Drew Keller rushed for 235 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Magnolia to a convincing 42-16 victory over the previously undefeated Valley Fayette Greyhounds at Laidley Field in Charleston Saturday afternoon.
After winning the toss, the Blue Eagles marched down the field with a nice 58-yard, eight-play, four-minute drive that was capped off by a Jacob Brill one-yard quarterback sneak for the game's first tally. Oscar Celedon split the uprights on the conversion kick to up the score to 7-0 early in period one.
On the scoring drive, Keller ran six times for 30 yards, including a fourth-down run to move the chains, while Eric Smith tacked on a nifty 20-yard end-around led by a crushing block by Kyle Ritz.
The Blue Eagle defense held the mighty Greyhound rushing attack in check with a three-and-out, capped off by a Kage Rohde tackle for loss of yardage to force a punt.
On the ensuing punt, Magnolia fumbled, but recovered near their own 25 yard line. After consecutive positive runs by Keller and Brill, Smith scooted by a host of Greyhounds into the end zone for a 14-0 lead after a good Celedon extra point kick. The drive was keyed by a pair of blocks by Ritz, Tyler Anderson, and Brandon Clegg and a 68-yard end-around scamper.
Freshman Chase Streets made a nice stop on the ensuing kick and the Greyhounds picked up 20 yards on a nice pitch-and-catch. But, they would be turned away by Grant Cain on a nice third-down pass defensive play to force another punt, which landed quietly at the Eagles one yard line.
Having to travel 99 yards into scoring range, the Eagles relied on the power and finesse of Keller to get three first downs. But the Greyhounds held their ground and forced Magnolia to punt. The punt would take a high bounce that graze the Greyhound ball carrier; Rohde would recover the slippery pigskin at the Greyhound 24-yard line.
Brill handed off to Keller seven straight times, with Keller taking the last one across the goal line for his second TD of the contest that gave Magnolia a 21-0 advantage early in period two.
On the ensuing kick return, Valley Fayette was guilty of another block in the back, but still had possession at midfield. The Greyhounds moved the chains on a nice pitch-and-catch and would get into the end zone from 10 yards out to close the gap to 21-8 after the two-point conversion run. Keller then picked up 30 yards and Brill added another dozen yards, keyed by a nice block from Anderson. Three more runs by Keller were capped off by a 13-yard run up the gut to push the Magnolia advantage to 28-8.
Late in the second period, Valley got as close to scoring as the Blue Eagle 20 yard line before incurring a holding penalty, followed by a quarterback sack by Keller to run out time in the first half.
Valley Fayette opened the second half on a mission and took the opening kick all the way to the one yard line before Ritz recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchback. "That was huge. To get that defensive stop was big," said MHS Head Coach Mark Batton.
Keller then opened a drive with a short gain. But, thanks to an Anderson and Ritz block, Brill moved the chains on a nice 15-yard scamper and Smith followed with an end-around to move the chains again.
Keller then toted the ball three straight times that moved the chains and Brill added another nice run. Keller then finished off an 80-yard, 10-play, four-minute drive with a three-yard TD run to give the Blue Eagles a 35-8 lead after Celedon nailed another conversion kick. "I think we chewed off five to six minutes of the clock after that," said Batton.
Brill added a one-yard TD run in the fourth, while Valley Fayette scored their last points on a 23-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch. After the Greyhound on-side kick, Magnolia was heading in for another score. But, a crushing hit on Anderson inside Greyhound territory made him cough up the ball, that landed in a Greyhound's hands.
However, on a fourth and long, Ritz, Hunter Brill, and Peau Halahingano chased down and sacked the elusive Greyhound quarterback at his own one yard line for a 30-yard loss and loss of possession. The Eagles would take a knee to run out the clock and seal the deal.
Keller ended the night with 235 yards and three touchdowns on 35 touches. "Drew really came up big for us, especially these last few weeks," said Batton. "Drew would be the first to tell you that the offensive line did one heck of a job. Kyle Ritz leading Drew through there was amazing. But, Drew runs downhill and it makes it hard to stop him."
Smith followed with 115 yards on four carries and a touchdown, while Brill netted 80 yards and two scores. Anderson would gain nine yards on his only carry. Brill completed one pass to Keller for a negative one yard.
The Eagles rushed for a game-high 449-yards, while the Greyhounds were limited to 285 total yards. Magnolia was guilty of six infractions for 38 lost yards, while Valley Fayette had eight penalties and forfeited 153 yards. Magnolia lost one fumble, while Valley lost two. The Eagles also moved the chains 23 times, to 11 for Fayette.
The win was the Eagles' third in a row after dropping to 4-4 on the season with a last-second loss at St. Marys.
The Eagles will now face six seed Moorefield Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., at Moorefield.
Tickets for the Magnolia-Moorefield second round Class-A football playoff game Saturday, Nov. 23, will be on sale in the main office at MHS today and Thursday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Advanced sale prices are $5 for students and $7 for adults. All tickets at the gate will be $7.