CASEY — Nicco Stepina is the real deal; in fact, Casey-Westfield head coach James Sullivan said one college scout told him he's the best athlete in the area. His skills were on display on Friday.
Stepina, the senior quarterback, rushed for five touchdowns on 13 carries for 174 yards against Newton in Casey-Westfield's 45-13 win, including a 74-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
On the first play after a Newton turnover, Stepina found an opening on the left side of the field. More than 30 yards into his run, he cut across the field and found a lane to the end zone.
“I just kept running and I started cramping up, but I kept seeing my cutback lanes and took it in,” Stepina said.
Newton head coach Jason Fulton said Stepina's 74-yard touchdown, which came with 6:58 to play in the third quarter, was a back breaker for his team.
Newton quarterback Brock Mammoser completed a 39-yard pass to senior Austin Angel, which put the Eagles at the 25-yard-line and closing in on a touchdown that could've made the game 20-14.
However, Newton running back Lucas Huston fumbled on the next play, and then Stepina put the 74-yard stamp on his team's victor one play later.
“We had that long play and felt like we had something going,” Fulton said. “We turned the ball over and the wind went out of our sails on that play. It's pretty demoralizing when you have a guy like Stepina that can take it 74 (yards) in a hurry.”
Containing the quarterback of the second-ranked team in Class 1A was part of Fulton's game plan entering Friday's contest, and Stepina knew it.
Stepina said Newton's defensive ends stayed in the hole on Casey-Westfield's option plays, making him pitch the ball. He said his offensive line did a great job making this happen for him.
Fulton said Stepina is a hard runner to tackle, making him an even bigger threat in the open field. He said his team tried to contain him.
“He's an incredible athlete,” Fulton said. “(Casey-Westfield) plays some of the lesser teams on their side of the conference. He'll probably just name his yardage, whatever he wants to get.”
Sullivan also gave credit to his quarterback's offensive line for opening up the holes for him to run for five touchdowns. The line helped running back Austin Glidewell to a 116-yard game, too.
“(Stepina) is making spectacular plays, but he has blockers, too,” Sullivan said. “His offensive line was working its butt off.”
One the other side of the ball, Casey-Westfield's defensive line shut off Newton's running game after giving up a first quarter touchdown to Newton's Allen Taylor that tied the game 7-7 to end the quarter.
Newton's running game, an important part of its offense, didn't have room to make plays as the Eagles went three-and-out multiple times in the second half.
“They wore us down,” Fulton said. “We ended up with some third-and-mediums we couldn't convert.”
Sullivan said he told his team to focus on Huston, who is Newton's 6-foot-2 and 210-pound running back. The defense held Huston to six rushing yards and and 24 receiving.
Newton falls to 0-2 with the loss, though Fulton said he liked his team's effort much better than the first game of the season. The Eagles' next game will be at home against Flora on Friday.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newton		7 0 0 6	13Casey-Westfield	7 13 12 13	45
Passing: Stepina (CW) 5/7, 66 yards, 0 TD; Mammoser (N) 10/17, 90 yards, 1 INTRushing: Stepina (CW) 13 carries, 174 yards, 5 TD; A Glidewell (CW) 13 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD; Taylor (N) 16 carries, 30 yards, 1 TDReceiving: Murphy (CW) 2 catches, 42 yards; Angel (N) 4 catches, 48 yardsDefense: Thompson (CW) 7.5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss; Murphy (CW) 5.5 tackles; Lewis (N) 7 tackles