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Ohio team faces tough task again

June 28, 2011
MICHAEL S. BURICH - Staff Writer ( , Salem News

Coming off a 38-8 loss in last year's Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic, the Buckeyes are looking to get back at the Keystoners.

The problem is, once again, it won't be easy.

Ohio has lost three out of the last four in the series and has not won at Geneva College - the site of Thursday's game - since 2005. Pennsylvania holds a sizable 22-9 advantage in the series and last year's blowout victory was the third largest winning margin in the game's 32-year history.

Pennsylvania coach Jeff Beltz, a graduate of Freedom High School, knows all about the game. He played in it in 1991, was the defensive coordinator in 2003 and served as the head coach in 2005.

He's 2-1 in games he's been involved with personally, but he warns of overconfidence.

"In 2005 we lost (26-14)," the Beaver Area High School coach said. "It was a fairly competitive game, but we just couldn't keep up. Everytime we tried to scrap our way back into they had a receiver who kept making plays. Ohio was very talented that year."

This year's Ohio team boasts a lot players with playoff experience, but none of the teams represented by the Quad-County Coaches Association - including Div. III powers Steubenville and Poland - won a playoff game last season.

Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is well represented with playoff winners including Central Valley (the old Monaca and Center districts merged) who won the WPIAL class AAA title last season.

"Certainly there have been times in this series where the scores weren't so close, but in the last 10 years the games have been very competitive," Beltz said.

Ohio's defense will certainly have its hands full. Pennsylvania has West Allegheny's Aaron McKinney (1,180 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns), Riverside's Jared Desensi (1,058 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns) and Rochester's Jasson Adamson (1,033 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns) at its disposal in the backfield.

"We tend to focus on running a lot in our area," Beltz said. "But we have some people who can throw the ball too and we have some good athletes who can catch."

At quarterback is Freedom's Derek Lehocky. His older brother, Shawn, played in the game in 2008 when Ohio won 14-8. Blocking for the Keystoners will be All-State linemen Paul Pavclinich (6-1, 235 pounds) of Beaver and Jesse Battaglia (6-4, 270 pounds) of Rochester.

Five Pennsylvania players on the defensive side of the ball earned All-State distinctions last fall. McKinney and Adamson were honored for their play at defensive back as was Aliquippa's Darious Walker. All-State linebackers for the Keystoners include Central Valley's Lukas Turley and West Allegheny's C.J. Revtai.

"We have the opportunity to play good defense," Beltz said. "We have a bunch of athletes that seem to run to the football very well. That will be the strength of our team."

One wildcard that always hovers over the game is the level of motivation the athletes on each team have. Some players might not put everything into with college football on the horizon. Other players, like United Local standout wide receiver Ryan Powell, go all in.

"This is it for me," Powell said. "I'm going to leave it all on the field."

Game notes

Beltz played at Geneva College, so the game is a bit of a homecoming for him.

"We do play there every other year against Beaver Falls, so it's not like I haven't been on the field in a while. It's always nice to go back though because you see some familiar faces on the Geneva College staff."

The only player Beltz knows anything about on this year's Ohio team is East Liverpool's Willie Leavell. Leavell is from Midland and was eligible to attend Beaver Area High School.

"We would have loved to have Willie down at our place," Beltz said.



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