2014 Columbiana Clippers’ Football Preview
2013 Record: 3-7 (3-4), ITCL Upper Tier
Head Coach: Bob Spaite, 26th Year overall (159-110-4)
Last Trip to Post-Season: 2011
School Playoff Record: 5-9
Last League Title: 2003
5-Year Winning Percentage: 57.7%
Aug. 29 – Western Reserve, 7
Sept. 5 – Leetonia, 7
Sept. 12 – at Southern, 7
Sept. 19 – at United, 7
Sept. 26 – Springfield, 7
Oct. 3 – Jackson-Milton, 7
Oct. 10 – at Lisbon, 7
Oct. 17 – at South Range, 7
Oct. 24 – East Palestine, 7
Oct. 31 – at Crestview, 7
Single Season Leaders
Rushing Yards: Derek Garrod, 1630 (2000)
Passing Yards: Jason Morris, 1597 (1997)
Receiving Yards: Scott Belding, 913 (1981)
Rushing Yards: Austin Barbato, 3427
Passing Yards: Eric Myers, 2836
Receiving Yards: Troy Berdine, 2044
Year in Review: Columbiana began 2013 with an 0-4 mark, losing three games by 9-points or less. However, the Clippers found their way as they defeated Southern and Lisbon in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 75-26. Columbiana then toppled East Palestine (38-17) in week eight. Over the last month of the season though, a normally stingy defense allowed 42 points or more in three games as the Clippers were shut out of their second straight post-season.
For the first time since 2004 (22.6), Columbiana’s opponents were able to score at least three touchdowns in a game. The defense allowed an average of 28.6 points per contest.
Throughout the season, Clipper fans got a glimpse of freshman quarterback Mitch Davidson, who threw for nearly 1200 yards and ran for another 715. With Davidson at the controls, sophomore Dalton Miller caught 30 balls for 480 yards and 7 touchdowns. Eamon Eavers hauled in 19 passes for 262 yards. Mitch’s classmate Sean Congemi led the team with 18.1 yards per reception.
The Clippers have four returning starters on offense and three on defense with a total amount of returning lettermen set at 12. The lack of depth along the lines as well as at the tailback position has some concerned. Columbiana will begin the season at home against Western Reserve on Friday, August 29.
2013 Team Leaders
Points Scored Per Game: 22.7 (34th in Area)
Rushing Offense: 199.0
Passing Offense: 128.5
Points Allowed Per Game: 28.3 (46th in Area)
3 Things to Watch in Columbiana
Emergence of their Sophomore Signal Caller
As a freshman, Mitch Davidson threw for the fifth highest single-season total (1182) in school history. Just to put his accomplishment into contest, he threw for more yards in the last two weeks of the 2013 season (473) than the Clippers’ were able to amass throughout their 10-game 2012 campaign (421). Since week three, #2 completed less than 50% of his passes only once (45.5% vs. East Palestine). Davidson will have the luxury of tossing the ball to one of his favorite targets in Dalton Miller. The junior caught the second most touchdown passes in a single season in Columbiana’s rich history (7). Miller accumulated 16 yards per catch (480 yards on 30 catches).
Replacing Buzzard and Kurilla
On defense and along the offensive front, these two fierce competitors were honored by receiving first-team nods by the ITCL. Mike Buzzard finished his prep career with 330 tackles and 25 quarterback takedowns. Steve Kurilla led the team in tackles from his inside linebacker position (96) a year ago. He eclipsed the 85 tackle plateau in each of the past two seasons. A year ago, the strength on offense was the offensive line and the strength on defense was up front and inside at the linebacker position. Coupled with the loss of Dillon Randolph and John Cramer, this year those spots have question marks abound. With that said, Chris Durk returns for his senior season at outside linebacker. Last year, he was tied with Kurilla with 96 tackles and 5 quarterback sacks. Returning senior defensive end Dylan Ferraro was second on the team with 9 sacks.
There is no denying the contribution which Coach Bob Spaite has had on the Columbiana football program over the past two decades. He has led the Clippers to each of their 9 playoff appearances and 146 wins over 20 years. This season, he will face Jackson-Milton for the first time as the head coach of Columbiana. He has tallied a record of 90-52 (63.4%) against the other 9 opponents at the helm of the Clippers.
Recent Statistical Leaders
2013: Mitch Davidson – 1182
2012: Drew Cyrus – 378
2011: Austin Barbato – 1014
2010: Austin Barbato – 1061
2013: Mitch Davidson – 715
2012: Britton Steiginga – 937
2011: Austin Barbato – 1335
2010: Austin Barbato – 1099
2013: Dalton Miller – 480
2012: Jake Dejong – 129
2011: Jake Dejong – 336
2010: Mardell Halas – 322
2013: Steve Kurilla & Chris Durk – 96
2012: Jared Hill & Mike Buzzard – 92
2011: Britton Steiginga – 115
2010: Nick Roncone – 104
2013: Mike Buzzard – 12.0
2012: Mike Buzzard – 9.0
2011: Mike Buzzard – 3.0
2010: Brandon Cross & Nick Roncone – 5.0
2013: Dalton Miller – 5
2012: Britton Steiginga – 4
2011: Britton Steiginga & Austin Barbato – 4
2010: Nick Macmillian & Mardell Halas – 3
Fact Finder: As a freshman Mitch Davidson led the Clippers’ in passing and rushing. The last time, a Clipper was able to accomplish that feat was in 2011 (Austin Barbato). Chris Durk led Columbiana in tackles a year ago as a junior. In each of the last three seasons, an underclassman has led the defense in tackles (2012: Mike Buzzard, 2011: Britton Steiginga)…The Clippers have lost three of their last four season opening games…Columbiana has recorded a 11-3 mark in September over their last fourteen outings…The Clippers have posted a 1-5 record at home over their last six outings.