Updated Tue, Nov 12, 2013 7:42 pm
The Catholic Central Crusaders beat the Southern Tornadoes in Southern’s first ever playoff appearance, 35-7 on Saturday night in Steubenville. Khalil Jones led the Crusaders to victory with three total touchdowns, scoring on both on the offensive and defensive ends.
Jones made plays all over the field, returning kicks, ripping off big runs and making plays at cornerback. He finished with 108 yards on just 11 carries with two rushing touchdowns and a pick-six.
Southern came out strong, scoring first after a few nice throws for quarterback Tristen Wolfe. The Crusaders came right back and scored on their ensuing possession and didn’t let the lead change again all night.
Southern got the ball back and started marching down the field again before Jones snagged an interception off Wolfe and returned it for a touchdown. The interception took the air out of the Southern passing game, as Wolfe seemed to second-guess his deep throws throughout the rest of the contest. The Tornadoes were able to remain competitive though, staying within 7 points until the fourth quarter.
A fumble from Southern towards the end of the third quarter recovered by Louis Fallon was the turning point in the game.
Catholic Central quickly capitalized on the Tornado turnover as Jones capped a quick drive with a 12-yard rushing touchdown to extend the Crusader lead 14. The game began to unfold shortly thereafter with Southern turning it over again on a fumble from Wolfe. Catholic Central followed with a 45-yard strike through the air via quarterback Brenton Colabella and receiver Aleks Porreca. Jones put the nail in the coffin with his third touchdown moments later.
Southern played a solid game, getting pressure on Colabella and containing the ground game of the Crusaders, but the turnovers turned out to be the difference.
Gridiron Glory Coach of the Year candidate Kyle Wickline tried to maintain possession by keeping the ball on the ground through most of the game, but the two fumbles hurt his team.
Inexperience definitely showed for Southern, which lost a handle on the game late when the score got out of control. The final score did not tell the story of the game’s first three quarters.
The Tornadoes should be proud of making playoffs for the first time in school history, but Wickline has his work cut out for him this offseason. Southern will lose eight four-year starters to graduation this summer, and finding adept replacements will be no easy task. Of all the replacements, running back and Gridiron Glory Player of the Year semifinalist Tyler Barton’s shoes will likely be the hardest to fill.
“He’s going to be hard to replace offensively and defensively,” Wickline said. “He’s just the kid that has that drive. He wants to play so hard.”
The Crusaders will square off against Tremble, who defeated Beallsville handily in round one, Saturday, Nov. 16 in the second round of Region 25 playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Zanesville’s Sulsberger Stadium.