BARBERTON – Mandela Lawrence-Burke and Dimitri Collaros won’t soon forget their first varsity football game in Summit County.
The sophomore quarterbacks combined for 229 yards of total offense Friday as Big Red spoiled Barberton’s homecoming with a 36-7 victory at Sharkey Stadium.
Lawrence-Burke threw for 109 and ran for 20 more while Collaros completed five of seven attempts for 100 stripes. Both tossed scoring strikes to junior wide receiver Lucas Herrington.
“They both played well tonight,” Big Red’s Reno Saccoccia said. “I don’t keep track of statistics, but I am glad they are improving.”
Big Red, now 5-1, scored on four of its first five possessions and compiled 284 first half yards (128 rushing and 156 passing). The defense caused a fumble, picked off two Barberton (now 2-4) passes and delivered a TFL (tackle for a loss).
“It was a nice bounce back,” Saccoccia added. “Everyone got to play. I’m not sure how well we played at times. We just have to be ready every day to improve.
“We’ll work like heck next week to improve. I’m also, again, really proud of the fan support we had here tonight. I think we had more fans in the stands than they did.”
The meeting was the third (the last one came in 1959) all-time between the schools, Big Red now holds a 3-0 lead. Friday’s contest also marked Big Red’s first and only regular season appearance on a grass field.
A huge defensive play by senior Cody Saltsman led to the first Big Red score. He blitzed from his linebacking spot and nailed Barberton running back Brandon McCall, producing a fumble which Saltsman recovered.
Five snaps later, Robert Hayden turned the fumble recovery into points. The senior ran to his right, found no room, cut back to his left and sprinted 16 yards for the touchdown. John Paul Duff’s kick put Big Red ahead to stay.
Saltsman delivered an interception on Barberton’s next possession, Big Red’s offense going to work from its own 23.
Hayden capped a 15-play scoring march when he bulled his way over from four yards away. Tevon Gary booted the extra point. Key plays on the march were a 22 yard pass from Lawrence-Burke to Saltsman and a17-yard burst by Garon Lytle.
The Magics answered Big Red’s second score on the strength of a 44-yard run by senior quarterback John Cominsky. Dakotta Schumm added the point from placement.
Steubenville’s next touchdown followed a stellar defensive play by Hayden (he dropped Daniel Coakley for a seven yard loss) and a short Barberton punt. Hayden crossed the goal (his first three touches resulted in six-pointers). Following a penalty on the Magics, Big Red went for two, Johnnie Blue doing the honors.
Big Red’s final score of the opening half covered 68 yards and took just three plays. Collaros connected with Niko Petrides for 64 yards. Two plays later, Collaros rolled to his right, stopped and threw back to a wide open Lucas Herrington from four stripes away.
Barberton did mount a threat before the intermission but it was thwarted when Petrides picked off Corey Fox in the end zone.
“A key in football is not only getting opportunities, but taking advantage of them,” Saccoccia stated. “An opportunity is two-fold. You get one and you have to take advantage of it. We did that tonight.”
Big Red opened the third quarter by traveling 72 yards for a score and chewing nearly seven minutes off the clock. Lawrence-Burke hit Herrington for the 10-yard touchdown. The same combination hooked up for a 20-stripe gain two snaps earlier. Collaros also threw to Saltsman for 10.
“I liked the way that drive ended, but we did make a few mistakes along the way,” Saccoccia noted. “I guess nobody is ever really happy but we are getting there and we are working hard to get better.”
Joey Walkosky brought Barberton’s only serious threat of the third quarter to an end with another pick of Fox, again coming in the end zone.
Saccoccia’s club finished the night with 427 yards of offense. Herrington finished with five catches for 52 stripes and two scores. Saltsman, Petrides and Perrier Coleman had three grabs each.
The Big Red defense held the Magics to 138 yards of offense (85 on the ground and just 53 through the air). Cominsky’s touchdown run accounted for more than half of Barberton’s final rushing total.
Big Red will return to Harding Stadium next Friday, hosting Salesanium High School from Wilmington, Delaware.