By Ed Looman/For The Dominion Post
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Big plays on both sides of the football helped Steubenville earn a 21-17 victory over Morgantown on Friday, inside Harding Stadium.
Up 14-10 at the half, Reno Saccoccia’s club needed just three snaps in the third quarter to put points on the board.
Senior quarterback Clayton Criss found Ryan Rauch running down the sideline for a 74-yard score. Rauch, a senior wide receiver, appeared to catch the ball on his hip before sprinting untouched to the end zone.
The Mohigans (1-1), who now are 0-5 in their series with Steubenville, drew close later in the period thanks to Kaden Rice’s 85-yard interception return.
Big Red was threatening to score again when Rice stepped in front of a Criss pass.
Steubenville’s big defensive play came with 1:30 left to play.
Morgantown had moved the football from Big Red’s 47 to the 24 and was facing a fourth and three. Quarterback Cameron Rice tried rolling to his left, but he was nailed behind the line by Jaziah Blackwell, who got some help from Emmanuel Ware.
Blackwell was banged up a few plays earlier but returned to make the huge play and put Steubenville’s initial victory of the season on ice.
“When you are trying to bounce back, I think that kind of win does so much for your team morale,” Saccoccia said. “There were so many people who had a lot to do with this win tonight and that makes it even better.”
After its defense forced a three and out, Big Red traveled 45 yards in eight plays for the game’s first score. It came on a 16-yard scoring strike from Criss to Erik Lulla. Steubenville started with great field possession thanks to a 22-yard punt return by Ethan Duggan. Ian Phillips’ conversion kick made it 7-0.
On its second possession, Morgantown moved from its own 23 to the Big Red 20, chewing up huge chunks of rushing yardage behind its massive offensive line. The threat ended, however, when Jorian Jones intercepted a C. Rice pass and returned it to the Mohigan 37.
The hosts were unable to capitalize on the turnover and Matt Lacy’s squad quickly marched 69 yards to tie the score. C. Rice connected with Preston Fox for 21 yards and hard-running Ty Konchesky capped the drive with a 17-yard burst up the middle. John McConnell’s kick made it 7-7.
Big Red took the lead back with 3:24 left in the half on a 36-yard sprint by junior tailback Tayveon Crawford. McDonnell then nailed a 41-yard field goal as time expired to make it 14-10.
“Our guys played hard,” Lacy said. “You never want to take away moral victories, so it’s tough. We made three mistakes and they cost us three touchdowns. On their first drive, they took put it to us. Then they hit that long wheel route where their guy caught the ball on his hip. We there in coverage but didn’t quite make the play. Kaden (Rice) didn’t let that stop him. He came back later with that interception return. We have to learn from this and move forward.
“We had the ball with a chance to win and just didn’t make the plan on fourth down. Steubenville brought the house. We had a play called and it didn’t quite work out the way we had it drawn up. We just have to keep improving. Our schedule doesn’t get any easier. We have to turn around and play Maryland’s state champ next week.”
Starting in place of the injured Randy Mitchell, Criss had quite a night for Big Red. He completed 10 of his 16 passes for 168 yards and the two scores. Crawford paced Steubenville’s game, toting the pigskin 21 times for 98 yards. Caleb Mitchell added 54.
Konchesky finished with 81 yards on 14 carries for Morgantown.
Morgantown 0 10 7 0 — 17
Steubenville 7 7 7 0 — 21
S: Lulla 16 pass from Criss (Phillips kick)
M: Konchesky 17 run (McConnell kick)
S: Crawford 36 run (Phillips kick)
M: McConnell 41 yard field goal
S: Rauch 74 pass from Criss (Phillips kick)
M: K. Rice 85 yard interception return (McConnell kick)
RUSHING: Morgantown — C. Rice 7-16, Konchesky 14-81 TD, Whetsell 4-4, Davis 5-26, Milne 1-1; Fox 2-10. Steubenville—Criss 4-(-4); Crawford 21-981; Mitchell 15-54; Tuttle 1-4; Kausky 1-5; Blackwell 1-(-1).
PASSING: Morgantown — 3-12-60 TD all by C. Rice. Steubenville—10-16-168-2-1 all by Criss.
RECEIVING: Morgantown — Fox 3-60 TD. Steubenville—Duggan 3-33, Lulla 1-16 TD, Rauch 2-88-1, Mitchell 2-4, Kausky 1-9, Tuttle 1-13.