No. 1 Steubenville hard to stop, even when trailing

DOVER — The bottom line of Big Red’s 21-10 come from behind victory inside Crater Stadium Friday was this: once the offense quit stopping itself, it couldn’t be stopped.

Self-inflicted wounds (a fumble, an interception, penalties, dropped passes and ball carriers slipping on the turf) plagued Ohio’s top-ranked Division VI squad for nearly three and a half quarters and allowed Dover’s Tornadoes to grab a 10-7 lead.

With 7:39 left to play, Reno Saccoccia’s club began to right its offensive ship.

Starting a drive at the Dover 24 following a short punt, Big Red needed just five plays to take the lead for good. Following 2-yard runs by Jacob Bernard and Jonathon Blackmon, quarterback Javon Davis slipped after taking a snap, setting up a critical 4th-and-8 from the Dover 22.

Davis hit Blackmon on a perfectly executed screen play, and the senior fullback rumbled to the Tornado 3. Bernard would then fight his way into the end zone for the score.

On the Dover possession before the Steubenville touchdown, the Tornadoes started at their own 1 following a 45-yard Davis punt. The defense yielded three yards before Alec Sayre shanked a kick, giving Big Red the excellent field possession.

Dover, now 3-3 and losers of three straight, was forced to punt again on its possession following Bernard’s touchdown. Big Red’s Quintin Moore recorded his third sack of Sayre during that march.

This time, Steubenville would travel 58 yards for the final touchdown. Bernard recorded all the yardage and scored from a yard away. He had a 28-yard sprint during drive. Ian Phillips’ third extra point finished the scoring.

“This was a very good win against a very good team,” Saccoccia said after his Big Red moved to 6-0 and extended its series lead against the Tornadoes to 16-4-1. “We played fast and physical. We finished strong, but we didn’t always play smart.

“We played a great defensive game and a great team game in the fourth quarter. Offensively, we hurt ourselves over and over again. We had a ton of offensive yardage early in the game, but we only had seven points to show for it.”

Big Red’s defense managed to control Sayre, Dover’s outstanding junior quarterback. He entered the game with 1,409 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. On Friday, Sayre was 18-of-32 for 111 yards and a score. He was picked off late in the game by Big Red’s DaJuan Jones and sacked four times.

One of Steubenville’s defensive goals, according to Saccoccia, was to limit the big play. Dover’s longest play from scrimmage resulted in an 18-yard gain.

“Like I said, our defense gave us 48 solid minutes,” Saccoccia said. “We wanted to tackle the receiver and give them back in the huddle. We did that for most of the night.”

After the defense forced a Dover punt on the opening drive, Big Red immediately moved 66 yards for the first score. It came when senior lineman Tyler Ely alertly pounced on a Bernard fumble in the end zone.

The visitors appeared headed for another touchdown on their initial touch of the second quarter, moving from their own 20 to the Dover 34. On 1st-and-10, the football was knocked from Caleb Mitchell’s hands, Jackson Hutras grabbing it and racing all the way to the Big Red 6.

Big Red’s defense stiffened, however, and the hosts settled for a 22-yard Jack Deneher field goal.

The turnover bug bit Big Red again on its next drive, when a Davis pass was picked off in the Dover end zone by Ian Sexton.

In the first half, Big Red had 243 yards of offense compared to 97 for Dover. The visitors, however, also turned the ball over two times and drew eight flags for 81 yards.

“We just didn’t protect the football the way we need to early on,” Saccoccia said. “The difference in the fourth quarter was simple — we were able to protect the football.”

Dover’s go-ahead touchdown came with 4:41 left in the third on a 6-yard Sayre to Kaden Folkert pass. The Tornadoes were given outstanding field possession when Davis bobbled the snap from center on a punt attempt and was dropped at his own 23.

Big Red did get its offense going following Sayre’s scoring pass, marching from its own 20 to the Dover 34. On 2nd-and-short, Bernard slipped while trying to make a cut, resulting in a 2-yard loss. Davis then was stopped for no yardage on a running play and threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Steubenville, which hosts always-tough Youngstown Ursuline Friday, finished with 426 yards of offense compared to 114 for Dover.

Davis completed 19-of-28 passing attempts for 205 yards. Johnny Agresta caught eight for 94, and Gino Pierro six. Bernard toted the pigskin 24 times for 145 yards.

Steubenville did draw 12 flags for 123 yards.

“We’re 6-0 right now and anybody would be happy with that,” Saccoccia said. “But, we still have plenty of room for improvement. We’re hurting ourselves right now and that has to stop. I did see some improvement, but we have to stay focused and we have to keep improving.

“There was improvement on some of the little things we work out but not when it comes to penalties. Starting Monday, we’re going to work that. We have to get that fixed.”

Steubenville 21, Dover 10

Big Red 7-0-0-14 — 21

Dover 0-3-7-0 — 10

BIG RED: Ely fumble recovery in end zone (Phillips kick)

DOVER: Deneher 22 field goal

DOVER: Kaden Folkert 6 pass from Sayre (Deneher kick)

BIG RED: Bernard 3 run (Phillips kick)

BIG RED: Bernard 1 run (Phillips kick)

RUSHING: Dover 18-3 (Sayre 11-(-13); Hess 4-16; Kyler Folkert 3-0); Big Red 47-221-2 (Davis 7-2; Bernard 24-145-2; Blackmon 4-201; Mitchell 3-14; Montgomery 9-40).

PASSING: Dover 18-32-111-1-1 (all by Sayre); Big Red 19-28-205-0-1 (all by Davis).

RECEIVING: Dover 18-111-1 (Hess 2-23; Kaden Folkert 3-12-1; Kyler Folkert 9-54; Sexton 3-9; Pfeiffer 1-13); Big Red 19-205 (Jones 1-4; Pierro 6-46; Agresta 8-94; Blackmon 3-53; Zane 1-8.

FIRST DOWNS: Dover 10; Big Red 27.

PENALTIES-YARDS: Dover 7-49; Big Red 12-123.

PUNTS: Dover 6-39; Big Red 2-33.

FUMBLES-LOST: Dover 0-0; Big Red 2-1.