Big Red tops Perry for fifth-straight regional title

Big Red’s Randy Mitchell makes a tackle against Perry’s Tyler Horvath with help from teammate Eric Lulla. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

NILES – Big Red rode a “fantastic first half” to a 33-21 victory over Perry in the Division IV, Region 13 championship game Friday inside Bo Rein Memorial Stadium.

The win gives Steubenville its fifth-consecutive regional title and sends it into next week’s state semifinals. Big Red and Shelby will match 13-0 marks in the Final Four.

“We played just a fantastic first half then did just enough in the second half to win the game,” said Big Red’s Reno Saccoccia. “In the first half, our offense, defense and special teams really were fantastic.”

Perry, which finishes at 12-1, put a scare into the region’s top seed when speedy freshman Jaylen Anderson returned the opening kickoff for an apparent touchdown. The Pirates, however, were called for a block in the back and the score was nullified.

After forcing a punt on Perry’s first possession, Big Red struck quickly. Javon Davis hit Jonathon Blackmon on a perfectly executed screen pass and Blackmon went 58 yards for the opening score.

Steubenville struck again on its next touch, Davis hitting a wide open Alec Taylor over the middle for a 27-yard score.

Perry got on the board with 45 seconds left in the opening quarter on a 2-yard plunge by Tyler Horvath. The Pirates then pulled off a perfect onside kick, Noah Gourley recovering at the Big Red 49. The Big Red defense, however stepped up and the Pirates failed to take advantage of the turnover.

Big Red’s third touchdown came on a 7-yard Davis to Taylor pass. Then junior linebacker Eric Lulla picked off a Kolston Brewster pass and returned it 17 yards for a score. Ian Phillips’ conversation kick made it 26-7 Big Red.

Perry got a huge break with 30 seconds left before the intermission when Erik Somogyi picked off a Davis pass and returned it to the Big Red 10. Brewster then hit Anderson for a touchdown to make it 26-14.

Big Red opened the second half by marching 51 yards for its final touchdown. Jacob Bernard did the honors from 6 yards away. Steubenville started with a short field after Ty Arlesic recovered an onside kick attempt by Perry.

Perry pulled closer on Brewster’s touchdown pass to Josh Martin.

After that score, Perry threatened twice but each time Kwadre Williams delivered huge sacks of Brewster on fourth downs to thwart the threats. The final Pirate opportunity was snuffed out by a Gino Pierro interception.

“I’m really happy for our kids,” Saccoccia said. “That was a hungry team they played. We needed that drive to open the second half and I think it kind of sealed the game for us.

“The defense took over after that and we held for dear life. We played good enough to win and we are practicing on Thanksgiving thanks to these players and the effort they delivered tonight.”

Bernard had another huge night for Big Red, running for 184 yards on 38 trips. Davis completed nine of his 10 passes for 137 yards.

Brewster threw for 219 and the two scores but was picked off twice. Jacob Allen has six receptions for 102 yards. The Pirates finished with a negative 25 yards rushing as Big Red’s defense recorded eight sacks.

Steubenville 33, Perry 21

Perry 7-7-7-0 – 21

Big Red 13-13-7-0 – 33

BIG RED: Blackmon 58 pass from Davis (Phillips kick)

BIG RED: Taylor 27 pass from Davis (run failed)

PERRY: Horvath 2 run (Agostine kick)

BIG RED: Taylor 7 pass from Davis (kick blocked)

BIG RED: Lulla 17 interception return (Phillips kick)

PERRY: Anderson 10 pass from Brewster (Agostine kick)

BIG RED: Bernard 6 run (Phillips kick)

PERRY: Martin 53 pass from Brewster (Agostine kick)

RUSHING: Perry: 22-(-25)-1 (Brewster 9-(-41); Anderson 2-(-9); Horvath 6-10-1; Allen 5-25); Big Red 52-245-1 (Bernard 38-184-1; Davis 10-35; Blackmon 2-11; Agresta 1-9: Petteway 1-6).

PASSING: Perry 17-33-219-2-2x (all by Brewster); Big Red 9-10-137-3-1x (all by Davis)

RECEIVING: Perry 17-219-2 (Anderson 2-4-1; Martin 3-68-1; Allen 6-102; Peteritis 3-10; Horvath 3-35; Big Red 9-137-3 (Jones 1-16; Pierro 1-0; Agresta 2-12; Blackmon 2-54-1; Taylor 2-34-2; Arlesic 1-21).

FIRST DOWNS: Perry 10; Big Red 19.

PENALTIES-YARDS: Perry 9-70; Big Red 9-78.

PUNTS: Perry 4-38; Big Red 3-32.

FUMBLES-LOST: Perry 1-0; Big Red 2-2.