After starting the season 0-2, the Magnolia Blue Eagles won six out of their last eight games to get into the Class-A postseason field as the number 14 seed, earning a date with the number three seed 10-0 Valley Fayette Greyhounds at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Laidley Field in Charleston.
The Eagles have lost four games by a total of 11 points. Three of those losses came from teams that made the playoffs: the second seed St. Marys Blue Devils (10-0) by the score of 11-9; the fourth seed Williamstown Yellowjackets (8-2) by the score of 15-14; and the 13 seed Wheeling Central (6-4) by the score of 21-20. All three games were lost in the final minute.
Both Magnolia and Valley Fayette come into the game showing that they can put points on the board. The 'Hounds have scored over 37 points per game this year, while the Blue Eagles are averaging just under 29 points a game.
The Eagle offense has been led by senior quarterback Jake Brill who has completed 61-100 passes for 977 yards, 11 scores, and six interceptions, while Drew Keller has has 1,206 yards on 185 carries and has found the end zone 13 times. For his career, Keller has 2,665 yards and 28 TD's, which makes him the school's all-time leading rusher. He surpassed the former record, set by his brother Jayson, who had 2,530 yards in his career. Also, in the running game, Brill and Kage Rhode have combined for 111 totes and 547 yards and eight scores.
In the receiving game, it has been senior Eric Smith doing most of the work with 31 catches for 635 yards and seven touchdowns, while sophomore tight end Kyle Ritz has hauled in 14 footballs for 178 yards and four scores.
Led by senior center Cole Seckman, the most important aspect of the offense is that it is the most improved. Also up front are seniors Brandon Clegg and Stephen White. In addition, sophomores Carter Seckman, Hunter Brill, and Zach Haught have all opened some big holes for the backs to run through and have given Brill time to throw the football.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles are giving up just 11.5 points per game, compared to Valley Fayette's 16.8. The Eagle defense, under the guidance of Eric Mason and John Smith, took care of a very good Steubenville Catholic ball club, collecting six sacks, three of them by Rhode. He, Keller, and Cole Seckman all three-year defensive starters.
In his 15 years as Magnolia head coach, Mark Batton has taken 10 teams to the postseason. Five of the previous nine have made it to the state semi finals, in 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012.