Tigers play spoiler
WELLSVILLE — The Toronto football team has, coincidentally, a lot on the line this week against rival Wellsville.
The Red Knights enter the game against the Tigers looking to not end the regular season with a losing record, claim the Joe Scarabino/Corky Heaton Trophy and lock up a spot in the Ohio Division VII, Region 25 playoffs. Toronto currently ranks eighth.
Toronto and Wellsville have played in Week 1 for many years. The game was moved to Week 10 this season, and kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday night inside Nicholson Stadium.
Toronto enters the game coming off of a 42-12 loss to United last week at home on senior night.
“The issue is earlier in the year we had guys in position, but they did not make plays,” Toronto (4-5) head coach Eric Meek said. “Against United and in the games before that, we are getting knocked down. We are not holding up. We need to toughen up.”
The loss to the Golden Eagles was the Red Knights fourth straight loss, and all four of them have been by at least 30 points.
Wellsville (2-7) enters coming off of a 42-35 victory at Leetonia. Derrick Suggs led the way on the ground for the Tigers with 328 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries.
“He is a very dangerous running back,” Meek said. “They do a good job like United. They gained good numbers earlier in the season against East Palestine. They scored 42 points last week. They like to run the football.”
The Tigers’ win over the Bears snapped their six-game losing streak.
Toronto has had difficulty in its last four games at the line of scrimmage against bigger and stronger teams.
“We are okay there,” Meek said about how his team’s lines stack up against Wellsville’s. “We are still trying to figure out who we are going to have on the line. We are having battles this week. We want to play the right people in the right spots. We have a chance to go 5-5, and we can possibly make it to Week 11.”
Wellsville likes to put pressure on the quarterback, something Nathan Karaffa faced the previous four weeks.
“Defensively, they run a 3-4, but we will also see some 4-3 looks,” Meek said. “They like to come hard off the edge. We may have issues with special teams. They have some dangerous returners.”
The Red Knights have allowed at least 42 points in all five of their losses. Toronto began the season with a loss at Shadyside before winning its next four games.
“I’m looking forward to this week’s game,” Meek said. “We have gotten beaten up. When you get knocked down like we have the last four weeks, it makes you want to come out and compete and get the bad taste out of your mouth.”
This season, Wellsville has lost to Beaver Local (66-6), Lowellville (12-6), Lisbon (43-20), East Palestine (57-39), United (26-7), Columbiana (47-13) and Southern (42-0). Wellsville’s first win came against Edison (26-14) back in Week 2.
Moose Ramsey is in his first season as head coach at Wellsville.
“I have known Moose for a long time,” Meek said. “I know a lot of their assistant coaches very well. Some of them played for me when I was the head coach at Wellsville.
“Wellsville-Toronto is a great rivalry. We are excited about going up there and playing them. It is a great game to be a part of.”
Playing for a trophy also adds to the importance of the game.
“Joe Scarabino was the police chief up there,” Meek said. “He was a very good friend. He was one of my closest friends when I was at Wellsville. Corky Heaton was our equipment man. We tragically lost both of them too soon to cancer. They were two great people. They meant a lot to their communities.”
The Red Knights do have some injuries going into the game. As many as eight starters were sidelined last week.
“We have guys who are banged up,” Meek said. “Some of our JV players are out. It is the grind of the football season. We have some guys on varsity who are out. We are going to see who are going to have back Friday night.”
Toronto enters this week in position to make the playoffs as the Red Knights sit in eighth place in the rankings. Wellsville is followed in the standings by Malvern (4-5), Mathews (5-4) and Newbury (4-5). Malvern plays this week at Sandy Valley (3-6), while Mathews plays at home against Newbury.
Warren JFK (3-6) is in seventh place in the rankings and has lost five straight. Warren JFK plays this week at St. Thomas Aquinas. Meek said he fears that even if his team defeats Wellsville, there’s still a slim chance it will miss the playoffs, depending on what the three squads below do.