STEUBENVILLE - The 2013 Big Red football team will do something that hasn't been done since 2002 - play four regular season games on the road.
Coach Reno Saccoccia's club will visit Brooke (Sept. 20), Barberton (Oct. 4), Youngstown Ursuline (Oct. 18) and Wheeling Park (Oct. 25). During the 2002 campaign, Big Red traveled to Niles, Brooke, Zanesville and East Liverpool.
Barberton is one of four opponents Big Red will be facing for the first time. The others are Detroit Central, which will visit Harding Stadium for the season opener on Aug. 29, Pinehurst Canada Prep, based in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Pittsburgh Renaissance Christian Academy, which is in its initial year of fielding a football team.
Saccoccia discussed the slate prior to the 17th-annual Big Red Boosters Appreciation and Football Kickoff Dinner, held Sunday at Pugliese West Elementary School.
"We had a couple of teams scheduled that dropped us because of the situation we are in," he said. "So we not only had to fill our three openings, but also had to replace those two. Because of all that, we got a little bit of a late start with the schedule.
"Barberton (a Division II school that went 2-8 in 2012) was in a situation where it had a complete schedule but someone dropped them and it was a home game. We needed a game so we agreed to play them for two years."
Saccoccia, who is entering his 31st season at the helm of the Big Red, called the schedule "tough and challenging."
"We thought we might have a local team for Week 3, but that didn't work out. So, we had to go into Canada."
Pinehurst Canada Prep is a fairly new school formed to enhance the opportunity for Canadian football players to obtain Division I scholarships in the U.S.
Canada Prep plays American rules and only schedules American opponents. The 2013 slate includes a meeting with Ohio power Cleveland St. Ignatius.
"They definitely play a good schedule," Saccoccia pointed out. "Their coach went there because of the school's structure. The boys attending want to play U.S. college football and that's the way he prepares them."
Wheeling Park is back on the Steubenville schedule for the first time since 2010. Big Red holds a commanding 12-0 lead in its series with the Patriots. Also returning is Salesanium High School from Wilmington, Del. The Sallies traveled to Harding Stadium in 1988 and dropped a 25-15 decision to Big Red.
Home games with Cleveland Benedictine and Massillon round out the Big Red slate.
"We're 6-4 (home vs. road games) this year and right now, we'll probably be 8-2 or 9-1 next year," Saccoccia added. "Our only away game at the moment is with Massillon. We could end up traveling to Austintown Fitch but those details haven't been decided yet."
The 2012 Big Red went 9-3, falling to Millersburg West Holmes in the Division III playoffs. Under the new Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines, Big Red will compete in Division IV this season.
As far as his 2013 squad goes, Saccoccia admitted "he has no preconceived opinions" on the team.
"One fact is they have worked extremely, extremely hard," he stated. "I'm very pleased with the one thing we can control right now - conditioning. The kids have done a solid job of getting in good physical condition.
"With physical condition comes mental development. The tougher you get mentally, the harder is to quit physically."