BEAVER FALLS - The Ohio all-stars are looking to take their show on the road this year.
The 32nd annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic will take place on the campus of Geneva College tonight with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. Reeves Field is a place Ohio has not won at since a 26-14 win in 2005.
Pennsylvania holds the all-time series lead, 22-9, including last year's 38-8 rout at West Branch. That 30-point margin was the largest since 1988 and the third largest in the series history.
According to Ohio and Beaver Local coach Rich Wright, the game's outcome could be determined early on.
"They have some bigger schools on their side," Wright said. "But to me, it all depends on how the game starts out. If it's close and competitive, Ohio always seems to do well. It might come down to who makes the first mistakes."
The Keystoners will be lead by Beaver coach Jeff Beltz, who led his team to an 8-3 mark last season. Beltz, a Freedom grad, has coached at Beaver for the past 11 seasons after serving as an assistant at Robert Morris University from 1996-1999.
Beltz should feel right at home at Reeves Field as he was an All-American in both football and baseball at Geneva. Beltz still holds every game, season and career receiving record at the school.
"This game has a tremendous rivalry," Beltz said of the Penn-Ohio series. "It's longstanding with over 30 years of games. It's fun. This is the third time I've coached and I played in 1991. There's a ton of tradition to it and it's great to see a lot of familiar faces."
Beltz will bring a deep and talented squad into action tonight that includes seven all-state performers.
One of those is quarterback Jason Adamson who received all-state accolades as a defensive back for Rochester. Last season, Adamson (6-foot, 170 pounds) passed for over 1,000 yards and 16 scores.
There are five running backs on the Pennsylvania roster. West Allegheny's Aaron McKinney should see most of the touches. McKinney (5-9, 180) rushed for 1,180 yards and 24 touchdowns a year ago.
"We've got a lot of smart kids," Beltz said. "A lot of times football kids get stereotyped, but these guys have been on the ball. You can count on our kids. They are very competitive and they've come together nicely as a team."
Ohio head coach Mark Asher said he has an idea of how Pennsylvania will attack his team.
"They're going to be a veer team," he said. "They're going to option us and run the ball. It's going to pose a problem for our defensive line and linebackers. It's a great offense to run."
Southern's Josh Melhorn, who will play defensive end and linebacker for the Buckeyes, said that Pennsylvania will be a formidable opponent.
"They definitely have the size and speed advantage over us," he said. "We've got to use our finesse and just go out there and execute and do what we have to do."
Ohio will have plenty of star power on its side as well.
Behind center for Ohio will be United's Josh McLaughlin (5-11, 175) and Crestview's Carter Hill (6-0, 199).
McLaughlin led the Eagles to their first playoff appearance in school history. During his junior and senior seasons, McLaughlin passed for more than 4,600 yards and 36 scores.
Hill has a 20-4 record as a starting quarterback in his prep career. In his final two years with the Rebels, Hill passed for 3,212 yards with 34 touchdowns and rushed for 2,220 yards with 27 scores.
Hill is a player Wright saw in person during Week 2 last season.
"Both of our quarterbacks are very good," Wright said. "I know how good Carter Hill is. We've got a good mix of chemistry with the kids. They get along pretty good. I'm impressed with what I've seen."
Western Reserve's Riley Sheptock (5-10, 165) could be one of the main targets for Ohio. Sheptock did a little of everything for the Blue Devils last season earning All-Ohio honors as he recorded 730 receiving yards with 13 touchdowns and also rushed for 460 yards.
"There's an element of uncertainty," Beltz said of Ohio's squad. "I'm not very familiar with any of their names or the coaching styles. You're kind of going in blind. I do know they will be well-coached and that they have some great players."
Both sides may be unsure of what to expect. The fans may also be in for a surprise, but one thing is for sure, there will be plenty of talent on display.
"I want to see (John) Eckroth on the line four us," Wright said. "There's a West Branch (Michael Underwood) kid that looks good. A Western Reserve linebacker (Ed Crump), and East Palestine safety (Mike Salyers) look good. I'm just excited to see what these kids can do."
NOTES: Player introductions are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
- Joining McLaughlin as a representative for United is senior wide receiver Ryan Powell.