STEUBENVILLE - Steubenville is home for the playoffs again, but it wasn't easy.
On the strength of a 21-18 victory Friday night against Akron Buchtel, Big Red clinched a home playoff game in Ohio Division III Region 11.
"I think every team has to start over every year, even if you have a bunch of players back they might not have the same attitude," Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia said. "Every team starts from scratch every year. We started from scratch and we had a lot of adversity.
"When teams overcome adversity, it's the seniors, not anyone else. If they want their season to cave in it will cave in. If they want it to be good it will be. The seniors make the team."
Senior kicker Luke Smith hit a 33-yard field goal with 3:23 remaining in the game to give Big Red a 21-18 lead, and then things got a little crazy.
The Griffins marched to the Steubenville 24 with less than a minute left. On third-and-8, quarterback Marnayre Drummond dropped back, saw a flag thrown, and stopped.
Unfortunately for Buchtel, the whistle hadn't blown so the play was live, allowing Steubenville to capitalize by sacking Drummond for a 22-yard loss. The sack set up fourth-and-30 at the Big Red 46. Steubenville broke up a desperation heave to regain possession with 36 seconds left, and ultimately ran out the clock.
Steubenville had a huge advantage in the kicking game all night.
After Matt Petrella returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown to give Big Red a 7-6 lead late in the first half, Smith executed a perfectly placed onside kick that was recovered by Donte Brown at the Buchtel 43.
On second-and-13 from the 31, Stinson hit Tajuan Lawson for a 12-yard gain, and then kept it himself on a 4-yard run for a first down. An Griffins' offside penalty put Big Red at the 10 and Smith nailed a 27-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with three seconds left in the half.
Big Red looked poised to carry that momentum after blocking a Buchtel punt on the opening possession of the second half to take over at the Buchtel 47.
The Griffins literally stole the momentum back three plays later. Steven Mosley stripped Kai McClurg and raced 60 yards to paydirt to give Buchtel a 12-10 lead after the conversion pass fell incomplete.
After Buchtel converted a third-quarter Big Red turnover on downs into a 63-yard scoring pass from Drummond to Deric Rucker that made the score 18-10, it was time for Big Red senior running back Dashon Redman to impose his will.
Redman, who fumbled earlier in the game to set up Buchtel's first score, was a monster for Steubenville late. On Big Red's 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive that started with 3:51 left in the third quarter, Redman carried eight times for 71 yards, including punching in from inside the 1 for a touchdown. Redman also powered in for a 2-point conversion run to tie the game at 18-18 with 11:57 remaining in the game.
Redman then carried the ball seven times for 37 yards to help set up the game-winning field goal. Cody Saltsman caught a 13-yard screen pass to put Big Red at the 16 one play before Smith put the winner through.
"The whole team responded," Saccoccia said. "Before the game we talked about in games at this time of year little things win the games. Not big plays, little plays win the game."
Big Red ran the ball 50 times for 230 yards with Redman leading the way with 35 touches for 180 yards.
The Steubenville defense held Buchtel to 180 yards of offense including 60 on 26 carries.