Big Red has averaged 34.7 points per game while allowing 11.5. Offensively, Steubenville is rushing for an average of 242 yards an outing with 157 coming via its passing attack.
Senior Gavin Bozica has rushed for 622 yards and nine touchdowns on 98 carries. Junior Savier Faulks has contributed 365 yards on 36 trips, average of 10.1 yards a touch. He has four scores.
Senior quarterback Phaeton Hill has thrown for 940 yards and nine six-pointers. He’s completing 66 percent of his attempts.
Junior Isaac Hill has 25 receptions for 398 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Hakim Edwards and Bozica have seven catches each.
“We will need a couple of breaks,” Depew said. “That’s true any time you are in a big game and that certainly was the case last week–the ball bounced our way a couple of times.
“Our guys will need to block and tackle. Anytime you are facing Steubenville, it ultimately will come down to blocking and tackling. Scheme is great and scheme gives you a chance to have a chance but the kids have to step up and play like grown men. They need to block and tackle then if the ball bounces your way, maybe you can take advantage of it.
“Steubenville is a strong football program. They run it well and have shown the ability to throw it when want to with great success also. Fundamentals will be the key.”
As always, Saccoccia stressed that solid preparation will be the key for his Big Red.
“I told them after the Park game that we can’t be human because human beings tend to let down after something really good happens to them,” he said. “That’s just human nature.
“We can be human beings all day but when we are on the field, we have to be champions and we have to practice like champions. We have to practice like we want to get better. If we practice like that then we will play like that.”