The Magnolia Blue Eagles rode the backs of Stephen Rogalski, Gage Rohde, and Drew Keller to garner a 35-21 victory over the River Pilots at New Martinsville's Alumni Field Sept. 14.
Rogalski tallied a career-high 116 yards on the ground, while Rohde tacked on a season-high 102 yards and scored two touchdowns. Keller, who has eclipsed 100 yards in each of the Blue Eagles' previous three games, followed with 63 yards and a pair of uprights.
Rohde opened the game with a flying tackle on Jordan Sapp and the Eagle defense fed off the monster hit by holding the River Pilots to minimal yardage on their first series.
Trying to keep the ball from the dangerous Rogalski, the Pilots kicked the ball out of bounds, giving Magnolia its first offensive series at its own 41 yard line. The fired up Pilot defense flexed its muscles as well and would force the Eagles to punt, also.
Magnolia got the ball back on another short punt and Keller would finish off a 36-yard drive with a five-yard TD scamper for all the scoring in the first quarter.
The Pilots would catch the Eagles off guard in the early part of the second period with a nifty Cody Caldwell-to-Kameron Brown 61-yard TD strike to pull even after the Colton Wright extra point kick.
Rohde, playing like a man possessed, took the ensuing kick 75 yards before finally being buried at River's five yard line by a swarming Pilot defense. Two plays later, Keller would take it to the house with a two-yard touchdown run. After the Clemens Raitmayr PAT, Magnolia led 14-7.
After runs by Rogalski, Rohde, and Keller, the Eagles were knocking on the Pilots' door again. However, the Big Red Machine's defense denied the Eagles with an outstanding goal line stand.
After three productive runs, the Pilots would shoot themselves in the foot with a second fumble of the half. After a nice gain by Rogalski on an end-around, Keller would lose yardage on a nice Nick Asturi tackle. But, the Magnolia offense would not be denied. Rohde put the icing on the cake with a six-yard TD run that gave the hosts a 21-7 advantage heading into the locker room.
"They took us out of our game plan when (we had) to play catch up like that or start our throwing game," said River Pilot Head Coach Mike Flannery.
Flannery added, "We felt coming in, like we have every year, that we could play a little smash-mouth football with them and run the ball. They shut us down. It just baffles me why and I will find out when we watch the film."
In the second half, the Pilots got a shot in the arm from the defense when their blockers knocked aside a Magnolia punt. Five plays later, Asturi would add the exclamation point with a 17-yard touchdown scamper to push River within a touchdown of knotting the game.
The fired-up Pilots were rocking and rolling after Caldwell stepped in front of a Tanner Hanna pass, but Magnolia's defenders rose to the occasion and held their home turf and regained control of the ball.
From his own 16 yard line, Rogalski raced 21 yards on another end-around. In addition, he and Rohde would tack on two more positive runs before Rohde took it all the way home for a 43-yard touchdown run to double up on the Pilots 28-14 to finish the third frame.
The Pilots moved the ball close to midfield with nine minutes remaining before the Eagles put a halt to the drive and forced a punt. Instead of going for it on fourth down, the Pilots appeared to be ready to pin Magnolia and sic the Pilot defensive unit on the Blue Eagles.
The Pilot kicker had been successful in keeping the ball away from Rogalski. But River's luck ran out when Rogalski hauled in a punt and raced 77 yards into the endzone to put victory out of reach for River. Rogalski later noted, "We all wanted to play our hearts out for Flash (Greg Bohrer). He just died the night before and we all wanted to win this game for him."
After the Pilots blocked a Magnolia punt, they would close out the scoring with a Sapp 70-yard TD run.
Flannery went on to add, "I'll give Magnolia credit. Everything they did, they worked for. I don't have anything profound to say. They kicked our butts and that is what it is. You've got to take care of the football and when you don't, bad things happen."
The Pilot defense held Magnolia to only three completions on 11 attempts for 33 yards and an interception. Rogalski caught two passes for 19 yards and Keller caught one pass for 14 yards.
For the Pilots, Asturi dug up 64 yards of turf and a touchdown, while Sapp tacked on 77 yards, including a 70-yard run on 10 carries. Caldwell completed 9-19 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, with Brown hauling in three of them for 93 yards and a score. Asturi caught three passes for 24 yards, while Brok Cross added two snatches for 23 yards, and Dallas Necessary, one for eight yards
Both the Eagles and the Pilots moved the chains 13 times, while the Eagles had one more penalty and five more yards than the Pilots. The Blue Eagles had six miscues for 50 lost yards, while the Pilots lost 45 yards on five penalties.
Defensively, Kage Rohde led the Eagles with 14 tackles, while Gage Deem dropped a dozen Pilot ball carriers.
For the Pilots, Asturi was in on 15 tackles and blocked a punt, while Caldwell added eight stops and made an interception. In addition, Sapp brought down six Eagle ball toters, while adding a blocked punt, and Brett Rosen decked nine Blue Eagles.
The Pilots will travel to Caldwell Friday at 7 p.m., while the Blue Eagles will host Wheeling Central at 7:30 p.m.