The Linsly Cadets' stellar running back Chinelo Oparanozie outshined Blue Eagle Stephen "Rogo" Rogalski Aug. 25 in a battle of Class-A heavyweights at Wheeling Island.
After being held to 31 yards on nine carries in the first half, Oparanozie took the bull by the horns and rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to offset the record setting Rogalski, who broke Magnolia's school record for touchdown receptions with 26, in a come from behind 21-20 victory for Linsly.
The Cadets started the game with two first downs. The Big Blue defense, led by quarterback sacks from freshman Kyle Ritz and senior Zach Arrick, would force Linsly to punt. Ritz would get a paw on the punt and Magnolia would be in business on its first offensive series of the game.
Junior tailback Drew Keller tallied back-to-back first down carries, while Rogalski hauled in a catch to keep the drive going. He capped it off with a 55-yard drive with a nifty four-yard end-around for the game's first touchdown. Magnolia held a 6-0 lead after its PAT was a little wide with four minutes remaining in period one.
The Blue Eagle defense held the Cadets in its second possession with the help of a four-yard tackle for loss by Jared Wright to force another Linsly punt. Ritz put pressure on the Cadet punter, who shanked the ball out of bounds and put the Eagles in good shape to start their next drive at the 48 yard line.
The Linsly defense held Magnolia to a three and out and took over at its own 35 yard line. The Eagles' Ritz made back-to back quarterback sacks and the Magnolia defense held Linsly to a three and out.
Keller moved the sticks once on the Eagles' next series, but the Cadets and Eagles would hold on the next set of downs. Magnolia would pick up another first down and would be knocking on the door late in the second period, before the Linsly defense held the Eagles on downs.
It didn't take long for Magnolia to get the ball back, as Arrick stripped the ball from Oparanzie and Tanner Hanna scooped it up at the 43 yard line. Keller - keyed by excellent blocking and a nice Hanna-to-Rogalski pitch and catch - had the Eagles knocking at the door right before the half.
Facing a fourth and goal, Hanna hit Rogalski in the back of the end zone for an apparent TD, but the referee called Rogalski out of bounds. Linsly took a knee to end the first half with Magnolia clinging to a 6-0 lead.
Magnolia opened the second half the same way it did on its first offensive series of the game - with a long 35-yard Keller run. But a holding call brought it back. However, Keller moved the sticks on a nice screen pass from Hanna. After another long Keller run, Rogalski skyed for another first down catch and Magnolia was knocking on the door once more. A few plays later, Hanna went over the top on a quarterback sneak for the Eagles' second TD of the game. Rogalski and Hanna hooked up on the two point conversion attempt to give Magnolia a 14-0 lead to open the third period on a 12-play 83-yard drive.
Linsly couldn't get any good looks for its tailback, so the Cadets went to a wildcat offense with Oparanozie taking the snaps, breaking open a 17-yard run. After a 15-yard MHS penalty, the Linsly one-man show went the distance on a 33-yard scamper to cut Magnolia's lead in half.
The Eagles took the momentum back to their side on the ensuing series with a 3:39 drive that ended with Rogalski setting Magnolia's receiving TD record with a nice 28-yard catch and run into the end zone. Rogalski missed the PAT, but the Blue Eagles had a two-touchdown advantage, 20-7.
Oparanozie broke loose on a 25- yard TD run on Linsly's next possession and the Cadet defense held Magnolia to a three and out to get the ball back in good field position.
After a 15-yard scamper, the Cadets took it to the house, only to have it brought back on an illegal formation foul. However, the Cadets would score four plays later on a 36-yard run with a little under five minutes remaining to take over the lead after the PAT split the uprights.
Magnolia made a run, but a pair of Hanna passes were picked off in the closing minutes, including the last one inside the red-zone.
Rogalski ended the night with 10 catches for 142 yards and a TD, while rushing for another score. Keller netted 129 yards on 26 carries on the ground and hauled in a Hanna pass for 23 yards to lead Magnolia. Hanna completed 13-27 passes for 184 yards and a score and was picked off twice. Ritz caught one pass for eight yards.
Magnolia was guilty of five infractions for a loss of 50 yards, while the Cadets had eight yellow flags thrown their way for 75 lost yards. The Eagles moved the chains 16 times to nine for Linsly.
Defensively, Ritz had three quarterback sacks and a blocked punt, while making 13 tackles. Kage Rohde also had 13 tackles, including two for loss of yardage.
It doesn't get any easier for the Eagles, as they will host the top ranked Class-A Williamstown Yellowjackets Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Field.