Big Red’s Legends Night a highlight of Week 2

The way Michael “Buster” Tillman sees it — Big Red football is “the fabric of our community.”

Tillman, who currently resides in the Columbus area, and his senior teammates from Steubenville’s 1991 squad were honored Friday during Legends Night, sponsored by the Big Red Boosters Club.

“Big Red football means everything to our community,” said Tillman, who went on to play for the Ohio State University. “We look forward to it every year. It’s the fabric of our community, it shows our grit and toughness.

“I know I am very appreciative of what Big Red football did for me and the guys around me. I always look forward to coming back home.”

The 1991 Big Red finished 12-1, dropping an 18-7 decision to Uniontown Lake in the Ohio Division II semifinals. It gave Hall of Fame coach Reno Saccoccia his 100th career victory with a victory over Elyria in the regular season finale.

Big Red finished first in the D II, Region 7 standings and beat Youngstown Chaney in the opening round of the playoffs. Next came a win over West Branch, giving Steubenville its fifth consecutive regional championship.

Tillman played wide receiver and defensive back for Big Red. He earned second team all-Ohio honors, was a first team all-district selection and also earned first team all-OVAC recognition. During his career at OSU, he caught 88 passes for 1,277 yards and four touchdowns.

“Being part of the Big Red football program definitely was a special time in my life,” Tillman said. “My classmates and I grew up with each other and we had a great season as seniors. We only lost one game, unfortunately that was our final game.

“It was a special time. We carried the torch, we did our part and we added to the Big Red tradition. That’s really all you can ask for.”

Jeff Grill was the quarterback for Big Red in 1991, earning first team all-district honors and collecting special mention on the all-Ohio team. Tillman said Grill was the guy who “was always getting people in the right positions.”

“He was my guy then and he’s my guy now,” Tillman said. “We started playing together at Harding and went to OSU together. We’ve gone on a lot of journeys together.”

Grill, who now lives in Miami, said even thought his classmates are “spread all across the country, we still have the bond which is Big Red football.”

“It’s great to get together with these guys,” he added. “We get together more often than a lot of classes, I think. These guys are some of my best friends. We always were a tight-knit group and those special relationships were forged within the walls of the Big Red fieldhouse.”

When talking about his 1991 Big Red, Saccoccia said it was “a great team with beautiful players.”

“There were just great kids on that team,” he said. “The class has been successful from the grittiest linemen to the fastest back. They’ve all been very successful and I’m as proud of them as I am of any Big Red team.”

When informed of the coach’s comment, Grill was quick to agree with the assessment.

“I was reading a lot about the passing of John McCain this week and he authored a book called Character Is Destiny,” Grill said. “As I was reflecting his life and thinking about coming back here, I thought about why we were successful on the field and why guys became successful afterwards.

“We were not the most talented or naturally gifted group, with the exception of a few guys like Buster Tillman. But our class had an extraordinary amount of high character guys and that made a difference.”

The 1991 seniors showed their character by selecting the mother of deceased teammate Jim Keaton (Margaret) to serve as honorary captain for the coin toss prior to Friday’s 21-17 win over Morgantown.

Other 1991 seniors attending Legends Night were Jon Collier, Ricky Fletcher, Corey Tomasso, Huge Bolen, Matt Shepherd, Mark Palmer, William Poplowski and Aaron Pease.

DOWN TO THREE

Just two weeks into the season and The Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area is down to just three unbeaten teams.

Indian Creek is one of those clubs (Catholic Central and Weir High also are 2-0) after holding off East Liverpool 26-20. The Redskins scored the first 26 points before the Potters reeled off 20 unanswered.

“A win is a win,” Creek coach Andrew Connor said. “I think our kids stepped up. We’ve had a tough week this week and a lot of injuries, but I think our kids just rallied around and played football.”

Creek’s run game ate up 280 yards with 163 coming from tailback Trevor Fante. The junior raced in for the first three scores of the game from 5, 1 and 57 yards out.

Sam Mazar made his first start under center one to remember. He completed 11 passes for 142 yards and scrambled for 64 yards and a touchdown. Mazar has taken control of the Creek offense following the unfortunate season-ending injury to Brennon Norris.

Creek will be looking for a 3-0 start when it travels to Alliance this week.

THREE FOR 100

Justin Hartzell probably will be the first to tell you he didn’t have a real solid game throwing the football in Friday’s 41-20 road win at Oak Glen. The senior threw for just 88 yards.

