By Jordan Miller
CARROLLTON – 2019 brings a new football season, a new quarterback and a new head coach for the Carrollton Warriors.
The Warriors opened the season at home against the St. Clairsville Red Devils, a team who handily defeated them last season. 2019 was no different.
The Red Devils wasted no time at all, scoring on the second play from scrimmage on a 61-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tyler Tonkovich, taking a 7-0 lead with 11:08 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Warriors were forced to punt on their opening drive of the game, setting the Red Devils up at the Carrollton’s 47-yard-line.
It only took eight plays, all running that is, for St. Clairsville to find themselves in the end zone for the second time of the night. Aaron Jordan carried the ball four times for 21 yards on the drive and Jacob Jordan racked up 20 yards, setting up a six-yard touchdown run by Tonkovich, his second of the game. St. Clairsville took a 14-0 lead with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
Carrollton needed a spark and they got just that on the ensuing kickoff.
Sophomore Dom Speelman fielded the kick return at the 15-yard-line and used his agility to avoid St. Clairsville’s return team, sprinter past defenders and right into the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown run.
Speelman’s kickoff return for a touchdown is Carrollton’s first since Cody Walker in 2011.
The PAT was no good but Carrollton cut the Red Devils’ lead to 14-6.
“That really helped us,” Carrollton Coach Jim Tsilimos said. “Special teams is a third of the game and we have to score off of it.”
St. Clairsville took the air out of the stadium again, scoring on their third possession of the game with a 34-yard Jacob Jordan touchdown run, extending the lead to 21-6 with 2:39 left in the first quarter.
Both teams stayed off the scoreboard in the second quarter. There was only one more touchdown of the game; that’s when Aaron Jordan broke free on a 15-yard touchdown run halfway through the third quarter, making it 28-6. That would be the final.
Aaron Jordan rushed for 112 yards on 17 carries and Jacob Jordan totaled 96 yards on 14 attempts.
“We knew going in they run the football, I wouldn’t change our game plan we just have to execute a little better up front,” Carrollton’s Head Coach Jim Tsilimos said. “It seems as the game went on, we were a little better at it defensively…We’re not a team that can have a first-and-15, we have to play perfect offensively for us to move the football. We had too many mistakes offensively. It put our defense, at times, in bad situations.”
The coach says this is a game they’ll put behind them and start fresh.
“Like I told the kids we got to come to work tomorrow, forget about tonight and move on,” he said. “That was a good football team, we played them hard…they gave me four quarters but too many mistakes. You’re not going to win football games making that many mistakes.”
The Warriors fielded a young team but Tsilimos is proud to see the effort they exerted Friday night.
“They won’t quit on me and that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “If they don’t quit and they come to work every day, we’ll be fine.”
Part of that young team is a sophomore quarterback, Austin Colletti. Coach Tsilimos says he played well for his first varsity start, but there’s always room for improvement.
“He did well. He’s got to get better just like all of us do. From me all the way down to the last guy,” he said. “That’s our goal for next week, to come in and get better…our offense has to score and we’re going to have to grind things out.”
The Warriors were down a few players (Ryan Walker, Jared Becknell) in week one but Tsilimos says to look for them in week two.
“We get some kids back week two,” he said. “We’ll make some adjustments but it’s early yet for me to say what we’re going to do and we’ll see what happens.”
The Warriors and Red Devils each finished the game with one completion, five yards and 10 yards, respectively.
Brandon Brown hauled in Colletti’s only completion of the game.
The Warriors racked up 143 rushing yards compared to St. Clairsville’s 292.
Nick Martin led the Warriors back field, finishing with eight carries for 46 yards. Brandon Gooding rushed for 26 and Colletti picked up 24.
Colby Moore led the Carrollton defense with eight tackles; six solo and four assists.
Carrollton will travel to Coventry for week two of the season Friday, Sept. 6 to take on the Comets.