Greenbrier West scored an 18-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining to claim a hard-fought 21-14 victory over the Magnolia Blue Eagles Dec. 1 at Spartan Stadium in Lewisburg.
However, the touchdown pass was tainted, as the Blue Eagles thought they held the Cavaliers on downs two plays earlier before the Eagles got a late pass-interference call. Without the flag, it would have given the Eagles a chance to make a late game-winning drive.
"That's just the way it goes," said Magnolia Head Coach Mark Batton. "We faced a good Greenbrier West team and we left it all on the field. There were a couple of plays that hurt us, but I give Greenbrier West the credit.
"I have a lot of respect for coach McClung. He does a great job. We never could get in a rhythm in the second half and that is all due to them. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times. But, that is how it goes. I'm proud of my guys and I'm proud of these seniors."
West won the toss and took the opening kick. But, the Eagles' Jacob Brill laid a lick on the Cavalier runningback on their fourth down that caused a fumble and teammate Drew Keller scooped it up to give the Eagles the ball near the West 30 yard line. Keller gained six yards on the fist play from scrimmage and Eric Smith would pick up a first down on an end-around. Keller moved the chains twice more to set up a first an goal inside the West 10 yard line.
However, two holding calls and a quarterback sack pushed the Eagles back to where they first started and West took over on downs.
Greenbrier picked up seven yards on the first tote in their second series before the Cavalier quarterback went the distance on a 66-yard TD run up the gut to give the hosts a 7-0 lead late in the first period after a good conversion kick.
After returning the ensuing kick, the Eagles answered in a big way. After cashing in on two fourth-down situations, Keller scampered into the end zone from 18 yards out to even the count at seven after the Oscar Celedon extra point kick. The touchdown was Keller's 21st of the season that tied him with his brother, Jayson, for the most rushing touchdowns by an Eagle ball carrier in a season.
West took the ensuing kick and went on to a 20-yard strike to forge ahead 14-7, midway through the second stanza.
After a nice kickoff return by Grant Cain, the Eagles marched down field picking up first down after first down by Keller and Smith. However, two sensational passes from Brill to Keller set the stage for Keller's four-yard scamper up the gut to knot the game at 14 all after the Celedon point after just before intermission.
Neither team put any points on the board until the game-winner. That catch was only the third reception of the season for the Greenbrier West receiver.
In reference to the controversial call, a Blue Eagle supporter said, "It is sad when a game ends the way it did." "The game should have been decided by the boys on the field and not the men in stripes," said another. "However," said another, "You must give West all the credit. They capitalized and are going to the show."
After losing their first three games in the season - and half the first eight games by a single digit - the Blue Eagles went on to win their next two games, including a 24-0 shutout at Steubenville Central Catholic to get into the playoffs.
After stunning the undefeated Valley Fayette Greyhounds, 42-16 in the playoff opener, the Eagles trounced the once-beaten Moorefield Yellow Jackets, 37-7 to get to the semifinals. "It was a nice ride," mused MHS Statistician R.J. Goode.
Keller, rushed for 169 yards and scored both Magnolia touchdowns, while eclipsing 1,911 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns during the season. Brill converted 6-9 passes for 99 yards in the game, while netting 1,091 yards and tossing 11 TDs during the season.
In addition, Smith caught five Brill passes for 90 yards in the game, while making 38 catches and picking up 740 yards and scoring seven touchdowns during the season. He also rushed for 234 yards and scored three times during the season.
The Eagles will say goodbye to a dozen senior players who will graduate this year, including Logan Wright, who was a key linemen and an excellent defender before being sidelined from a knee injury.
Besides Wright, the Eagles will lose Brill, Keller, Smith, Cain, Yale Wetzel, Kage Rohde, Brandon Clegg, Stephen White, Andrew Smith, Cole Seckman, and James Melott.