The dual-threat signal caller did hurt the Golden Bears with his legs, rushing for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He was one of three Crusaders to top the 100-yard mark. As a team, Steve Daley’s now 2-0 club compiled 433 yards on the ground.

Noah Fayak finished with 109 and sprinted 90 yards for a score. Jayden Keeder, meanwhile, added 103 and another touchdown. Keeder had 88 yards and his score in the second half.

“Jayden stepped it up and ran the ball pretty well, especially in the second half,” Daley said. “We are going to need that moving forward.”

Central will finally play a home game this week, entertaining Southern Local, which also is off to a 2-0 start, at Harding Stadium on Saturday.

THE FIRST W

Shane O’Brien and Josh Franke were two of the happiest area coaches after watching their clubs post Week 2 victories.

O’Brien recorded his initial coaching win at his alma mater as Edison dismantled Wellsville 36-7 on the home turf.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “I’m happy for the guys. They earned it.”

Franke, a Toronto graduate, and his Red Knights went on the road and dominated Bridgeport en route to a 36-0 triumph.

“This means the world to me,” Franke said. “Being the head coach at my alma mater and getting my first win, I couldn’t be any more excited. Toronto means the world to me, so tonight is very special.”

One of the new coaches is guaranteed a second victory this week since Edison will pay a visit to Toronto.

MOTOWN BOUND

Brooke returns to action this week when the Bruins travel to Morgantown for a meeting with University.

After dropping their opener to Wheeling Park, the Bruins took their mandatory bye week. Mac McClean and company actually have back-to-back games against Morgantown opponents. The University contest will be followed by a home battle with Morgantown High School.

ON A WARPATH

Weir High’s offense has been clicking on all cylinders in posting two wins to start the season.

After scoring 49 in their opener against Oak Glen, the Red Riders hung 71 on the board against Washington Anacostia. Thus, Weir is averaging 60 points per game and 378 yards.

Senior quarterback Tyler Komorowski had one of the best games of career, completing 12 of 16 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns. He also scored the first touchdown of the game with his feet on an 8-yard run. In addition, Komorowski picked up a fumble from his defensive end position and ran it 15 yards to the house.

Speedy receiver Sebastian Spencer caught five Komorowski passes for 125 yards and three scores while Jake McCoy hauled in four passes for 45 and a touchdown.

ONE GREAT START

Clayton Criss may never forget his first start as Big Red’s quarterback.

Taking over for the injured Randy Mitchell, Criss, a senior, put the ball up 16 times, completing 10 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. He found Erik Lulla alone in the Morgantown end zone for the game’s first score.

He then connected with Ryan Rauch for a nifty 74-yard touchdown. Those points proved to be the difference in Steubenville’s 21-17 victory.

BACK TO 

SATURDAY

After playing two Thursday night games, Madonna will see action on Saturday when Vincentian Academy visits Jimmy Carey Stadium.

Based in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, Vincentian is a co-educational Catholic high school with 275 students. The school restarted its football program this season after not fielding a team in 2017 because of a lack of participation. T.J. Wiley, who previously coached at Penn-Trafford and Deer Lakes, was hired to lead the process.

Vincentian previously competed in the WPIAL but is playing an independent schedule this season. The Madonna game serves as the season opener for the Royals.

TOP STATS

Running wild

176, Justin Hartzell, Catholic Central, 3 touchdowns

163, Trevor Fante, Indian Creek, 3 touchdowns

109, Noah Fayak, Catholic Central, touchdown

103, Jayden Keeder, Catholic Central, touchdown

98, Kaleb Waggoner, Edison, 2 touchdowns

98, Tayveon Crawford, Big Red, touchdown

96, Anthony Sinicropi, Edison, touchdown

Gunslingers

297, Nick Chaney, Oak Glen, 12 of 46, 3 scores

199, Tyler Komorowski, Weir High, 12 of 16, 4 scores

168, Clayton Criss, Big Red, 10 of 16, 2 scores

142, Sam Mazar, Indian Creek, 11 of 18

Hands team

5, Sebastian Spencer, Weir High, 125, 3 touchdowns

5, Hunter Patterson, Oak Glen, 131, touchdown

4, Matt Mamula, Indian Creek, 86

4, Jake McCoy, Weir High, 45, touchdown

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