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Ursuline turns showdown with Steubenville into rout

October 19, 2013
By LOU CALI JR. - Tribune Chronicle correspondent (sports@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

YOUNGSTOWN - With 3 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the second quarter Friday night, Ursuline quarterback Chris Durkin threw a beautiful 33-yard touchdown pass to Ben Phillips.

As the Irish lined up for the extra point, Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia was standing just a few yards from the players on the field. The irate Saccoccia finally called time and a heated discussion with the officials ensued. After several minutes, the referee came to the Ursuline sidelines, then walked back to the middle of the field and non-enthusiastically dropped a flag.

Ineligible man downfield, Ursuline.

Saccoccia saw something (there were no flags during the play) and emphatically pleaded his case. That he won it was a rarity. It also was about the only thing that went the Big Red's way in the first half at Stambaugh Stadium.

The Irish turned what was supposed to be a showcase game into a laugher. To add insult to injury, seven plays after the aforementioned Ursuline penalty, Durkin scored from one yard out just 24 seconds before intermission. That gave the Irish a 32-0 halftime lead and paved the way for a 46-21 victory.

"This is Week 8 and it was the first week I think we played football," Irish coach Larry Kempe said. "We played three solid quarters against a very good football team. It's what I've been waiting for for eight weeks."

From the opening drive - a six-play, 56-yard domination that ended with a 20-yard TD pass from Durkin to Phillips - the Irish (4-3) left no doubt who the better team was. Durkin had two touchdown runs and Vito Penza added another, all in the first half.

How bad was it for Steubenville (5-3)? Starting tailback Robert Hayden left with a knee injury after just two carries. The Irish had two safeties in the half, both on snaps way over the punter's head. And it wasn't like Big Red was backed up against their end zone. The first one came from the 28-yard line, and the second from the 39. Punter John Paul Duff had no choice on either but to sprint back and kick the ball out of the end zone.

At halftime, the Irish had 169 total yards. Big Red? Zero.

"We'd been preparing all week for a lot of different formations," Ursuline senior linebacker ShaHaun Williams said. "(Getting the big lead) was a great confidence booster."

Despite the huge lead, Kempe said he didn't feel the win was secure until midway through the fourth quarter.

"We watched numerous of their films and they can move the ball," he said.

Regarding the touchdown that was called back, Kempe added: "The head official came up to me at halftime and apologized (for not throwing a flag right away). Coach Reno Saccoccia is a very respected man in the coaching profession. It was the proper call. My problem was that they did not throw a flag (until he came out)."

Durkin finished the night with 93 yards on 17 carries. Kimauni Johnson totaled 68 yards on just three attempts for the winners. Dondre Brown paced Steubenville with 64 yards on five fourth-quarter carries. The Irish finished with a 281-178 edge in total yards.