Central cruises again

STEUBENVILLE – For the first time since 1991, a Catholic Central football team has started the season with six consecutive victories.

Steve Daley’s high-octane Crusaders, Ohio’s seventh best Division VII club, reached the 6-0 mark pounding Conotton Valley 62-8 Saturday at Harding Stadium.

As is generally the case, Central lite up the scoreboard, rolled up the offensive yards (Daley’s club finished with 432) and received several big plays from its defense (which has allowed just 18 points the last four weeks). On their first three offensive plays, the Crusaders lost a yard before punting. Their next 16 snaps of the opening half produced 294 stripes and 56 points.

“We were sloppy on that first series, but then we regained our focus and the kids did a nice of taking care of business,” Daley said.

Short scoring drives, thanks to great field position after the defense delivered, fueled Central’s first half explosion.

Drive 1 started at the Central 44 after Chris Murphy and Marty Engle combined to throw CV quarterback Colton Cottis for a loss and Stone Romano broke through for a sack of Cottis. Five plays later, Brenton Colabella found Ryan Fletcher for a 20-yard score.

Drive 2 was launched from the Rocket 36 and Central needed just two snaps. This time, Colabella hooked up with Romano from 12 yards away. The third TD-producing drive was another of the two-play variety. Starting at the CV 35, Colabella found Fletcher for a 29-yard strike.

Tony Barber’s pick of a Cottis pass (it was Barber’s second interception of the season) put the Crusaders back in business at the Rocket 23. Another two plays produced another touchdown. Johnny DiCarlantonio was on the receiving end of a 12 yard Colabella strike.

Drive 5 covered 62 yards in a single play. Colabella found Khalil Jones for the six-pointer. Louis Fallon set up the next one snap march when he stripped the ball from a Rocket and pounced on the loose pigskin at the CV 13. Jones sprinted to the end zone for his second score of the evening.

Engle joined the Crusader scoring parade on the next Central possession (this drive took two plays). Beginning at the Rocker 48, Luke Potenzini gained 11 yards. Fletcher then broke loose but fumbled as he was crossing the goal line. Engle fell on the ball to gain credit for the score.

The final touchdown of the half was set up by a Jones interception. L. Potenzini rumbled from the Rocker 47 to the 31 on first down. Romano went up the middle for nine then Murphy capped the march with a 22-yard scamper.

John Paul McNamara was perfect on eight extra-point kicks.

“It certainly helps when you don’t have far too travel,” Daley said of the first half field position. We wanted to loosen them up a little with the pass and then go to the run. The kids did a nice job of executing the game plan.”

Colabella finished the half by throwing for 170 yards, completing eight of his 12 attempts, and five touchdowns. For the season, he has 14 scoring tosses. After the initial series, he was seven of nine.

The Crusader defense held the visitors to 40 first half yards on 31 plays.

“We’re doing a nice job of playing a team concept on defense,” Daley added. “That’s what we have to do. We’ve been taking good care of the ball ourselves and forcing turnovers. That’s a key for us going forward.”

Central’s reserves produced a touchdown to start the third quarter, going 69 yards. John Fallon did the honors from four yards away.

Sophomore quarterback Robbie LeFever compiled 62 rushing yards in the second half to pace the Crusader ground attack. J. Fallon finished with 38 and Cedro Parise 34. J. Fallon and Luke Coniker recovered fumbles during the final two quarters for the Crusaders.

“I thought our young kids did a nice job for us,” Daley added. “They got in there towards the end of the first half and played the entire second half. I was happy with the way they played.”

Conotton Valley got on the board late in the game via a 43-yard pass from Cottis to Brett Bower.

The meeting was the fourth between the schools and Central, which is number four in the Region 25 computer standings, has won them all. Eric Schumacher’s Rockets now stand at 1-5.

Central will hit the road this week, traveling to Barnesville on Friday.