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Agresta, Crusaders simply want to execute better

STEUBENVILLE — For Catholic Central coach Anthony Agresta, Saturday’s trip to Southern Local is all about execution.

“We have to execute,” Agresta stressed following practice on Tuesday. “We haven’t done anything with our running game that isn’t extremely fundamental this week. We went to the basics.

“Saturday, we have to execute offensively and get lined up properly defensively. It will be all about the fundamentals.”

The second meeting between the schools is set to start at 7 p.m. Southern earned a 26-13 win at Harding Stadium in 2018. The game was moved to Saturday to accommodate Southern Local’s Hall of Fame celebration.

After opening with a home victory over Columbus Africentric, the Crusaders visited Wheeling Central last week and fell 39-12. Southern is 2-0, having disposed of Edison and River. The Indians are averaging 32 points per game, while allowing nine.

“Wheeling Central is a very good football team, but we did not execute well at all,” Agresta said. “The only thing that improved was our kick coverage, which I wanted to improve because we were so poor in that area against Africentric.

“As far as execution goes, we did not execute well at all. I’d love the opportunity to play a good team like that at some point later in the season and see what would happen if we execute.”

Southern disposed of Edison, 38-12, in its opener, then whipped River 27-6 last week. The Indians jumped out to a huge first-half lead in taking care of the Pilots.

Coach Rich Wright guided the Indians to a record-shattering season in 2018. Southern went 9-1 and earned a spot in the playoffs, where it had a first-round exit at the hands of Norwayne.

Leading the way was quarterback Jayce Sloan, who broke the school’s single-season mark for passing touchdowns with 18. Sloan was joined by wide receiver Cam Grodhaus, who set school records for single-season receiving touchdowns (11), single-game receiving yards (227), single-season receiving yards (1,025) and career receiving yards (1,593).

Both record-setters returned for their senior campaigns. Against Edison, Sloan threw for 144 yards and rushed for another 86. Grodhaus had six catches for 92 yards.

Tailback Dylan Milhoan ran for 519 yards in 2018. When not hooking up with Grodhaus, Sloan looks for Bradly Sloan and Mark Soukup.

“We feel pretty good about ourselves,” Wright said in a preseason interview. “Our first five games will tell the story.

“Our region (Southern is a Division VI school competing in Region 21) is tough, too. We went 9-1 last year and were the sixth seed, but we’re excited for the upcoming year.”

The Southern offensive line is full of veterans, including three-year letterwinners Gage Dickey, Garrett Buxton, Stephen Craig and Kyle Young.

“In some ways, Southern Local is very similar to Wheeling Central,” Agresta said. “They have big people up front with people that can run in the skilled positions. Last week’s game might have helped us a little because their styles are not identical but somewhat similar.

“Their quarterback is similar to what we saw last week. He can throw it and run it. We really didn’t want the Wheeling Central game to be a dress rehearsal for Week 3, but hopefully it will work to our advantage.”

With its ground game limited to just 24 yards, Central turned to its passing game for offensive success against the Maroon Knights. Junior signal-caller Ryan Gorman delivered, throwing for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony LeFever had five catches for 72 yards and a score, while Anthony Sprochi caught two Gorman aerials for 74 yards and a score.

In his first two games of varsity football, Gorman has passed for 342 yards and three six-pointers. LeFever leads the Crusaders with eight catches for 153 yards.

Jeffrey Dawson has 153 rushing yards to pace Agresta’s club. Offensively, the Crusaders are averaging 281 yards and 20 points per outing.

Defensively, Central allows 289 yards and 32 points. Wheeling Central was able to compile 358 rushing yards on the Crusaders.

“The biggest thing right now for us is we have some guys banged up,” Agresta said. “We were forced to move some people around, and that is slowing our progress down offensively.

“At one point in last week’s game, we had four freshmen playing on the offensive line. When you are playing a very good team like Wheeling Central that is senior ladened, that will eventually rear its ugly head and bite you a little.”

Following Saturday’s game, Central will play two-straight home games, celebrating homecoming when Edison visits on Sept. 21, then hosting Caldwell on Sept. 28.

“We have to get some people back,” Agresta said. “We need to get (Alex) Ialenti back, as well as (Indy) Marcino. In the meantime, we have to figure things out and find a way to win.”

Ialenti and Marcino are senior linemen, and both earned letters in 2018.

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