After a tough loss the previous week to the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights, the Magnolia Blue Eagles had two choices: wallow in thoughts of what could have been; or get to work on the opportunities that still lay ahead. On Friday night, they chose the latter.
Behind a strong performance by Drew Keller on both sides of the ball - and a defense that had its strongest night this season - the Blue Eagles defeated the Monroe Central Seminoles by a score of 32-8.
Often, the phrase, "This game was closer than the score indicates," is just a clich. But, it couldn't have been more true here.
Three fourth quarter touchdowns made a tight contest seem like a runaway as time ran out.
An exchange of punts got things going early before the Seminoles committed their first of four costly turnovers. Kyle Ritz recovered a Monroe fumble to set the Eagles up at the Seminole 13 yard line.
It took the Blue Eagles five plays to travel those 13 yards, when Keller was able to cross the goal line with the games' first score and a 7-0 lead.
Later in the half, the Seminoles turned the ball over once again, this time through the air. Monroe lofted a pass into the end zone that was batted around before being picked off by Grant Cain, who brought it out of the end zone but was downed at the five.
The first play after the interception may have been the longest non-scoring play in Magnolia history.
Keller ran through a nice hole over the left side, broke right toward the middle, then sprinted back left when he was finally shoved out of bounds at the one as he dove for the goal line.
That run counted for 94 of his 148 yards on the night. Two Jacob Brill quarterback sneaks later and the Eagles were up 13-0. Monroe blocked the extra point, but the 13-0 score held up until late in the third.
The Seminoles set up shop at their own 49, but were thrown for a three-yard loss on the first play, Then they completed two of four passes, the second one of which was a 23-yard touchdown.
The Seminoles then surprised the Blue Eagles and faked the extra point kick, throwing for a two-point conversion, bringing the score to 13-8.
Central's defense had dominated the third quarter and forced Magnolia to temporarily abandon the ground game and go to the air in the form of some screens and swing passes.
The strategy worked, as the Blue Eagles were able to travel 47 yards on four completions, the final one a 10-yard completion to Kyle Ritz for the touchdown. The two-point conversion failed but Magnolia had a little breathing room with a 19-8 lead.
That little breathing room became a deep breath of fresh air three plays later when Keller stepped in front of a Seminole pass and returned it 40 yards for a Blue Eagle touchdown and a 26-8 cushion.
But, Keller wasn't finished in the take away department. He fell on the pigskin after the Seminoles fumbled trying to make a desperate come back. This time, the Eagles kept it on the ground trying to work some clock.
But time then became a moot point after Yale Wetzel took a handoff and rumbled 33 yards for a final touchdown on his only carry of the night.
The Seminoles committed four turnovers on the night (two fumbles, two interceptions) and the Blue Eagles followed each of them with a touchdown.
Magnolia held a huge advantage in rushing yards, 189-58, with Monroe Central leading through the air, 84-82.
The Blue Eagles will face the resurgent Weir Red Riders in their annual homecoming game this Friday night at Alumni Field.