STEUBENVILLE - One fourth quarter defensive stop followed closely by one critical turnover made all the difference in one heck of a high school football game Saturday night at Harding Stadium.
Columbiana clipped Catholic Central 38-35 in the contest that featured 786 yards of total offense. The Clippers rolled to 357 yards on the ground while the Crusaders collected 369 through the air.
Britton Steiginga finished with 169 yards on 17 carries, while Clipper teammate Brandon Hacker added 137 yards on 23 carries.
Bob Spaite's defense recorded the big stop early in the final period. Central, thanks to a Chris Murphy fumble recovery set up shop at the Columbiana 27. A pass interference call gave the Crusaders a first-and-goal at the 8. Junior quarterback Brenton Colabella misfired on two attempts before finding senior Kyle Laukert for seven. On fourth-and-1, the Clippers stiffened and stopped sophomore Stone Romano short of the goal.
Steve Daley's club came right back with a huge defensive stance of its own, junior Jake McCann recording a key tackle on third down. The critical turnover, unfortunately, came on the Columbiana punt. The Crusader returner lost the handle and the Clippers recovered at the 28.
On the next play, Britton Steiginga, who as Daley said earlier in this week can flat out fly, made Central pay for the miscue. He broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown jaunt, allowing his team to grab a 32-21 lead.
Columbiana, now 2-1, got on the board first when Steiginga scooped up a Central fumble and returned it 12 yards. Brandon Hacker added the conversion kick. The Crusaders responded immediately, going 68 yards in just three plays. Colabella hit senior Zach Herrington for 39 yards (the 6-4 wide receiver seemed to pick the ball right off the shoulders of the Columbiana defender). Laukert and Colabella then hooked up for a 29-yard score. Senior Doug Maslowski nailed the kick.
Central grabbed a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter, Colabella hitting a diving Michael Carapellotti in the end zone. The 21-yard scoring play came following an interception by junior Ryan Fletcher. Maslowski again drilled the extra point kick.
The Clippers tied things just before the half on a 22-yard jaunt by Steiginga. The senior speedster took a direct snap from the wildcat formation after starting quarterback Nate Huk left the game with an injury.
Daley's gridders went ahead 21-14 early in the third quarter, Colabella hitting Laukert again, this time from 28 yards away. Romano split the uprights on his first conversion try.
Columbiana then reeled off 18 unanswered points. With Huk sidelined, Spaite changed things up and went with the stacked I formation, featuring two tight ends. The maneuver caused some issues for the Crusaders. In the first half, Central held the Clippers to 104 rushing yards (65 coming on one drive). After the injury, the visitors rolled to 254 on the ground.
Junior Aleks Porreca was one of those Crusaders who made several big defensive plays in the first half. Senior Kevan Zapolnik added a few more.
Following Steiginga's long run, Central traveled 62 yards for a score. This time, Colabella scrambled in from eight yards away. Murphy hit Luke Potenzini for the two-pointer.
Columbiana's running game wasn't to be denied, however, and the Clippers responded with a 65 yard march to go ahead 38-29. Steiginga struck again from eight yards out.
The game's final score came with 44 ticks left, Colabella connecting with Herrington for an eight-yard touchdown.
Penalties played a key role in killing a Central drive late in the third quarter. Colabella found Herrington for 10 yards, moving the football to the Columbiana 14. However, due to several penalties and a sack, the Crusaders found themselves on their own 48 and had to punt.
Colabella finished the night with 369 passing yards, hitting on 28-of-46 attempts. Carapellotti had 11 catches for 114, Laukert seven for 119 and Herrington five for 96.
ST. CATHOLIC: 7-7- 7-14-35
CO-Steiginga 12 yard fumble return (Hacker kick)
SC-Laukert 29 pass from Colabella (Maslowski kick)
SC-Carapellotti 21 pass from Colabella (Maslowski kick)
CO-Steiginga 22 run (Hacker kick)
SC-Laukert 28 pass from Colabella (Romano kick)
CO-Hacker 34 pass from Cyrus (kick failed)
CO-Hacker 1 run (run failed)
CO-Steiginga 72 run (kick failed)
SC-Colabella 8 run (Murphy to Potenzini)
CO-Steiginga 8 run (run failed)
SC-Herrington 8 pass from Colabella (kick failed)
First downs 1519
Total Yards 408378
RUSHING-Columbiana, Steiginga 17-169, Hakcer 23-137; Steubenville Catholic, Maslowski 8-31, Colabella 18-(minus 24)-1.
PASSING-Columbiana, Huk 2-5-17-0, Cyrus 1-2-34-1; Steubneville Central, Colabella 28-46-369-2.
RECEIVING-Columbiana, Hacker 1-34; Steubenville Catholic, Carapellotti 11-114, Laukert 7-119, Herrington 5-96.
INTERCEPTIONS-Columbiana, Jake DeJong.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Columbiana, Britton Steiginga.