You couldn't blame the Magnolia Blue Eagles they sensed some deja vu Aug. 30 at Alumni Field as they opened the 2013 football season with the Linsly Cadets.
Not only was the opponent the same, their adversaries were led by a running back named Oparanozie Chimechi, younger brother of last year's star, Chinelo.
Unfortunately, the comparisons continued as the Cadets mounted a comeback victory on a strong second half run to the tune of a 14-7 victory over Magnolia.
Blue Eagle Kage Rhode flies through the air with the greatest of ease to bring down a Linsly Cadet in a losing 7-14 effort Aug. 30 at Magnolia’s Alumni Field. (Photo by Chris Jenkins)
The first drive of the season introduced Blue Eagle fans to their new pitch-and-catch combination of Jacob Brill and Eric Smith as they hooked up on a 28-yard pass completion for a first down.
However, the drive soon stalled and the Blue Eagles had to punt.
Back and forth went both teams' punting units until Smith made his presence felt on the defense when he picked off a Linsly pass to set up the Magnolia offense near midfield.
The echoes of the crowd had barely faded before Linsly's Zak Kriechbaum returned the favor and intercepted a Brill pass to give possession back to the Cadets.
The punt teams continued their exhibitions as each defense held up past the midpoint of the second quarter, keeping the game scoreless.
Big Blue then took possession on their own 42 yard line. Kage Rohde swept around the right end for a nine-yard gain, but it was called back for a holding penalty and the punt team started making plans once again.
On the ensuing play, Rohde swept left and got back all of the penalty yards with a 10-yard gain.
The double digit gains for Rohde continued as he picked up a first down with a 14-yard run and the Magnolia offense was beginning to show signs of life.
After finally establishing a ground game, offensive coordinator David "Doc" Chapman was able to call in a play-action pass, as Brill hit Smith with a deep post pattern from 48 yards out and he raced untouched into the end zone for the first score of the game. Oscar Celedon added his first career PAT and Magnolia was on top, 7-0.
The Cadets then switched up their offensive strategy on the following drive and called six consecutive pass plays.
The Cadets hauled hauled in four of those throws for 49 yards and a 16-yard touchdown after a nifty scramble to avoid the Magnolia rush and stood tied at 7-7 at the half.
The second half began with another exchange of punts. It looked like the Blue Eagles were going to be able to pin the Cadets deep, when Oparanozie caught a punt at the 10 yard line.
He was able to get through the first wave of coverage and take the ball back 45 yards into Magnolia territory. But the drive never materialized and the punt exchanges continued.
A couple of pass completions and a couple runs by Oparanozie, and the Cadets were set up to take control of the game. Oparanozie ran left, broke a couple of tackles, then sprinted the rest of the way for a 44 yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead the Cadets would not relinquish.
The rest of the game became a lesson in frustration for the Blue Eagles, as they were not able to capitalize on numerous opportunities.
A 43-yard completion from Brill to his favorite target, Smith, went for naught as a sack forced Magnolia to eventually punt.
Another opportunity came up short when Grant Cain made a key play by charging up to fair catch a short Cadet punt and set up the Big Blue on the Cadet 35.
Brill picked up 25 yards on two carries and Drew Keller put the Eagles on the three with a seven-yard run and it looked inevitable that the game would soon be tied.
However, on second down, Brill dove left on a keeper and when he tried to make an extra surge to the end zone.
But, he took a helmet on the ball, knocking it loose to be recovered by the Cadets. The Blue Eagle defense then stood tall to give them one last gasp opportunity.
The Cadets were stopped, but were able to run the clock down to just nine seconds. Magnolia Head Coach Mark Batton then had the Blue Eagles go for the block of the Cadet punt and it almost succeeded.
They got a hand on it from the fans, but it wasn't enough to keep the ball from crossing the line of scrimmage.
One last pass to the end zone fell short as the horn sounded leaving Linsly with the win. Oparanozie ran for 104 yards to lead the Cadet stats in real estate.
The Blue Eagles were held to just 76 yards on the ground. Brill led in the air game, completing five of 12 passes for 118 yards with a TD and one intercept.
In scoring stats, Smith hit paydirt on a 48-yard pass from Brill and Celedon kicked the extra point.
Magnolia was held to 76 yards on the ground, with Brill going 11-25; Keller, 11-13; Rohde, 9-24; and Smith 3-6.
In the air game, the Blue Eagles were 5-12 for 122 yards and an interception.
Magnolia had seven first downs; Linsly moved the chains 11 times. Magnolia lost 35 yards on four penalties; Linsly gave up 50 yards on seven infractions. The Blue Eagles committed the only fumble in the game.
The Blue Eagles return to action this Friday when they travel to Williamstown to take on the Yellow Jackets, who defeated Tyler Consolidated 27-14 in their season opener.