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Football Lookahead: Crusaders Making 11th Playoff Appearance

November 7, 2013
By ED LOOMAN , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

STEUBENVILLE-Steubenville Catholic is making its 11th appearance in the Ohio high school football playoffs. Racine Southern is a newcomer to the postseason.

The Crusaders and Tornadoes will match 8-2 records Saturday in the Division VII, Region 25 quarterfinals at Harding Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The home playoff game is the Crusaders' first since 2005. That club made it all the way to the Division VI championship game, bowing to Delphos St. John. Central has an all-time playoff record of 11-9.

"We saw them in person against Trimble and we thought at that time they have good size and some kids that really get after it," Central coach Steve Daley said of the Tornadoes. "Now after watching them on film in more than one game, those things have been confirmed.

"They do have nice size up front on both sides of the ball. They have kids that have some skills. They are good football players."

The Southern offense compiled 3,175 yards during the regular season (2,403 on the ground). The Tornadoes recorded 32 rushing touchdowns and average 30.1 points per game.

Kyle Wickline is in his fourth year as the Southern coach. His overall record is 16-24. Daley, on the other hand, is in his third year at Central and sports a 17-14 mark with two straight trips to the postseason.

For Southern, based in Meigs County, the 8-2 record marked only the second year the football program has been above .500 since 2000.

Tyler Barton, a 5-foot-11, 181-pound senior, powers the Southern rushing attack. He has gained 1,342 yards on 182 attempts with 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Tristen Wolfe, a 6-1, 165 junior, has 267 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He has completed 52 of 110 pass attempts for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Junior Paul Ramthun (5-10, 165) has contributed 229 yards to the Southern ground game while junior fullback Ryan Billingsley, 5-10, 255, has 191.

Wolfe's favorite target is split end Hunter Johnson, a 5-10, 158-pound senior who has 18 catches good for 303 yards. Massive tight end Dennis Teaford, a 6-6, 233-pound senior, has seven catches.

"They definitely want to run the ball first," Daley said. "If we can get them in a situation where they are forced to throw, then we are doing a good job.

Defensively, the Tornadoes have allowed 1,895 yards of offense in 10 games and an average of 9.4 points per game. Southern opponents have tried just 94 passes, completing 41 for 546 yards. The Tornadoes have recorded 16 team interceptions.

Wickline's crew has blanked five opponents and is plus-15 in the turnover differential department.

Offensively, the Crusaders average 372 yards per game (190 via the air) and 43 points.

Senior quarterback Brenton Colabella has thrown for 1,883 yards and 26 scores. Senior Ryan Fletcher has 26 grabs and senior Aleks Porreca 20.

Khalil Jones, Central's speedy senior running back, leads the ground attack with 628 yards (he averages 11.4 yards per touch). Fletcher has 355 and junior fullback Stone Romano 289. Romano has eight rushing touchdowns.

The Crusaders defense allows 226 yards per game (151 rushing) and 13 points.

Junior Chris Murphy has 60.5 tackles to lead the Central defense and also has recorded three sacks. Senior Louis Fallon is next with 53.5 and 4.5 sacks. Romano has 38.5 (nine have been for losses) and Porreca 37.

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