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Warren facing its toughest test yet

VINCENT — Warren is in uncharted waters, as an appearance in the quarterfinal round of the OHSAA Division IV, Region 15 playoffs is on the horizon. It took a thunderous comeback to defeat John Glenn in double overtime one week ago, but now Warren faces its toughest test on Saturday.

St. Clairsville (7-0), the region’s top seed, welcomes the Warriors at 7 p.m. for one of the biggest games of the postseason. This has been a historic season for Warren (7-1), and head coach Matt Kimes shared his thoughts on everything his team has accomplished.

“Well, I think we’re obviously feeling pretty good about ourselves right now. We’re feeling pretty confident and pretty proud of ourselves for doing something that hasn’t been done in our school history,” he said. The part of it that’s going to be difficult, in terms of me, is to make sure they’re not content and satisfied. We need to make sure they’re still hungry for more.”

Warren’s offensive and defensive weapons have been as advertised, and they now face a St. Clairsville squad that can beat opponents in multiple ways. That starts with the quarterback, Tyler Tonkovich. His dual-threat abilities give coach Kimes and his staff plenty to game plan, as key defensive contributors are going to need to step up.

“We’ve been studying on (St. Clairsville) since after the game on Saturday. They’re a program that’s used to winning football games,” Kimes said of the opposition.

“They have a winning tradition. They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. They’ve got a great combination of big, strong guys and fast, athletic kids. They’re going to create a great challenge for us.

Kimes later said the caliber of a team like St. Clairsville is what you come to expect at this stage of the year. Defensive strategies for Warren depend on how often the Red Devils change personnel, but the usual suspects for the Warriors are primed to step in when needed. Josh Welch is lighting up the field in 2020, and it’s what the Warriors came to expect out of the defensive leader. If SCHS finds an opening in they secondary, free safety Peyten Kellar is ready to make the tackles in space. Kimes said of Keller, “If he gets his hands on you, you’re going to be tackled.”

You can’t mention Warren football without mentioning the rapid-fire offense. After some struggles in the first half of the John Glenn game, all-time leading passer Kurt Taylor led the way in the second half with his legs to force overtime. They were down 16 in the second half, as the defense (which has only allowed six second half points all season) is firing on all cylinders alongside Taylor and the offense.

Kimes’ message to his team at halftime of the John Glenn game was one of taking pride and accountability for yourself on the field, and the adversity they faced may help them in this tough road test ahead.

“I told they guys that we got two options. We could feel sorry for ourselves, tuck our heads between our legs, take our butt kicking and go home, or we can respond to this adversity and come out in the second half to fight,” he said. “We were down 16. It felt like our offense could easily score 16, so I told the defense that they needed to pitch a shutout in the second half. That’s exactly what happened. They stayed at 21, and we were able to tie it and win it in double overtime.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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