Warren’s run stopped by St. Clairsville
ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — An offense with both the quick-strike and big-play capability is quite the luxury.
St. Clairsville has both and showcased them multiple times Saturday evening in a Division IV, Region 15 quarterfinal against Warren.
In a span of 2 minutes, 52 seconds of game action, the Red Devils turned what was a punting and defensive exhibition into a three-touchdown lead and simply never looked back en route to a 26-0 victory against the Warriors (7-2) at chilly Red Devil Stadium.
“We needed a spark and once we got it … we were golden,” St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean said of his now 8-0 squad.
As has been the case, the spark came from the combination of senior quarterback Tyler Tonkovich and junior wide receiver Colin Oberdick.
While they provided the spark to their side of the ball, the Red Devils’ defense was simply lights out throughout the game.
“I am so proud of our entire defensive unit and staff,” McLean said. “The players, Coach (Ben) Frye, Coach (Vern) Ridgeway and Coach (Chris) Balog all did an outstanding job. I think some of the things we saw against Harrison Central and Wheeling Park (earlier this season) helped us to be ready to defend a team like (Warren).”
Warren — an explosive and versatile offense in its own right — was limited to 196 yards of total offense, including negative 5 on the ground. Much of that stat was because the Red Devils sacked quarterback Kurt Taylor seven times.
Supplying some of the defensive pressure were the likes of Drew Sefsick, who impacted the game in several ways, Reese Skaggs and Carson Woodford.
Offensively, the Red Devils punted on their first four possessions and three of those were of the three-and-out variety.
“We were frustrated (offensively), but we felt if we could just get that first score, open things up a little bit, get them off balance a little bit, some things would open up elsewhere,” McLean said.
As has become the case, when the Red Devils need an explosive play they turn to Oberdick. And he delivered once again.
Tonkovich recognized one-on-one coverage and basically Oberdick did the rest, catching a 50-yard touchdown with 2:32 to go in the half. The placement doinked off the upright.
Thanks to yet another stand by the Red Devils’ defense, Warren punted once again. Five plays later and with just 14 seconds to go in the half, St. C. was back in the end zone.
“I thought for basically the entire half, we went toe-to-toe with them,” Kimes said. “We weren’t sure coming in if we could stop their run, but we realized we matched up pretty well with that, but we had a busted coverage on one and then (Oberdick) made a play on another one. Hats off to St. Clairsville. They’re a good program and we’re trying to get there.”
Tonkovich lofted a pass to Oberdick, who high pointed the ball, caught it and as three Warrior defenders hit the ground, he backed into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown. The run for two fell short, leaving it at 12-0 at halftime.
“Oberdick came through again with the quick strike,” McLean said. “Early it was like a see saw going back-and-forth because of both punters doing such an outstanding job.”
Oberdick finished with 5 catches for 114 yards.
Getting the ball to begin the second half, the Red Devils dug into their bag of tricks. Running a gadget play, Sefsick — the back-up quarterback — found senior wide receiver Austin DaRe wide open behind the Warren defense for a 66-yard touchdown. Jake Bolyard drilled the PAT, making it 19-0.
“We brought something out that we’ve practiced for a long time,” McLean said. “Give the kids credit because they really executed it well. Drew made a great throw and Austin made a beautiful catch. We work on those things and this time of year is win or go home, so you don’t leave anything in the cupboard.”
Similar to Oberdick’s kickoff return for a touchdown against Sparta Highland, the touchdown to DaRe, who had 4 receptions for 88 yards, proved to be the one that took all of the wind out of the Warriors’ sail.
“We talked at halftime about getting a quick stop and score and we’d be right back in the game,” Kimes said. “And they hit us with another big play. It happens. It was just kids trying to make a play.”
The Red Devils added a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Jacob Jordan found a crease and raced 61 yards. Jordan, who was bottled up for most of the game, finished with 97 yards on 14 carries.
Taylor finished a solid 22-of-36 for 201 yards through the air. Ben Gandee was his favorite target, hauling in 10 passes for 85 yards. All told, six Warriors caught a pass.