After advancing to the post-season in seven of their previous nine campaigns, Columbiana did not make the trek to week eleven last fall. The Clippers began the season with a 6-1 record but fell in each of their final three contests. Over the course of their last four games, Columbiana held the opposition to just 13 points per contest; however, the offense was only able to score 7.3.
Columbiana returns to the Upper Tier after competing for just one season in the ITCL’s Lower Tier. Coach Bob Spaite brings back a pair of First-Team All-League performers in Mike Buzzard and Steve Kurilla. Buzzard finished 2012 with a team-high 92 tackles and nine quarterback takedowns. Kurilla wasn’t far behind as he totaled 86 defensive stops from his middle linebacker position. The offensive skill position players have a cloud of mystery hovering overhead as inexperience is abound with the loss of Brandon Hacker (892 yards rushing, 67 tackles) and Britton Steiginga (937 yards rushing, four defensive interceptions).
2013 Columbiana Clippers’ Football Preview
by Vince Pellegrini (@Vince_MYVS)
Head Coach: Bob Spaite, 25th Season (156-103-4)
2012 Record: 6-4 (4-3), ITCL Lower Tier
2012 Post-Season Finish: Did Not Qualify
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 4
Offense: Multiple Formation Spread
Defense: 4-4 pressure & 4-3
2012 Team Statistics
Points Scored: 26.0 (26th in Area)
Passing Yards: 42.1 (421)
Rushing Yards: 275.8 (2758)
Points Allowed: 17.6 (12th in Area)
Passing Yards Allowed: 93.5 (935)
Rushing Yards Allowed: 124.8 (1248)
Passing: Drew Cyrus – 378 yds, 46.8% Comp PCT (22-47), 2 TDs
Rushing: R.J. Rankin – 24 att, 273 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Dalton Miller – 2 rec, 6 yds
Tackles: Mike Buzzard – 92
QB Sacks: Mike Buzzard & John Cramer – 9.0
Interceptions: Emon Eavers – 1
Aug. 30 – at Bridgeport, 7 PM
Sept. 6 – at Leetonia, 7 PM
Sept. 13 – Steubenville Catholic Central, 7 PM
Sept. 20 – at Springfield, 7 PM
Sept. 27 – at Southern, 7 PM
Oct. 4 – Lisbon, 7 PM
Oct. 11 – South Range, 7 PM
Oct. 18 – at East Palestine, 7 PM
Oct. 25 – Crestview, 7 PM
Nov. 1 – United, 7 PM
Offensive Strength: Coach Spaite is quick to point out that the Clippers return an excellent core of their offensive line from a year ago in seniors Dillon Rudolph and Steve Kurilla along with sophomore Jacob Hupp. However, there is virtually no depth along the front line.
Offensive Weakness: Inexperience at the quarterback position. Last year, Columbiana had four players toss at least one pass including junior Drew Cyrus who threw for 378 yards on 22 of 47 passing (46.8%).
Defensive Strength: Three starting defensive linemen and the Clippers’ middle linebacker all return to provide a solid foundation for Columbiana’s traditional strong defense. The Clippers have held their opponents to under 20-points per game in seven of their last eight campaigns.
Defensive Weakness: Inexperienced in the secondary, as well as, at the outside linebacker spots with the transition of Mike Tiller to the line.
Storylines Facing the Clippers
1. Strength along the D-Line. The combination of Mike Buzzard and John Cramer should provide opposing offensive line coaches fits. Buzzard has compiled 240 tackles and 13 quarterback sacks over his career. Cramer has taken down opposing signal callers eleven times over the past two years. Mike Tiller moves to a down lineman spot after having success as an outside linebacker last year (35 tackles, 1 sack).
2. Who Will Catch, Throw and Run the Football? The Clippers lost a ton of production when they had to say good-bye to likes of Britton Steiginga, Brandon Hacker, and Jake Dejong (129 receiving yards, 32.6 yards per punt). All positions seem to be up for debate. R.J. Rankin ran for an average of 11.4 yards per carry on 24 totes (273 yards, 1 TD) a year ago.
3. Return to the Upper Tier. The Clippers will switch gears and transition back into familiar surroundings. A year without traditional match ups like South Range, Springfield, and Lisbon was almost too much to take for those who have followed the Clippers for some time.
Did you know? The last time Columbiana won their conference was in 2003 when they were the Tri-County League champions (10-1, 7-0). Also, that was the last year Columbiana finished the regular season undefeated.