STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Seven points followed by seven turnovers and the rest is history.
The Southern football team led 7-0 in its first ever playoff game, but went on to commit seven turnovers and fell to the host Steubenville Catholic Central Crusaders by a count of 35-7 in the OHSAA Region 25 quarterfinal, Saturday at Harding Stadium/Reno Field.
Southern’s (8-3) defense pushed back Steubenville Central Catholic (9-2) 12-yards on the game’s opening and forced the Crusaders to punt.
The Tornadoes converted on a third and eight with a 42 yard pass from Tristen Wolfe to Hunter Johnson, which set the Purple and Gold up with a first and goal. On third down Wolfe hit senior Colton Walters with an eight yard touchdown pass at the 7:24 mark. Trenton Deem added the point after touchdown kick to cap off the six-play, 2:36 drive and put SHS on top 7-0.
Steubenville Catholic Central senior Khalil Jones returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tornado 48 yard line to set up the Crusaders in prime position. Seven plays into the drive SCCHS quarterback Benton Colabella hit Johnny DiCarlantonio with a seven yard touchdown pass. John Paul McNamara added the extra point to tie the game up at seven with 5:26 remaining in the opening stanza.
A pair of punts by each team set the Purple and Gold set up offense at its own 38 yard line. On the second play of the drive Tyler Barton broke a long run to the SCC 10 yard line but the play was called back due to holding. The very next play Wolfe’s pass to Paul Ramthun was tipped into the air and intercepted by Khalil Jones, who then returned it 36 yards for the touchdown. McNamara added the PAT to give the Crusaders the 14-7 lead with 7:37 remaining in the first half.
Neither team was able to score before the end of the half and SCCHS led 14-7 at the midway point.
Nearly two-thirds of the third period had whittled away by the time an offense was able to get on the opponents side of the 50 yard line, and it was Southern which accomplished the feat first. On the 10th play of the SHS drive, a drive that began on the Tornado 27 yard line, Southern’s Wolfe hit Barton with a short pass at the 20 yard line but the ball was fumbled away and SCCHS recovered.
The Crusaders marched down the field with the 10 play drive that was capped off by a 12 yard scoring run by Jones. McNamara’s kick was good to put SCCHS ahead 21-7 with 11 minutes to play.
Southern’s Wolfe completed a pass to Deem near midfield on the ensuing drive but an unsportsman-like conduct penalty against the Purple and Gold set them back 15 yards. The Tornadoes worked their way back near midfield but SCCHS forced and recovered a fumble to regain possession.
Steubenville Catholic Central was backed up on the first play of the drive but answered with a 45 yard touchdown pass from Colabella to Aleks Porreca with 7:28 left to play. The PAT was kicked home by McNamara and SCCHS was in control 28-7.
Southern’s next drive was again cut short by a turnover when Wolfe’s pass was tipped into the air and intercepted by Ryan Fletcher. SCCHS was forced into a three and out on the ensuing drive and Southern took over at its own 25 yard line.
Four consecutive incomplete passes by the Tornadoes set SCCHS up again with 25 yards between the Crusaders and another score. Two plays into the drive Jones made that score a reality with a 12 yard run, and following a McNamara extra point, put SCCHS up 35-7. That was the final score of the game and Steubenville Central Catholic won 35-7.
“Our turnovers hurt us tonight,” fourth year Southern head coach Kyle Wickline said following the game. “We had to do some things that we don’t normally do and we struggled up front. Their flow was hard on us and we couldn’t get that extra yardage.”
Tristen Wolfe was 12-of-23 passing for the Purple and Gold for 138 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Wolfe also paced the SHS ground attack with 30 yards on 11 carries.
Tyler Barton ran 14 times for 27 yards, Jaylen Blanks had three carries for 20 yards, while Ryan Billingsley and Tom Ramthun each had six yards on two carries. Colton Holbrook had one four yard carry, while Blake Johnson’s lone rush was stopped two yards behind the line.
Trenton Deem led the SHS receiving core with 74 yards on six grabs, Hunter Johnson had one 42-yard catch, while Colton Wakters had two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown. Tom Ramthun had one reception for four yards, while Tyler Baton and Paul Ramthun each had one three yard grab.
Steubenville Catholic Central was led by Khalil Jones with 101 yards on 11 carries with two scores. Ryan Fletcher added 56 yards on six rushes, while Chris Murphy had 26 yards on two attempts.
Benton Colabella was 10-of-16 through the air for 115 yards and two scores, with his favorite target being Aleks Porreca with four grabs for 56 yards with a touchdown.
Southern’s defense was led by Paul Ramthun, Trenton Deem and Casey Pickens with a sack each, while The Crusaders’ were led by Louis Fallon with two sacks.
SCCHS held a 14-to-10 advantage in first downs and a 297-to-291 advantage in total yards. The Crusaders ran the ball 31 times for 182 yards, while Southern toted the rock 34 times for 91 yards. Southern turned the ball over seven times in the game, while SCC had no turnovers. Steubenville Catholic Central was penalized eight times for 55 yards, compared to the six penalties for 45 yards by Southern.
The Crusaders snapped its two game losing skid with the victory and will travel to Zanesville to face top seeded Trimble on Saturday in the OHSAA Region 25 semi-final.
This marks the final game in the career of Southern seniors Dennis Teaford, Hunter Johnson, Tyler Barton, Zac Beegle, Brandon Moodispaugh, Trenton Deem, Colton Walters, Josh Justis, Travis Kimes, Casey Pickens, Wyatt Jarrell, Chris Yeater and Brandon Grueser.
“These seniors busted their butts all year and all through their careers and making it here was great for them,” said Wickline. “I don’t know if we are at this caliber yet. (Steubenville Catholic Central) has been here multiple years in a row and we’re still moving forward but haven’t got that far yet.”