Exciting plays spark Big Red’s dominating performance

NEWARK – Friday’s Division IV, Region 13 quarterfinal battle between Big Red and Licking Valley had a little bit of everything-big plays, turnovers, lots of flags and a dominating performance from the visitors.

Some final notes from Big Red’s 21-14 victory include:

Big 2nd half:

Reno Saccoccia asked his now 7-4 club at halftime to “fight for 24 minutes.” His players gave their coach what he wanted.

Big Red ran 45 second half plays compared to just 20 for the top-seeded Panthers. The visitors held the football for 18:51 during the final 24 minutes. In the yardage category, Big Red had 224 while the Panthers could manage just 49.

“They dominated us,” LV coach Randy Baughman said. “I don’t know how many plays we ran that second half, but it was very, very limited. “They’re just so quick. We haven’t seen that quickness too much before.”

Lots of flags:

The teams drew a total of 22 flags. Big Red had 13 penalties for 161 yards.

Big Red’s defense overcame two penalties on Licking Valley’s first possession to register a stop. That same scenario was repeated several times during the game. Saccoccia’s club was hit with six in the first half for 84 stripes.

Licking Valley had one penalty at the half and eight during the final 24 minutes. The most costly was a personal foul which nullified a nifty run by Hunter Hartshorn. His eight-yard sprint put the ball at the Big Red five. The 15-yard call moved the pigskin back to the 19.

On the next play, Mandela Lawrence-Burke picked off a Grant Garber pass to end the threat.

Dominating D:

Licking Valley’s offense entered the game averaging 191 yards per game on the ground and another 191 through the air.

Big Red’s defense allowed 137 total (43 rushing and 94 through the air). Garber, who passed for more than 2,000 stripes during the regular season, completed just 12 of 29 attempts and was intercepted twice (both by Lawrence-Burke).

“The defense was outstanding all night,” Saccoccia said. “We had 15 kids play on defense tonight and they all played great.”

William Harvey delivered a huge stop for Big Red on fourth and one late in the game, keeping Hartshorn from picking up a first down. Lucas Herrington, Bryan Pierro (he registered perhaps the hardest hit of the night following a LV pass completion), Arin Goldsmith, Kai McClurg, Niko Petrides and Lawrence-Burke all made key plays for the eight-seeded winners.

Welcome back:

Robert Hayden returned to the Big Red lineup (he was injured in the Ursuline game) and made an immediate impact.

The senior ran for 92 yards and scored a touchdown. He also caught two passes and made several stops on defense. He along with sophomore running back Johnnie Blue (20 touches, 96 stripes and a score) showed off their power by compiling plenty of yards after contact.

“Steubenville can pound people inside,” Baughman stated. “They just ran right at us.”

Going for it:

Saccoccia has never been one to shy away from going for it on fourth down. In Friday’s game, Big Red was successful on three of four fourth down conversions.

In the third down category, the Red was seven of 16.

The biggest fourth down conversion came early in the final stanza. Lawrence-Burke was lined up to punt but was forced to scramble a little following a bad snap. He stopped and tossed the ball down field to Pierro, who made a leaping catch for a 25-yard gain. The drive, unfortunately, ended with a Big Red fumble deep in LV territory.

Big Red’s defense held Licking Valley to one third down conversion in nine attempts. The Panthers were zero for two on fourth down tries.