Central blanks the Bears

STEUBENVILLE – The unbeaten and state-ranked Catholic Central Crusaders took care of business on Homecoming/Hall of Fame Saturday at sun-drenched Harding Stadium.

The offense scored on its first six touches and the defense was downright stingy as Steve Daley’s club blanked Oak Glen 48-0. Central, which was ranked seventh in in the Ohio AP Division VII poll, stands at 5-0 for the first time since 2005.

The Golden Bears remain winless in five starts.

With all the activities taking place (Homecoming, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the first public showing of a documentary on the school’s 1993 championship season), Daley was a little concerned about his players keeping their focus. The Crusaders quickly showed their coach he had no need to worry.

“Our focus was definitely there,” Daley said. “We were worried with everything going on that we might lose a little bit of focus. But, the kids came out and did what we asked them to do right from the start.”

Ryan Fletcher returned the opening kickoff 31 yards, giving Central a first down at the Oak Glen 49. After just five snaps, Fletcher reached the end zone on a nine-yard run. Brenton Colabella nailed the kick from placement and the Crusaders were off and running.

Oak Glen’s first possession resulted in the loss of four yards. Central started drive two from its own 46 and scored in seven plays.

Luke Potenzini did the honors after grabbing a one-yard pass from Colabella. Chris Murphy sparked the 54-yard drive, running for 23 and grabbing two Colabella aerials for 28 more. Colabella again booted the extra point.

The Golden Bears coughed up the pigskin on their next series, Central’s Jake McCann recovering. Colabella lofted a pass to the end zone and Fletcher made a nifty over the shoulder catch for the third touchdown. This time, Stone Romano nailed the conversion.

Louis Fallon recorded a sack on Oak Glen’s next touch, forcing the Golden Bears to punt from deep in their own territory. Taking advantage of a short field, Central got another quick score, Colabella going over from a yard away. Romano’s kick again was true.

The fifth Central six-pointer came when Colabella founded a wide open Johnny DiCarlantonio running down the middle of the field. The pass and catch covered 65 yards.

Another Fallon sack helped the Crusaders make it 41-0 at the half. Khalil Jones crossed the goal from the 2, a snap after he sprinted 37 yards.

Oak Glen’s only serious scoring threat of the initial half was thwarted when Fletcher recorded an interception at the Central 23.

The first half statistics pinpointed Central’s dominance.

Daley’s squad ran 25 offensive plays for 265 yards (103 rushing and 162 passing) and six touchdowns. Oak Glen, on the other hand, had seven possessions and gained just five total yards on 23 snaps. Five Golden Bear drives ended in punts. Ian Whittington’s club also had a fumble and threw an interception.

“I liked our physicality today,” Daley noted. “We told the kids we wanted to be physical, get off the ball on offense and get to the ball on defense. We wanted to have a fast start and we did that.

“We minimized our mistakes and things went smooth.”

Whittington was quick to praise the Crusaders.

“They’re a very fast and physical team,” he stated. “They also are a very disciplined team and they played well today.”

Sophomore tailback Cedro Parise got the game’s final score on a two-yard burst. Oak Glen did mount another scoring threat midway through the fourth quarter. Freshman quarterback Lance Collins and sophomore running back Bradly Hitt both ripped off big gainers, giving the Golden Bears a first down at the Crusader 15.

Central freshman Anthony Leluika threw Collins for a loss on fourth down to preserve the shutout. Leluika added another tackle for a loss before the final whistle blew as did fellow freshman Luke Coniker.

The Crusaders finished with 353 offensive yards (172 rushing and 181 passing). Colabella was a very efficient 12 of 14 for 162. Jones has 45 rushing yards, Murphy 44 and Parise 40.

Oak Glen, meanwhile, was held to just 80 yards

“They have some size up front, but are kids were very disciplined on defense,” Daley noted. “They played their gaps well and that’s what we asked them to do. Also, they tackled well.”

Central will seek its first 6-0 start since 1991 when Conotton Valley invades Harding Stadium Saturday.

Oak Glen will return home to entertain Weir High.

“We had a couple of young guys play well and that was good to see,” Whittington noted. “We have our biggest game of the season next week against Weir. We’ll focus on that game and take it one week at a time.”