McKeesport can’t crack Big Red defense, scoreboard, in slugfest loss
Written by: Josh Funk on Sunday, September 5th, 2010
TURTLE CREEK, Pa. – While entering the press conference area of Saturday’s “Rally at the Wolvarena,” Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia tripped over one of the camera bags.
If only McKeesport Area’s defense could have tripped over a camera bag. In the third quarter, the rather impressive Tigers’ defensive unit suddenly began tripping over itself.
McKeesport (0-1) committed several untimely offside penalties and was also flagged for a backbreaking unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and Steubenville (2-0) capitalized for the only score of the day in a 7-0 slugfest at Woodland Hills’ “Wolvarena.”
Really, Saccoccia said the game came down to two simple elements.
“It came down to good physical defense and changing our count on offense,” Saccoccia said.
The Big Red pride itself on its defense – and that’s evidenced by the more than 320 victories via the shutout posted in program history – 323 total blankings, to be exact.
As for changing the snap count, well, let’s just say McKeesport’s over aggression on the defensive side of the ball became its own worst enemy.
Through mich of the game – McKeesport’s defense dominated Steubenville’s rather unimaginative I-form offense, centered around quarterback Anthony Pierro and brother Jo Jo Pierro. Steubenville only rushed for 54 yards on 34 carries in the game, only completed four passes, and threw two interceptions.
But on one drive in the third quarter, everything unraveled for the Tigers, and the stout defensive effort went pretty much for naught.
McKeesport had forced the Big Red into a 3rd and 12 situation, and Anthony Pierro’s pass had sailed incomplete, but the Tigers were flagged for a 15-yard penalty because one of the referees allegedly ran into one of McKeesport’s coaches, said head man Jim Ward.
“That shifted the momentum,” Ward said.
After that first down, McKeesport’s defense committed three more penalties – all enchroachment penalties, and Anthony Pierro hit a 40-yard pass to senior tight end Blake Carroll.
Two plays later, Jo Jo Pierro scored on a three-yard touchdown run, and the red clad contingent from Ohio were celebrating.
“We’re very disappointed,” Ward said. “We felt like we had some opportunities that we let slip away. We lost our composure and some breaks didn’t go our way.”
McKeesport primarily operated out of its famous flexbone formation and pounded the ball at Steubenville. Perhaps the Tigers’ best opportunity to crack Steubenville’s defense came at the beginning of the game, when senior Sam Gooden returned the opening kickoff 68 yards to the Steubenville 28. But the Tigers turned the ball over on downs five plays later.
The passing game, never much utilized in the George Smith era, struggled this day, as sophomore Eddie Stockett finished 2-of-7 for 4 yards and Gooden went 1-of-1 for minus-6 yards.
McKeesport finished the game with 119 rushing yards – more than double Steubenville’s total – but also committed 14 penalties for 103 yards.
While the win wasn’t one for style points, it was a win for Steubenville – #718 in school history against 299 all-time losses.
And now, the Big Red have posted an eight quarter scoreless streak, having also shut out Inkster the previous week, 36-0.
But nothing came easy for Steubenville this day. And that’s how Ward wants it to be when teams play McKeesport.
“We certainly expect every opponent to earn what they get,” Ward said.
Follow WesternPAFootball.com on Twitter @WPAFootball