Unlocking the code

Big Red sticking with same philosophy as St. Joe’s invades

LEADING THE CHARGE — The Steubenville football team will burst through the tunnel again on Friday, hosting St. Joseph’s. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — The key for Big Red’s football team as it prepares for Friday’s contest with Canada Football North St. Joseph is pretty straightforward — keep getting better.

“We just have to keep working hard and keep getting better,” head coach Reno Saccoccia said earlier this week. “The harder you work, the better you get. That’s just what we have to do. Hard work always pays off.”

The kick for the second meeting between the programs (Big Red rolled to a 42-14 victory last season) is set for 7 p.m. inside Harding Stadium.

Coach Blaine Scatcherd and his Jaguars will bring a 1-2 record to town. They opened with a victory over Silver Oak Academy of Maryland before falling to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and Erie Prep. In the coming weeks, St. Joe’s will have games with the likes of Lorain, Lakewood St. Edward’s and Erie, Pa.

The Jaguars are in their second year of playing American football. Team members do their academic work at St. Joseph High School, located in Nepean, Ontario, then travel to the U.S. for the majority of their games. St. Joseph also runs a Canadian high school football team that plays in a local league.

“We are once again looking forward to returning to Steubenville,” Scatcherd said. “Our team is a little different from last year. We are making some positive strides forward in our second season.”

Scatcherd added that he and his team will make the eight-hour trip Thursday and will spend the night in the area, then head home right after the game.

“We have knowledge of them from last year’s game and seeing them on film,” Saccoccia said of the Jaguars. “Canadian teams usually are pretty big and athletic. Experience might be the one thing that makes us equal. I’m not sure how much football experience they have as a team.”

Scatcherd said the 2018 Jaguars are led by quarterback Tristan Lefebre. Jaden Simmonds returns as the starting tailback, and the top receivers are Russell Martin and Tristan Ready.

Football North St. Joe’s has some considerable size up front, and Scatcherd called his offensive line a “veteran group.” Leading the way are captain Alex Berwick and Matt Kingsley.

Scatcherd noted his defense is led “by our best player and captain, Arthur Hamlin,” who is a defensive back. Malik Yousef is the team leader as linebacker, while Natale Frangiione is, according to Scatcherd, “our best defensive lineman.”

After dropping its opener to Penn Hills, Big Red rebounded in Week 2 for a 21-17 victory over Morgantown. Saccoccia saw improvement from his team, but he knows much more is needed.

“I think we improved and, also, I think we opened with two really good and sound football teams,” he said. “I saw improvement as far as technique goes and assignments, both offensively and defensively.

“But, as a team, the players and the coaches understand we have a long way to go. At the same time, we are willing to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Through two games, Big Red’s offense is averaging 17.5 points per game and 282 yards (145 on the ground and 137 through the air). The defense is surrendering 19 points and 237 yards.

Senior Clayton Criss, who stepped in at quarterback against Morgantown for the injured Randy Mitchell, has compiled 169 passing yards and two touchdowns. Caleb Mitchell and Ethan Duggan have four catches each to lead Big Red’s receivers.

The ground game is paced by hard-running junior tailback Tayveon Crawford, who has 179 yards and a score. Caleb Mitchell has rushed for 80 and a touchdown.

“I think everyone is accepting responsibility, and everybody is improving as individuals,” Saccoccia said. “Now we just have to put that into the team aspect and improve as a team. If you have one mistake by a different person on every play, that’s 11 mistakes on 11 plays, and that’s not a good way to perform in a game.

“We want to improve collectively as a team. Sometimes you can improve as individuals but not as a team. It’s more important for us right now to improve as a team, and that’s what we are looking forward to happening.”

After hosting Canada North, Big Red will prepare to welcome the Hun School from Princeton, N.J., to Harding Stadium. The Week 4 contest will be played on Sept. 15, with the kick set for 11 a.m.