Another prep football season wraps up

Thanks to Big Red’s sensational and perhaps improbable repeat run to Columbus, the year’s fastest 10 weeks became the quickest 15 in 2016.

Steubenville’s quest to grab a fourth state playoff championship fell three points short again Friday. Columbus Bishop Hartley, thanks to a field goal as time expired, clipped Big Red 24-21 in the Division IV title game. A year earlier, the Hawks escaped with a 31-28 win.

With the 2016 season now history, here’s where Big Red ranks in various playoff categories.

≤ 16 straight berths, fourth best when it comes to consecutive years in the post-season.

≤ 17 final four appearances, tied with Mogadore for second best behind Newark Catholic.

≤ 29 total berths in the 45-year history of the Ohio playoffs, fifth best in the state.

≤ 61 playoff victories, the sixth highest total. Newark Catholic is the leader with 72.

≤ A playoff winning percentage of .717, 11th best in playoff history. Big Red now has an overall post-season record of 61-24.

≤ Big Red has been a state runner-up now five times, which is tied for second.

≤ Steubenville has eight state championship game appearances, tied for the eighth most in playoff history.

The OHSAA playoffs began in 1971. Big Red made its first appearance in 1981, losing a first- round game to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney. Steubenville’s first victory came in 1984, an 8-0 shutout of Youngstown Ursuline.

Looking ahead:

As is generally the case, Big Red will lose a boat load of talent from its football program through graduation in the spring.

The football cupboard, again as is generally the case, will be far from empty.

Javon Davis, who ended his first year as Big Red’s quarterback with more than 2,000 passing yards, will return as will Johnny Agresta, who split time with Davis and also saw action at linebacker. Agresta was the team’s second leading rusher (Jalen McGhee led the way with 122) in the Hartley game. He scored Big Red’s second touchdown on an unforgettable two-yard run.

Jacob Bernard, the team’s leading rusher (1,364 yards), also will return. An injury suffered in the semifinal victory over Perry kept Bernard out of the title game. Jonathon Blackmon, who saw plenty of time at fullback once senior Nick Zorne went down with an injury, also will return.

Alec Taylor, one of Davis’ favorites for the long ball, has another year as does Dujuan Jones, a regular in the secondary and a threat in the passing game.

Regulars along the offensive line returning are Tyler Ely and Alijah Demitras.

Reuben Saxon, a starter before being injured, also will be back.

Returning on the defensive side will be linemen Quentin Moore, Marlon Lawrence, Kwadre Williams and Zach Ekey. Gino Pierro will be back in the secondary along with Jones and Taylor.

Season to remember:

Besides another successful campaign for Big Red, several other squads in The Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area recorded a season to remember in 2016.

≤ Weir High made its third straight appearance in the West Virginia Class AA playoffs and captured a first round victory, going on the road to defeat Sissonville.

≤ Toronto make it three straight in the Division IV playoffs, losing to eventual state champion Warren JFK.

≤ Indian Creek won eight of its last nine games to earn a second straight date in the Division IV playoffs.

≤ Harrison Central went 7-3 and just missed a return to the Division V playoffs.

≤ Catholic Central won four of its last five games to finish at 5-5, the fifth straight non-losing season for the Crusaders.

≤ Brooke and Madonna both concluded their seasons with huge wins — the Bruins taking down arch-rival Weir and the Blue Dons whipping Clay-Battelle. The loss knocked C-B out of the playoffs.

The sports staff of the Herald-Star/Daily Times would like to thank all area coaches and athletic directors for their outstanding cooperation and assistance during the season.

Won’t be long:

High school football fans take note:  The 2017 season can officially open on Aug. 24.

The 2017 state championship games will return to Canton in 2017. They will be held there again in 2018 before returning to Columbus in 2019.

All seven games will be played in Canton.

No. 1, but…..

Shadyside continues to lead in an Ohio playoff category most schools don’t want any part of.

Over the years, the Tigers have collected 29 playoff wins but still are searching for their first state championship.

That win total makes Shadyside the leader in the “most playoff wins without a state championship” department.

Massillon is second with 28.

The OT list:

Friday’s double-overtime Division I thriller between Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cleveland St. Ignatius was just the 14th Ohio championship game that needed extra time.

The first two OT contests took place in 1975 and 1979.

The third was in 1984 when Big Red clipped Columbus Whitehall Yearling 12-9 in the Division II championship game.

Four years later, Steubenville fell to Akron Buchtel 28-21 in double overtime in the D I finale.

Catholic Central earned its 1993 Division V championship via a 17-14 overtime victory against Liberty Center.

By the way, Catholic Central and Big Red still rank as the only OVAC schools to have earned state football championships.

Stepping aside:

Friday’s game with Hartley marked, at least for now, Mike Haney’s final one as a member of the Big Red football staff.

Haney joined Reno Saccoccia’s staff in 2001 to guide the quarterbacks and safeties.

He also serves as Big Red’s head boys basketball coach.

“Not the way I envisioned it ending,” Haney said as he left Big Red’s locker room after the tough defeat. “It’s been a pleasure for me to be part of this staff.”

When Haney’s basketball team opens its season on Dec. 13 at Boardman, he’ll have several football players on the roster including Charles Reeves, Pookie Petteway, Alec Davis, Mitchell Gulan, Jones, Davis and Pierro.

Third down woes:

Big Red was able to move the football against Hartley’s vaunted defense, but third down proved to be an issue for the local squad.

Steubenville was just four of 12 in the third down conversion department. Defensively, Big Red was solid on third down, holding Hartley to just three conversions in 12 tries.

Meanwhile, Big Red was one of three on fourth down tries compared to two of three for the Hawks.

Steubenville had four red zone tries, scoring three times. Hartley was one of three.

More TOs:

During its first four playoff games, Big Red’s defense delivered 17 turnovers. The unit had three more on Friday.

Taylor delivered an interception while Agresta and Williams both recovered fumbles.

Solid on D:

Once it settled in, Big Red’s defense turned in a solid performance against Hartley’s offense.

Marquette Dixon compiled 125 yards on 15 carries, an average of 8.3 yards per tote, in the first half. In the final two periods, he had 16 touches for 53 yards. Thus, he finished with 178 on 31 attempts.

Zane Zimish led Big Red’s defense with 10 tackles. Jalen McGhee finished with eight while Pierro has seven and Petteway six.

Title game crowds:

According to information from the OHSAA, the seven championship games drew a combined crowd of 54,631.

The Division I game played for the first time  on a Friday night drew the largest crowd–13,690. The Big Red-Hartley Division IV rematch was second with an announced crowd of 8,646.

Akron Hoban’s thumping of Dayton Trotwood Madison in Division III brought 7,396 fans to the stands inside Ohio Stadium.

The other crowds were:

≤ Division II, played on Thursday night, 6,250

≤ Division VI, 6,270

≤ Division VII, 6,725

≤ Division V, played on Saturday night, 5,954

The record for total attendance at the state championships is 65,663 set in 2001.

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