EAGLES ARE STATE CHAMPS!
For most of this season, Magnolia’s Big Blue followed the instructions of ex-Blue Eagle performer and former WVU coach Bill Stewart – “they left no doubt.”
At the midpoint of last season, the Eagles made a commitment to stick together as a team. Saturday night, they followed through on that commitment with a 62-0 thrashing over the No. 2-ranked East Hardy Cougars to win the WVSSAC State Class A football championship.
After finishing at 4-6 last season, Magnolia showed the Cougars why they shouldn’t have played the Big Blue on this night. Hard work, dedication during the summer, great leadership from the upperclassmen and the attitude to follow coaches instructions propelled this team to greater heights beyond anyone’s expectations.
Even at times when things looked bleak, they pulled through. Earlier this season, they were down in the closing seconds against a very good Weirton team. A miracle finish propelled them to a win. Through rain and mud, they plowed their way to playoff victories. Many questions arose as to how good is East Hardy? Can the Blue Eagles win one more? How will Magnolia stop their passing attack? All these questions were answered Saturday night with a brilliant defensive effort like none other in playoff history.
East Hardy’s potent offense was held to a total of 74 yards – an historic event.
“This is a special group,” Magnolia head coach Josh Sims said. “I am very proud. But take everything away, and I am most proud of the conduct of these guys. They are gentlemen, they have done it the right way and they deserve this.
“I have a lot of respect for East Hardy, they never quit and they have a good football team, they beat some quality teams. The breaks just didn’t go their way, and we definitely didn’t expect to come out and completely dominate. We couldn’t be happier with the score,” he continued.
Offensively, the Big Blue Machine struted its stuff, racking up 478 total yards on 45 plays from scrimmage, with 393 on the ground to control the clock and hold an 11-minute time of possession advantage. Magnolia’s offensive unit took advantage of nearly every opportunity with five out of five scores from the red zone and 3-of-4 on fourth-down conversions.
They dominated from start to finish, and in many ways, the game was over by the end of the first quarter with the Blue Eagles on top, 14-0.
Quarterback Nick Priem started the scoring with a one-yard keeper with 1:48 left in the first. The kick was good for a 7-0 reading. Fifteen seconds later, the Big Blue upped the count as linebacker Peau Halahingano intercepted East Hardy’s Cory McDonald at the 26 and returned it untouched to the house. The kick by Troy Bonar was again true to the mark, and the Blue held a 14-0 lead, and the Eagles never looked back.
Running back Chase Street put on a spectacular performance, rushing for 194 yards on 19 carries and finding pay dirt on four occasions. His longest run, a 59-yard jaunt down the left sideline, brought the fans to their feet when he left a Cougar defender trying to figure out how he got by.
Street gave a new meaning to body language on the play as he juked to the right then proceeded up the sideline, leaving the defender shaking his head.
Runing back Tyler Anderson also carried the pigskin 19 times, picking up 130 yards, including a twisting and turning 49-yard run for a touchdown. Anderson also hit Halahingano with an 18-yard TD strike off a halfback option.
Priem went seven-of-11 passing on the night for 85 yards and a score. His leadership was evident as he handled the offense to perfection with great ball control and no interceptions. His lone TD toss was to senior Kyle Ritz for six yards to end the scoring on the night. Ritz had another in a series on defense, as he led the team with five tackles, including two sacks.
Sophomore sensation Brooks Parsons led the team in receptions, with four for 44 yards. He ripped off 58 more yards on four carries.
Magnolia’s defense was outstanding all night long, holding East Hardy to nine rushing yards on 22 carries and picking off five Cougar passes for 121 yards and one TD. The Eagles also held East Hardy’s leading receiver Brett Tharp to only 54 yards on five receptions.
Even Magnolia’s offense recognized the defensive effort. It was evident as well from the stands and the sideline.
“I think a big part of this was the pressure we were able to put on their quarterback,” Sims said. “Our defensive ends, our linebackers and our linemen were really getting after him. We threw in some little schemes to slow up their big playmakers at the line of scrimmage and it worked.”
Magnolia’s point production and margin of victory are both of historic proportion. The 62 points are the most ever scored in a Class A title game. They surpassed, by 15 points, the old margin of victory set by Bluefield’s 45-point win over Wayne in 2004.
The player of the game, Magnolia’s Chase Street, spoke about the team effort.
“We all work as one, there is no star on this team. I couldn’t have done anything without the guys up front and this is a great day for all of us,” he said. “This is a great feeling, we are family, we are like brothers and that is why we do so well, we worked together and left no doubt in doing our jobs.”
The Blue Eagles won their last championship in 2010 in Class AA. This marks the school’s first Class A football title. For Parsons, this is his third state title this year after having winning one in basketball and another in track.
Sims said it wasn’t just talent that won this one, but preparation and drive. Magnolia will now turn that talent and determination over to Coach Dave Tallman to try and defend their boys’ basketball crown.